By U.S. ArmyApril 11, 2019
The first bridge that connected Moline, Illinois, to Rock Island (now Arsenal Island) was constructed by David B. Sears. Sears had constructed a small mill dam across the southern channel of the Mississippi River. A second damn completed the route from the Illinois mainland to the island. Because of the flat surface of both dams, wagons were able to traverse over the tops. This point in the navigation of the river allowed ferries to move wagons from Illinois to Iowa across the river by way of a steamboat landing on Benham's Island.
When Sears sold the property back to the federal government, the dams and the mills were destroyed, along with the steamboat landing. As a result, a stone bridge was constructed that connected Moline with Arsenal Island. The last-known map that included the crossing from Moline to Benham's Island was dated 1867. By 1870, the plans for a power dam downstream of the Sears Dam were presented to the War Department.
The railroad crossing at the downstream end of the island from the city of Rock Island to Davenport had already been opened, and a subsequent bridge with a built-in wagon crossing was already being planned. This bridge would be completed in the mid-1870s. The old Moline Bridge would go through several revisions before construction of the span that is used today.