The Unexplained: The deadly mystery of Sawdust Bridge

No one knows how many people died crossing Sawdust bridge.  It got a reputation for just gobbling up people.

There is a historical marker down in Arkansas on what was the old location of Harding Lake.  It marks the site of what was known as Sawdust Bridge.

The name itself, Sawdust Bridge, does not make any sense.  Sawdust Bridge?  Well, there actually was a bridge across the lake that was formed by mud and sawdust.

The sawdust came from a sawmill built by Dexter Harding in the 1850s, in the area of Pine Bluff, Arkansas in Jefferson County.

Dexter was not born in Arkansas.  He was born in Massachusetts.  The year was 1796.  His early years were not easy, but he had the drive to make the most of the life he had.  He would try to seize what opportunities he could.  The War of 1812 provided one.  He was able to join the Army at age sixteen in the Regiment of Volunteers of New York.  He was a drummer boy.

Somehow he made his way to Kentucky after he was discharged and found a woman to marry, Jane Allen.

Dexter was soon aware, then, of another opportunity.  As a veteran of the War of 1812, he was eligible to receive a land grant due to a law passed by congress.  Dexter and Jane journeyed to the Pine Bluff, Arkansas area where they secured 160 acres southeast of Pine Bluff.  It had a lake and would be a perfect site for a sawmill.  So that is what Dexter did.  He built the first sawmill in the whole area—and, he built a three-room house for his family.

Sara Marie Hogg

Dexter Harding’s sawmill was a success and was responsible for the construction of area homes and businesses for ten years.  It generated a lot of sawdust.  Dexter told his workers to pile the sawdust in the lake.  It was his property.

 They piled so much sawdust, that the pile stretched from one side of what was Harding Lake to the other.  This seemed to be fortunate because people realized that the fastest way to cross the lake, was to walk across the sawdust—a road was even built up to each side of the lake and on top of the sawdust.  It gave travelers a route to the north side of town.

Crossing the Sawdust Bridge was quite the experience.  It was mushy.  It shifted under feet, horses hooves, and wagons.  It was easy to fall off into the snakes and alligators.

Harding lake was not teeming with these creatures, but there were plenty in plain sight during the day.  It was what happened at night that gave people the terrors.

Some of the people who had the necessity to cross the bridge at night were slaves on the move.  Some just flat out disappeared.  They were swallowed up by the night, it seemed.  Slaves were not the only ones to vanish.  Anyone who crossed Sawdust Bridge at night was a candidate for vanishing.  The end might not be pleasant.

No one knows how many people died crossing that bridge.  It got a reputation for just gobbling up people.  What were the mysterious workings of the Sawdust Bridge?

It is a shame the accidents and vanishings were not well documented.  It was by word of mouth—what happened to people there in the dark—and the vanishings were vanishings.  There were no traces, ever again, of those that vanished.

 The bridge was haunted, no doubt about it.  The Sawdust Bridge had ghosts.  It became an area of the county that conjured up dread and horror.  It got so bad that no one would go near the place.

People moved away and left the area—it was frightening.

No one new would move in.

It was so bad that Harding Lake was drained, and the bridge was leveled.  It was gone.  The area where Sawdust Bridge was, is now a modern-day State Street.

To make my message clearer, it is exactly what the historical marker says:  “men and beasts dreaded to cross the spongy surface, especially at night, because of the strange lights, weird sounds, blasts of hot air, snakes, and alligators.”

Please click HERE to find Sara Marie Hogg’s mystery, It Rises from the Pee Dee, on Amazon.

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