Bridge Builder, Lewis Cooper

“DIED, on Sunday last [28 September 1817], Mr. LEWIS COOPER. He was an ingenious mechanic, and the principal architect who constructed the bridge which now proudly ornaments our river. He has left an amiable wife and children to regret his loss.” (Augusta Chronicle, 1 October 1817.)

Lewis Cooper headstone

Lewis Cooper headstone at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Augusta, Georgia. ‘In veneration of his Character & as a tribute of Respect to his Memory this Stone is erected by his disconsolate widow and surviving Children, to mark the spot where lie the Remains of LEWIS COOPER, A Native of Newark (New Jersey) who died Sept. 28, 1817; Aged 32 years.’

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Images of the Augusta Bridge

Augusta Bridge 1816

The Augusta Bridge 1816 as depicted on a Bridge Bill, with prominent toll booths and heavy traffic. (Courtesy Carl A. Anderson and David Marsh, Georgia Obsolete Currency)

The new wonder crop, cotton, gave upcountry South Carolina a product to sell rather than simply eat. Cotton had to be delivered to a cash market, either Charleston on the coast, or the fall line port of Augusta. But Augusta was on the wrong side of the Savannah River, and as described by Henry Shultz himself, at least two previous attempts to build a bridge there had failed.

“. . . . in the year 1791 the Legislature of the State of South Carolina granted to Wade Hampton the power to build a Bridge across the Savannah River from the State to the City of Augusta Georgia, at his own expense . . . . the said Wade Hampton built two bridges, one after the other at great expense both of which were swept away by the flood of the river, after which this great enterprize was abandoned as altogether impracticable and so remained, until 1813 . . . “

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