Afton is situated on the Susquehanna River, near the center of the town, and on the Albany & Susquehanna R. R., by which it is distant 28 miles from Binghamton and 114 from Albany. It lies mostly upon the west side of the river, and principally along the street running parallel with it. The hills which bound the valley upon the east side are somewhat precipitous and largely covered with primitive forest or second-growth timber; while upon the west they are more rolling and susceptible of cultivation.
It contains five churches, (Baptist, Episcopal, M. E., Universalist and Presbyterian,) a Union school, with academic department, three hotels, a newspaper office, (Afton Home Sentinel, John F. Seaman, publisher,) a private bank (Enos M. Johnston & Co.,) a flouring and grist-mill, a saw-mill, a sash and blind factory, two wagon shops (kept by L. E. Jackson and W. E. Fleming,) three blacksmith shops (kept by H. M. Swift, O. E. Sackett, Jr., and Wm. R. Herkimer and Allen Estabrooks,) four shoe shops (kept by W. A. Piper, J. R. Brown, ? Randall and Eli Christian,) two manufactories of butter tubs and firkins, one harness shop (kept by R. E. Smith,) thirteen stores of various kinds, and a population of 700. The village is growing very rapidly.
The Susquehanna is spanned in the upper part of the village by a suspension bridge, which is one of the finest structures of its kind in the State, and is at once an ornament to the village and a credit to the enterprise of the people. The bridge has a main span
of 362 feet and an approach span upon the east side of 74 feet. It is supported by six cables 558 feet in length, each composed of 132 wires. They are double anchored, and were manufactured at Trenton, N. J. The height of the towers is 36 feet, and the arch of the bridge 4 feet. The suspending rods are five-eighths of an inch in diameter, attached to needle beams four feet apart. The roadway is 16 feet wide, and a railing four and one-half feet high, extends the whole length. The weight of the bridge is 100 tons, and the supporting weight 240 tons. It was built in 1868, at a cost of $15,000. The contractors were G. W. & J. V. V. Fishler, of Wellsburgh, Chemung county, N. Y., and James Crowell, the master-builder. A meeting was held on the evening of April 1st, 1868, in the village of Afton, and a bill authorized to be drawn for a charter for its construction, and A. C. Hyde, Thomas Landers and H. R. Caswell were appointed a commission to supervise the work. To pay for the bridge the town issued its bonds for $12,000, $2,000 of which was to be paid in February, 1869, and the remainder in annual installments of $2,000 each. Soon after the close of the war a beautiful covered bridge which spanned the Susquehanna within this village was lifted from its piers and dashed to pieces by a fearful tornado, leaving the town with nothing but a scow to cross the stream. The bridge company by duplicating their stock, erected another in its place, quite inferior and unsafe from the first. After standing about 18 months, “a reproach to the builder and a disappointment to the company, as well as constantly threatening peril to the public,” it was carried off by an ice floe. The bridge company then proposed to surrender their franchise to the town, on condition that a good, substantial, free bridge be erected, and this action resulted in the present noble structure (From Rev. E. T. Jacob’s article on “The Rise and Present of Afton.” )