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Gambill Bridge Named for Revolutionary Hero

Sparta - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem immortalized Paul Revere.

But some say the 100-mile ride Martin Gambill made through the mountains of North Carolina had more influence on the outcome of the Revolutionary War.

In honor of Gambill, the N.C. Department of Transportation dedicated a bridge over the New River in Alleghany County in Gambill's name on Friday with several descendants and dozens of community members and civic officials in attendance.

"This bridge-naming was very different because many bridges are named for fallen officers - police, firemen, troopers, members of our military - this was reaching back a couple hundred years, and I think rightfully so," Division 11 NCDOT Board Member Jim Palermo said. "We need to do things like this to remind ourselves who and what made this a great country."

Gambill was involved in the delivery of vital information during the Revolutionary War when he volunteered for the task of leaving Watauga County and riding more than 100 miles in 24 hours. He alerted frontiersmen along his ride - exhausting at least one horse along the way - that all militias of the Over-Mountain Men were to meet at Sycamore Shoals in one week. Gambill's ride prompted a victory over British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain which is credited for turning the tide of the American Revolution.

At the ceremony on Friday, Karen Gambill Leys, a member of the Alleghany County Board of Commissioners and seventh-generation granddaughter of Mr. Gambill, read the NCDOT proclamation.

Another descendent, Neal Gambill Lineback, read a poem similar to Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride." Palermo presented green replica signs to members of the Gambill family, and Division 11 Engineer Mike Pettyjohn unveiled the official sign alongside Farmer's Fish Camp Road.

State transportation officials and community members opened the bridge one year ago. In 2013, floodwaters washed away the low-level bridge, necessitating the need for a new span.

The state contracted with J.R. Vannoy and Sons of West Jefferson to build the new bridge, which took less than two years to complete at the cost of $2.4 million. The new bridge is five feet higher than the previous bridge - constructed in 1962 - and allows drivers in the area to take a shorter route through the area instead of a looping detour through Virginia.

"We love this new bridge," Pettyjohn said. "It's great for the folks in the area, and it's also better for those who float or kayak down the river."

Palermo noted that the bridge ties into Governor McCrory's 25-year Vision for Transportation in North Carolina because it creates a shorter route to the hospital in Sparta and commutes to jobs, as well as commutes to the Community College of Allegheny County. Palermo also added that the bridge holds a special place in the heart of many in Alleghany County, especially those who are well versed in Gambill's heroics.

"This bridge-naming has brought together a lot of people and a lot of his future generations," Palermo said. "If you think about families who make our country who immigrated into one of the original colonies, the Gambills were a part of that."


2/19/2018 7:48 AM