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.