Landmarks of Monroe County  


History of the Last Covered Bridge in Monroe County

Monroe county has been a place distinctive for the long lasting covered bridges. In 1920, the county had five “Elliot-type” bridges, almost half of all covered bridges in the state.  In 1940, four were in the county.  In 1950, it had three of ten remaining in Missouri.  In 1960, the county had two of seven.  Now it has one of five remaining and that one was nearly destroyed lately. Plainly, the distinction has not been protected, has been fading, and was almost erased by the recent flood.

 The last covered bridge is the “Union” bridge over the Elk Fork of Salt River.   It was named for the Union Church that used to be nearby and is about eight miles southwest of Paris, just off county highway C. The bridge is on the old “Paris to Fayette Road” and is one of five double-arched Burr Truss bridges built by Jos. C. Elliott of Payson, Illinois.

 Jos. C. Elliott built his first bridge for Monroe county on the North Fork of Salt River near Stoutsville.  The bridge was built for the much traveled “middle” route from Paris to Hannibal.  Elliott started it in 1856 and completed it in June 1857.  The county court was highly pleased by his work and contracted for three more such bridges.  Elliott built these in the next two years, one at Paris, and one at Santa Fe and one on the Mexico road.

 An open wooden bridge was built over Elk Fork on the Paris to Fayette road in 1849. This bridge did not last ten years. In 1858, Wm. E. Power built a new uncovered bridge at the site. This bridge lasted a little over ten years. The county court record for January 5, 187O, marks the end of its use.

 The county road commissioner appears and reports the Bridge across the Elk Fork of Salt River on the Fayette Road rear Union Church unsafe for travel. The Court therefore condemns said Bridge as being unsafe for travel and that the floor at each end be torn up”

 On April 8, 1870, the court ordered two bridges built, one on North Fork near Elliotsville and the other “across the Elk Fork of Salt River where the Road leading from Paris to Fayette crosses said stream, near Union Church and on the same place of the Old Bridge.” The bridges were order­ed to be built in June. $5,OOO was immediately appropriated for the purpose.

 On June 6, when bids were to be decided on, a petition was received from many citizens of the county asking that the Elk Fork bridge be located at or near “Deavers Mill on the road leading from Paris to Centralia and Sturgeon.” After hearing reasons for and against the change the court judges ordered action on the matter at the July term of court.

 On June 9, the court ordered the road commissioner to advertise the “letting” of the building of the two bridges, each to have a span of 120 feet, to be built on rock abutments and on some of the most approved plans.

 On July 6, 1870, Avery Grimes and others asked for a change in the location of the bridge. The motion was overruled. On the next day the court award­ed the building contract to “Joseph Elliot of Payson, Illinois. On September 7, 1871, the court ordered the last payment of $1,500 to Joseph Elliott builder of the bridge across the Elk Fork of Salt River on the road leading from Paris to Fayette by the way of Middle Grove.” It was ordered that he be paid an additional sum for rubblework on the bridge. An approach was built and the bridge opened to public use in September 1871.

 Graphics courtesy of Rhiossampler