Gilman Folsom – The Folsom Toll Bridge.
One of Iowa City’s earliest pioneers – Pleasant Arthur – moved here around 1840 and by 1841, purchased one of the only successful ferryboat businesses in Iowa City, making him a pretty popular fellow… and a pretty penny. You see, up until 1841 when visionaries like Arthur started their ferryboat services, the only way to cross the Iowa River was by swimming, walking on the ice, or paddling a canoe.
By 1845, Arthur’s son-in-law – Gilman Folsom – the man you see pictured here, took over the ferry business while also serving the good people of Iowa City as a full-time lawyer. By the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, more and more people were moving into Johnson County – clamoring for a bridge of any kind. Iowa City was growing quickly, and the California Gold Rush was bringing a multitude of people to town via the National Road and they needed a quick and safe crossing of the river.
So, in May 1853, Gilman Folsom, took out a license to build a bridge, and by 1854, Iowa City had its very first toll bridge located at the National Road crossing – which is where the Iowa Avenue Bridge stands today. Folsom’s first bridge was a pontoon – or floating bridge – but soon was replaced with a permanent wooden structure in 1856.
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