By Deborah Dyer, director, Bar Harbor Historical Society
From the May, 1917, Bar Harbor Times
On or after Sunday, June 3 you may go across the bridge without paying the toll.
The chairman and treasurer of the Trustees of the Mount Desert Bridge District will meet with the owners of the bridge and unless some unforeseen obstacle arises, Merritt T. Ober, Chairman of the Board, will officially take over the old toll bridge. Charles H. Wood, Esq., attorney for the trustees, will be present and will assist in making the transfer.
A draw tender will be placed on the bridge at once by the commissioners and for the first time it will be possible to drive on and off Mount Desert Island without stopping to pay tolls to the owners of the old bridge. The transfer will be made without ceremony of any sort. In less than three weeks from the day organized, the trustees have achieved the first object for which they were elected. The bridge is free.
The trustees have worked hard to get the bridge free at the earliest possible date. They will immediately devote their time and attention to the next problem of making the bridge absolutely safe for heavy traffic.
It is not yet known whether an entirely new bridge will be built or whether the present structure will be rebuilt, but the trustees are to take the matter up with as little delay as they did the freeing of the old bridge.
This matter has to be taken up with the full board, consisting of the trustees, county commissioners and highway commission. Some definite plans are expected soon. In the meantime, the old bridge is as good as it has been and it is free.
The trustees of the Mount Desert Island Bridge District are: Charles Shand, Ernest Graham, John Stalford, Frank Brewer and Charles Shea of Eden; Merritt Ober and C.D. Joy of Mount Desert; George Harmon of Southwest Harbor; L.W. Rumill of Tremont and Henry Smith of Trenton.
Due to the prompt and efficient work of these gentlemen, the first step in securing the new and free bridge has been accomplished.
Merritt Ober, treasurer of the board of trustees, gave the owners of the old bridge a check of $5,000 and received in return a deed of the structure. John Somes of Mount Desert, President of the Bridge Company, Clifford Thompson, treasurer and Mark Somes, clerk were the officers of the company present.
It is not known just who was the last man to pay a toll. Mr. Shand would be interested to know who he was. Just as the owners and trustees came out of the house, with the necessary papers signed, a car containing two young men paid the last quarter to Mrs. Thompson.
The car got away before it could be stopped and its owner informed that he had paid toll on a bridge which but a moment before had been made free.
There was no celebration or no ceremonies of any sort.
The only thing resembling occurred when about 15 gentlemen present together opened the gate and officially made the old bridge free. After taking down the toll signs, the party took the first free ride over the bridge.
The first car over free was Mr. Shand’s new Overland. With him were Mrs. Shand, Miss Ida Shand, Senator Charles Wood and Representative Judson Sawyer. Following Mr. Shan came a car from Northeast Harbor with Mr. Ober and party.
The first car to cross the bridge free after the cars of the parties making the transfer was owned by the R.J. Reynolds tobacco Company and was driven by E.E. Gustin of Westbrook, traveling salesman for the company.
It is interesting to note that the last car to pay toll and the first to cross free were both cars from off island, which shows that the rest of the state shares the benefits of a free bridge along with the towns which make up the district.
It was interesting to note the pleasant surprise manifested by the occupants of the cars which came along immediately after the gate had been opened. As each one stopped to pay the usual toll, he was greeted by the pleasant news that the bridge was free and that he had paid his last toll to get on and off Mount Desert Island.
To find out more about Bar Harbor history, visit www.barharborhistorical.org.