We look at covered bridges, or memories of the now mostly extinct bridges, as picturesque remnants of the past. But they were not built to be charming. They were vital links in the transportation system. The walls and roof were added to protect the bridge from the elements, preserving its life. Some sources suggest that they also added structural strength and calmed crossing livestock.
Bridge rules were necessary. Traffic across the covered bridge needed to be fairly slow for safety and for less wear and tear on the bridge deck. Also, with all that wood, fire was a constant danger. Below is a transcription of rules found on an old photograph of bridge rules at the York County History Center Library/Archives:
A penalty of TEN DOLLARS, will be imposed on any person who shall wilfully ride, drive or lead, or cause to be ridden, driven or led, any horse, mare or gelding, or other beast of burden, or any ox, cow or other cattle, faster than the walk of such beast, when passing over or upon said bridge; or shall go upon said bridge with a lighted segar, pipe or fire, in any form or manner, other than a lighted candle or lamp, securely enclosed in a safe lantern made for the purpose, and approved by the gate-keeper before emerging the bridge, or being in or upon the said bridge shall by means of matches, or otherwise, kindle or create fire for any purpose whatever or shall fire a gun or other fire arms or ignite gunpowder in any other manner.
By order of the Board of Directors.
Herman J. Lombaert, President.
In 1851, Herman Lombaert became assistant superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, under Herman Haupt. The following year, he became the railroad’s superintendent. The wooden sign in the photo might have been at the Wrightsville-Columbia covered bridge that carried pedestrian, wagon and carriage traffic as well as the railroad across the Susquehanna river.
Ten 1850 dollars would be equivalent to 100 dollars today.
Click here for my recent York Sunday News column on the 1815-1818 McCall’s Ferry bridge.