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By: Hillary Delaney
Our county is rich in creeks and waterways, which is essential to developing a successful agricultural community. Early citizens encountered daily crossings which could range from softly flowing streams to roaring, treacherous flood waters, often interrupting necessary travel around the area. In answer to this problem, bridges were constructed and rebuilt frequently. They varied in both size and design, but all served a practical purpose. Covered bridges, now extinct in Boone County. , were once an everyday sight here. These charming structures conjure images of simpler times, when travelers could seek shelter from the elements in dry safety. Certainly shelter during a storm was an advantage; the addition of cover to the bridges was a purely functional design choice. The walls and roof of a covered bridge were put in place to protect the wooden trusses from weather-related deterioration, giving them both strength and longevity.
Kentuckians began building covered bridges in the late 1700’s. By all accounts, there were approximately 400 of these structures by 1900. In 1871 the longest wooden covered bridge in the world was constructed in Northern Kentucky, spanning the Licking River in Pendleton County. The Butler Station Covered Bridge, an impressive 465 feet in length, suffered severe damage during the 1937 flood and had to be demolished. Sadly, by this time, most of Kentucky’s covered bridges were already gone, having become casualties of the Civil War. They either were burned or otherwise destroyed for strategic reasons by both Union and Confederate forces. Today, approximately 13 of these iconic structures remain.
Locally, there existed at least three covered bridges: two spanning Woolper Creek on Idlewild Road, and one crossing Taylor Creek on KY- 20. The Woolper Creek bridges, each measuring about 40 feet in length, were built in 1851 by Henry Mallory, a respected Boone County resident and carpenter. The Boone County Recorder reported on March 3, 1907 that one of these bridges was “out of commission” ravaged by flood waters. The writer points out that the covered bridges had even outlasted their builder, needing little to no costly repairs during their existence. A later article puts the demise of the Woolper Creek bridges at 1917. Both of these historic gems fell victim to the elements, ultimately being replaced by dependable, though charmless, concrete structures. The bridge over Taylor Creek, circa 1859, was at once painted red, surely a lovely sight for travelers. This bridge eventually disappeared as well, presumably due to flood damage and/or deterioration. Although the new bridges aren’t quite as attractive, our practical early residents would applaud the ease of travel they give Boone County’s modern folks.