Bridge finds new home? Historic span possibly headed to fairgrounds

At least part of the historic Bell Ford Covered Bridge could find a new home at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in the near future.

The bridge has been in storage since the east span was pulled from the East Fork White River after it collapsed in early January 2006. The west span of the bridge had collapsed during a winter storm in February 1999.

Later efforts to restore the bridge to its location off of State Road 258 between Seymour and Cortland came up short.

Commissioners President Matt Reedy recently said John Schafstall, a member of the Jackson County Fair board, had approached him about the possibility of rebuilding 80 or 90 feet of the bridge at the fairgrounds east of Brownstown.

Schafstall said Tuesday that there are not any solid plans in place at this time, and he is not looking at spending a lot of money rebuilding even a portion of the 325-foot-long bridge.

He said he’s just exploring the feasibility of such a project and that no site at the fairgrounds has been selected.

“We just want to put it in a good place so people can see an old covered bridge,” he said.

That location might be over the ditch near the pedestrian entrance to the fairgrounds, he said.

The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, is in storage in Greene County, where it was taken for possible restoration by Jim Barker of Bloomington. Barker is an engineer who specializes in restoring historic structures, especially covered bridges.

The bridge was built in 1869 by Robert Pattison at a cost of about $20,000. The post-truss (iron inside the timbers) covered bridge was built during the transition period from wood to iron bridges.

Reedy said during a recent commissioners meeting that he knows Barker had drawn up plans for restoring the bridge.

Reedy asked Jackson County Highway Superintendent Jerry Ault if he could try to locate those plans and if the department could provide as much labor as possible with moving and installing the bridge at the fairgrounds if the project should move forward.

Schafstall said he has spoken with Ault, and they plan to travel to Greene County to examine what remains of the bridge and look at the possibility of moving it here.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.