Historic Structures

Oakachoy Covered Bridge, Nixburg Alabama

Date added: May 25, 2022 Categories: Alabama Bridges Covered Bridges

Before it was destroyed by fire, the Oakachoy Covered Bridge was the only remaining example of a modified "Queen Post" truss bridge in Alabama. The structure was also the only remaining covered bridge in Coosa County and one of the few remaining in the state. Although its deteriorated condition necessitated covering its exterior walls with cypress siding, the bridge retained its most significant features, its overall structure and form.

Covered bridges once dotted the Alabama landscape. With the development of Ithiel Town's lattice design of the 1820s, and with the abundance of timber in the virgin forests, there was a covered bridge building boom in Alabama. These structures gradually replaced ferries over the major rivers and were the main method of crossing streams on the major roads. Ithiel Town's "Town-truss" design was utilized by prominent bridge builders in the state including Horace King, a freed slave from Phenix City; John Remington of Lowndes County who built covered bridges for highways and railroads; and Joe Winn of Dadeville, who built what was hailed to be the nation's longest covered bridge, Horseshoe Bend.

Most covered bridges standing today in Alabama are of the "Town-truss" design, although there are others in the state that are modifications of the "King Post" and "Queen Post." The term "King Post" comes from medieval English and German barn construction. It was the post used to hold up the peak of a barn and Americans later used it to join it into a truss, hence the term "King Post truss." This design also developed into the double, upright "Queen Post truss". Both designs were very adaptable to bridge building. Heartwood pine, a strong, decay-proof building material, was often used for construction. This wood was often cut at the bridge site either by hand with a crosscut saw, broad axe or adze, or by bringing in portable sawmills. Early wooden trusses were held together with wooden pegs or "tunnels." The basic reason for covering the bridge was to protect the timbers from the elements, thus extending its life.

Although many were destroyed by Confederate or Union forces during the Civil War, over 200 covered bridges were still standing during the 1930s. The decline of covered bridges began when steel and then concrete bridges replaced the wood structures. Many considered covered bridges to be too narrow and costly to repair. Most important, they often could not carry the weight-limit demands of modern vehicles. Sometimes even existing covered bridges were burned in an effort to force the state or county governments into building a new bridge. By 1990, only 12 covered bridges remained in Alabama, including Oakachoy, which has the additional distinction of being the only remaining bridge in the state with a basic truss structure based on a "Queen Post" design.

According to the Commissioner's Court minutes, the first Oakachoy Bridge was built in January 1852 near Johnson's Mill, at the cost of $200.00 This bridge was constructed of "good, hard timber, 14 feet wide and above the water mark." In 1915, County Road Commissioner Joe Parker proposed plans to build another bridge just above the crossing on Oakachoy Creek. This bridge was to replace the 1852 structure which probably was destroyed by a flood. Commissioner Parker decided that the bridge should be covered because it would give travelers a place to seek refuge from the elements. Although $600.00 was the lowest construction estimate, it was still more than the county could afford to spend. Parker decided to hire J. Preston Adams and his father, who were owners of a small sawmill near the proposed bridge site, to cut and deliver the heartpine lumber to the site. The selected design for the bridge was a modified Queen Post which was executed by a local citizen, Melton Harris. Harris was paid $2.00 per day to build Oakachoy, for a total cost of $400.00, including the lumber.

In 1988, the Union Camp Corporation deeded five acres around the bridge site to the Coosa County Historical Preservation Authority, Inc. for use as a public park. Although vehicle traffic was not permitted, it was one of Alabama's most photographed and sketched bridges. Residents of Coosa County considered the Oakachoy Covered Bridge to be one of their most important landmarks.

In June 2001 the bridge was destroyed by a fire determined to be arson.

Bridge Description

Crossing the Oakachoy Creek and situated amidst a five-acre wildlife reserve in central Coosa County, the Oakachoy Covered Bridge measures approximately 56 feet long with a deck rising approximately 16 feet above the creekbed. The bridge, which is crowned with a tin roof, rests on native stone abutments and is constructed of heartpine from nearby virgin longleaf pine trees. The wide floorboards are laid horizontally with several slats laid vertically for vehicle traffic. The basic truss structure is based on a Queen Post design with the addition of reinforced structural members. Due to its deteriorating condition, cypress siding has been added to the exterior walls. The approach spans to the bridge have been removed.