Editor’s Note: Westboro Road in Jefferson Township was to be closed for a bridge replacement beginning this week. However, due to the inclement weather, the project has not yet begun, stated the Clinton County Engineer’s Office. The project is anticipated to take four months.
The upcoming closing of Westboro Road reminded me of the old covered bridge that used to be there. I have only a fleeting memory of the old bridge, but I’ve seen numerous pictures.
The previous replacement of the bridge crossing the Westfork at the B&O reservoir dam was in June of 1951.
Here is a story or two about the history of the bridge …
It is believed that Westboro’s covered bridge existed in the early 1860s, if not before, because of a notation made in the journals kept at the Brown County Ursuline Convent by the Mother Superior, Julia Chatfield.
In her notes, she reported Morgan’s Raiders riding by the convent grounds. The nuns, who ran a girls school, strictly enforced closed shutters with not a light on the place, so the Raiders would not be attracted to the buildings or their grounds to scavenge for supplies and horses to replenish the needs of the columns of soldiers spread out over the Brown County countryside.
Little did the outriders know that the daughters of at least two Union officers, General Rosecrans and General Eliakim Scammon, were enrolled in the school conducted by the Ursuline Sisters.
Further, in those days, Westboro was the shipping point for the surrounding area, including St. Martin, Fayetteville and Ferristown. The railroad was just completed in Westboro in 1852, the first in Clinton County.
In a letter to Cincinnati, Sister Julia writes to Bishop Purcell: “The mail has been quite irregular since the bridges near Westboro and Blanchester were burned away.” Trains and covered bridges were targeted by Morgan’s men so as to disrupt the pursuit of the home guard called out by Ohio Governor Tod.
As the raiders, or “guerrillas”, spent the night within sight of Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, Morgan divided his columns. He sent a group through Warren, Clinton, Fayette, Ross and Jackson counties. The smaller detachment would be reunited with the main group at Jackson.
Thus, this suggests that the Westboro Bridge was already in existence at least by 1863 and burned by Morgan’s men.
“Another Covered Bridge ‘Just Fades Away’ is the headline of the Wilmington News Journal article featured in the June 22, 1951 newspaper. The article stated: “One of Clinton County’s few remaining covered bridges has been almost uncovered when this picture was taken”; a reminder of the times when the mode of transportation, the horse and buggy fell victim to progress with the advent of motor vehicles.
The bid submitted by Clyde L. Moore of Lowellville stated the bridge demolition cost would be $42,470.56 and would be complete by November 30, 1951. One neighborhood observer of the project, who said he was 78 years old (in 1951), estimated the bridge to be 125 years old; that his father had mentioned the bridge while still young.
It was noted that several roofs had been put on the Westboro covered bridge, and that the uprights, rafters and truss were original and made of white pine.
Frank Thatcher, former Clinton County engineer, said the “dismantling of the Westboro Bridge leaves only 3 ½ covered bridges on county highways and four others for a total of 7 ½ remaining in the county.”
Since Westboro was surveyed and platted around 1839, this author prefers to believe that the bridge was almost a century old in 1951 which would make its construction at about the time the railroad was being built and the US Hotel was situated on the ”town square” of Westboro.
In 1954, an article found in the WNJ, by Mrs. Louis Lieurance, states that, “Storms, fire and time have taken their toll and today, there are only 4 ½ covered bridges remaining in Clinton County.”
She goes on to say that, “The contract already has been inked for the removal of the covered bridge over Todd’s Fork on route 380 near Sligo; the next bridge to be replaced in the county system is on the Roxanna road over Caesar’s Creek near New Burlington.”
Today, there are only the Martinsville Covered Bridge off Macedonia Road, and half of the bridge on the Clinton County side of Lynchburg at the Ruth Crampton Memorial Park that remain around the county landscape.
Sources for the above information include: Wilmington News Journal article, author unknown, June 22, 1951; Wilmington News Journal article, Mrs. Louis Lieurance, December 23, 1954; and “The Cross in the Wilderness” by Sister Monica, OSU Ph.D, John H. Morgan information, Chapter 8: “ The War Cloud.”