Portsmouth NH Executive Secretary and Named Bridge Honoree: Sarah Mildred Long (1916-2004)

S. Mildred Long . Photograph from book, “The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, A History …” by Woodard D. Openo, page vi, , published by Peter E. Randall, Portsmouth NH. Used with permission.

Three of the state’s largest bridges span the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine. The second longest bridge is the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge that connects Portsmouth NH with Kittery Maine via the U.S. Route 1 Bypass. (The longest is the Memorial Bridge | Route 1)

The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge was recently rebuilt and opened in March of 2018. The former bridge of the same name, completed in 1940, is the 2,000-foot steel truss that originally honored Mildred Long, though the updated bridge continues to bear her name.

There are few places and structures in New Hampshire that honor women, so we should cherish them. New Hampshire’s sole location named after a woman is Francestown (after Frances Deering Wentworth). Manchester has a historic city section named Janesville (after Jane Young Southwick) that has been essentially usurped by Corey Square. New Boston NH has a Molly Stark Lane, named after the heroic patriot, nurse and wife to General John.

The older Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, originally dedicated in 1940 as seen from Kittery, Maine, by JacyDuck on Wikipedia.

The bridge that is Mildred’s namesake was known for a long time as  simply the Maine-New Hampshire Bridge. Then in 1987 on the bridge’s 50th birthday  it was renamed to honor Sarah Mildred Long who had been an employee of the Maine-New Hampshire Interstate Bridge Authority for the same 50 years. As for Sarah Mildred Long (or “Mildred” which she preferred) if she were alive she would probably be embarrassed at the attention. She shied away from the limelight, content with doing her job well.

Fifty years of her life was devoted to the bridge that is her namesake. There is no one more deserving for this naming honor. In her obituary published in The Telegraph (Nashua NH) of 4 March 2004, former Portsmouth Mayor Eileen Foley was quoted as saying: “The bridge was kind of like her baby.

Portsmouth NH High School, built in 1905. Sarah Mildred Long graduated from this school in 1934. From editor’s postcard collection.

But who was Sarah Mildred Long?  Sarah Mildred Long was a child of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, born there on 18 August 1916 to Jeremiah Joseph & Mary (MacDonald) Long. She was the fourth generation of her family to live in Portsmouth NH. Her paternal great-grandfather, Jeremiah Long, was an Irish immigrant who had settled in Portsmouth in the 1850s. She came from a middle-class family, lived at 366 Broad Street and her father was a letter carrier. A variety of newspaper stories provide additional clues about her life. The Portsmouth Herald of Monday, June 23, 1930 reports: “GIVE DIPLOMAS TO GRADUATING CLASS OF 1930. 21 Boys and 32 Girls Complete Studies at St. Patrick’s School. Mildred Long was one of these grammar school graduates. Then the same newspaper of June 22, 1934 shows: 154 Graduate from Portsmouth High” including “Mildred Long, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Long, 373 Broad Street.”

Mildred’s parents must have felt strongly about education for all 3 of the Long children attended college. I have not been able to discover the specific college Mildred attended after high school, though the if the 1940 U.S. Census is correct, that by that time she had completed 3 years of college. [Editor’s note: Mildred’s brother graduated from Burdett College in Lynn MA and her sister graduated from Plymouth Business School].   It has been said that she only held one job in her life–that of secretary, and later Executive Secretary, for the Maine-New Hampshire Interstate Bridge Authority, which had been formed in 1937. In 1936 the local newspaper noted that she “substituted for Lucie Gorman at the real estate office of Frank D. Butler in Portsmouth NH. ”

Pleasant Street in Portsmouth NH 1930s. Postcard from Images of New Hampshire , Richard S. Marsh. Used with permission.

The 1940 U.S. Census includes a 23-year old Mildred Long who was living in a middle-class neighborhood of Portsmouth New Hampshire with her parents. At this time her occupation  is noted as “General Archeological (sic) Work at the Navy Yard.” Perhaps the person who provided information to the census taker was misinformed, or she had two jobs at this time. Mildred was active socially in her church. In 1938 she was a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, working with others on their May Festival program.

Woodard Openo, the author of “The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, A History..” (published in 1943) had an opportunity to interview Mildred when he was writing this book. He stated that when the bridge commissioners were getting ready to build what is now the Sarah Mildred Long bridge in 1937, the people involved had a meeting, and needed someone to take and type up the minutes. Someone suggested Mildred Long who accepted the job that would keep her busy for a remarkable 50 years. She eventually became the Executive Secretary for the project.

L to R, Harold Silverman, unidentified man, Bob Allard, Mildred Long, Walter Stickney. Taken on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. Photograph courtesy of Portsmouth Bridge Maintenance Office, NHDOT.

