Parke County, Indiana
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Covered Bridges

Introducing the 2015 Featured Covered Bridge

Bowsher Ford Covered Bridges

The Bowsher Ford Covered Bridge (#32) is the featured bridge for 2015 with commemorative with lapel pins, magnets and more!


Bowsher Ford  


With a total of 31 covered bridges,
Parke County is known at the
"Covered Bridge Capital of the World".

In the 1800's covered bridges were practical due to the abundance of virgin timber and were covered to protect the floorboards. Another reason the bridges were covered is the fact that the horsed did not like to cross the open bridges where they could see and hear the rushing water. The bridges were covered and, you will notice, the entrances look like that of a barn. The horses would enter willingly. Covered bridges were known as "kissing bridges" as courting couples were prone to stop and steal a kiss before leaving the bridge.

The load limit is determined by the floor beams and supports, as it is difficult to estimate the strength of the arches, which are much stronger in comparison. The Burr Arches used in every Parke County bridge except the Phillip's Bridge(which has a Kingpost) were developed by Theodore Burr. He was known as the "Father of American Bridge Building" and patented it's design in 1820. All the bridges are made of yellow poplar with the exception of the Big Rocky Fork and Conley's Ford bridges which are made of white pine. Prior to 1900, the abutments were made of blocks of Mansfield sandstone, and after 1900, they were made of concrete. If the bridge sat on a winding approach, windows were placed at the ends of the bridge.

The inscription "Cross This Bridge At A Walk" dates back to the horse and buggy days and was placed at both ends of the bridges. The rhythm of the horses hooves could do more structural damage to the bridge than the weight of a modern day truck. For the same reason, soldiers broke cadence when crossing also. 

Construction cost varied from $1,200 for the Crooks Bridge to $8,000 for the West Union Bridge. At one time Parke County had a total of 52 1/2 bridges.  The 1/2 bridge was owned in cooperation with Vermillion County as it sat half in each county crossing the Wabash River. Thirty-one bridges remain with 10 retired to vehicular traffic.


Beeson Covered Bridge (#38)

Built: 1906, moved 1979
Builder: Frankfort Construction Co., moved by Buchta Trucking
Creek: Big Raccoon, moved to Williams Creek
Location: Originally located 1 mile northwest of Marshall on County Road 216. Moved to Billie Creek Village on US 36.
Reference Code: 14-61-24. 12-61-27, nw, Washington 5.4-16N—7W moved to Adams 8-15N--7W
Size: 55 ft long, 16 ft wide. 12'6" clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete, moved to concrete, reset on creosoted wood
Original Cost: moving cost $20,000

Repair/Restoration History: Closed in 1974. Damaged by arson fires August 9, 1979 and August 15, 1979. Moved by flood 1989. Repainted 1990.

Bridge History: The Beeson Covered Bridge could have been called the Marshall Covered Bridge since it was located closest to that city. However, another bridge had been called Marshall even though it was across the county and had no relation to the town. This bridge was located near land now owned by the Beeson family for over a hundred years. William H Beeson, born in 1879 owned 53 acres by the bridge in 1920. The Beeson log cabin, built in 1835 was located nearby. The Beeson Cabin was moved to Billie Creek Village in 1969 and preserved. The Beeson Covered Bridge was also moved back into proximity to the cabin eleven years later.In 1969 the Beeson Bridge was closed after the abutments were declared unsafe This also closed a major route to Turkey Run High School and State Park as well as to emergency equipment.Another nearby concrete county bridge collapsed in March 1979, further blocking access in and out of Marshall and the school and park The Roaring Creek Citizens Association (RCCA) was organized to correct the road blockages caused by the damaged bridges.

The association announced at a meeting at Turkey Run High School on August 9. 1979, that they had secured two million dollars to remove and replace the Beeson Bridge. The funding included 80% from the federal government. 20% from the county and a commitment from the US Army to use helicopters to remove the covered bridge. Steve DePlanty, president of the RCCA said they had received no cooperation from Parke County Incorporated, which had passed up two previous opportunities to remove the bridge.

At 11:47 P.M. August 9, 1947 after the meeting, a fire was reported at the Beeson Bridge. The Marshall Fire Department fought the fire from the south while the Bloomingdale Fire Department fought it from the north. The fire was clearly a case of arson, with a smell of fuel oil still present the following day. It was investigated by the County Sheriff. State Police and State Fire Marshall Departments, and as a registered national land mark, the FBI may have also had jurisdictionThe RCCA denied any connection to the fire. DePlanty felt that someone had taken advantage of the meeting and threatened legal action against those claiming the RCCA was responsible for the fire.

A second arson attempt was made on the bridge on Wednesday August 15, 1979, shortly after midnight Bill Connerly, who lived nearby, saw someone at the bridge, heard someone turn around in his driveway, later saw flames, and reported the fire. The Marshall Fire Department arrived to find the floor covered with flames that were starting up the wails. Nevertheless, they were able to quickly extinguish them.

Buchta trucking began moving she Beeson Budge on December 4, 1979. They removed the roofing and siding before transporting the bridge. The covered bridge replaced the entrance footbridge at Billie Creek Village. The $20,000-$38,000 cost was shared between Billie Creek Village and Parke County Incorporated.

Big Rocky Fork Covered Bridge (#6)

Built: 1900
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Big Rocky Fork (was Rocky Fork)
Location: Located 1 mile southeast of Mansfield on Greencastle Road, near Fallen Rock Park.
Reference Code: #6, 14-61-01, 12-61-01, ah, Jackson 16-14N—6W
Size: 72 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance

Truss: Burr Arch 1 span

Foundation: Hewn limestone block

Original Cost: $1,475.50

Repair/Restoration History: 
Bypassed in 1987.

Bridge History: 
Also known as "Murphy Bridge"

The bridge was named after the creek.

Joseph J. Daniels completed the bridge, September 7, 1900.

Fallen Rock Park was named for a smokehouse size sandstone rock that fell into the creek.

In the vicinity of Big Rocky Fork Bridge and Fallen Rock Park is one of Parke County’s mysterious rock graves. Hidden on the side of a 100 foot high cliff, it is not visible from below or above. A streamlet is also a poorly defined trail up the cliff.

The grave is 9 feet long by 30 inches deep and 20 inches wide. The path seems to step directly into the foot of the grave. A stone pillow is cut into the head end. There are three divergent stories to explain its origin: The first story attributes the grave to the Indians prior to the 1820’s settlement of the area. A second story attributes the excavation to a group of campers from near Fallen Rock in the late 1800’s. The third story attributes the grave to a local farmer, a Mr. Israel Asbury. This story said that he dug it so that his family could bring him here. Or, they wondered if he intended to come here to die. Instead, he was killed while setting on a railroad tie oblivious to the oncoming train whistle. He was buried in an ordinary cemetery, and the grave was never finished or occupied.

Since the bridge was bypassed, maintenance responsibility has passed from the Parke County Highway Department to the Parke County Park Department. Due to very limited funds, very little maintenance has been performed. On July 13,1991 a local group began to clean up the bridge site in response to the Adopt-A-Bridge program.

Billie Creek Covered Bridge (#39)

Built: 1895
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Williams Creek
Location: Located east of Rockville in Billie Creek Village.
Reference Code: #39, 14-61-19, 12-61-20, fw, Adams 8-15N—7W
Size: 62 ft long +8’ +8’, 15 ft wide, 12’6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Cut sandstone, built by J.L. Van Fossen
Original Cost: $820

Repair/Restoration History: Replaced bridge built by J. A. Britton in 1880.

Bridge History: The Billie Creek Bridge was named for the nickname of the creek. This bridge replaced an earlier one constructed by J.A. Britton in 1880. That bridge is thought to have been an open bridge, which deteriorated rapidly because of lack of covering.

Joseph A . Button also bid on this bridge. The bids for the superstructure included J.J. Daniels, $820; and J.A. Britton $845.

The abutments were handled separately. They were constructed by J.L. Van Fossen out of cut sandstone. The sandstone was cut and hauled from A.E. Fuel’s quarry less than a mile away.

The Daniels - Van Fossen association continued with the construction of the replacement Roseville Covered Bridge, in 1910. J.P. Van Fossen was the contractor, while J.J, Daniels was purported to be the onsite foreman. All three of the Van Fossen Bridges closely resemble the J.J, Daniels bridge patterns, including the "Daniels Arched Portal".

The bridge was on the Pikes Peak, Plank Road, and Ocean to Ocean Road that became US 36. Like the Sim Smith Bridge, it was saved by rerouting the highway and was not destroyed as were Howard, and Hollandsburg.

