The Covered Bridges - History Con't

or six years old and stopping by Aunt ‘Frank’ Coolidge’s house at the bottom of West Hill and how he followed “….. the sidewalk to the old covered bridge and finally ventured through it, and there was a great city for once without Grandmother holding me”.

He wrote about how the bridge was used as a communication center; flyers and notices were posted, even notes telling about local news and even a few scandals. One can easily imagine seeking shelter in the middle of a rainstorm and catching up on the news of the community. It was the main competition of the Silverton Appeal, the weekly newspaper started in 1880. The editor, H.G. Guild quickly learned that he would sell more papers if he went to the bridge the night before publication and took down all the notes and flyers.

The old covered bridge gave way to ‘progress’ with the availability of sturdier, longer-lasting, man-made materials. It was replaced in 1910 with an un-personable and very un-interesting steel bridge. Just the location of the bridge however presented opportunities for creative, prank-loving schoolboys. One Halloween night in the 1930’s a railroad car was pushed, all the way up N. Water St. from the Depot and left sitting in the middle of the intersection so that anyone wanting to get into downtown Silverton had to go all the way down to the North James St. bridge (which at one time was also a covered bridge).

The only covered bridge still standing in the Silverton area is the Gallon House Bridge, northwest of town. Built in 1904 or 1916, depending on which source is used. It spans the Abiqua river and provides a route between Hobart and Downs Roads. It was restored in the 1960’s.

In the early part of the 20th century, Silverton had a group of anti-liquor advocates who convinced the townfolk to stop selling liquor. They were called The Good Templars. The nearby town of Mt. Angel did not have any such convictions or laws regarding the sale of ‘spirits’. On the north side of the bridge was the line for the Mt. Angel district. It was a time of what was called ‘Local Option’ which meant booze had to be sold in gallon jugs. All a Silverton fellow had to do, when thirsty, was to cross over the bridge. Ever after, the bridge became known as “Gallon House”. When prohibition was enacted in the 1920’s, there were still gallons of moonshine being made but it had to be hidden in the bushes.

Before the end of Prohibition, there was a raid on a house in the vicinity of the Gallon House Bridge. An arrest was made and several gallons of mash were smashed, much to the dismay of local citizens who enjoyed a bit of “the juice of the barley”.

There were three other covered bridges over the Abiqua river, one was called the Dunigan Bridge where S. Abiqua and Abiqua Roads meet and cross over the river. The other two, the Coleman and the Schlador bridges were further up on the Abiqua and were replaced in the 1960’s.

Sources include excerpts from Homer Davenport’s “The Country Boy”; Millie Thayer’s “Silverton Country History”, and from many articles in the archives at the Silverton Country Historical Society’s Museum.

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