When the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge was first named in 1987, the official New Hampshire Senate bill listed it as the “Sarah M. Long Bridge,” and then was corrected shortly after by the State Legislature to “Sarah Mildred Long” the explanation being “because as she is mostly known in the Portsmouth area, she is known as Mildred and very few people even knew that her name was Sarah. So, we felt that it was important to put her entire name as Sarah Mildred Long.”  Mildred Long lived to the hearty age of 87 and died in March of 2004 at the Sunbridge Nursing Home in Lowell, Massachusetts.    Mildred Long was buried in her family’s plot in Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth New Hampshire.

In April of 2018 Mildred Long lost her role of being the only woman in New Hampshire with a namesake bridge, when another Piscataqua River bridge (connecting Dover and Newington) was renamed the Ruth L. Griffin Bridge. This is not a complaint, for I’m sure Mildred Long would gladly share the honor.  If any of my readers knew Mildred and would like to comment about her, or have additional photographs to add to this story, please leave a comment.

I want to thank the following people for their help in researching this story about Mildred Long, namely: Cathryn Czajkowski, Special Collections, Portsmouth Public Library; Bill Boynton, Public Information Office NHDOT; Woodard D. Openo, Ph.D., Author and Architectural Historian; James Smith, Photographic Collections Manager and Robin Silva, Librarian, Portsmouth Athenaeum; Peter Randall, Randall Publishing Co.; and Donna Emery, Accounting Technician, Portsmouth Bridge Maintenance.


View of Puddle Dock from Portsmouth, historic and picturesque, by Caleb S. Gurney, 1902

Jeremiah “Jerry” Long son of Dennis & Mary (Leary) Long was b abt 1821-25 in Ireland and died 9 July 1887 in Portsmouth NH. He m1) Ellen “Bridget” Gowing/Gavin;  He m2d) 5 Feb 1860 in Portsmouth NH to Catherine “Hattie” Hurley.  She was b. July 1825 in Ireland and d. 12 May, after 1900 when she is in the U.S. Census living with her (step)-son Dennis. In 1873 living at 5 Charles Street and in 1880 living at 7 Charles Street, Portsmouth NH. This house was located in the Puddle Dock neighborhood of Portsmouth.   They are buried in Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth NH.
Children of Jeremiah & Ellen (Gowing) Long:
1. +Den(n)is J. Long, b  March 1856 Salmon Falls (Rollinsford), NH
2. Mary E. Long, b 13 Mar 1858 Salmon Falls (Rollinsford) NH, died 26 March 1944; married 6 June 1882 in Portsmouth NH to John F. Flynn, son of Bartholomew & Ellen Flynn. They are buried in Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth NH.
Child of Jeremiah & Catherine “Hattie” (Hurley) Long
3. Ellen Agnes “Nelly” Long, b. 18 July 1863 Portsmouth NH,  died 19 Feb 1946.

Den(n)is J. Long , son of Jeremiah & Ellen Long, was born 12 March 1856 Salmon Falls NH, d. 24 March 1928 in Portsmouth NH; He married 3 November 1881 in Portsmouth NH to Ellen E. “Nellie” Costello, daughter of Patrick & Julia (Tangney) Costello. She was born May 1857 in Boston MA and died 19 April 1924 in Portsmouth NH. . They are buried in Calvary Cemetery. Resided 401 Miller Avenue.
1900 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Portsmouth
Dennis J Long 49
Nellie Long 43
Joseph J Long 16
Julia Long 15
Margaret Long 12
Dennis Long 8
John Long 4
Philip Long 2
Katherin Long 74
Nellie Long 31
Joanna Grogan 43
Children of Dennis J. & Ellen E. “Nellie” (Costello) Long:
1. +Joseph Jeremiah aka Jeremiah Joseph Long, b 27 Sep 1882 Portsmouth NH
2. Julia M. “Julie” Long, b November 1884 Portsmouth NH; m. 24 April 1907 in Portsmouth NH to James P. Griffin, son of Michael J. & Mary (Connory) Griffin.
3. Margaret Long, b  January 1888 Portsmouth NH; married 12 October 1910 in Portsmouth NH to Francis R. Curran, son of Patrick J. & Mary Ann (Clark) Curran
4. Theresa Theodora Long, born 18 August 1890 Portsmouth NH
5. Dennis Leo Long, b 19 August 1890 Portsmouth NH; married 17 October 1917 in Portsmouth NH to Nora Teresa Coffey, daughter of Humphrey & Ellen (Guiney) Coffey.
6. John Long, born 30 August 1895 Portsmouth NH; died 18 February 1981; buried Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth NH. He married Mary O’Connell.
7. Phillip Raphael Long, born 21 January 1898 Portsmouth NH; In 1920 living in Washington DC with his maternal uncle, Maurice F. Costello, and his family.

