Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walking on Humpback Bridge

Last week, my husband and I traveled to Southern Ohio. My father’s paternal lines, former Virginians and Pennsylvanians, for a time made their homes in Ohio’s Appalachian region during the nineteenth century. Within that region lies the least populated of Ohio’s 88 counties, Vinton County.

Vinton County is made up of forests, rolling hills, country roads, and small villages. In the spring it is a beautiful place to visit.

Its southern most township is Wilkesville, which is home to a small village of the same name. It is here, in this township and village of the same name, that my Smathers, Cope, Thacker and Marcum families made the connections needed that would eventually produce me.

The township is also the location of an unexpected treasure, a covered bridge. Vinton County boasts five covered bridges within its borders. One of these, nestled on a forgotten stretch of township road in Wilkesville Township is the Ponn Bridge.

The bridge, which crosses Raccoon Creek, was built in 1874 by Martin E. McGrath and Lyman Wells. It has three spans, and is a combination of Burr Arch, King Post and Whipple truss designs. It is believed to be the only bridge of this kind still in existence in North America.

The Ponn Bridge, or the Humpback Bridge as it is also known, replaced another bridge that had been built in 1870. The older bridge, The Barnes Mill Bridge, caught fire a month after it had been completed. The Humpback was not completed until four years later at a cost of $1898.

The bridge, no longer open to local traffic, is unfortunately a magnet for graffiti artists, as you can see clearly in the photos below.

I tell you, there is something magical about walking through an old covered bridge that you know your great grandparents, as well as their parents and their grandparents would have also walked upon. I know – totally sentimental and sappy. But I loved every step taken, and my trip was all the more rewarding because of it.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

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