Cemetery road covered bridge’s history

Fall is a wonderful time to drive around Greene County to see the beautiful foliage and perhaps visit one of the remaining covered bridges. The Greene County Historical Society has a brochure listing the bridges and the driving distance by car and also by bicycle.

The suggested route is from Xenia Station to Engle Mill Road then Ballard Road and on to Charlton Mill Road, over to Stevenson Road and Glen Helen (Cemetery Road) and back to Xenia for a driving distance of 51 miles. Each of the bridges had its own unique appearance and all are well-maintained by the Greene County Engineer’s office.

Covered bridges were made of wood and of course when water, snow and ice form on wood, it deteriorates. And so, several different styles of covered bridges were constructed which would protect the wooden floor from the elements. It was also a handy place to go in a sudden rain storm, or maybe even a place where a young swain might steal a kiss from his girl.

When the lake at Caesarscreek was planned, New Burlington was condemned. The residents of the village had to find other places to live as the waters of the new lake would be very close to the site. In addition to the homes which were destroyed, there was another structure which was doomed. The Cemetery Road Bridge was a 129 foot long structure which had spanned Anderson’s Fork for nearly 100 years.

Anderson’s Fork is a feeder for Caesar’s Creek which then flows into the Little Miami River. Because of this fact, the folks at Little Miami Inc. were anxious to have the bridge saved. It was suggested that it be moved to the site of the Jacoby Road Bridge which had been burned down by vandals.

In the spring of 1973 the US Corps of Engineers offered the bridge for sale. Several groups had talked about the move, but none had been able to raise the necessary funds and so the old bridge awaited its ultimate fate. The Corps offered the bridge at no charge to anyone who would remove it, but again the possible expense of moving was great.

In the spring of 1974, a tentative plan was made to move the bridge to Glen Helen. Moving the entire 129 foot span was not an option, and so a proposal to remove a 60 foot center section which could then be relocated to Glen Helen on the campus of Antioch College.

The 60-foot portion of the bridge was cut away and prepared for the move. The section had been secured and was ready for transporting when July 1975 brought very heavy rains and the “abridged bridge,” as Mr. Ramey liked to call it, was torn from its moorings and went into the creek. The bridge was nearly lost in the subsequent flooding but Herculean efforts were made to stabilize the structure and keep it from floating away. Ralph, having saved the bridge with help from many volunteers, was undaunted. He was even more committed to save that bridge.

At last, Aug. 19, 1975 arrived. The bridge was mounted on wheels and ready to be pulled by truck on its journey. The huge structure began a two-day trip from New Burlington to Yellow Springs. Mr. Ramey took great pleasure in the move, smiling and waving as he walked with “his” bridge.

Residents watched as the bridge was pulled along State Route 380 toward Xenia. The route taken was over roads and bridges and then through the City of Xenia where residents stood on the sidewalk with camera in hand watching for the huge structure to move through the city. It majestically rolled down Detroit Street moving inch by inch and mile by mile as it wended its way through the city and onto US Route 68 toward its final destination. The move was slowed by the fact that the structure was taller than the traffic lights which had to be temporarily removed while the bridge passed by.

The cost of moving and restoring the bridge was estimated to be about $18,000. Once it was placed in its new home across the Yellow Springs Creek, considerable restoration work began. The roof needed repairs, some new boards for the floor and sides of the bridge were necessary as well.

At last, the old bridge had a new home and was opened again for traffic – only foot traffic.

At the time the bridge was moved Carl E. Smith was inspired to write a poem “The Old Covered Bridge.”

“It’s passing away, like the buggy and horse, a Relic of ‘days that were better’, of course, Like the old wooden mill, and the old water wheel It’s been replaced by new structures of steel. But a picturesque spot on the landscape remains The Old covered bridge, through the sun and the rains.

How oft, when abroad, in the wind and the storm, we sheltered ourselves in the old covered bridge, And in summer’s bright heat, in the day’s stifling calm, We cooled in the shade of the old covered bridge. And, often, when caught by a quick thunderstorm, we hurried the horse to the old covered bridge. So it stands in its beauty, bridging over the creek.

Like a thing that is doomed, waiting patient and meek, for the days of destruction of body and frame, like the passing of woodlands from which it once came. Quint relic of yesterday – lest we forget is the old covered bridge as it stands with us – yet.”


By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.