Home of Indiana's Largest Festival

The Parke County Covered Bridge Festivalâ„¢ on October 11th-20th, 2019

Clinton Covered Bridge

Built: 1852-53
Builder: Hirem Bishop; Mr. Bishop, Contractor
Wabash River, Vermillion County
Located in Clinton, at Elm Street, now Four Seasons Fountain, and the old Highway 163 roadbed.
Reference Code:
(#58), Florida 14-14N—9W
730 ft long
Truss: Long Truss 2 lane 3 covered spans and one 70 foot draw span
Foundation: Cut stone
Original Cost: $25,000-30,000  

Repair/Restoration History: Second bridge at this location. Destroyed by electric cutting wires in 1899. Replaced by public iron bridge in 1900. (The iron bridge was destroyed and replaced in 1961.)

Bridge History: The Clinton Covered Bridge was proposed and publicized by the Wabash & Erie Canal. They wanted to open business and commerce between Clinton and Clinton Locks (now Lyford) on the Wabash & Erie Canal across the Wabash River.

T.L. Williams, Canal Engineer for the Wabash & Erie, estimated that the bridge would cost $25,000 to $30,000. The Wabash & Erie Canal was going to pay $16,700, and the balance was to be paid by farmers and citizens of Clinton.

A letter to Joseph J. Daniels on September 10, 1851, indicates that J.J. Daniels and A.B. Condit intended to bid on this bridge under the name of Daniels and Condit Bridge Builders. The contract was awarded to a Mr. Bishop in 1852. In turn, he hired his brother, Hirem Bishop, as foreman, and he is credited as builder. (A Mr. C. W. Bishop is credited with Irishman’s Bridge in Vigo County in 1845.) Two lots located north of the bridge site were purchased by the Bishops and remained in the family for years. A "home place" was later constructed by Hirem Bishop, and another house was built on the other lot by his son. These lots are now occupied by Mike’s Motors. A. T. Patterson, who worked for J.J. Daniels constructing the Terre Haute Ohio Street Covered Bridge, also worked for Hirem Bishop on the Clinton Covered Bridge. The bridge was framed up on the adjacent lots. During the following June 1853, it was dismantled and reassembled on the piers over the Wabash River. It included two lanes of three wood covered spans and a 70 toot draw span in its 790 foot length.

The Clinton Covered Bridge was a toll bridge, partially to recover the cost o[ construction and maintenance, but also to make a profit. Toll keepers lived and worked out of the toll house on the north Clinton comer of the bridge, Francis Cunningham was toll keeper from about 1870 to his death in 1880. A.T. Patterson was toll keeper on the bridge he had helped build, in his retirement years. One source says that a Mr. Weber was the last toll keeper. Another source slates that John H. Birt was the last toll keeper. He also lived in the toll house and maintained a shoe shop there to make and repair shoes. Dr. J.H. Bogart was the last owner of the covered bridge. He sold it to the Vermillion County Commissioners in February 1892 for $4,500 with the following conditions: he could continue possession and toll collecting until the bridge was destroyed and that he would destroy it in a safe and acceptable manner. The bridge was destroyed and replaced by a free bridge due to the campaigning of the newly formed Businessmen’s Association of Clinton. Clinton had changed from pork packing houses on the river to a downtown business financed and frequented by the coal miners trade. The businessmen claimed the toll was keeping Parke County residents out of Clinton and from spending money in their; stores.

One source claims that a contract was awarded to dismantle the bridge but not performed by the deadline. It is said that the idea for the destruction came to Dr. Bogart as he sat on the porch of his office on Mulberry Street in August 1899. A bolt of lightning convinced him to use electricity. He walked across the street to the home of Henry Mills, a young electrician. The bridge was wired for electrocution by Henry Mills, Roscoe Russel, and Carl F. Balmer. Carl Balmer explained that they drilled holes through the spans and threaded wires through. Then they hung weights on the wires to pull them through the timbers to drop the span into the Wabash River waters below. This method avoided the dangers of a dynamite blast, a bridge tire, or dismantling the bridge piece by piece. It also allowed reuse of the lumber.

Balmer ran the town generator, which was later owned by Public Service of Indiana. It was capable of only 1100 volts so they "reversed the currant to increase the amperage" [sic]. The day of demotion was published without details and the whole town turned out to watch by early morning. When nothing happened by lunch time, they began laughing and making fun of the owner. The draw span had already been removed and the east end was wired first. In the afternoon a thin smoke without noticeable flame was seen. Then pieces of the spans began dropping into the water below, and men in boats began gathering the lumber. Each of the remaining spans were dismantled in the same way. The amazing method was talked about all over the county.

Navigate to "Our Covered Bridges" and scroll down to Clinton Bridge.