The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

May 3, 2009

The senseless fiery death of Old Number Three

Blaine Road lost to arson in the summer of ’62

Robert and Catherine Ellsworth were among the first to arrive at the sickening sight of the Blaine Road covered bridge engulfed by fire.

It was shortly after midnight, July 15, 1962.

“I was on the (Plymouth) fire department, and my wife was a Star Beacon reporter,” recalls Ellsworth, 82. “At the time we got down there, there was just one other truck there. I pulled off to the side of the road and told my wife ‘There’s your picture.’ I could see all the way through the bridge, and every beam was on fire.”

Ellsworth told his wife to take her picture through the windshield, but she wanted to get out of the vehicle and get a better shot from the road.

“Before she could get lined up for the picture, the bridge was in the river. It just crumpled,” he recalls.

Old Number Three was gone, the victim of a senseless arson that deprived future generations of this wooden crossing.

This bridge was one of six that crossed the Ashtabula River between Gageville and Ashtabula. The Gageville bridge stood on what would become Route 193. It was removed in the late 1920s.

Heading downstream, the next bridge was at Benetka Road. Then came Blaine Road, the Olin bridge, Crooked Gulf and the long-forgotten Spring Street bridge. These bridges will be covered in the concluding weeks of this series.

Blaine Road – now known as Green Hill Road – provides a stunning view of the Ashtabula River as it twists to the east and then to the west in a series of convulsions that create ox bows, U-shaped bends in the river. Native Americans used these natural traps when hunting game, which were driven into the ox bow and cornered by the water and steep cliffs soaring above the river.

One of these bows was home to a grist mill. The 1905 Ashtabula County Atlas shows the mill, owned by L.B. Howard, on a narrow height of land in the east part of the valley, wrote Alice Bliss in 1969 newspaper article about the ox bow mills.

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