Covered bridge facts and legends of US bridges

Covered Bridge Facts and Legends

The most controversial Covered Bridge fact is the abundant claims of "longest." As an example, the longest covered bridge ever built was constructed in Pennsylvania between Lancaster County and York County. This bridge was over a mile in length and was completed in 1814.

An interesting "Bluegrass" note to our covered bridge facts: the longest wooden covered bridge in the world once stood near the town of Butler, 7.5 miles north of Falmouth in Pendleton County, Kentucky. The Butler Station Bridge over Licking River consisted of three spans of 152 feet each, for a total length of 456 feet. The bridge was built in 1870 and 1871 at a total cost of $18,450. Severely damaged by winds and floodwaters in 1937, it was torn down in September of that year.

The current longest-standing single-span covered bridge in the US is the Bridgeport Bridge of California, built around 1862, at 233 feet in length.

The longest existing American Covered Bridge is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge built-in 2008 in Ashtabula County, Ohio at 613 feet, but has a long time to go to meet historical bridge requirements. 

Another "longest" claim in covered bridge facts is the longest existing covered bridge in the World is the Hartland Bridge built in Hartland, New Brunswick, Canada at 1282 feet in length. The bridge was built in 1901 but was not covered until 1922.

Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge that spans the Connecticut River between Windsor, Vermont, and Cornish, New Hampshire is the longest two-span covered bridge in the world, at 465 feet, and the longest wooden bridge in the United States. (All these “longest” claims depend on how they are determining length.)

In America, the first covered bridge was built in Connecticut in 1804 by Theodore Burr. Named the Waterford Bridge, which spanned the Hudson River in New York and lasted for 105 years.

Unchallenged in covered bridge facts is the earliest documented covered bridge in the US was the 550 foot Permanent Bridge constructed over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia by Timothy Palmer in 1805.

The oldest documented American-covered bridge still standing is the Hyde Hall Bridge in Glimmerglass State Park near Cooperstown, New York, built-in 1825.

One of the most interesting covered bridge facts is that the history of covered bridges can be traced as far back as 780 B.C. in ancient Babylon.

The USA at one time had over 14,000 covered bridges crossing its rivers and streams.

Pennsylvania has the most standing covered bridges with 213. Ohio is second with 148.

Parke County, Indiana is the US County with the most covered bridges standing, with 31.

According to covered bridge facts, most of America's covered bridges were built between 1825 and 1875.

Currently, about 95 percent of the nation’s covered bridges are not a part of the federal highway system because they do not meet its standards.

American-covered bridges range in length from less than 100 feet to several hundred feet, and, like snowflakes, no two are alike.

American-covered bridges use about 18 different types of patented trusses.


Covered Bridge Legends

Covered bridges were attractive to robbers, who would hide in the rafters, and then drop down on their victims while going through the bridge.

In 1862, the price for crossing the Virginia City Turnpike Company's 14-mile section of roadway, including passage over the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, was $.25 for foot travelers, $.50 for horsemen, and $6 -- the maximum toll -- for a team of eight animals.

The earliest winters with covered bridges brought another challenge. In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, workers would be paid to shovel snow onto bridge floors to enable winter horse and sleigh traffic. If the rest of the roads in the area were snow-covered, travelers would have utilized a horse-drawn sleigh in lieu of the traditional carriage to get around. Without snow covering the floorboards of the bridges, crossing them in a sleigh would otherwise have been extremely difficult.

The bridges of Madison County are the No. 1 make-out spot in Iowa, according to the website:

The loss of Kentucky's covered bridges began during the Civil War when many were burned by troops on both sides of the conflict to keep the enemy from crossing the river.

A fourteenth surviving Kentucky-covered bridge truly is "covered" - by water. At the bottom of Herrington Lake near the Boyle-Garrard county line is the King's Mill Covered Bridge. When the lake was built in 1925, the old mill and bridge were left in place and were covered by the waters of the lake as they backed up behind the man-made dam. Due to the fact that the bridge has been completely immersed in freshwater, it is likely that this 175-foot span remains intact.

Stowe Hollow Bridge in Vermont, also known as "Emily's Bridge", was built in 1844. The locals call it Emily's Bridge because it is Emily, they believe, who haunts it.  In 1849, Emily wanted to marry a man her family did not approve of.  Though forbidden to marry, the couple decided to elope and meet one night, on Stowe Hollow Bridge. Emily waited for hours for her lover to join her.  Broken-hearted, Emily hung herself from one of the rafters.  Now, her angry, desperate ghost haunts the bridge, waiting for her fiancé to return to her.  Many locals refuse to cross this bridge at night because they believe it is Emily who shakes their cars, and sometimes, may even slash visitors with invisible claws.  Tales of horses, people, and cars being slashed by these invisible claws have run rampant for 150 years.  Others have heard a woman weeping.

