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Covered bridge celebrates 150th birthday

October 2, 2018

One hundred and fifty years ago, a covered bridge crossing the Kaskaskia River was erected two miles northeast of Cowden, which helped create an important highway connecting Springfield to Effingham via Taylorville.

Built in 1868, Thompson Mill Covered Bridge is one of five covered bridges still standing in Illinois and was dedicated by the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Historical Society in 1972.

The bridge is the narrowest of all five covered bridges in Illinois, with a width of 10 feet 7 inches and a length of 157 feet. It was built in Michigan, shipped to Shelbyville and erected at the cost of $2,500.

The bridge was named after a mill nearby, which was named after the first owner John Thompson. Documents state the mill was destroyed and rebuilt in 1861 and torn down for good in 1914.

According to Cowden’s Centennial booklet of history of the area 1801 to 1920, covered bridges were built to appear like a barn to keep horses from shying at the running water. Covered bridges were also known to be a favorite stopping place for lovers, and it is said many marriage proposals were made on this bridge.

According to documents, J.N. Giles and John Fowler, commissioners of the highway for the town of Dry Point, presented a petition on Oct. 2, 1867. This petition asked the board of supervisors for an appropriation of $1,500 to build a bridge crossing the Kaskaskia.

Chairman James Bromlee replied June 3, 1868, and said a recommended appropriation of $2,000 was not enough to build a “good and substantial bridge,” so another $500 was added to the appropriation.

Bromlee instructed for the bridge to be completed on or before Nov. 1, 1868, documents stated.

The bridge was then built and placed and 150 years later, it still stands crossing the Kaskaskia. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1975.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached by phone at 217-774-2161 ext. 1 or by email at kennedy.nolen@shelbyvilledailyunion.com.

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