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

Harrison Covered Bridge

Built: 1866
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Creek: Sugar Creek
Location: Located north of West Union
Reference Code: (#53) Reserve 6-16N—8W
Size: approx. 250 ft long
Truss: Burr Arch 2 span
Foundation: Hewn stone
Original Cost: $5,725  

Repair/Restoration History: Damaged by high water, December 1875. Repaired by J.J. Daniels for $600. Replaced by West Union Bridge in September 1876. Second bridge this location. Replaced the Star Mills Bridge.

Bridge History: The earlier Star Mills Bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1866, and the County Commissioners paid J.J. Daniels $269.66 to remove the bridge from the creek.

The Commissioners awarded a contract for $5,725 on July 14,1866, to Joseph J. Daniels to replace the Star Mills Bridge. It was completed in 1866. The bridge was named the Harrison Bridge in honor of Territorial Governor and President William Henry Harrison. The earlier bridge has been called Star Mills and Harrison #1.

There are no available photographs; thus it is unclear whether the Harrison Bridge most resembled the Jackson Bridge, or the later West Union Bridge of more familiar design. The earlier contract to recover the materials from the earlier bridge and the reduction for this contact to $5,725 from $18,000 for the earlier bridge is an indication that most of the materials were reused from the previous bridge. The same abutments were also apparently reused.

Joseph J. Daniels constructed this bridge the same year as he built the Roseville Bridge. This bridge was built in the closing years of the Wabash & Erie Canal. It had already closed in Lyford in 1863. During its construction, the canal had furnished employment for hundreds of laborers, and during its operation, continued to furnish jobs both directly indirectly. West Union decreased until the railroad came and new facilities were built for rail transportation. Some businesses moved west to border the railroad tracks. Many businesses such as the Post Office, stockyards, elevator, general stores, and gas station prospered with the railroad. The railroad went bankrupt in 1921 but was resold. It closed in 1941. The remains of the railroad overpass and Sugar Creek bridge can be seen near the present bridges.

Since the bridges and abutments were catastrophically damaged in both 1866 and 1875, it seems that the span was too narrow and the bridges too low to withstand the recurring freshets. The spans of the replacement West Union Bridge were about 65 feet wider and may have been higher, allowing a considerable increased volume of water to pass.

The bridge was damaged by flood waters in December, 1875, and J.J. Daniels completed repairs for $600. The replacement West Union Bridge was completed in September, 1876. The references seem to indicate that the Harrison Bridge was still in use during the construction of the West Union Bridge. The rendition makes many assumptions including concurrence, style, and location.