The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

February 1, 2009

Two-lane wonder

Rock Creek’s iconic covered bridge served for 116 years

It was hailed as “an Ashtabula County landmark,” an incredible example of early-19th century workmanship and perhaps the most unique among the county’s covered bridges.

All the same, the two-lane covered bridge that stood just south of Rock Creek Village was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1948 the landmark bridge that had spanned the community’s namesake stream for 116 years gave way to a much wider, stronger span on Route 45.

The bridge never left any doubt about its age, builders’ identity or ability to withstand time, the elements and man-made vicissitudes. An inscription on its north end stated its construction year as 1832 and its builders as Samuel Ackley and George Crowell, who built it for the Ashtabula-Trumbull Turnpike Company. Ackley and Cromwell were carpenters from Rome Township.

This turnpike, completed in 1820, ran from Ashtabula Harbor south to Austinburg along the original “Old Salt Road.” It eventually reached Warren and continued south to Wellsville, on the Ohio River.

Salt roads were paths Native Americans blazed through the wilderness to salt springs, vital natural resources for the pioneers. As the region developed, these established roads were further developed, although they were often “one long mud hole” much of the year.

Route 45 follows a section of this old turnpike, which headed northeast along present-day Austinburg Road. The turnpike was a key transportation route for stagecoaches carrying mail and passengers between lake and river communities. The turnpike company ran a coach on this line and changed out horses at Rock Creek and Orwell. A toll gate for the road stood near the north end of the bridge.

The bridge constructed at Rock Creek replaced what had been a crude floating bridge made of logs. And prior to that, travelers forded the creek.

Wood on wood

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