The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

February 21, 2009

Graham Road bridge has traveling in its old timbers

PIERPONT TOWNSHIP — Bob Benson walks the length of the Graham Road covered bridge and points to a vertical post split from the bottom. To the best of his recollection, that’s the post that his brother Frank Benson hit with a 1936 Oldsmobile on the day Frank got his driver’s license.

“He got his license in the morning and took out one of the vertical uprights that afternoon,” says Benson, who grew up on a Stanhope-Kelloggsville Road farm a short distance from the East Branch of the Ashtabula River.

The Graham Road covered bridge stands a few yards off the namesake road in what used to be Benson’s side yard. In 1971, he and his late wife Helen donated about a third of an acre on which the county could relocate the bridge. The parcel is an Ashtabula County Metropark, one of two with a covered bridge as its centerpiece. The other is in Harpersfield Township.

Benson, who has lived on Graham Road since the late 1940s, said the bridge was never strong enough to carry the loads farmers needed to haul across the stream. Back when he was a boy, there was a gravel pit operation near Route 7. If a team pulling a wagonful of gravel had to cross the stream, it would descend the hill on a spur and ford the East Branch rather than risk crossing the bridge with the heavy load.

He recalls the county testing the bridge’s mettle annually and then posting the weight limit. The test was conducted with a dump truck loaded with stone and slowly driven across the old bridge. “They’d watch and see how much the bridge sagged,” Benson says.

By 1970, the old bridge was seriously antiquated and pegged for replacement.

“It was weak,” Benson says. “It was so restricted, they had to restrict the height (of traffic entering it) with steel beams. It was under 8 feet. Farmers were complaining about it.”

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