~~~The pace suddenly quickened as the lead animals sensed that the top of the mountain had been reached. ~ The bars to the entrance of the cattle pens were slammed in place. ~Men were hard at work forking feed to the cattle and the persistant bellowing of the animals had quieted. ~Soon the drovers were filling their empty stomachs in the bar room and at the tables of the inn and tavern across the way. ~Darkness had settled and now all was still around the compound as man and beast sank into a weary sleep.
~~~When the Guice family first came into the area and acquired land on both sides of the Green River and the Howard Gap Road is not exactly known. But it is known that it was after the Revolution and that the family was among the first in that area which was to become parts of Polk and Henderson Counties.
~ Peter Guice was born November 10, 1788, and his father Phillip and the family had been in the area for several years before his birth.
The Howard Gap Road became the main thoroughfare between the earlier settled western areas of our country and the Carolina and Georgia coast lands.~The movement of horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and even turkeys from Kentucky and Tennessee to the coastal markets was ever increasing. ~The stagecoach and methods of travel east and west had to follow the Howard gap Road.
By the time Peter Guice reached maturity. the family inn had been developed. The stock pens had gradually increased in numbers. Now there was a pounding mill to crack grain to feed the droves of animals stopping overnight on their way to market, a grist mill for grinding grain into meal and flour, a blacksmith shop and finally a shingle mill was added. Peter Guice was by now a man of great importance and enterprise.
It is not known when Peter Guice got the idea to build a bridge across Green River where the Howard gap Road crosses but it was around 1820 that the bridge was built to avoid the loss of animals fording the raging waters of the river. About the same time, January 21, 1821, a son was born to Peter Guice. Through the years Peter Guice raised six boys and two girls. His son Joe had a family of two boys and six girls. The Guice family was on its way to becoming one of the largest families in Henderson and adjoining counties. ~~ ( * It should be remembered here that Peter's father, Phillip, had thirteen children, eleven boys and two girls and that Peter's two elder sons were Gabriel and Thomas Newton).
Sometime along the way an unrecorded flood washed out the toll bridge built by Peter but his son rebuilt it and maintained it until the flood of 1916 destroyed the second bridge after over ninety years of service protecting life and property from the waters of the Green River below.
Methods of travel and transportation were changing. New and better highways were being constructed. Highway 176 replaced the Howard Gap Road . Then Interstate I-26 was platted and surveyed. It was found that the natural place to cross Green River was exactly where Peter Guice built the first bridge ever to span that river here in the mountains. This bridge which was 220 feet high and cost $3,758,028.00 was opened to traffic in 1972.
the dedicatory address was made by Jacob F. Alexander, Secretary of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. One of the highlights of the dedication and naming of the bridge was the history of the Guice family. This was given by Mrs. Beulah Ward Hess, a fifth generation direct descendant of Peter Guice.
The Peter Guice Memorial Bridge is recognized as a magnificent structure. Spanning the Green River Gorge 220 feet below. It stands as an example of modern engineering, architectural and constructural skill. Few stop to think that when Peter Guice built the first bridge across Green River and when his son, Joe E. Guice replaced it with a second bridge, those pioneers had only a few yoke of oxen, axes, adz sand crude block and tackle to work with. Their engineering and construction skill in building the first two bridges across the Green River Gorge was equal or even greater than the skill of the present day builders.
Peter Guice, his son Joe and others of the Guice family rest in peace in the older section of the cemetery of the Friendship Baptist Church which is near Saluda and not far from the location of the Guice Bridges that spanned Green River.
[View of new I-26 Guice Memorial Bridge]