Some may remember the marketing slogan many years ago for Timex watches: "It takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'."
There is a bridge in Charlotteville, Schoharie County, that might borrow a bit of that slogan. It was built in 1895 and has endured some incredible abuse in its time. Now in the early 21st century, with a few modifications made back in the 1960s, the bridge, although somewhat hidden, is still doing just fine.
We'll have to see how things are with the bridge after Monday.
Hiram Rifenbark built that bridge on the East End of Charlotteville, beneath Charlotte Valley Road. According to the accounts of the Museum of the History of Charlotteville, this dry stone bridge had Rifenbark's personal guarantee of lasting 100 years.
Rifenbark was born in April 1839 in Charlotteville, getting his education at the public schools in the town of Summit and at the Charlotteville Seminary.
To call Rifenbark's career diverse would be very accurate. At the age of 17 he worked on a farm, and by age 19 he taught school in the winter months. There were times he worked for an iron foundry and then worked in carpentry.
Having saved enough money, Rifenbark purchased his father's farm of 96 acres in 1868. That only lasted four years, as he sold the farm and bought property and a general merchandise store.
Rifenbark later moved to another store and had a residence across the street. That store is today's Van Valkenburgh General Store.
Rifenbark was always involved in political matters since the time he could vote. He served on the Town Committee, and the school board, and became town clerk in 1865. Rifenbark was a justice of the peace and did a large amount of business settling estates and drawing contracts.
Rifenbark was a "somebody" in the life of Charlotteville and Schoharie County. When a name is included in the "Biographical Review, Volume XXXIII, Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Schoharie, Schenectady and Greene Counties," you know Mr. Rifenbark made a difference in his community.
Just about three doors down from his former residence is Rifenbark Bridge, and although people make jokes about politicians keeping promises, Rifenbark's guarantee is now 113 years old.
In 1937, there was a dam just slightly upstream that burst, sending tons of logs and debris flowing under the bridge without damaging it.
In the 1960s, some concrete supports and metal culverts were placed to strengthen the bridge for the increasing number of vehicles and weight passing over it.
When the region was so hard-hit by flooding in 2006, a lot of asphalt and the edges around the bridge deteriorated. Rifenbark's project was unaffected. FEMA inspected and declared the bridge sound, and said that preformed concrete side wings would be added to stabilize the road on top.
Other levels of government have had different opinions, and have scheduled the entire structure, including Rifenbark Bridge to be torn out and a new concrete bridge to be built in its place. The signs are up and construction is scheduled to begin Monday.
Some local citizens don't feel the new bridge would be nearly as durable, and have been working for several weeks to keep the historic structure in place, along with only necessary repairs and improvements made to the bridge. They feel the bridge is historically significant to Charlotteville and claim the local citizens have been left out of the decision-making process between the various state and federal agencies.
Construction had been set to begin June 15, but was postponed.
On Monday: "Candystripers" made their debut 50 years ago at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com.