Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania

How did Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.

Village in Solebury Township on River Road (Route 326) between New Hope and Lumberville. It was first known as Readings Ferry, so called for Colonel John Reading, who established one of the earliest river landings above Falls of the Delaware. Colonel Reading, founder of the New Jersey family of that name, came probably from County Dublin, Ireland. His name appears in Gloucester County records as early as 1684, though the exact date of his arrival there is not known. From the interest he manifested in several large land transactions, it is assumed he was a member of the London Company, an organization similar to the Free Society of Traders. In 1704 he purchased a tract of land in what is now Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, N. J., and named it Mount Amwell. It covered the site of the present Stockton and Prallsville. He moved to Mount Amwell very soon after he bought it. He had been interested in ferries, having held a franchise for one between Gloucester and Wicaco, and quite naturally he established the Reading Ferry, but in the absence of legislative record the exact date cannot be fixed. It is certain the ferry was in operation in 1711. A “John Readings Landing” is mentioned that year in a petition for a “convenient road” from that place to the Burlington Meeting House. The ferry was the beginning of the Old York Road. Colonel Reading died in 1717, but his ferry, although it was idle for some years, bore his name until 1731, when his son-in-law, Captain Daniel Howell, reopened it and it became Howells Ferry until 1770, then Robinsons Ferry on the Pennsylvania side and Harts Ferry on the New Jersey side. The last owner on the Pennsylvania side was William Mitchell and the ferry was known as Mitchells from about 1796 to 1813, when both sides were sold to the bridge corporation and the ferry was discontinued. Mitchell was landlord of an inn on the Pennsylvania side and represented Bucks County in the Assembly (1809-1811).

Centre Bridge Company was chartered by both States in 1811. The bridge was built in 1813 and opened for travel in the spring of next year. From that time both bridge and village have been known as Centre Bridge, the name being suggested by the central location between New Hope and Lumberville, four miles from either place. Of three covered wooden bridges spanning the Delaware from the Solebury shore to the Jersey side, Centre Bridge was the first opened for travel. Structural work on the original bridge was soon found to be faulty and on December 5, 1829, the stockholders, meeting at Hunt’s Centre Bridge hotel, decided to rebuild the wooden superstructure on the old stone piers. The contract was awarded to Amos Campbell and the building committee comprised John Ruckman, Esq., and Dr. John Wilson for Pennsylvania and Messrs. Rittenhouse, Gordon and Larson for New Jersey. Three spans, two piers and the toll house on the Jersey side of the remodeled bridge were carried away by the flood of January 8, 1841. An incident attending this flood created much excitement. George B. Fell, a storekeeper, who walked out on the bridge from the Pennsylvania side to obtain a better view of the flood, was swept down stream when the span on which he stood suddenly collapsed. Several rescue efforts were made from both shores. At New Hope Hiram Scarborough rowed out into the river in a batteau, but was unable to reach Fell before the driftwood to which he was clinging was carried by the swift moving current over Wells Falls. At Yardley Edward Nickleson succeeded in bringing the nearly exhausted man to shore in a rowboat. The bridge, rebuilt by Courtland Yardley, was the only one not carried away or seriously damaged by the greatest of all Delaware River floods on October 10, 1903. But twenty years later fire succeeded where flood had failed. July 22, 1923, the famous old structure was struck by lightning and in the spectacular blaze that followed it was totally destroyed. Among the witnesses of the fire was Edward W. Redfield, famous American landscape painter. Next day he transferred his impressions of the scene to canvas, making a strikingly realistic picture. The piers, approaches and the stone toll house were sold for $10,000 on November 6, 1925, to the Joint Bridge Commission, which, after repairing piers and abutments, erected a new steel bridge thereon at a cost of $258,135. Centre Bridge post office was established June 7, 1845, with John D. Balderston as first postmaster.

The village has scenic charm for tourists. Of late a number of noteworthy people have found attractive homes in its vicinity off the beaten lanes of travel.

Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.

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