A tourist attraction was constructed by moving and restoring local historic buildings near the bridge site. Billie Creek Village now includes a historic church, school, general store, governor’s home, barn, and other features. The Beeson Covered Bridge, and the Leatherwood Station Bridge, have been moved near this site.

Today, the Billie Creek Bridge is intermittently opened and closed for traffic control. When closed, school buses must make a detour of over 2 miles on their assigned route. When Billie Creek Village is open during Covered Bridge Festivals, evenings, and weekends, the Billie Creek Bridge is usually closed until the overflow parking lot is needed and opened.

Bowsher Ford Covered Bridge (#32)

Built: 1915
Builder: Eugene Britton; Elmer Garrard, Contractor
Creek: (Wabash) Mill Creek
Location: Located 2 miles northwest of Tangier
Reference Code: #32, 14-61 -33, 12-61 -36, rh, Liberty 8-7N—8W
Size: 72 ft long +10’ +10’, 16 ft wide, 13’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Bridge History: Elmer Garrard was awarded the contract to construct the Bowsher Ford Bridge. Apparently he needed the expertise of the Britton family to complete the job. Eugene Britton, Joseph A. Button’s son, was hired and is credited as builder. Joseph A. Britton, Lawrence Britton, and family were constructing the Jeffries Ford Covered Bridge, across Big Raccoon Creek; Rolling Stone Covered Bridge, Putnam County across Big Walnut Creek; and Sharpe Covered Bridge, Putnam County across Mill Creek, the same year.

Elmer Garrard submitted a bid for the Nevins Covered Bridge in 1920, competing with the Britton family. The bridge was named for the ford at that site. The ford was named for the Bowsher family who owned the land around the ford. The bridge has a wood shingle roof. A full scale covered bridge replica is being used as a farm shed 1/4 mile southwest of the Bowsher Ford Bridge.

The Bowsher Ford Covered Bridge is the same approximate size and configuration as the Big Rocky Fork Bridge, built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1900. In contrast, the Big Rocky Fork Bridge has a stone abutment and a "J. J. Daniels arched portal."

Bridgeton Covered Bridge (#8)

Built: 2006

Builder: Dan Collom & local community
Creek: Big Raccoon Creek
Location: Bridgeton Indiana
Reference Code: #8, 14-61-04, 12-61-04, bt Raccoon 15/22-14N-7W
Size: 245 feet long, +11’+11’, 13’ ft wide, 12’ clearance

Truss: Burr Arch 2 Span

Foundation: Sandstone Block

Catlin Covered Bridge (#13)

Built: 1907, moved 1961
Builder: Clark McDaniel, moved by Garrard Brothers Trucking
Creek: Sunderland Creek, moved to Bill Diddle
Location: Located on north side of Catlin on Rockville Rosedale Road. Moved to Rockville Golf Course, 2 miles north of Rockville, near US Highway 41 and County Fairgrounds. Also on "Blue Route"
Reference Code: #13,14-61-15,12-61-16, er, Florida/Adams 36/31-15N—7/8W. Moved to Penn 36-16N—8W
Size: 54 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Poured concrete (both)

Bridge History: William Rea was the first settler near Catlin in 1820. The town was named Catlin Station on the Vandalia Railroad from a resident, Hiram Catlin. Along with a Mr. Montgomery and Henry Miller, they decided to establish a shipping point in the early years of the Civil War. (These names have also been reported as Thomas Catlin, Samuel Catlin, and Thomas Harshman.)

James Ray built a steam powered flour mill on the south side of town in about 1865. It was operated by McCullough and Chambers and later by Charles Rapp and Hiram Brown. After the business failed, the building was converted into a hotel called the Perrin Hotel. The hotel and several other businesses burned in August, 1902. The fire started from hot coals expelled by a train which ignited dry grass.

W.R.Pence and L.O.Gray started a poultry business in 1892. In 1917, the business was expanded, cold storage added, and an ice house built. The building has since housed a grocery store, Post Office, drug store, Masonic lodge hall, and remains today as a private welding shop.

Coal mines were located east of town. They closed suddenly in 1919 when flooded with quicksand. Some of the miners lost their tools in the flood of sand.

Stockyards were located southwest of town. Cattle were driven there for rail loading. The rail depot remains, windows covered with plastic, across the road from the abandoned railbed.

The Rockville Rosedale Road, once called the Ben Hur Highway, was a major route to Crawfordsville. Even after construction of US Highway 41, it continued to carry heavy agricultural truck traffic. The Catlin Bridge was condemned and closed soon after the Covered Bridge Festivals began. Federal funds were made available to upgrade roads.

Before replacement, the bridge was allowed to fall into a severe state of disrepair. In order to prevent the outright destruction of this valuable covered bridge, funding was raised to move it to the Rockville Golf Course.

Although sufficient funds were raised to move the bridge, several years passed before a foundation was constructed, the siding, roof, and deck were repaired, and the bridge was properly repainted. Some golfers even lobbied for the demolition and removal of it as an obstacle and eyesore.

The Catlin Bridge is now on public display, spanning a stream named for the golf course designer.

Conleys Ford Covered Bridge (#7)

Built: 1906-7
Builder: J. Lawrence Van Fossen
Creek: Big Raccoon Creek
Location: Located between Mansfield and Bridgeton, 2 miles southwest of Mansfield.
Reference Code: #7, 14-61-02, 12-61-02, ba, Raccoon 13-14N—7W
Size: 192 ft long, +10’ +10’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance

Truss: Double Burr Arch 1 Span

Foundation: Concrete

Repair/Restoration History: 
Resided and reroofed in 1991.

Bridge History: 
This bridge was built of white pine. Most Parke County bridges were predominantly built of poplar. It has been claimed as the fourth longest single span covered bridge in the world.

J. Lawrence Van Fossen built the Conley’s Ford Bridge the same year that his brother, Jefferson P. Van Fossen, built the Adam’s Bridge. Jefferson P. Van Fossen later built the Jessup Bridge, in 1910 and was the contractor for the second Roseville Bridge, that same year.

J. Lawrence Van Fossen constructed the abutments for the Billie Creek Bridge, in 1895. He transported the stone from the nearby quarry.

The Van Fossens worked for the Parke County Road Department. The Van Fossens worked closely with Joseph J. Daniels who built the Roseville, and Billie Creek bridges.

All of their bridges have the "Daniel’s Arch" and the Daniel’s construction style.

In 1991, the "Daniels Portals" have been changed to "Britton Portals," and the 1906-07 date reduced to 1907. It has a corrugated galvanized steel roof and has been completely resided and painted.

Earlier portal lettering included commissioners, auditors, treasurer, and builder. Legible portions of old photographs include Bradfield, Grubb and Baxted(?), Commissioners, A. Pickett, Engineer.

The phrase "Cross This Bridge At A Walk" refers to the speed and gait of a horse. The rhythmic running of a horse can set up destructive vibrations in a bridge. The sign does not require the automobile, wagon, or bicycle rider to dismount and walk across the bridge.

Cox Ford Covered Bridge (#36)

Built: 1913
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Sugar Creek
Location: Located east of US 41, north of Indiana 47, and west of Turkey Run State Park.
Reference Code: #36, 14-61 -34, 12-61 -37, sg, Sugar Creek 28/29-17N—7W
Size: 176 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: $385 Concrete on top of stone block
Original Cost: $4,235

Repair/Restoration History: Replaced iron bridge, built in 1896, destroyed by flood in 1913. Deck replaced in 1975 by County Highway Department.

Bridge History: Cox Ford was not bridged until 1896. When the County Commissioners advertised for bids, they received lower bids from J.J. Daniels and J.A. Britton, but they chose a more expensive iron bridge. Iron Bridges were "modern".

The iron bridge was washed away in the flood of 1913. The Armiesburg, the Plank Road, and the Hargrave covered bridges were destroyed in the same flood. A contract for a replacement covered bridge at Cox Ford was awarded to J.A. Britton. His bid was contingent on the reuse of the Armiesburg Covered Bridge arches and the iron bridge abutments. He raised the level of the bridge another 5 feet. Today, the abutments are in two segments with 5 feet of poured concrete placed on top of the original hewn stone.

The arches from the Armiesburg Bridge may have been sawn by Charlton Britton, Joseph A. Button’s father. His sons, including Edgar Britton, probably also assisted in the construction.

Joseph A. Britton built the Howard Bridge, at the Plank Road site and the State Sanatorium Bridge, the same year. (The Armiesburg Bridge was replaced with a concrete bridge.)