Sach's Covered Bridge in Adam's County, Pennsylvania, was built in 1854 and supposedly haunted by three Confederate soldiers. They deserted their posts and when captured, were hung from the rafters inside Sach's Bridge.  Folks who have taken pictures of the inside of this covered bridge get strange orbs on the film.  When inside the covered bridge, many people even report feeling cold spots.

The Concord Covered Bridge in Smyrna, Georgia, is a one-lane bridge, built in 1872. Supposedly, if you park on the bridge, turn off your lights, and place a Snicker's bar on the roof, you will hear ghostly pattering and then the Snicker's bar will be gone.  The ghostly pattering is of children who drowned in the creek below. 

Some people believe a woman haunts the Van Sant Covered Bridge in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Others believe it is a highwayman who was murdered here. The woman, supposedly, threw her baby off of the bridge and it drowned in Pidcock Creek.  As the legend goes, many years ago a young woman got pregnant out of wedlock.  Her family wanted nothing to do with her and her child. Upset, she crept out in the middle of the night with her baby in her arms and headed to the nearby bridge. Once there, she flung her baby into the water and then hung herself from the bridge’s rafters.

This particular legend refers to the Van Sant Bridge in southeastern Pennsylvania, but different iterations of it are associated with several different so-called “Crybaby Bridges” across the United States. Whatever the particular details might be, the core elements of the myth remain the same: a child (or multiple children) met an untimely death at the bridge; the bridge is therefore now haunted, and the haunting manifests in the form of ghostly cries of the departed children that can still be heard to this day. In the case of the Van Sant Bridge, the story goes that if you park your car in the middle of the bridge you can hear not only the wail of the poor forlorn babe but also the toes of the hanging woman scraping your car roof. Apart from the unwed mother of the crybaby legend, the Van Sant Bridge is also reputed to have been a hanging place for horse thieves.

Jericho Covered Bridge in Joppa, Maryland, was built in the early 1800s. During the Civil War, several lynchings were reported to have occurred on this bridge.  If you drive your car onto this bridge late at night and look in your rearview mirror, you are supposed to be able to see the image of a dead person swinging from the rafters.

Glasgow, Kentucky. A covered bridge exists here where, legend says, is haunted by the sounds of an axe hitting a chopping block.  What's being chopped?  A head, of course.  In the 1800s, a slave kidnapped the daughter of his wealthy master and took her back to the covered bridge.  He cut off her head with an axe.  People say if you drive onto the bridge and roll down the car windows, you can hear the sound of the axe hitting the chopping block.

The Colville Road Covered Bridge in Paris, Kentucky, is haunted by a girl killed in a car wreck with her boyfriend. Returning from the prom, they prepared to stop at the bridge and instead careened into the water below.  If you sit in your car in the middle of the bridge, headlights might come up behind you, but when you look you see the car has fallen into the water.

The Stonelick Covered Bridge in Milford, Ohio, built in 1878, is home to urban legend. It is said that you can summon the apparition of a hanging man while on the bridge. To do this, you stop on the bridge, near its only window, and shut off your engine. Then, flash your headlights 3 times. According to the legend, at this point, you will see the apparition of a man hanging by his neck in the trees by looking out the window. Your car will then not start again until the apparition disappears.

And finally, The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge marks the site where the life of a young mother was abruptly cut short, just hours after the Deerfield Massacre. Nowadays, legend holds that Mrs. Williams never left the place where she died. It was still dark on the morning of February 29, 1704, when 300 warriors from the French Army and their allies from the Abenaki and Mohawk tribes crept into Deerfield. The French and British were fighting Queen Anne’s War for control of the continent. The little New England town barely knew what had hit it before houses were plundered and burned, livestock was killed, 56 residents were murdered and 112 were captured. Those 112 would spend the next few months hiking to Canada. 

Among the 112 captured were the Reverend John Williams, five of his seven children, and his wife, Eunice, who was in no shape to make the trek to Canada; she had given birth just a day before. Her baby did not survive the attack. Unable to make the journey, Eunice collapsed and was struck down by a tomahawk not far from her husband and surviving children. 

Some say that Mrs. Williams haunts the river by the bridge in remembrance of the violent death she faced: struck down by a tomahawk in icy waters while her family watched, just hours after her newborn was torn from her arms and killed. Others say that she appears to passersby’s whom she mistakes for her family. After all these years, perhaps she still waits for them to come back for her.


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Interesting facts and legends about historical covered bridges worldwide