Thursday, October 15, 2009

Revenue Bridge, Sandy River

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Here's one lonesome photo of the Revenue Bridge up near Sandy, where Ten Eyck Rd. crosses the Sandy River. I took this on a day I was checking out other bridges in the area, and I'd originally planned to stop here and take a few photos of it too. But I didn't see anywhere to park, and there also doesn't appear to be any way to walk across safely --- there's no sidewalk, there isn't even a bike lane --- and there's also no convenient place to take photos of the bridge from the side or below, and on top of everything else it's not very photogenic anyway. So I think this one lonesome photo is going to have to do.

The bridge is actually very new, less than a year old at the time I'm posting this. Somehow, Clackamas County managed to find the money and then get the project done, without all the endless handwringing that characterizes bridge projects in Portland. The downside of this is that they seem to have produced a supremely uninteresting bridge. What, no "world class" design that we can't possibly afford, even before the cost overruns? What, no endless "visioning process", with hearings and committee meetings with every imaginable "stakeholder", the city promising each and every one of them the moon and stars? How is this possible?

In any case, the bridge is new enough that Structurae has nothing on it yet, although it does have a page about the previous bridge (which it calls the "Ten Eyck Road Bridge"), plus photos. And BridgeHunter lists the old bridge on its page of lost historic bridges for 2009. Calling the previous bridge historic is a bit of a stretch if you ask me. It only dated to 1952, and it doesn't look like it was anything very unique or special. I don't recall ever paying much attention to the old bridge when driving over it, although it's true that I wasn't interested in bridges at the time.

What's more, the old bridge wasn't the original bridge here. Far from it, in fact. There have actually been bridges at this location since the early pioneer days, before Oregon was even a state. And the story behind that also explains the bridge's funny name.

When I was starting to put the post together, I assumed "Revenue Bridge" simply meant that there was a toll charged to cross here at one time. I figured I'd crack a lame joke to the effect that another less likely possibility is that it was just named after someone named "Revenue". Which sounds silly, but it's actually true this time. As this Gresham Outlook story explains, Francis Revenue and his wife were the first pioneer settlers in the Sandy area, circa 1853, and for a time they operated a toll bridge at this location. The bridge was situated on the Barlow Road, the Oregon Trail's scary land route over the Cascades. So it would have been a very lucrative place to own a bridge, right up until the transcontinental railroad went in.

The Sandy page at includes photos of Mr. & Mrs. Revenue, both looking like they'd just wandered out of the Old Testament. Although that's generally true of people in photos from that era. Something about having to sit motionless for long periods of time while the daguerrotype camera slowly did its thing. The Revenues and their bridge are also mentioned in this account of traveling the Oregon Trail.

And this page fills in a few more details about the Revenues' operation. It mentions in passing that prior to the original bridge, emigrants had to ford the Sandy River as best they could. The Sandy runs fast and cold all year, and every summer it sees a few drownings of unwary swimmers and boaters. So trying to wade across with a covered wagon, a couple of half-starved oxen, and all your worldly possessions would have been challenging.

The Revenues, along with a couple of other family members, are buried nearby.

Still unexplained is the surname "Revenue". It's quite a rare surname, and I don't think I've ever seen it before. I'd imagine it's a case where centuries ago someone was given a surname based on his occupation (see Miller, Farmer, Cooper, Fletcher, etc.), although it's not clear what that would've meant. An archaic synonym for "accountant", perhaps? Royal tax collector, possibly? Or, just maybe, the owner of a medieval toll bridge?

1 comment :

Steve Beattie said...

The word revenue is an anglicization of the french word revenu; my guess is that the Revenue's surname went through a similar process. Given that a *gack* facebook name search for Revenu turns up 91 hits vs 33 for Revenue (and some of the latter are clearly bogus), it appears to be a more common French surname.