Although the water below the Cox Ford Bridge now looks shallow, several very large catfish were pulled out of there. Winfield Catlin and James C. Buchanen went fishing there on June 2,1920. Mr. Catlin probed the water with a long stick under the larger rocks. He found a large one and called to Mr. Buchanen. Mr. Buchanen immediately tumbled into the water from a 12 to 15 foot cliff (in a new suit of clothes) and tried to "hog" the fish. In the lively struggle both men’s hands were cut as they reached into the fish mouth and tried to drag it out of the water. Their trophy fish weighed 47 pounds.

They placed the fish in the car and took it to the Rockville Republican newspaper office. They said it wasn’t unusual, they had caught them up to 75 pounds.

Turkey Run State Park now extends past the Cox Ford Covered Bridge. A public parking lot and a canoe landing are located southwest of the bridge.

Crooks Covered Bridge (#12)

Built: 1856 or 1860 rebuilt and moved 1867 or 1872
Builder: Henry Wolf rebuilt by Gen. Arthur Patterson or Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Little Raccoon (now Molasses) moved to Little Raccoon
Location: Located 5 miles southeast of Rockville. Also on "Red Route"
Reference Code: #12, 14-61-17, 12-61-18, f, Adams 21-15N—7W Size: 132 ft long +11’ +11’, 14 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Hewn stone
Original Cost: $1,200 or $5,900

Repair/Restoration History: The bridge was damaged in the 1875 flood and repaired.

Bridge History: Also known as "Walker Adams Bridge" & "Darroch’s Lost Bridge"

Crooks Bridge, like many others, was originally associated with a mill. Parkers Mill was built in 1830 on a Little Raccoon ripple known as "Indian Crossing". It was located about a half mile south of the Little Raccoon Bridge on the Rockville New Discovery Road. The mill account states a covered bridge was constructed just upstream from the ripple and dam.

County Commissioners records indicate that a bridge was discussed in 1850. A bridge was ordered In December, 1855, to be located on the old Rockville Greencastle Road.

Accounts from early pioneer times say that Sugar Creek was a vigorous river while Little Raccoon and Big Raccoon Creeks were a series of swamps, marshes, and beaver ponds spread across the valleys loosely connected by various moving stream beds.

The bridge site channel filled in with sand and the creek "moved 20 rods west". Topographic maps show an intermittent stream, now called Molasses Creek, in about the location of the old creek bed.

There are several historical conflicts which could be resolved by a clear separation into two or three different original bridges. In any case, the name "Lost Bridge" is appropriate. The bridge stood, forgotten, over a dry stream bed on a road abandoned for lack of a bridge over the new creek bed. It was moved to a new location where no road yet existed.

One account states that the bridge was rebuilt and moved to the present location in 1872 by General Arthur Patterson. A second account states that the bridge was washed to the present location in a flood. It was jacked up and abutments built beneath it. The road was moved to connect with it.

Juliet Snowden seems to have confused this bridge with the Greencastle Road Bridge, However, in another account she wrote that the bridge was built by General Arthur Patterson in 1856. General Patterson was one of the founders of Rockville in 1824. He owned land and businesses throughout the county, and she believed this bridge opened the road to commerce between Rockville and Mansfield.

In 1863, J.J.Daniels was contracted to dismantle the bridge on the Greencastle Road. In 1865, a viewing committee, which included J.J.Daniels, recommended the bridge be restored. Various people requested that it be relocated near their homes. In 1867, J.J.Daniels recommended that it be rebuilt at Darroch’s site where he considered it safe from flood and there were no "bayous".

No roads were built to the bridge for several years. One story relates a wet trip by a cold I.R. Strouse, on a horse named Alice, searching for a crossing of the rain flooded Little Raccoon in 1875. He was directed through a confusing maze of connecting horse trails, finally crossing "Darroch’s Lost Bridge".

Harry Evans Covered Bridge (#19)

Built: 1908
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Rock Run (was called Iron Run)
Location: Located 1/2 mile northwest of Coxville.
Reference Code: #19, 14-61-10, 12-61-10, dn, Florida 16-14N—8W
Size: 65 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Bridge History: The Harry Evans Bridge was built the same year and by the same builder as the Zacke Cox and the Weisner covered bridges.

One former neighbor of the bridge became incensed when he learned that the bridge is now called the Harry Evans Bridge. He said that Harry Evans lived on top of the hill above the bridge and it was originally named for an Evans living in the valley nearer the bridge.

Harry Evans owned the land near the bridge. The land remained in the Evans name through the 1960’s.  The road near the bridge was washed out on numerous occasions. Through the years, a farmer has maintained a ford just west of the bridge.

There are many old dangerous coal mines in the hills near the Harry Evans Bridge. There is a seemingly bottomless air shaft nearby.

Jackson Covered Bridge (#28)

Built: 1861
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels contracted by William D. Daniels
Creek: Sugar Creek
Location: Located 2 1/2 miles northwest of Annapolis, near Bridge, and in the forgotten town of Rockport. Also on "Blue Route"
Reference Code: #28, 14-61-28, 12-61-31, ps, Penn 35-17N—8W
Size: 207 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 18 ft clearance
Truss: Double Burr Arch, double king post, 1 span
Foundation: Hewn stone, $6,000.00 by Brown and Company
Original Cost: $8,000 plus subscriptions

Repair/Restoration History: Repaired, inspected, and bolts tightened in 1863 by J.J. Daniels. Repaired, resided, and reroofed after damages by 1913 flood. Restored in 1977 for $75,000.

Bridge History: Also known as "Rockport Bridge" and "Wright’s Mill Bridge"

A flour mill was built in 1848 by Prior Wright at "Devils Den" after his mill at the Narrows had been washed away by a freshet on New Years Day, 1847. Flatboats were constructed here and loaded for the trip to New Orleans, floating over the shallows of Sugar Creek during high water. More business originated here during the operation of the Wabash & Erie Canal.

The mill, general store, cooper shop, blacksmith shop, two sawmills, and four dwelling houses made up the town of Rockport.. An iron smelter operated for a while using a poor grade of iron ore but plentiful and high grade coke made from local coal.

Before the Jackson Bridge was built the upper and lower fords were used. The upper ford was some distance below the mill dam. The lower ford was 20 rods west of the bridge site. The mill dam washed out in 1882, and the mill was dynamited in 1894.

A special Parke County Commissioners meeting was held on December 28,1860. It was called by Dr. Hobbs on behalf of "several citizens who had presented a petition for a bridge over Sugar Creek at Wright’s Upper Mills." At the same meeting, John Scott "presented on behalf of various citizens a petition and subscriptions for a bridge at Star Mills."

At another special commissioners meeting on January 1,1861, both petitions were approved. A sum of $8,000 was approved for each site ". ..provided the citizens would make up enough subscriptions to make up the balance on the cost of these two bridges." Byers, Milligan, Graham, and Elwood Hadley were the petition leaders at a January 17, 1861 meeting. A total of $3,307 and 300 signatures had been collected. James Johnson and Henry Wolf were appointed by the commissioners to select the site for the bridge, establish specifications and to provide an estimate.

In 1859 the commissioners had received a letter from Joseph J. Daniels on behalf of William D. Daniels proposing the two bridges at Wright’s Mill and Star Mills. In the March, 1861, meeting, bids were opened, and the contract awarded to William D. Daniels. On April 22 the contracts were signed and filed and a $1,000 advance allowed. By September 16, 1861, the masonry work for the abutments was complete and W.D. Daniels was paid $6,000 for the work subcontracted to Brown and Company. The abutments contained an unusual "cornerstone" on the south upstream side reading "Builder J.J. Daniels 1861". The Jackson Bridge was ready for final inspection by the County Commissioners on November 9,1861. On November 11,1861, he was paid $1,500 on the Jackson Contract and an additional amount of $2,500. The Star Mills Bridge was completed in December, 1861.

The Jackson Covered Bridge is the oldest standing bridge built by Joseph J. Daniels in Parke County. It is not, however, his first bridge since he worked with his father, Stephen Daniels, and had completed some of his contracts. He finished the first of his own building contracts in 1845 at age 19. He built the Hargrave Bridge in 1847 and the Union Township Bridge in 1851 in Parke County.

The bridge was built in the unstable political era of the Civil War. Joseph J. Daniels made a clear political statement in naming the bridge after Andrew Jackson in honor of his statement to John Calhoun: "To the Union, it must be preserved." When first built, the bridge portal was lettered: "The Federal Union: It must be preserved."  

