At one time, covered bridges literally covered this county, many designed and built by a father and son.
“The Shermans: Delaware County’s Bridge-Building Family,” was the theme of the Delaware County Historical Society’s first program of the year, presented Wednesday in the Barn at Stratford.
“Covered bridges are really a popular element in the landscape of America,” said presenter David A. Simmons, president of the Ohio Historic Bridge Association. He said Ohio once had 3,000 covered bridges, the second-highest total in the United States — and Delaware County itself had 64, all built prior to 1900.
The main reason the bridges were covered was because it would help them last longer, Simmons said. They were built with wood, because it was plentiful.
David Thompson Sherman, of Connecticut, settled in Berkshire Township in the 1830s, designing and building bridges from his wagon shop. His covered bridges spanned the Olentangy River in Stratford and on East William Street in Delaware; Alum Creek in Berkshire Township (now under Alum Reservoir); as well as over Big Walnut Creek on Yankee Street in Genoa Township.
This was a time of innovation in the bridge business, with the truss (a triangle within a frame) greatly adding to the strength of the structures, Simmons said.
Sherman’s son, Everett, continued the tradition of bridge-building in the county, including covered bridges where he lived in Galena (the foundations of which are now under Hoover Reservoir). However, most of his work was done in Preble County, where it is said he procured a contract by standing on a model of one of his designs.
Both Shermans are buried in the Berkshire Township Cemetery.
There was a major flood in Ohio in Easter 1913 that took out many of the covered bridges. In addition, World War I placed restrictions on the use of wood. Finally, county engineers explored new techniques and materials when it came to bridge-building; and not all were interested in preservation. The last covered bridge in Ohio was built in 1919. There are now 145 in the state.
Only one covered bridge remains in Delaware County, the one built in 1883 by the younger Sherman on Chambers Road in Porter Township over Big Walnut Creek. Simmons said the bridge is frequently traveled, has a concrete base, and has been known to damage the tops of recreational vehicles ignoring height warning signs on their way to a nearby campground.
For more information, visit the venue and society web sites at barnatstratford.org and delawareohiohistory.org.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.