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

Roseville Covered Bridge #1

Built: 1866
Builder: Joseph J. Daniels
Big Raccoon Creek
Located in Roseville or Coxville, north of Rosedale
Reference Code: (#41), (#18b) Florida 15-14N—8W
250 ft long
Truss: Burr Arch 2 span
Foundation: Cut stone
Original Cost: $15,000 or $17,000 in two installments

Repair/Restoration History: Second bridge located at this site, first was present in 1849. Destroyed by arson fire in 1910. Photo courtesy of Jerry Newlin, taken at 1:20 a.m. by Dr. W.W. Wheat.

Bridge History: Joseph Walker settled in the area of Roseville in 1816. He built a log house and planted an orchard. Chauncy Rose settled in Roseville in 1819 when it was still part of Vigo County. He had come to Ft. Harrison to find new land. Captain Andrew Brooks showed Chauncy Rose a good mill site on Big Raccoon. Later, in January, 1821 when the legislature organized the county, it was located in Parke County. The mill was a grist mill and was essential for the pioneer way of life. With customers traveling long hard distances it was a center of commerce. A sawmill and workers cabins were constructed. With the demand, a second mill was erected and run by Dan Kiblar. The first store was run by Moses Robbins, also known as "Old Mohawk" and "Uncle Moses". In 1820 a tanyard was established 1/4 mile south of the flour mill but only operated two years.

Later, two distillaries were built to convert corn for shipment to New Orleans on flatboats. By 1825 Robbins and Wedding had a flourishing pork packing business for transport to the south. Moses Robbins’sawmill was used to saw the wood for the first courthouse. The first session of court in Parke County was held here and the first grand jury. In the 1830’s the county seat was moved to Armiesburg and eventually to Rockville.

A glass sand company was established by W. D. Evans on June 29,1896 to crush sandstone for sand to make glass. The business did not do well and under new management, burned down on August 25,1899.

Coxville was an adjacent hamlet on the western high flatlands. Another source claims the town was renamed Coxville by the Brazil Block Coal Company because a Mr. Cox leased extensive areas of coal rights. The first post office and the train station were called Coxville. While many began calling the entire area by that name, the county commissioners passed an ordinance and continued to refer to the area as Roseville from the 1880’s to the 1930’s.

The first Roseville mines were established in the 1870’s. Throughout Parke County, families began mining the easily accessible coal for their own use. Several mine openings are located on the hill slope opposite of the Roseville Covered Bridge. These dangerous openings were to slope mines and have been covered with rock.

In 1872 Joseph Martin of Brazil purchased the Zeke Holden slope mine. He improved the mine, built a narrow gauge railway to the railroad right of way, and began selling coal to farmers, merchants, and blacksmiths. Mining went full scale with coal hauled on the railroad along the Big Raccoon. On September 7, 1865, the Parke County Commissioners ordered engineering plans for a Roseville Bridge from J.J. Daniels. Bids were requested, and after the bid opening on October 4, 1865, the contract was awarded to J.J. Daniels for $15,000. It was completed, September, 1866. The bridge was constructed the same year as the Harrison Bridge.

This bridge was the only bridge in the county with fire insurance. However, insurance had long expired at the time of the fire.

In 1910, Roseville was in a new period of prosperity. The sand plant was in operation northwest of the bridge and many local mines were in full production. The steep hillsides were lined with hotels, saloons, and stores. Most had been hastily built in boomtown style. The first floors were set against the hillside and built on stilt like pilings. Long flights of stairs from the road were needed to reach the first floors. Four passenger trains and sixteen freight or coal trains passed through Roseville each day. The large population required regular shipments of food, clothing, and hardware.

The sand plant produced the materials used in the first Coca Cola bottles designed and produced by Root’s Glass Plant in Terre Haute. (The drink was invented in Atlanta, Georgia years earlier.) The Roseville sand gave the first Coke bottles their distinctive green color. Operation of the heavy sandstone crushing machinery and the green glass hue led to the closing of the plant.

Saturday, April 9, 1910, was a bad day for Coxville and its two arsonists. They started the day at the glass sand plant near the bridge. The younger, 22, arrived surly, argued with the foreman, and was fired. The other, 25, walked off the job with him. They went to a local illegal "blind tiger" to drink. About 11 PM, the night watchman at the sand plant discovered a fire on the roof. He and several others were able to put it out and found an oil soaked rag had been thrown to start it. After midnight the firemen started home but then saw the bridge on fire. It was too far gone to save it. There were some alleged tracks but the pair’s attitude at the fire focused attention on them.

The sheriff was not available, so a deputy started the investigation. He deputized another, and Blake Gloss drove them from Rockville to Coxville. Acting on reports, the younger was arrested. The older was not home. There was a report he was walking toward Rosedale. The deputy started that way, but the arsonist changed his mind and turned around back toward home. He was recognized as he passed the ruins. When the assistant deputy started chasing him, he ran down the railroad track but was caught. They were taken to the county jail in Rockville after noon on Sunday. They confessed on Monday. A few weeks later they were sentenced to 2-21 year terms at the State Reformatory at Jeffersonville.

Apparently the two perpetrators were unrepentant. While in the Rockville jail, they composed a ballad. Only the first stanza is remembered: "We first set fire to the sand plant. And went on up the ridge. And it didn’t prove successful. So we went and burned the bridge."