I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it

October 3, 2018

One of the nicest things about this time of year is the number of festivals scheduled throughout the area each weekend, including one of my favorites, the Washington and Greene Counties Covered Bridge Festival.

This year, a number of its sites are still recovering from the recent heavy rains and did not participate. Fortunately, however, the Wyit Sprowls bridge in East Finley Park was listed as one that would be welcoming visitors; I decided to make it my destination.

On the map, the park appeared to be a few miles south of Claysville, so I headed that direction. Sure enough, in the middle of the village I spotted a “covered bridge” sign and headed south. Almost immediately I was routed off the main highway and onto a narrow road that quickly led to McGuffey Community Park, where a different site of the covered bridge festival was in full session.

McGuffey Park has been the location of the Brownlee covered bridge since 2008, when it was moved from its original site a few miles away. The bridge is a 32-foot-span king-post truss structure in excellent condition despite its age; it was originally built around 1860. Its metal roof was obviously part of its rehabilitation 10 years ago, but most of the rest of it appears to be original.

Being in Washington County it is, of course, painted “barn red.” The floor of the bridge is supported on three massive transverse timbers connected to the trusses by wrought iron rods.

The festival site had a nice collection of craft vendors. One gentleman did clever things with silverware; his specialty appeared to be money clips fashioned from forks. I had a pleasant conversation with a lady doing tole painting on weathered wood, in much the same fashion as my wife and her sister.

A husband-and-wife team were demonstrating weaving throw rugs on a loom he had built. Their raw material was strips of cloth from worn-out shirts. It was one of the best weaving demonstrations I have seen -- simple enough to be understood.

McGuffey Park is also the location of a replica of Rice’s Fort. The original fort was located on Buffalo Creek, about 6 miles north of Claysville. Built by Abraham Rice, it withstood a well-documented siege by about 100 Indians in September 1782.

The replica blockhouse is quite impressive, constructed of heavy timbers by the Whiskey Jug Rangers, a local group of re-enactors specializing in the colonial era. They had an encampment on the site as part of the festival.

Determined to find the Wyit Sprowls bridge, I headed south and eventually reached East Finley Park, a delightful spot on Templeton Run.

The date on the bridge there is 1886; actually it was moved to this site in 1998 and underwent significant restoration, including the installation of a steel roof. Its span of 43 feet necessitated the use of a queen-post truss (a third bay inserted in the middle of a king-post truss), with diagonals in opposite directions on each truss.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and am pleased to learn that there are still a few Washington/Greene County covered bridges for me to visit, for the first time, next year.

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