The wooden Centennial Bridge located upstream from the railroad bridge south of Gold Hill lasted for 35 years. Constructed in 1876 by Thomas Chavner, the founder of Gold Hill, the Centennial continued to be a toll bridge when the county bought it in 1888 from Chavner.
A savage flood crashed into the bridge in 1911, tearing off the roof and superstructure used by horses and cars. Newspapers at the time said the “last straw that broke the camel’s back” was the bridge’s dynamiting on Dec. 20, 1911, and it collapsed into the Rogue River like a “well-picked Christmas turkey.”
The structure underpinnings were secured by cables, making it possible to recover many timbers as sound as the day they were framed. The timbers provided material for smaller creek bridges in Jackson County, and the roof became a tying shed for farm horse teams in Gold Hill.
As one newspaper reported 100 years ago, “Thus, the old Centennial, having outlived its usefulness, crowded off the stage by a handsome new steel sister, will continue like the carcass of the Christmas turkey, to be of usefulness to mankind long after its original purpose had been fulfilled.”
Nuggets of News, Gold Hill Historical Society, “Tips for Stagecoach Travelers,” January/February 2012, pp. 6; citing also, December 24, 2011, Medford Mail Tribune. Powers, Dennis. Images of America: Gold Hill. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2010, pp. 89, 93.
— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.