The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

February 21, 2009

Crossing the East Branch

12-mile-long stream posed obstacles to travel in countryside

The East Branch of the Ashtabula River rises in seeps near the Pennsylvania border and flows northwest from there for 12 miles before joining the West Branch and forming the river’s main stream.

Both branches and the main stream flow through farming country. In the settlement and development of this land, these streams presented a ready supply of moisture for farm animals grazing in pastures along their banks but also obstacles to the movement of products and people.

Modern concrete and steel spans make short, efficient work of these crossings, but there was a time when the horse-and-wagon traffic had to slow down as it approached the single-lane structures.

At least three such bridges stood along the East Branch, according to research conducted by Dennis Osburn and Alice Bliss. Maps and newspaper articles suggest there could have been even more. This little but troublesome stream bisects Turner, Hall, Marcy, Graham, Beckwith, Scribner and Adams roads, as well as Route 7. Of course, short-lived wooden bridges could have been constructed across the streams without going to the added expense of covering the structures.

The Sept. 3, 1870, Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph carried an intriguing one-paragraph news brief that suggests many of these little wooden bridges dotted the countryside of Pierpont Township:

“The heavy rain of last week caused a freshet which did great damage in the south part of the county, probably destroying property to the extent of seven or eight thousand dollars, mostly in bridges belonging to the county. The bridges swept away were the new one known as Young’s, just east of the Center of Pierpont; one three-quarters of a mile southeast of Pierpont; (and) three bridges on the Center road between Monroe and Pierpont. A bridge framed and ready to be raised near Poole’s on the Pike was carried down the stream, and most of the material lost. Mr. T.S. Winship had the contract for building it. Besides there were two or three destroyed in the vicinity of Conneautville.”

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