ARNOLDSBURG BRIDGE TUMBLES INTO WEST FORK (1962) - Intoxicated Men Claim They Knocked It Down


Photo courtesy of Jim Sturm

1962 Newspaper Account by Bob Weaver: Times Record

Two Spencer men, both intoxicated, claimed to have knocked the Arnoldsburg bridge from its moorings last Thursday, causing it to collapse in the West Fork of the Little Kanawha.

An intoxicated passenger said, "My god, look what we did," almost bragging.

The driver of the vehicle, Hugh Simmons, was not drinking, according to Calhoun County State Police.

Greyhound buses, Calhoun school buses, tractor trailers and several hundred passenger cars crossed the 54-year-old bridge on U.S. 33-119 earlier in the day.

Police cast doubt on the men's claims of knocking down the bridge, but both were arrested and held in the Grantsville jail for twenty days. No one was injured when the bridge collapsed.

Paul Fleming, Arnoldsburg drilling contractor, heard the bridge go down and went to the scene. "It went down rather quietly," said Fleming, who lives nearby.

"I chained the car to keep it from going on down," he said, climbing down to assist the victims.

Fleming then used his CB radio to call Gifford Weaver at Hur who called the Sinnett Funeral Home in Spencer to alert emergency services.

Such experiences are nothing new for Fleming, who has aided victims of the hairpin curve on the Arnoldsburg end of the bridge "More times than I can remember."

He said drivers always seemed to be piling their car against the bridge, going through the railings, driving into the river or meeting another car head-on on the one-way bridge.

A strange angle, The State Road Commission advertised for bids to replace the structure earlier in the morning. A new bridge had been proposed for some time.

Meanwhile, the tremendous volume of traffic has been detoured through Beech and Jesse's Run Road, but larger vehicles are required to return to Clay and travel to Spencer via State Route 36.

Fleming claimed the intoxicated men bragged aloud about knocking down the bridge, but he said the front end of the car received minimal damage. "It was just ready to go, I think," he said.

Editor's Note: The recalling of the collapsed Arnoldsburg bridge from 1962 was prompted by a news story today saying 41% of West Virginia bridges are "functionally obsolete and structurally deficient" by the Division of Highways, most of them on two-lane roads. There are 2,639 that might end up like the old Arnoldsburg bridge.