Jeremiah Joseph Long, son of Dennis J. & Ellen E. “Nellie” (Castello) Long was born 27 Sep 1882 in Portsmouth NH. In 1917 when he completed his WWI Registration Form, his occupation was Navy Yard Police and sub[stitute] mail carrier.  In the 1942 Portsmouth (NH) City Directory his occupation was letter carrier. They lived at 373 Broad Street. He married 16 August 1912 in Portsmouth NH to Mary MacDonald, daughter of Daniel & Sarah MacDonald. She was born  23 April 1885 in Cape Breton, N.S., Canada and died 14 February 1946 in Portsmouth NH.
Children of Jeremiah Joseph & Mary (MacDonald) Long:
1.  Anna Marjorie Long, born 7 November 1912 Portsmouth NH [from SSDI], and died 23 Aug. 1997 in Portsmouth NH; She married 14 Sep 1940 in Portsmouth NH to John Dawson Neville, son of Edward Joseph Neville & Bridget McCarty. He was born 7 March 1912 in Portsmouth NH and d. 21 Aug 1955 in Concord NH. He was a retired Naval Shipyard employee. Anna was a graduate of Portsmouth High School, and Plymouth Business School. According to her She was employed for many years by the Ford Motor Company. She was a member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Altar Society. No children
2. Walter Joseph Long, born 28 Feb 1914 Portsmouth NH, d. 18 Nov 1997, buried Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth NH. He m. 1942 in Hopewell VA to Barbara Baker, daughter of Louis Pratt & Eda (Debaun) Baker.  He was a WW2 Veteran (Sergeant).  Children: Pamela [Splaine], Stephanie, and Peter.
3. Sarah Mildred Long was born 18 August 1916 in Portsmouth NH.  This story is about her, see above.  She never married.


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9 Responses to Portsmouth NH Executive Secretary and Named Bridge Honoree: Sarah Mildred Long (1916-2004)

  1. Amy says:

    I have been on that bridge numerous times, but will never go over it again without thinking about Mildred Long. I am glad she lived long enough to know that the bridge was named for her (even if she might have been somewhat embarrassed).

    • Janice Brown says:

      Amy thank you for reading and commenting. I notice in the newspapers that the newspapers and other publications are already calling it the SML Bridge, when with a little effort the lovely woman who is its namesake will be remembered. It is when we forget why places are named after someone that they are bound to be renamed.

  2. Peter J. Long says:

    Hi Janice,

    I came across your article quite by accident. Mildred was my aunt. She lived her entire life in the house my grandfather built in 1914 at 373 Broad Street in Portsmouth, until she went to the Clipper Home just up the street from her house, where she died in 1997.

    In the 50s, when I was 12, my grandfather gave up his huge garden and sold the land behind his house to my father for $1.00. My father built his house there on Sagamore Avenue where my 98 year old mother still lives. I probably spent more time ‘up back’ at Grand’s house than in my own.

    I worked for the Maine-New Hampshire Interstate Bridge Authority for four summers while in college. The Authority managed a couple miles of highway on both the New Hampshire and the Maine sides of the bridge. I was on the road crew, cutting grass, repairing guard rails, etc. and painting the bridge railings and railroad trestle during the week, and in the toll house collecting toll on the weekends. I would often work on the bridge all day, then collect toll on the night shift. The toll to cross the bridge was ten cents!

    One of the most memorable parts of working on the bridge was getting to ride the draw to the top when ships would go under. Another was to explain to irate motorists waiting at the toll house because of a bridge lift that the bridge had to be raised in order to let the tide out.

    My aunts Mildred and Anna were lovely, kind, wonderful people. I miss them dearly, and I am very grateful that Mildred’s name will live on because of the bridge that she dedicated her life to.

    An interesting addendum to your article is that Ruth Griffin, for whom the Piscataqua River Bridge was recently renamed, was Mildred’s cousin by marriage. Ruth married the son of Julia Long and James Griffin. Julia was Mildred’s aunt and my great aunt. I was delighted to hear that Ruth’s long career as a New Hampshire legislator was so honored. Ruth still lives in the Griffin “farm’ on the corner of Richards Avenue and South Street.

    I left my beloved Portsmouth after college and now live in San Francisco.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Peter, Thank you for leaving a comment. I hope that I did justice to your aunt. She seems like a very interesting woman, and her role in making sure the bridge was well looked after must have been great for it to be named after her. Also thanks for that tidbit of information about Ruth Griffin being related by marriage.

  3. Peter J. Long says:

    Oops… Mildred died in 2004, not 1997. Her sister, Anna, and my father, Walter both died in 1997. Sorry.

  4. Jemi Broussard says:

    Are there any photos from the Bridge dedication on March 8, 1940? I currently am a caregiver for 89-year-old Jean Everett Coburn, whose grandfather was Highway Commissioner, and she remembers cutting the ribbon on the bridge, along with the Mayor’s daughter. I polished and took photos today of the engraved scissors she used!

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