Richland Album: Covered Bridges on the Forks of the Mohican

The Law of Time

This is the law of time: for every hour we go on there is an hour that slips behind, so that for every bit of gain there is equal loss. In order to enter the future we must relinquish the past.

As each generation creates its own new version of America, the old way, the old style, passes into history, and as each wave of people takes the stage to witness a particular and unique new story, so it watches the putting away of sets and scenery and props from the play just concluded.

This series of photo essays takes a look at landmarks from the past that were once common and familiar components of the landscape to Richlanders long since passed on. A hundred and fifty years ago folks couldn’t really imagine a county without water-powered mills, without covered bridges, without livery stables. Today the only way you have to picture these sights is with our virtual Richland Album.

This collection of pages from the virtual album features Richland County’s covered bridges on the Forks of the Mohican.

In the horse-drawn era a covered bridge was a welcome refuge when the storm hit. Certainly cattle knew that and, given the opportunity they clustered underneath the bridge or even inside… because it looked like a barn. The threat of hidden animals lurking in the bridge had a very effective impact on moderating the speed limit.

In wintertime the roof kept snow and ice from building up on the road surface, and the plank walls served an important purpose as well: skittish horses who otherwise balked at the sight of walking above a chasm with churning waters below found that those wooden walls were as familiar and comforting as a cozy barn.

In the 1800s covered bridges were a common setting of country life until the 20th century when automobiles started taking over the roads. Co-incidentally, and with a sort of poetic twist of weather, most of the bridges were erased off the landscape in the great flood of 1913, and had to be replaced with iron trestle bridges that were wider to accommodate the new automotive traffic.


NEWVILLE

This photo of the village of Newville was obviously taken before 1913 because the Newville covered bridge over the Clear Fork River was still in place, as seen on the left in the detail above. The flooding river took out the bridge, and then eventually caused the entire village to disappear in 1936 when Pleasant Hill Lake was built downstream.

BUTLER

In the 1800s there were two things you might find at the river: a covered bridge and a water-powered mill. This postcard from Butler captured both the Rummel Mill and its nearby landmark bridge, wiped out in the 1913 flood. Today a trestle bridge spans the river.

BELLVILLE

This is one of the bridges in Richland County that survived into the modern era. Just out of Bellville on the way to Butler, this covered bridge kept its footing during the 1913 flood and thereby acquired a title: “Hero of the Clear Fork.” It wore a sign proclaiming its accomplishment until 1930 when the bridge was collapsed by a rogue cucumber truck, and thereafter was renamed: “Pickle Bridge.”
Another view of Pickle Bridge.

MOHICAN STATE PARK

The modern covered bridge in Mohican State Park was built in 1969 to replace an old one-lane trestle bridge (below), that had been moved there from Newville in the 1930s when village was disbanded.
This covered bridge (also below) crossed the Clear Fork just outside of Loudonville on what is today Route 3 near the Mohican State Park entrance.

MOHICAN RIVER

Traveling down the Mohican River today, people in canoes still encounter the stone abutments of an impressive covered bridge that was carried away over a hundred years ago.

Looking at this structure it is easy to imagine why folks were hesitant to drive home at night once word was passed that robbers and highwaymen hid in the covered bridges to rob travelers.

There was no place lonelier than a covered bridge late at night, and that’s why it was a favorite place for secret lovers to meet. Tale is told of the man near Olivesburg who often stopped his horse in the dark halfway across the bridge so he could neck with his girlfiend. The horse, who knew the routine, stopped halfway across one evening when the wife was at the reins, and it didn’t take her long to figure out what her husband was up to.

TROY TOWNSHIP

The tiny Richland County village known as Troy Settlement, or Troy Meeting House, stood on the banks of the Clear Fork about 2 miles northwest of Lexington. The site was somewhat obliterated by the dam that created the Clear Fork Reservoir, but the place can be located by its old country graveyard seen near the intersection of State Route 97 and Gass Road.

The village didn’t survive long past the Civil War, but its covered bridge made it until the advent of photo post cards.

WINDSOR

The covered bridge over the Black Fork just north of Windsor (near the border of Ashland County) was on old Route 42 until the road was redirected east of the village in the 20s because of increased traffic of automobiles.

ROME

The best known of Richland County’s covered bridges is the Rome bridge because it lasted the longest. Built in 1874 across the Black Fork River in Blooming Grove Township 2 miles south of Rome, it was 115 feet long and 12 1/2 feet wide. It survived the 1913 flood, though 3 feet of water rose over its flooring, but fell to an arsonist in 1971 at 97 years old.
Photo of Rome bridge by Eileen Wolford 1961.
Photos of Rome bridge by Eileen Wolford 1961.



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