Alright, it’s been a long time. A really really really long time. Over four years to be exact. We got busy and we didn’t have a lot of time to write, our database was broken, and eventually we forget to renew the domain and lost it to snipers. A very sad affair to be sure. The good news is we are back! We have control of our domain, fixed our database, and are ready to write something occasionally! All is right with the universe again.
I was out in Fairfield County this weekend working on photographing a list of historic locations when the question came up, “Why build a covered bridge instead of a regular span?” It’s a great question and I honestly had no clue what the answer was and had to do a little research.
Think about it for a second. If you are building a covered bridge you are basically building a barn over a regular bridge span. It’s going to take more time, more resources, and cost more money. So what could justify it? The answer is longevity. A regular, open, wooden truss bridge had a life span of 8 to 10 years before the weather would take a toll on the wooden structure and you would be looking at a decent amount of repairs or an entire rebuild of the bridge. Engineers found out that if you built a structure around the bridge to protect it from the elements you could extend the life of the bridge structure to 70 or 80 years. Up keep was simple; if you could paint a barn you could paint a covered bridge.
So there you are, the short answer on why a covered bridge was better. Of course the advent of steel bridges changed everything but that’s a post for another day!
There is simply no end to the amazing locations in Ohio listed on the National Historic Register. One of the most striking that I’ve had the chance to visit is Rock Mill in Fairfield County. About a 40 minute drive from Columbus and 15 minutes from the heart of Lancaster, Rock Mill sits along small limestone cliffs above the Hocking River. It’s continued restoration is a testament to the pride the community takes in their heritage.
The First Rock Mill
Twenty three years had passed since the American Revolution and the countries inhabitance were slowly trickling westward into the the wild frontier of the Ohio Territory. Fairfield County was a prime place for settlers from the east. It featured rich, fertile soil and was in close proximity to both the national road and the newly developing Ohio canal systems. As the surrounding community grew so did their need for services. At the time farmers had to travel to Pennsylvania or Kentucky to find the nearest mill. Enter two local business men by the names of Joespeh Loveland and Hezekiah Smith. They bought a small piece of land on the Hockhocking River (now the Hocking River) and set to work building a small log timber grist mill down in the gorge. It was completed in 1799 and prospered on the ever increasing business from local farmers until a flood in 1820 destroyed it.
Rock Mill Rebuilt
The second Rock Mill was rebuilt sometime between 1820 to 1824 (various sources cite various dates) by Christian Morehart. What is for certain is that by 1824 the new larger mill rose four stories above the limestone banks of the Hocking River. Workers with nothing more than hand tools had to remove over 100 square feet of limestone rock to create a recess for the new water wheel.
This mill also prospered thanks to the local farming community. It was updated several times over the years both to advancements in technology as well as destructive flooding. In the late 1890’s flood waters washed away the water wheel. With no means to power the mill an updated water turbine was installed allowing for much greater efficiency. The water turbine was replaced after on two years with a steam engine. The photo to the right was taken around 1902 and shows a smoke stack for the steam engine. The mill changed hands many times over the years and eventually closed for good in 1907.
Rock Mill Rotting & Restoration
After it’s closure Rock Mill sat dormant for an entire century. Time and the elements wreaked havoc on the once majestic structure. An effort was made in 1963 to sell the mill for use as a public park but the $25,000 asking price was deemed too high and the property continued to change hands and deteriorate.
Though it did not become a state park the property was eventually deeded to Fairfield County by then owner Robert Stebelton in 2003. Stebelton had purchased the property 10 years prior and worked to stabilize the mill but knew it needed more then he could accomplish by himself.
The county parks department has been steadily working towards a complete restoration of Rock Mill. Since 2003 they have refinished the outside of the building and are working towards a goal of of opening the mill back up to the public. The restoration has been paid for by a combination of donations, grants, and a levy passed in 2011. Plans call for a newly built water wheel to be installed in September of 2012.
See It For Yourself
Rock Mill is about 40 minutes from Columbus, Ohio. There isn’t a proper parking lot but space can be found to park near the dead end of the road. Be sure to check out the Rock Mill Covered Bridge while you are there which is also located on the property and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Ohio Historical Dictionary” – North American Book Dist LLC
“Rock Mill, A Gristmill Too Important To Abandon” – Author Unknown
Foorgenalogy.com – Rock Mill History
“Claim Price Put on Historic Mill is Beyond Reason” – Newark Advocate
Visitfairfieldcounty.org – Rock Mill & Covered Bridge
Though something a little different than we usually write about, this is historic news none the less. Bald Eagles have slowly been making a come back to Ohio and this year they are back and nesting at Highbanks Metro Park in Central Ohio. If you’re in the Columbus area be sure to head out and get a glimpse of these beautiful creatures. Just take the Overlook trail all the way back to the observation deck and look to the north west down the river. Be sure to bring a decent pair of binoculars or spotting scope as the nest is a decent ways away.
Bald eagles aren’t the only history that Highbanks has to offer up though. There are also two Adena mounds, a prehistoric earthworks, an old family cemetery and an Ohio Historical Marker nestled inside the park.
See It For Yourself:
Highbanks is located off of Route 23 in Delaware County about 10 minutes from I-270. The nature center is located on the right as you enter and you can pick up a map with all the points of interest. If you can’t make it out to see the eagle’s nest, don’t despair. You can watch a live stream at http://www.metroparks.net/EagleCam.aspx!
Metro Park Website– “Highbanks”
University of Cincinnati professor Ken Tankersley announced Monday that he may have found the world’s largest serpent mound in the Cincinnati suburb of Mariemont. The mound borders the Little Miami river and Miami Bluff Drive running for just a little over half a mile. The mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture which thrived in Ohio from 1000 CE 1750 CE.
Be sure to check out the link to the Cinicinatti Enquirer below for some interesting reading on the subject. Special thanks to our reader Alissa for sending us this story.
See It For Yourself:
Cincinnati Enquirer– “Mariemont serpent mound could be world’s largest”