Leatherwood Station Covered Bridge (#25)

Built: 1899, moved 1981
Builder: Joseph A. Britton, moved & rebuilt by Elmer Buchta
Creek: Leatherwood Creek, moved to Williams Creek
Location: Located 4 miles northwest of Rockville, 2 1/2 miles southwest of Bloomingdale. Moved to Billie Creek Village August 12, 1981. 
Reference Code: #25, 14-61-25, 12-61-28, pb, Reserve 21-16N—8W Moved to Adams 8-15N—7W
Size: 72 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 14 ft clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Sandstone block, moved to concrete with sandstone showing.
Original Cost: less than $680, moving cost $50,000

Bridge History: Also known as "Harry Wolf Bridge"

Leatherwood Station was northwest of the Leatherwood Station Bridge. It was named for the creek and the railroad station on the B & 0 Railroad. Samuel N. Baker started a pottery business there in 1826, making red ware. In 1830, Samuel Kelly built an oil mill nearby. That area was called Factory Town, but after a potters shop was opened in 1867, it was called Potters Town. Next, to the east, was a hamlet called Java, named for a brand of coffee. Bloomingdale, started in 1825 or 1826 was located next to the east.

The bridge was named for the town on the creek and railroad. Harry Wolf owned the land near the bridge and many called the bridge by his name.

Although the bridge was built by Joseph A. Britton the portal was modified into a Joseph J. Daniels Arch, while the framing for an angular Britton portal can be seen from the inside.

According to a letter by Joseph J. Daniels dated May 18, 1899, he bid $680 to build this bridge. The contract was awarded to Joseph A. Britton for a lesser amount.

The Leatherwood Station Bridge was moved to Billie Creek Village on August 12, 1981. It is now an attraction at the village: open only to foot, horse, and wagon traffic.

Mansfield Covered Bridge (#5)

Built: 1867

Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Big Raccoon
Location: Located in Mansfield near Mansfield Mill and mill dam.
Reference Code: #5 14-61-20, 12-61-21, gb, Jackson 8-14N—6W
Size: 247 ft long +16’+16’, 16 ft wide, 14 ft clearance
Truss: Double Burr Arch 2 Span
Foundation: Hewn limestone block

Original Cost: $12,200

Repair/Restoration History: 
Closed for repairs in 1980. Abutments, roof and deck repaired. Roof and deck replaced October, 1990 by County Highway Department.

Bridge History: 
James Kelsey and wife came to the Mansfield area from Ireland in 1819. Later, he and Francis Dicksen erected a mill in about 1820. Others who assisted included William Bullington, Thomas Wolverton, Bliss Kelley Nelson, Hubbard, Kelsey, and Dicksen. The village was on the Indian trail from Orchard Town (in Terre Haute) to Cornstalk, an Indian village in Sugar Creek Township. The mill was about 30 feet square and the foundation of the mill and dam was an unbroken floor of red sandstone.

The village was called New Dublin, named after the Irish city.

A sawmill was attached to the north side of the mill in 1830. It used a sash saw. This was used to saw timbers for the next mill. The first mill had grown to 48 feet by 56 feet and three stories high but was not suited to new machinery.

Jacob Rohm built a new mill in 1880. He bought the mill in 1874 after a freshet destroyed the dam with ice. The new dam was seven feet tall. (A former owner had built up the dam to 9 feet and the water had destroyed a nearby field. A court ordered it reduced to seven feet and it had been extended to protect the field.) The new mill was 26 by 34 feet, 3 1/2 stories high. In about 1892, the Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, and southwestern Railroad built a spur to the red sandstone quarry near Mansfield.

The tracks passed a few feet from the front entrance. The railroad bought the mill to settle the access dispute. After the quarry and railroad failed, the mill was returned to the Rohm Brothers.

In 1913, the old wooden dam was replaced by a concrete one 180 feet long by 7 feet high, reinforced with iron stays and buttresses. One buttress was made into a fish ladder about 40 feet long and 6 feet wide. Colonel Johnston was elected county commissioner in 1866. As some of his opponents predicted, he built a covered bridge in 1867. The ethical questions arose because he owned the land on both sides of the bridge and a new access road had to be built on the east side.

One month after the completion of the Roseville Bridge, J.J. Daniels was appointed to draw up plans and specifications for the Mansfield Bridge. He was awarded the contract on December 7, 1866, and the bridge was completed and inspected September 4, 1867.

Although built in 1867 for wagons, the Mansfield Bridge still has a 10 ton load limit. In one story, while the bridge was still used for state route 59, three loaded oil trucks approached the bridge. The first truck stalled out just before leaving the bridge, and all three trucks came to a stop on the two spans. There was no apparent damage to the strong structure.

The small structure southwest of the bridge is a gauging station. It is used to remotely report the water level and to calculate the rate of water release from Mansfield Reservoir.

Marshall Covered Bridge (#29)

Built: 1917
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Rush Creek
Location: Located 2 1/2 miles southwest of Tangier.
Reference Code:
#29, 14-61 -32, 12-61 -35, rd, Liberty 28-17N—8W Size: 56 ft long +9
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Bridge History: This bridge has nothing to do with the town of Marshall, located many miles away. It may have been named after a local resident, Mahlon Marshall. Mahlon Marshall was a Civil War veteran and was a Parke County Commissioner when the Parke County Courthouse was built. It is more likely that it was named for David W, Marshall who owned the Hill Crest Valley Farm of 132 acres nearby.

The Brazil Division of the C&EI Railroad passed near the bridge. The railroad went bankrupt in 1921, and, the railroad was scrapped out in 1943.

This structure was the next to the last of the J.A. Britton and the Parke County Covered Bridges. J.A. Britton was 80 the year it was constructed. 

McAllister Covered Bridge (#11)

Built: 1914
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Little Raccoon Creek
Location: Located 5 1/2 miles southeast of Rockville, 2 1/2 miles northeast of Catlin. Also on "Red Route"
Reference Code:
#11,14-61 -16, 12-61-17, eu, Adams 28/33-15N—7W
Size: 126 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 14’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Bridge History: James D. McAllister, born in 1854, owned the large Fairview Hill Farm near the McAllister Bridge. It is possible to see Neet, McAllister, and Crooks covered bridges at the same time in winter. From a bird’s eye view, Nevins could also be seen.

This bridge was built during the height of J.A. Button’s bridge building career. His sons were providing the bulk of the labor. He was 77 the year McAllister covered bridge was completed.

The bridge has a galvanized steel roof. It has several noticeable repairs reinforced by steel. The abutments are wider than the ends of the bridge which are instead supported with reverse kingposts.

The portal credits include J.M. May, J.L. Linebarger, W.M. Mottern, Commissioners, J. Elder, Auditor, J.H. Rush, Treasurer, H. L. Davies, Engineer, J.A. Britton, Builder, 1914.

Mecca Covered Bridge (#21)

Built: 1873
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Big Raccoon
Location: Located at Mecca. Also on "Brown Route"
Reference Code: #21, 14-61-13, 12-61-14, ec, Wabash 20-15N—8W
Size: 150 ft long +13’ +13’, 17 ft wide, 12’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Hewn stone
Original Cost: $7,650

Repair/Restoration History: Bypassed in 1965. Funded June 30, 1980 to repair cable cradles.

Bridge History: The name Mecca was originally attributed to the city in Saudi Arabia that is a center to the Moslem faith. There are two stories about how Mecca, Indiana got its name.

An immigration of Syrian Moslems led to a settlement among the white sands and clay banks of the Big Raccoon. The settlement became known as Little Arabia or Arabia. The Arabian Church and the Arabian Cemetery were located on top of the hill, south of the Philips or Arabian Covered Bridge.

In a second story, "Arabians" was a name for second class citizens thought of as scoundrels and cattle thieves.

In either case the Arabians made trips to the larger town with a mill and stores that became known as pilgrimages. The name came from the expression, "There goes another caravan of Arabs on their way to Mecca!"

Earlier, the town was called Maidstone. Alexander McCune and Samuel Lowery built a sawmill on Big Raccoon in 1832. In 1833 they built a carding mill and in 1834they added machinery for fulling cloth. Jeptha Van Vickler built a sawmill in 1835. McCune and Lowery built flatboats and packed pork for shipment to New Orleans. In 1855 they built a flour mill in the area that became known as Old Mecca. Other owners included Frank L. Batman in 1860, George Batman in 1874, and John S. Hardin in 1897 when the equipment was sold and the building converted to storage.

When bids for the Mecca Bridge were opened, they included William Blackledge, $8,000; James Moyers, $7,800; and J.J. Daniels, $7,650. J.J. Daniels was awarded the contract.

