I am old enough to remember some of the old iron truss bridges that crossed many rivers and creeks in the area years ago. Most, if not all of those bridges, are gone now. We took them for granted back then but take notice if we see one today.
Back in 2008 Joe and I were at Newark, Licking County Ohio, staying at the Cherry Valley Lodge & Conference Center, where I was attending a dental conference.
Behind the lodge we noticed a nice, wooded area with a paved nature trail. It was the T.J. Evans Trail, a 14-mile paved trail that includes the small towns from Newark to Johnstown, the villages of Newark, Granville, Alexandria, and Johnstown.
We decided to take a little walk there (not the whole 14 miles) and soon noticed a nice iron truss bridge that spanned Raccoon Creek.
We walked onto the bridge and noticed a plaque.
We were more than a little surprised to read that the bridge had originally been located in Mercer County! It was the Gallman Road bridge that once spanned the St. Marys River east of Mendon. Joe remembers this bridge quite well.
In 2001 the iron overhead truss bridge on Gallman Road was scheduled for demolition and the Mercer County Engineer and Commissioners made it available to the Thomas J. Evans Foundation of Licking County, Ohio. The Evans Foundation, a private trust fund, has developed trails along abandoned railways in Licking County. They also relocate historic structures such as the Gallman bridge to these trails. The foundation dismantled the bridge and took it to Licking County, where preservationists restored it to its original condition. The structure was rebuilt over Raccoon Creek in 2002.
The Gallman Road bridge was built in 1887 by the Columbia Bridge Works, Dayton, Ohio, founded by D.H. Morrison. According to the plaque this bridge is a through truss design, referred to as a “Whipple” or “Pratt” double intersecting bridge.
Most of Mercer County’s iron bridges were constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The longer bridges were covered by iron beam roofs for stability and were called overhead-through truss bridges.
As historic and interesting as these old iron bridges are, they are not practical for modern times. They were usually narrow, one-lane bridges, not designed for heavy traffic. Some had a 5-ton limit, not sturdy enough for today’s trucks that can weigh over 3 times that much empty. These old bridges eventually developed structural problems and became unsafe.
Many iron truss bridges had to be scrapped because of their poor condition but the Gallman bridge met the conditions and historical requirements for this project.
This historic bridge lives on to be enjoyed by future generations.
What a great piece of Mercer County history!