The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc.
Then and Now-Susquehanna Bridges
Subject of Historical Society Bulletin
March 26, 2024


The above photograph is the late 19th century photo used to illustrate the cover of the current issue of the Harford Historical Bulletin, "Six Susquehanna Bridge Crossings: Thirteen Bridges " The photo depicts the former Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Bridge and the old railroad ferry landing on the Perryville shore of the Susquehanna Bridge. (From the Archives of the Historical Society of Harford County).


To say that the existence of the Susquehanna River has historically posed both opportunities and hindrances to development of the greater Harford-Cecil County area is to engage in the obvious. Not so obvious to the modem citizen or even to the student of local history are the various manners over the past 175 years by which travelers, businesspersons, settlers, and residents crossed the formidable waterway as they sought to go about the ordinary business of life.

This information void has in part been filled by the publication of "Six Susquehanna Bridge Crossings: Thirteen Bridges", the current issue of the Harford Historical Bulletin. Written by John McGrain, County Historian for Baltimore County, the 56-page volume featuring twenty- seven, seldom-if-ever seen period and contemporary photos, tells in human detail the story of the many bridges that have spanned the renowned river at Conowingo, Rock Run, Port Deposit, Perryville, and Havre de Grace between 1820 and the present.

Utilizing a vast array of original and printed source materials, McGrain provides his readers with vivid accounts of mile-long wooden bridges, ice floes, floods, stampeding cattle, fears of raids during the civil war, runaway segments, fires, collapses and reconstruction, demolition of the bridge at Conowingo, and the conversion of bridges for foot, rail and automobile traffic. One unusual episode, reflected in a photo from the archives of the Historical Society of Harford County, involves the installation of a revolving draw on the first Havre de Grace to Perryville vehicular bridge, adapted from an 1878 railroad bridge.

John W. McGrain is a student of industrial history. The author of a book on Baltimore County Mills, he was for years the preservation planner for Baltimore County and more recently was named County Historian. With his companion interest in Harford County, he delivered the 1997 George Washington Archer Lecture on Harford County's Mill Heritage, and wrote two volumes on the same subject for the Bulletin during the 1998 and 1999 publication years. Mr. McGrain is a graduate of Loyola College and lives in Towson.

The Harford Historical Bulletin is the quarterly publication of the Historical Society of Harford County Printed on high quality paper and illustrated with a variety of photos, prints, and maps from numerous public and private collections, it appeals to a wide spectrum of readers and researchers Copies are sent to all Harford County schools and library branches, other county and state historical societies, as well as to numerous depositories throughout the state and region. The current and back issues of the Bulletin may be purchased at Society headquarters Preston's Stationery and the Library Store in Bel Air ; also at the Susquehanna Museum, Courtyard Bookshop, and the Harford County Public Library in Havre de Grace.

Contact: Jim Chrismer
410-836-9451(H) 838-8333 (W)

Reference: McGrain, J., Six Susquehanna Bridge Crossings: Thirteen Bridges, Harford Historical Bulletin, Historical Society of Harford County, Inc., Number 92, Spring 2002.

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