From 1877 through 1879 a new gravel road was constructed between Rockville and Mecca. This increased traffic across the covered bridge. Today, US 41 uses most of the same route from Rockville to the church at Bradfield Corner. The road building reduced the building of other bridges during this time period to one.

New Mecca was built a half mile on the other side of the bridge. The Indiana Coal Railroad was built along the Big Raccoon Valley. West Mecca was started at the train station. The W.E. Dee Company operated two clay plants, started in 1895 and 1904, concurrently with the operation of the Indiana Sewer Pipe Company on the east side of Mecca. Nearly 300 were employed in these plants. A grain elevator and a steam powered sawmill were other businesses. The town population was around two thousand in 1900, a thousand in 1927, and 400 now. There were two hotels, two bakeries, a bank, a pool hall, a blacksmith shop, coal mines, a hardware store, a newspaper, four churches, etc. The Mecca Historical Society bought, moved, and restored a schoolhouse near the west end of the bridge. At Christmas, the bridge and schoolhouse are decorated. Christmas caroling is held in the bridge. A sunrise service is held in the bridge on Easter.

The bridge survived the floods of 1875, 1913, 1957, and 1990. The water rose above the floor in July 1957 and 1990. In another flood, two families waited it out inside the bridge, confident in J.J. Daniel’s construction.

Melcher Covered Bridge (#24)

Built: 1896
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Leatherwood Creek
Location: Located 1 1/2 miles east of Montezuma near Klondyke.
Reference Code: #24, 14-61-26, 12-61-29, pe, Reserve 31-16N—8W
Size: 83 ft long +7’ +7’, 16 ft wide, 12’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Hewn limestone & shale and poured concrete

Bridge History: Also known as "Klondyke Bridge," "Marion Bridge," and "Leatherwood Bridge."

The name Marion Bridge came from the Marion Brick Plant. The bridge may have been built to provide road access from Montezuma, 2 miles west. The brick plant closed in the early 1920’s.

It was called Leatherwood Bridge but this is confusing with Leatherwood Station, and Leatherwood Ford. Klondyke was the name of the community near the bridge. It was named after the Klondyke Gold Rush, but here, it was a clay rush to the Marion Brick Plant.

Melcher was the name of the railroad station. Two lines of the B&O Railroad crossed west of the bridge. Though built by Joseph J. Daniels, this bridge does not now have the trademark Daniels Arch. The portal has been changed to look more like those built by William Hendricks and Joseph A. Britton on their shorter bridges.

The abutments were originally made of hewn limestone and shale that appear similar to nearby stones in the creek. The shale has crumbled and concrete was poured around the original stone. The roof is of wood shingles.

The portal lettering includes "R.A. Myers, J. Huxford, T.A. Kerr - Commissioners, J.A. Britton - Builder, S.A. Pike -Auditor, W.M. Rawlings - Treasurer, J.T. Campbell - Engineer, 1899. Cross this bridge at a walk."

Mill Creek Covered Bridge (#31)

Built: 1907
Builder: William Hendricks; D. M. Brown, Contractor
Creek: (Wabash) Mill Creek
Location: Located 2 1/2 miles southwest of Tangier.
Reference Code: #31, 14-61 -29, 12-61 -32, ra, Liberty 19-17N—8W
Size: 92 ft long +10’ +10’, 15 ft wide, 15’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete and wood and
Original Cost: $2,520 or less

Bridge History: Also known as "Thompson’s Ford," "Tow Path Bridge," and "Earl Ray Bridge."

The (Wabash) Mill Creek is sometimes confused with Sugar Mill Creek. The first name is from the creek. The site was called Thompson’s Ford when the bridge was built. The Wabash & Erie Canal was close by leading to the name Tow Path Bridge. Canal boats were towed by mules walking on the tow path along side of the canal. Earl Ray was a nearby prominent citizen. He was well known as an auctioneer. Nearby, an aqueduct, a bridge for water crossing over another stream, for the Wabash & Erie Canal was occasionally used as a bridge after the canal was drained.

In a May 18,1899, letter, Joseph J. Daniels bid $1,485.00 for the superstructure or $2,520 total for the bridge. Since D.M. Brown was awarded the contract, his bid was apparently for less. D.M, Brown had so much trouble starting the bridge, that he hired the more experienced William Hendricks to direct the construction.

Russel’s Mill was located between the covered bridges on Mill Creek. It was built by Joseph Thompson in 1829. It was small, with wheat flour at first ground by hand. The first dam was made by dropping a large poplar tree across the creek. It lasted 20 years. Kinworthy operated the mill as did Thomas Cachatt. Later owners were Jerry Kemp, Joseph Russell, Gephart Bannon, Rhubottom, and J.C. Ward, in 1880. J.C. Ward added steam power and combined a sawmill with the flour mill. The dam washed out in 1888 and was not rebuilt. Now nothing remains of the village.

Due to rot at the ends of the arches, additional wood and "I" beam supports have been placed at each end of the bridge.

The abutment has also been supplemented on the northeast side with a wood pile wall. The creek is violently washing out a new bed and seems to be moving east of the bridge.

Narrows Covered Bridge (#37)

Built: 1882
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Sugar Creek
Location: Located on east side of Turkey Run State Park, next to Lusk Mill site.
Reference Code: #37, 14-61 -36, 12-61-39, sm, Sugar Creek 27/26-17N—7W
Size: 121 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft 6 in wide, 12’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Hewn stone
Original Cost: $3,400

Repair/Restoration History: Replaced Salmon Lusk’s Bridges of 1840-1847 and 1847-1875. Bypassed 1960. Rebuilt in 1977 by State of Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Bridge History: The previous Lusk Bridge was destroyed in 1875. When the Parke County Commissioners decided to replace the bridge, iron bridges were becoming popular. The first bids, opened on August 24,1882, included: Smith Iron Works - $13.00, $15.50, $21.00 per lineal foot; Wrought Iron Bridge Co. - $20.00, $21.65 per lineal foot; King Iron Bridge Co. - $21.20 per lineal foot; Columbia Bridge Works - $24.00 per lineal foot; G.F. Haynes (Wood) - $20.00 per lineal foot; J.A. Britton (Wood) - $3,750 total. All Bids were rejected.

J.A. Britton was later awarded the contract for $3400. This bridge has been acclaimed as the first in J.A. Button’s illustrious covered bridge career. Some purists have criticized the pointed arch joints, J. A. Britton built a Billie Creek Bridge in 1880, but it was probably an open bridge.

Joseph A. Button’s first wife died as he was working on the Narrows Bridge. He met his second wife, who was living at a farm not far from the narrows, while working on the bridge.

The Narrows bridge is one of the most photographed covered bridges in the state. It is accessible from a public road, three Turkey Run State Park hiking trails, and canoe trips on Sugar Creek. The famous bridges of Turkey Run include two covered bridges still standing over Sugar Creek: Narrows, and Cox Ford. There were three earlier bridges at the Narrows and the Turkey Run Bridge, located near Indiana Highway 47 and the Turkey Run State Park entrance. Then there is the famous swinging bridge over Sugar Creek.

Sugar Creek was once called Rock River because of its size and rocks. The Pottawatomie Indians called it Pungosecone which may be translated as "the waters of many sugar trees" or "ashes at mouth of stream".

Neet Covered Bridge (#10)

Built: 1904
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Little Raccoon Creek
Location: Located 6 miles southeast of Rockville on Bridgeton Road. Also on "Red Route"
Reference Code: #10, 14-61 -18, 12-61 -19, be, Adams 33-15N—7W
Size: 126’ long +9’ +9’, 16’ wide, 14’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete reinforced with wood pilings

Repair/Restoration History: Repainted 1989 by Rockville Boy Scout Troop 469

Bridge History: Also known as "Dietrich Bridge"

The Neet Bridge was the last covered bridge contracted by J.J.Daniels. He was 78. (He may have been the builder of the Roseville Bridge in 1910, contracted by J.P. Van Fossen.

The bridge was named, for nearby landowners. Enoch Shrigley referred to it as the Joe Neet Bridge. Joseph W. Neet, born in 1862, owned the 176 acres of section 33 in Adams Township. His son was Parke Neet. George M. Neet, born in 1869, rented 20 acres north of the Bridge.

Later, Robert E. Detrich owned part of the section at the bridge through 1959. By 1990 he owned 40 acres a little further from the bridge, although the property is marked as Detrich Tree Farm.

