Historic Structures

Bridge Design Jackson Covered Bridge, Bloomingdale Indiana

Theodore Burr (1771-1822) is a significant figure in the history of covered bridge building. He built his first bridge in 1801 near his sawmill in Chenango County, New York, and subsequently experimented with a wide variety of timber arch designs for bridges that spanned the Hudson, Mohawk, Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. His masterpiece was the short-lived 360' McCall's Ferry Bridge (built 1815; destroyed by ice 1818), the longest timber bridge span ever built. Burr's greatest contribution to bridge building, however, was his design for an arch-reinforced truss with a level deck that he patented in 1806 and 1817.

The Burr truss was popular in the mid-nineteenth century for long-span railroad and roadway bridges and thousands of such bridges once existed. Unfortunately, Burr was not a shrewd businessman, and he suffered financial setbacks by accepting company stock in payment and then not being able to pay back his creditors. He died suddenly and mysteriously while supervising construction of a bridge at Middletown, Pennsylvania, and is reportedly buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in central Pennsylvania.

Joseph John Daniels was born in 1826 in Marietta, Ohio. His father, Stephen Daniels, was a carpenter and an agent of Col. Stephen H. Long. Working alongside his father, J.J. Daniels learned how to build bridges and, by 1847, had successfully landed contracts on his own. A prolific bridge builder, J.J. Daniels utilized standard truss plans, but was particularly fond of the Burr truss. He also used iron components in his bridges as early as 1861. Daniels is credited with the construction of sixty bridges in Indiana and many others in Ohio and Kentucky. Daniels built his last bridge across Little Raccoon Creek in Parke County in 1904. J.J. Daniels died in 1916 in Rockville, Indiana, at the age of 90. Of the estimated sixty covered bridges built by Daniels, there are nineteen still standing and seven still in use.