While I stood silhouetted against the night sky on Friday night, September 28, 1990, I feared for my life. Fire erupted from my north end and swept rapidly across the length on my two spans, 212 feet.
I trembled as I remembered another time fire had damaged my roof. This had taken place eighteen years earlier in 1972. Both times the Roann Volunteer Fire Department and departments from surrounding communities came to my rescue. To ALL of them I say Thank You!
I am the fourth covered bridge to stand in this setting spanning the Eel, Kenapocomoco River, north of the small town of Roann, Indiana.
The first bridge was built in 1841 and washed away by a flood waters the next year. The second bridge was built in 1845 and I'm told it too was washed away two years later. A third was constructed in either 1856 or 1858.
I understand accounts differ as to the exact date. This bridge was covered on the south end and uncoveredon the north half, because the money ran out.
One of the County Commissioners at this I'm told was the father of the famous naturalist and Indiana author, Gene Stratton Porter. This bridge stood until it too, was washed away in 1876.
Later in the year 1876 construction on me was stared by The Smith Bridge Co. of Toledo, Ohio. I was completed a year later, which makes me 113 years old this year. All the previous bridges were covered just as I am. This was done to protect our wooded floors from the weather. My floor is mad of white oak and I mentioned before is 212 feet in length. I am 288 feet total length including my approaches.
I was designed with the Howe Patent Structure. Mr. Howe had revolutionized bridge building by introducing iron rods into wood trusses (my trusses are oak). The iron rods could easily be adjusted with nuts and turn buckles (which is a metal loop with a screw at one end and a swivel at the other). This overcame the problem of sagging. In the years prior to 1877 the Howe Patent had been the chief style of construction used for railroad bridges. So you see this makes me very Special.
Each of my two spans are supported separately and independently and a cut stone pier in the middle of the river bears my weight.
At the time of my construction the stone work cost about $3.00 a cubic yard. I have yellow poplar, pine and walnut wood in my structure. The wood cost was between $15.00 and $17.00 a foot when I was built.
The final payment of my construction was paid on November 1, 1877 in the amount of $2,324.82 by the commissioners of Wabash County. For you see I am owned and maintained by the county in which I reside. I might add the many different commissioners down through the years have been very good to me.
I got a new floor in 1953. Whenever I was repaired or spruced up in anyway made me feel so good.
As I mentioned earlier, my roof caught fire 18 years ago; at that time my friends, the commissioners decided to completely restore me. I was straightened and reinforced with metal braces so that I was stronger that ever and could carry a 4-ton load limit. I was at this time painted a beautiful barn red. I had been previously painted white. Some researches at this time thought I had been red in my earlier days. I was so proud of my new color and people came from near and far to look at me. This work was done by Hornbeck & Sickler out of Monticello, at the cost of $29,205.00.
I have so many memories of my life in this community. For many years horse drawn buggies and wagons passed through my tunnel as they traveled around the countryside. Then came the automobile, tractors, and farm machinery. I was used many times a day by many people. We grew to know each other well and greeted and another warmly.
I've always been a rendezvous for lovers and was even the setting of a wedding. Young boys and girls have spent many hours sitting at the edge of my flooring as they dangled their feet over and watched the water below. Many the times they would climb on up me and their laughter would echo all around me. From time to tome a big yellow school bus would pull up to my entrance and unload the students and their teacher. While exploring me, they linked the past with the future.
I've been an attraction for tourists and a favorite subject for artists and photographers. I€™ve heard people say my picture graces the walls of many homes in this area.
I remember well my 100 year old birthday party in 1977. What a thrill that was for me. The community turned out to celebrate with me.
An honor I will always cherish is when I was put on the National Historic Register, as a National Landmark.
Other memories I treasure are about the Roann Covered Bridge Festival, that is held each year in my honor. Tour wagons pass through telling visitors about past history, which includes me. Such memories I hold dear to my heart. Then on the final day the community church services is held within my structure, where we thank God for all our many blessing.
A time of sadness I remember too, when the time came for a new concrete bridge to be built, to replace me, more or less. The commissioners felt I had served my time for spanning the river for all vehicles. I guess I was really getting too small for the wider and heavier pieces of farm machinery that had to travel my way.
My feelings were hurt for a time, but I was thankful that I was allowed to remain as part of the picturesque scenery. For the past few years I have seen less traffic, but I still have enjoyed my many visitors and I think they have enjoyed me too. Another good thing that has happened is that the new concrete and I have become best friends.
Since that dreadful night of September 28th, I have been so worried as to what would become of me. Would I be demolished, knocked into the river and forgotten forever. I know I am not a pretty sight now as I am charred, bent, broken and sagging. But I am still the same covered bridge that so many of you have loved for so long.
Recently I have heard some rumor of good news once again. Some of my long-time friends and neighbors, as well as some new friends, are trying to find a way to restore me again. My restoration is important because there is only one other covered bridge in Wabash County. The North Manchester Covered Bridge and I are the only two left since our relative the Dora Bridge was restored by fire several years ago.
I know the cost will be expensive but I think I am worth it what do you think? Remember, I am a visible reminder of your past.
Someone told me a man named Mr. Helm once wrote in his 1884 Wabash County History, about me- The Roann Covered Bridge, €œtime, nor winds, nor storm, nor flooding have been able to prevail against it. Only people can endanger it.
The Roann Covered Bridge
Bridge Speaks Again
By Laura B. Shaw - 1990