The Central Indiana Railroad route through Bridgeton to a junction east of Rockville passed the Neet Bridge. The elevated railroad bed crossed the Bridgeton Road just north of the bridge. The railroad bridge across Little Raccoon Creek was just upstream from the Neet Bridge and was visible from it in Fall and Winter. Stencils and a note card in the bridge state that the bridge was repainted March 25,1989, by Rockville Boy Scout Troop 469. The note says four gallons of paint was required and the painters included Ted Gahimer, Bruce Girdler, Matt Garrett, and Shawn Taylor.

The portal credits include H. Grode, Engineer, A. Pickett, J.J Daniels Builder, 1904, load limit 8 tons.

Nevins Covered Bridge (#14)

Built: 1920
Builder: Joseph A. Britton & Son
Creek: Little Raccoon Creek
Location: Located 1 mile southeast of Catlin and in Raccoon Township.
Reference Code: #14, 14-61-05, 12-61-05, c, Raccoon 5-14N—7W
Size: 155 ft long +7’ +7’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete
Original Cost: $11,987

Bridge History: The Nevins Bridge was built at Gilkerson’s Ford near Gilkerson’s Mill. Thomas Gilkerson came from Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1821. He built a mill in 1823. The Gilkerson community was nominated as the county seat in 1824 but lost out to Rockville. He worked the farm with his son, John Calvin Gilkerson, and became quite prosperous until he defaulted on a debt and lost the farm and mill in a sheriff’s sale. Father and son worked hard to recover the property. They regained possession, and John Calvin trained a yoke of cattle to help rebuild the brush dam. They rebuilt the mill in 1837 and added a sash saw sawmill to the grist mill. The burrs required 80 days to shape for use.

The Gilkersons worked as blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers, and millers. A small community was built around their business. From 1839 to 1846 they built several flatboats which were sent down Little Raccoon, Big Raccoon, and the Wabash during spring freshets. John C. Gilkerson was much respected, serving as Justice of the Peace for 33 years and as an elder in the Rockville Presbyterian Church.  Thomas Levi Nevins, bom in 1869, purchased the Gilkerson property in 1897. The Nevins Bridge was named for him. He studied the mill and preserved the mill relics. In 1906 he was part owner of the Bloomingdale Mill and in 1910 he built a flour mill in Rosedale on the foundations of an older burned out mill. In 1911, after 18 months of operation, his mill burned down to the foundation. He is also remembered as a teacher at the nearby school at Minshall.

Two builder/contractors bid on this bridge to cross Little Raccoon Creek. Joseph A. Britton and Elmer Gerard each submitted bids. Elmer Gerard won the award for the 1915 Bowsher Ford Bridge but it was built by J.A. Britton’s son, Eugene Britton. J.A. Britton was awarded this contract, but Eugene Britton was probably a major contributor as he might have been had Elmer Gerard won the award. The building of the Nevins Covered Bridge closed an era. This bridge was the last bridge built by Joseph A. Britton. He was 83. He died at age 91. It was also the last of the historical covered bridges built in Parke County.

This bridge has "Daniels Arched Portals" rather than the "Britton Portals" preferred by Joseph and Eugene Britton. It has a wood shingle roof. Rather than the carefully cut connecting keys of earlier bridges, the keys were square cut and reinforced by iron straps, iron rods were used to brace the sides and roof, a feature shared with the Portland Mills Bridge.

Phillips Covered Bridge (#22)

Built: 1909
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Big Pond Creek (also called Rocky Run)
Location: Located 5 miles west of Rockville, south of US 36, and 1 1/2 mile southwest of Coloma.
Reference Code: #22, 14-61-12, 12-61-13, ea, Wabash 5-15N—8W
Size: 43 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 14’ clearance
Truss: Multiple king posts (no arch) 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Repair/Restoration History: Reroofed, resided, and repainted in 1991 for $7,000.

Bridge History: Also known as "Arabia Bridge"

Little Arabia was an area on top of the hill bordered by Big Pond, Leatherwood, and Big Raccoon Creeks. The name may have come from Syrian Moslem immigrants who settled nearby or as a term of derision for residents who were thought of as little more than cattle thieves.

The Arabia Church was built on the hill above the covered bridge. The adjacent Arabia Cemetery remains but the church is now only a step, foundation, and shards of stained glass. Many of the headstones are inscribed "Phillips", indicating that the Philips family were prominent residents near the bridge.

The Phillips Bridge shared its heritage with the Weisner Bridge, also built by J. A. Britton, in the previous year. Both bridges had a four segment King Post truss (Burr Arch without an arch). The Weisner Bridge was the shortest county owned bridge until it was washed away in 1957. Now, the Phillips Covered Bridge is the shortest Parke County Covered Bridge.

The west, downstream truss has been reinforced with an iron beam, but the Phillips Bridge is still in use.

Portland Mills Covered Bridge (#4)

Built: 1856, moved 1960-61
Builder: Henry Wolf, moved by Elmer Buchta
Creek: Big Raccoon Creek, moved to Little Racoon Creek
Location: Located at Portland Mills, now covered by Lake Mansfield.
Reference Code: #4, 14-61 -21,12-61 -23, kg, Union 1 -15N—6W moved to Greene 5-16N--6W
Size: 130 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Double Burr Arch 1 Span
Foundation: Cut stone moved to poured concrete spanning earlier poured concrete for Dooley Station Bridge.

Repair/Restoration History: Floor, stringers and roof replaced by Thompson and Noble in 1909 Moved to Dooley Station (#3) site northeast of Guion in 1961. Bypassed by ford in stream and closed in 1982. Funds requested for rehabilitation in 1991.

Bridge History: Portland Mills was settled in 1821 by Samuel Steele. He worked at clearing the land for a farm until 1825 when he built a mill on Big Raccoon Creek. There was a grain mill with a water turbine and a sawmill. Later owners of the first mill were William Butcher, Jesse Thompson, and Wesley Holman. Wesley Holman built the second, three story high mill and obtained modern machinery for it. Later owners included Hirem Hocker, John Blake, Jacob Culver, James Williams, and a Mr. Williams. The dam had a solid sandstone foundation.

Portland Mills was on an Indian trail that branched off of Tecumseh’s Trail at Montezuma and led northeasterly out of Portland Mills to a large Indian town north of present day Roachdale. Some believe that the first white families came to Portland Mills on this trail, entering the county from the southwest and the Wabash River bottoms, rather than the more direct line from Virginia or Kentucky.

Some of the first settlers were David Logan Cunningham in 1816, Moses Hart in 1820, Samuel Steele and son in 1821, and Alexander Harbison in 1830. One early settler stumbled over a rattlesnake so large he mistook it for a dead log. It was sluggish from a full belly. As he killed it, it disgorged a deer fawn. The rattlesnake was over eight feet long.

This bridge was one of the earliest Parke County covered bridges and was used for preinduction troop training during the Civil War.

The town of Portland Mills was to be covered with water as Lake Mansfield filled. The bridge was moved to replace the Dooley Station Bridge which was burned down in 1960. New abutments were poured so that the 130 foot long Portland Mills Bridge could be emplaced over the 73 foot span of Dooley Station. The movement was over 18 miles and was completed January, 1961.

The bridge has deteriorated, sections of roof and siding are missing allowing in the damaging rain, and the northeast corner has been burned. The bridge was closed in 1982, when it was bypassed with a ford. In 1991 the bridge was in grave danger of collapse. Funds from a grant, several local organizations and donations allowed it to be restored to its original state in 1996.

Roseville Covered Bridge (#18)

Celebrating it's 100th year birthday.

Built: 1910
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels, or J. Brooks Jefferson P. Van Fossen contractor
Creek: Big Raccoon Creek
Location: Located in Roseville, north of Rosedale.
Reference Code: #18, 14-61-09, 12-61-09, cw, 14-14N—8W
Size: 263 ft long +9’ +9’, 12’ 8
Truss: Burr Arch 2 span
Foundation: Cut sandstone
Original Cost: $10,000 or $5,725 + $7.00/cubic yard of concrete

Repair/Restoration History: Third bridge at this location, second bridge destroyed by arson fire April 9, 1910.

Bridge History: After the 1865 Roseville Bridge was burned in 1910, the Parke County Commissioners advertised to replace it with a concrete bridge. Apparently, the cost of a concrete bridge was prohibitive since it was replaced by the present covered bridge. (This seems like a good choice since the concrete bridge replacing the downstream Armiesburg Covered Bridge in 1917 collapsed in 1930 while the Roseville Bridge still stands.)

