Yesterday I wrote about the Bollinger Mill Historic Site. Here’s the other historic landmark that’s in Burfordville: the Burfordville Covered Bridge. It’s the oldest one in the state and one of only four to survive to this day.
The Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites webpage has a good history of the bridge.
According to the site, Joseph Lansmon began its construction in 1858, but it’s not clear if it was completed before or after the Civil War. It wasn’t mentioned in St. Louis newspaper accounts of the 1861 burning of Bollinger Mill, located next to it.
Bollinger Mill burned in Civil War
Union soldiers burned the mill to keep flour and grain out of rebel hands during the Civil War. All that remained was the foundation. Solomon R. Burford, for whom the town is named, rebuilt the mill in 1867 upon the original foundation.
Vertical iron rods tie trusses together
The bridge, which spans the Whitewater River, is 140 feet long, 12 feet wide and has a clearance of 14 feet. It’s made mainly of yellow popular.
Initials carved into the wood
I always take the dates carved into landmarks with a grain of salt. The Bollinger Mill’s owner’s initials are carved on the wall inside the front door, so it’s possible that some of these names and dates go back to the 1900s, but they sure look fresh to me.
Everywhere is a photographer
A site for family portrait
I could have run a whole sequence of what it took to get this one frame where all the kids are quiet and have nice expressions. The youngest was done with photography about three set-ups back and was throwing the fit of all fits. It reminded me of why I’m not a “kidnapper” who does photos of kids for a living.
Repairs cost $390 in 1908
The bridge sat on the toll road linking Burfordville, Jackson and Cape. Tolls were charged until 1906, when farmers, tired of waiting for the courts to abolish the tolls, broke down the gates and used the roads without paying.
The bridge fell into disrepair around the turn of the last century. The county paid $390 to repair the bridge. In 1950, a corrugated metal roof was added.
Mill and Bridge donated to state in 1967
The Cape Girardeau County Historical society donated the mill and bridge to the state for a park in 1967. They had acquired the properties from the Vandivort family, relatives of the Bollingers, for whom the mill was named. Some of the families connected with the bridge and mill added comments to yesterday’s post. They’re worth going back to read.
Closed to vehicles
I can remember a time when you could still drive across the bridge. A record flood in 1986 caused the Whitewater River to rise 17 inches above the road deck. It’s a wonder the pressure didn’t wash the whole structure away. As it was, it did move slightly, causing it to be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Major repairs in 1998
The most recent major repairs were in the summer of 1998, when lower truss timbers, support timbers and vertical iron rods were replaced. Some damaged siding was replaced, but every attempt was made to avoid altering the appearance of the bridge. The 1950 metal roof was replaced with wood shingles in 1971, to keep it more like the original bridge.
Sprinkler system protects against fire
I was pleased to look up into the rafters to see a modern fire sprinkler to protect the bridge against one of its deadliest enemies – fire. If the Whitewater River doesn’t try to wash it away again, many more generations of feet should walk across these floorboards.