Covered Bridge has a history worth remembering
Published 2:59 pm Friday, March 4, 2022
Elizabethton’s Historic Covered Bridge is 140 years old this year, and it is one of the attractions that define our town and draw people to it.
The bridge has seen Elizabethton grow from a small agricultural village to an industrial town, and now that most of the industry has gone, the bridge is seeing a different town from what it was in the past. The old bridge has withstood the shock of floods, age, and that of motor vehicles which rumbled through it in earlier years.
When the bridge was built, the town’s people jokingly referred to it as “The $5 Bridge,” that being the amount that Dr. E.E. Hunter, overseer of the project, had left when all the bills for the construction and building materials were paid.
Just think, if that old bridge could talk, what stories it could tell. Among those stories might be that of the peddler in his horse-drawn wagon as he crossed the bridge from Main Street to Hattie Avenue; the bootlegger peddling his whiskey in the dark of the night; sweethearts kissing and carving their initials on its wood; baptisms in the chilly Doe, and young boys and old men fishing beneath it in the Doe River.
However, the bridge performed no greater task with more benefit than during the May flood of 1901. It was the only bridge in the city left standing over which the residents of “Old Town” could cross the raging Doe to safety on Hattie Avenue and points beyond. The waters in “Old Town” reached a height of six feet before they began to subside. Neighbors who lived in the historic old homes on Hattie Avenue and Riverside Drive served hot coffee all that night to those who had fled the flood waters by crossing the bridge.
For residents of that era, the bridge stood as a symbol of safety. To tourists of today, the Covered Bridge is a town landmark and a popular place to visit and walk through. On any given day — winter, spring, summer, or fall — it provides a beautiful picture worth photographing or painting. Certainly worth remembering.
The old Covered Bridge was built entirely by hand without the aid of scientific devices other than the average tools found in any carpenter’s tool box. It was built by three carpenters — A.T. Johnson, George Perry, and Mike Lindamood — and designed by Col. Thomas E. Matson, a civil engineer, who oversaw the construction.
Noted today more for its history and beauty than for commercial value, the old bridge is still a thing of beauty and captures the fancy of both amateur and professional photographers.
Many of these picturesque old structures have vanished from the American scene and have given way to steel and concrete bridges.
Covered bridges are fast becoming a relic of the past. We are one of few communities to still have such a treasured piece of history in our town. We are even more fortunate to have a community that appreciates its history and beauty and keeps it maintained.
This year, we say Happy Birthday to the grand old structure, and hope that the birthday celebration of a couple weeks ago is not the only one this year for the Historic Covered Bridge of Elizabethton.