Jefferson P. Van Fossen received the contract to build the replacement bridge. The brothers J. P. and J. L. Van Fossen were associated with the county road department and were involved in constructing four or more Parke County covered bridges and foundations. J. P. Van Fossen was contracted the same year to build the Jessup Bridge. Witnesses from the construction site claim the on-site foreman was Joseph J. Daniels. J.J. Daniels built the 1865 covered bridge. He was 84 at the time the 1910 bridge was built.

A photograph of the nearly finished bridge shows the portal lettering. It credits J.P. Van Fossen Contractor, J. Brooks Builder. J.J. Daniels does not appear in the photo. The onsite witnesses didn’t remember Mr. Brooks, and later portal lettering photographs show J.J. Daniels listed as builder. The same photograph shows the sides of the bridge painted white rather than the now familiar barn red. The portal opening is the familiar "Daniels Arch".

Through the years photographs and postcards show the bridge painted red and brown. The portals have been red, brown, white, and knocked away. The transition from the J.J. Daniels arch to the present portal may have been assisted by the engraved sign boards being mounted too low, leading to the flattened arch on the latest repairs.

Another picture shows the first stone for the 1910 bridge loaded on a horse drawn wagon. Most covered bridges built after 1900 had poured concrete abutments. The new abutments were needed for a new bridge of a different length. Stone abutments are consistent with J.J. Daniels construction while the Van Fossens used poured concrete on their other bridges.

Doc Wheat practiced near the west bridge portal. He was a herbalist with a reputation of producing cures still unavailable to modern medicine. One of his eccentricities was his distrust of banks. After his death, his yard and house was riddled by treasure hunters searching for his Mason jars full of money.

By the 1950’s there were only a few homes left in Coxville and only one business, the Coxville Tavern. The tavern occupied a small log room with a stone fireplace and resembled a scene from the Snuffy Smith Comic Strip. Then Tex Terry retired from his acting career as a western villain. (He appeared in numerous movies with Roy Rogers and others.) His first retirement venture back home in Indiana was development of Mansfield.

Rush Creek Covered Bridge (#30)

Built: 1904
Builder: William Hendricks
Creek: Rush Creek
Location: Located 1 1/2 miles south of Tangier.
Reference Code: #30, 14-61-31, 12-61 -34, re, Liberty 22-17N—8W
Size: 77 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 12’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Cut stone

Bridge History: Levees have been installed and the nearby Fairview Church moved because of the violent floods. This is the first of three bridges built by William Hendricks. It was followed by Wilkins Mill, in 1906 and Earl Ray in 1907. All three are of similar construction. The portals have an extremely shallow arch. The bridge name is the same as the creek.

Nearby Tangier was preceded by a grain warehouse built in 1855 by William B. Swaim. (Later it was operated by his son, S.B. Swaim, and burned in 1931.) The town was organized and platted on March 16, 1886, after the Brazil Division of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was built. The railroad passed the Rush Creek Covered Bridge. The railroad went bankrupt in 1921, was sold in 1922, was closed in 1941, and was scrapped out in 1943.

The Post Office was open from 1886 to 1990. Other businesses and buildings included a flour mill, hardware store, hotel, three doctors, three groceries, implement store, harness shop, millinery shop, two barbers, two blacksmiths, sawmill, drug store, three churches, Odd Fellows Lodge, canning factory, telephone company, depot, and schools.

The population of Tangier was reported as 300 in 1913, 300 in 1927, and 100 in 1990. As clay and coal mines closed, jobs, and population decreased.

The name Tangier was given by the town’s surveyor, Captain John T. Campbell. He may have chosen it as a result of his earlier visit to Tangier, Morocco, in Africa. Other names for the town include Long Siding, Liberty Crossing, Swaim’s Station, and even Sylvania.

Joseph J. Daniels built the Neet Bridge over Little Raccoon Creek, the same year.

Sim Smith Covered Bridge (#23)

Built: 1883
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Leatherwood Creek
Location: Located 2 miles southeast of Montezuma, or 6 miles west of Rockville.
Reference Code: #23, 14-61-14, 12-61-15, eg, Wabash 5-15N—8W
Size: 84 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 14’ clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Red sandstone
Original Cost: $3,200

Repair/Restoration History: Alternate route open in 1930’s. Roof replaced in 1989.

Bridge History: Also known as "Leatherwood Ford"

The Parke County Commissioners requested that Joseph J. Daniels prepare plans and estimates for a covered bridge at Leatherwood Ford. J.J. Daniels estimated the cost $3,801.

When bids were solicited, four iron bridge companies submitted bids in addition to J.A. Britton and J.J. Daniels: Wrought Iron Bridge Co. Canton Ohio - $17.95 per timber foot; Indianapolis Bridge Co. - $17.00 per timber foot; King Bridge Co. - $16.48 per timber foot; South Bridge Co. - $16.65 per timber foot; J.J. Daniels - $3,500.00 complete; J.A. Britton - $1,700.00 superstructure, $1,500 stonework. The contract was awarded to J.A. Britton for $3,200.

This was J.A. Britton’s third Parke County Bridge. The first, at Billie Creek, was probably an open bridge. He built the Narrows Covered Bridge, in 1882. The craftsmanship at the top of the arch of the Narrows Bridge has been remarked upon as primitive as compared to those of J.J. Daniels. The arch of the Sim Smith bridge is clearly composed of incompletely cut segments. In later bridges J.A. Britton’s craftsmanship and attention to detail exceeded that of J.J. Daniels, possibly as compensation for these early bridges. This bridge has a reputation for being haunted. In one story from 1890 many have waited on one side of the bridge for the horse and buggy they hear approaching from the other side. It never appears, even though they leave the buggy to look for it. In another story two husky high school students investigated the story at night after a school play rehearsal. At first they found nothing more than a glow worm. Then on the other side they both saw an Indian carrying a papoose. She was about 8 feet tall. They ran to their car but when they roared through the bridge in the car she was gone.

The Sim Smith Bridge was named for a nearby landowner, Simeon Smith. He lived in the county from 1885. The Smith family has retained the same property through 1990. The now abandoned B&O Railroad branch ran through the Sim Smith property and near the bridge.

The Sim Smith Bridge has one "Britton Portal" and one "Daniels Portal". Joseph A. Britton originally built it with his trademark openings, but the North end was modified into the "Daniels arched portal" in a later repair.

This bridge was on the Pikes Peak route along with Billie Creek, Howard, and Hollandsburg. When US 36 was surveyed in the 1920’s the Sim Smith Bridge was saved by the rerouting of the highway. It is still in use.

State Sanatorium Covered Bridge (#1)

Built: 1913
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Little Raccoon Creek
Location: Located on State Sanatorium Grounds (now Lee Allen Bryant Nursing Home) on private property. Closed.
Reference Code: #1,14-61 -38, 12-61-41, x-1, Adams 10-15N—7W Size: 154 ft long +8’ +8’, 16 ft wide, 12’ 6
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete, Elbridge Bovde

Bridge History:
Morlan’s Mill was built by Israel Morlan at the ford 3/4 mile east of Sand Creek Station. The building was a frame three story structure and the dam was a hollow frame. The water washed over into a sandy bed, washing out a basin 10 feet deep.

The wheel was a turbine and there were wheat burrs, corn burrs, and a sash saw.

There was a ford at Morlan’s Mill located near the north border of the State Sanatorium. During high water, travelers could cross Little Raccoon on the Plank Road Covered Bridge, about a mile south.

Though built near Morlan’s Mill, the State Sanatorium Bridge was built for, associated with, and owned by the State Sanatorium.

The 65th Indiana General Assembly approved establishment and financing of the State Tuberculosis Hospital or Sanatorium on March 8,1907. It was in full operation by the end of 1910. The sanatorium functioned as a city unto itself with a school, 3 doctors, 16 nurses, a dentist, electric and steam power plant, laundry, dairy, bakery, and chicken farm. In the era in which it was established, the best cure for tuberculosis was fresh air, rest, sunshine, and good food.

This bridge was built to haul coal to the State Sanatorium from mines one or two miles away. The Sanatorium was heated by coal and the power plant was driven by coal. Prior to building this bridge, coal had to be hauled to Rockville and then out by State Road (now US 36) to cross the Plank Road Bridge, then onto the State Sanatorium grounds.

Elbridge Boyde said he hauled the materials to make the approaches to the structure with his team of mules. His mule team was the first to cross the new structure.

The Plank Road Bridge washed out in the 1913 flood. It was replaced by the Howard Bridge, also built by J.A. Britton, the same year.

This bridge is the only one to have lightning rods. The bridge was on private property and had fallen to disrepair and was closed.  In 2009 the bridge was moved to CR 100 N and is now open to traffic.

