Landmarks of Monroe County  


Vanished Covered Bridges of Monroe County

By Juanita Yates

Reprinted with Permission from the author

Article from the Mark Twain Pilot House, June 5, 1986

At one time there were five covered bridges in Monroe County. Time and tide—mostly tide--have taken their toll and today there is only one covered bridge--preserved as an historical treasure, not for vehicular traffic.

That one is Union Covered Bridge and is dealt with in another story.

The five bridges in Monroe County were built by Joseph C. Elliott and his son, William B. Elliott, from 1856 to 1871.

Even though the first recorded type of covered bridge was built across the Euphrates River in Babylon in 783 B.C., the bridges have become symbolic of early Americana.

Many covered bridges were designed by Theodore Burr, descendant of Aaron Burr, who has been called the father of American Bridges. Other pioneer builders of covered bridges were Ithiel Town and William Howe. But Burr had the most influence on the builders of the county bridges, Joseph and William Elliott.

The four bridges that have been destroyed are the Stoutsville bridge, Mexico bridge, Santa Fe Bridge and Paris bridge.

The Paris covered bridge was built in 1857 over Middle Fork and destroyed by flood waters in August 1958

The Santa Fe covered bridge was built in 1859 and swept away in 1926.

The Stoutsville bridge was built on the North Fork of Salt River on Highway 24 east of Paris in 1851-57.

The Stoutsville covered bridge was built in 1851-1857 over North Fork on Highway 24 east of Paris and razed in 1932 to make way for an iron and steel bridge. It was the only on of four in Monroe County not destroyed by flood waters. This vintage photo shows Rev. Robert Colborn performing a baptism below the bridge. The ceremony took place in the dead of winter. Ice fourteen inches thick had to be cut at the spot where the baptism is being performed.

It was razed in 1932 so that an iron and steel bridge could be built across North Fork. An interesting note about the tearing down of this bridge is that it was done by Carl Elliott, project engineer for the Missouri Highway Department, a grandson of the man who built the bridge.

This bridge was called the Elliottvile bridge as at one time there was a small settlement south of the bridge, known as Elliotville. There was an ice house, country store and a few houses. All have now disappeared. This is the only one of the four vanished bridges that was not destroyed by flood waters.

At a cost of $4000 the Mexico covered bridge was built in 1859, three and one-half miles southeast of Paris across Elk Fork of Salt River. A winding gravel road off Highway 154 east of Paris led to the bridge.

The Mexico covered bridge located 3 1/2 miles southeast of Paris over Elk Fork was built in 1859 and destroyed in 1967.

Water took its toll of ills bridge in the flood of July 9, 1967, when Elk Fork rose and water carried the bridge downstream. Before its destruction young people would gather at the bridge, sweep it clean and play all sorts of games there.

Also in 1859 the Santa Fe covered bridge was built a short distance from Santa Fe. This cost only $2000 as Elliott had to build only one abutment. One end of the bridge rested on a rock bluff.

Again flood waters took their toll and this bridge was swept down the stream June 19, 1926.

In the wintertime local boys would haul snow and dump it on the bridge, then slide down the hill across the bridge.

One time a young couple, Carl Hawkins and Lila Davis, were coasting down the hill and entered the bridge just as Sidney Mc lhany rode a horse in the other end. They were going too fast to stop and simply coasted under the frightened horse between his feet. There is no record of any injuries.

The last of the four vanished covered bridges was the Paris one. It was built in 1857 over Middle Fork of Salt River, three blocks from the courthouse. It was a Burr Arch structure, 100 feet long.

In August 1958 it too was destroyed by flood waters of Middle Fork. Crowds of people followed Middle Fork to see the old bridge lodged a mile downstream.

Charles Howell, who had been born and raised on Salt River, salvaged some of the wood and made souvenirs.

The bridges were things of beauty.  Joel M Vance wrote in 1968 about the ‘peaceful, other-world quality about it as the shadows of evening lengthen. Listen to the water curling over the ford on Salt River and observe the birds getting in their final vocalizing before going to roost and you can imagine you are a hundred years back in time.”

Only Union covered bridge stands today-a visible reminder of a time and way that was.

 Graphics courtesy of Rhiossampler