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This Month in History: One rainy day in the islands’ past

October 16, 2013
By TIM KNOX , Pine Island Eagle

"Into each life some rain must fall" is a line from the poem, "The Rainy Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Rain fell hard for the J.L. Lofton Company the fall of 1926.

The original bridge to be installed over Matlacha Pass linking Pine Island with the mainland was acquired from the town of Alva and was the very first bridge to span the Caloosahatchee River. It was built back to 1903, but it no longer served the needs of that community as residents required a larger bridge. In early 1926, the Champion Bridge Company hoisted the old bridge onto a barge and floated it down river from Alva to Matlacha where it was positioned it in the middle of the pass.

Lee County hired the J.L. Lofton Construction Works to have its steam-powered dredge, the C.W. Stribley, pump sand and shell from the bottom of the pass so as to build up the approaches to each end of the bridge. They were to also surface the roads leading up to, and across these approaches.

All was going fine until a September hurricane slammed into Southwest Florida and subsequently slammed the dredge into the bridge sending it crashing into the waters of Matlacha Pass. The dredge sank, too, but fortunately there were no serious injuries for the people aboard it. By the middle of October the dredge was pumped out and floated to Fort Myers and refitted to finish the job.

While the W.C. Stribley could be repaired, the same could not be said about the bridge from Alva, which was a total loss. It was raised a couple of years later, cut up and barged out. Another used bridge was acquired by Lee County and the Pine Island Bridge, as it was known back then, officially opened for traffic in 1927. That bridge outgrew Pine Island's needs and was replaced in 1968. And that bridge was replaced this year.

Oh, and the cost to repair the W.C. Stribley? It was approximately $25,000, which happened to be most of the profit the J.L. Lofton Construction Works had expected to earn for their work on the bridge. To paraphrase; into some lives a lot rain will fall.

For more history of Pine Island, visit the Museum of the Islands Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is conveniently located next to the library.

Tim Knox is an historian at the Museum of the Islands.



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