Thorpe Ford Covered Bridge (#16)

Built: 1912
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Big Raccoon Creek
Location: Located 1 mile northwest of Rosedale on Rosedale Rockville Road.
Reference Code: #16, 14-61-07, 12-61-07, cd, Florida 23/26-14N—8W
Size: 163 feet long +9’ +9’, 16 feet wide, 13’ clearance
Truss: Double Burr Arch 1 Span
Foundation: Concrete

Repair/Restoration History: Condemned 1960. Bypassed 1961.

Bridge History: The area of nearby Rosedale was first settled by John M. Doty in 1811 on an 160 acre land grant. During the War of 1812 and the Tecumseh Indian Expedition he served in Ohio, Ft.. Harrison, and Vincennes, returning in 1814. From his first two story log house he expanded his farm to 1280 acres. The town was called Dotyville until after John Doty’s death. Chauncey Rose paid for the cost of incorporation in exchange for changing the name to Rosedale. Rosedale was not thought of as a significant town until 1860 when the E&C Railroad was built. Later, coal mines opened and a second railroad was built through town. Willis Beauchamp was the first merchant. Other communities in the area included Daisyville, east of the B&O Railroad, and Blocks, a Martin Coal Company owned town, west of the Vandalia Railroad. The Thorpe Ford Bridge was named for the earlier ford and the Thorpe family. In 1920, Mrs. Sarah E. Thorpe owned 92 acres next to the bridge. In 1948, her son Dan Thorpe lived near the bridge. Early Parke County road maps show that the Thorpe Ford area is a location where the Big Raccoon Creek bed is still in motion. They show two crossings, two roads, and a road intersection about where the bridge is now. The creek bed has moved as much as 1/4 mile from the west during the last 100 years. Previously, the present road continued north to connect to the Greencastle Road which also crossed Big Raccoon before continuing to Coxville. The intersecting road, now gone, continued up the steep hill as a straight line extension of the Snow Road. Thorpe Ford was probably the north creek crossing rather than the south crossing now near the creek bend and intersection with the Rosedale drainage ditch. The building of the bridge is attributed to County Commissioner J.M. May. Soon after his election he attempted to travel from Rosedale to Rockville. Rather than traveling thru Coxville he obtained directions for a shorter route. After following the convoluted directions and periods of being lost, he promised a new bridge would be built. After the construction of the Thorpe Ford Bridge in 1912, it was located on the major route from Terre Haute to Crawfordsville, It was called the Ben Hur highway. General Lew Wallace was a famous Crawfordsville resident and the author of the novel Ben Hur. Through the years, many have remarked on the modern day "chariot races" being conducted along this road. Many elephants and other circus animals crossed here on the way to winter camp at Peru, Indiana. Some residents remember this road as little more than a dirt path. The WPA constructed a concrete pavement in the 1930’s. Most traffic was diverted to Highway 41 after its construction in the 1920’s. Heavy agricultural traffic continued on the road. When the bridge was condemned and bypassed, it was due to the continued heavy loads using the route and the availability of federal funds to maintain roads meeting upgraded standards. 

West Union Covered Bridge (#26)

Built: 1876
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Sugar Creek
Location: Located north of West Union.
Reference Code: #26, 14-61 -27, 12-61 -30, pr, Reserve 6-16N—8W
Size: 315 ft long +10’ +17’, 17 ft wide, 14’6
Truss: Double Burr Arch, 2 spans
Foundation: Hewn stone
Original Cost: $16,125 or $8,900

Repair/Restoration History: Third covered bridge at this site. Star Mills and Harrison Bridges preceded. After the flood of 1913, the abutments were damaged and required $7,000 for repair. New south approach of poured concrete was constructed in 1931. Bypassed in 1964. Abutments were repaired to protect new bridge for $223,367 +$5,000.

Bridge History: The West Union Bridge was constructed following damages to the Harrison Bridge in 1876. The Harrison Bridge may have still been standing while the West Union Bridge was constructed. The Parke County Commissioners expressed their faith in Joseph J. Daniels in contracting with him to build a third bridge at this site. The West Union Bridge was completed in September, 1876.

The West Union Bridge is the longest remaining Parke County Covered Bridge. (The Clinton Bridge, was 730 feet long.)

More water passes under this bridge near the mouth of Sugar Creek than any of the other remaining covered bridges. Earlier, narrower abutments were damaged in 1866 and 1875. The West Union Bridge is longer than the two preceding bridges but the newer abutments were also damaged and repaired in 1913 and 1931.

The West Union Bridge and its predecessors were used for stage coach traffic to Lafayette, as was the Armiesburg Bridge. They were on the route of the "Indiana State Highway", which was established by the Legislature in 1827 and was to extend from Fort Wayne to Terre Haute.

The Wabash and Erie Canal was east of this bridge. There were two or more connections with Sugar Creek to allow access to upstream shipping sources which include Rockport. There are other references to a canal aqueduct which may have been used for pedestrian traffic during high water after the canal was abandoned. The B&O Railroad crossed the Lafayette Road just south of the West Union Bridge and crossed Sugar Creek east of the bridge.

The West Union Bridge has a noticeable arch consistent with the Burr Arches. Other covered bridges were built with this arch, which settled straight when weight was applied. The south portal has a Daniels Arch, while the north portal is now squared off. The roof is brown painted metal.

Wilkins Mill Covered Bridge (#35)

Built: 1906
Builder: William Hendricks
Creek: Sugar Mill Creek (now dry bed)
Location: Located east of US 41, north of Indiana Highway 47, and 1/2 mile northwest of Turkey Run State Park.
Reference Code: #35, 14-61-35, 12-61-38, sh, Sugar Creek 20-17N—7W
Size: 102 ft long +9’ +9’, 16 ft wide, 13 ft clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Repair/Restoration History: Reroofed and resided in 1991 for $6,000.

Bridge History: Wilkins Mill was built in 1835 by Solomon Jessup and Zimri Hunt. James Moore and Zimri Hunt’s log barn and house are up the hill south of the bridge.

George Wilkins opened a store there in 1853. A carding mill was operated there by Solomon Jessup and William Hunt.

The mill was sold to George Wilkins in 1855. He tore down the old mill and built a new one. This was the source of the name Wilkins Mill. This mill burned down in 1877. A new mill was built, which stood until 1947.

Sugar Mill and Green Creek converged below the bridge site. After one flood, the creek changed course leaving the bridge over a dry bed for a period of time. Parke County creeks are still changing course as they have for thousands of years. An eighty-five year old covered bridge won’t make a difference. The creeks will go where they wish.

This is the second of three covered bridges built by William Hendricks.

Zacke Cox Covered Bridge (#20)

Built: 1908
Builder: Joseph A. Britton
Creek: Rock Run (was called Iron Run)
Location: Located at Bradfield Station, 3 miles north of Coxville.
Reference Code: 54 feet long +9’ +9’, 15 feet wide, 14 feet clearance
Size: 54 ft long +9’ +9’, 15 ft wide, 14 ft clearance
Truss: Burr Arch 1 span
Foundation: Concrete

Repair/Restoration History: Roof and deck replaced in 1989. Deck replaced in 1991 for $6,000. Restored in 2002.

Bridge History: The Zacke Cox bridge was built the same year and by the same contract as the Harry Evans Bridge and the same year as the Weisner. Although built by J.A. Britton, these three bridges do not have the traditional Britton Portal. Semi-arched, they more resemble the Hendricks portal, like Wilkens Mill, Rush Creek, and Mill Creek.

Zachariah M. Cox was born in 1857 in Coloma. His Fatherwas E.T. Cox. The Cox family was prominent with various members owning nearly a thousand acres in Parke County near the Zacke Cox Bridge. There is a clay strip mine next to the bridge to the northwest. Coal and slate outcroppings can be seen south of the bridge.

There was another road between the Harry Evans and Zacke Cox Bridges. It was never bridged and the ford and approaches are now abandoned. An ancient legendary Indian grave lies between the bridges, marked by a snake-like fossil. However, the hewn rock steps and the entrance are now covered by the collapsed cliff side.

There have been many fossils uncovered by Rock Run, huge snakes are ancient tree fossils. Huge alligator-like fossils were reported north of the Zacke Cox Bridge. Fossil studies in Parke County have revealed familiar species and at least one previously unknown. In 1956, Dr. Rainer Zangerl discovered a 12 foot long shark fossil north of this site, between the Jackson, and West Union bridges. It was the first fossil discovered of the Orodus Greggi sharks. Dr. Zangerl writes that there was a shallow sea covering Parke County during the coal age, 300 million years ago, that was populated by various sharks and bony fishes.


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