A recount of a few of the fallen and forgotten covered bridges of Georgia. At one time according to information in the Georgia Department of Transportation website (www.dot.state.ga.us) that figure could be higher than 250, but started withering away with the “progress” of the state. In 1955 the number was 77; and only 25 in the 1970’s. Today the bridges are hanging on borrowed time, waiting for local historians to keep them thriving, or for locals to care enough to keep them holding on.
Kilgore Mill Covered Bridge has the distinction of being one of the last destroyed covered bridges in the state. Named for Willis Kilgore Sr., Kilgore Mill was a one span bridge that was not supported with braces in the river, and was built just to replace the 1835 bridge that was ruined. David J. Thompson built this bridge for $281.95 total cost, billed to the Walton County Commissioners.
The land near the bridge was part of the Land Lottery of 1820, with the plot incorporating this bridge going to Josiah Sanders. This lot was sold in 1823 to a Joseph James and then in 1833 deeded to Willis Kilgore Sr., for whom it was later named. Mr. Kilgore Sr. was sheriff of Walton County for two terms and then part of the Georgia House of Representatives. He built a mill on this land and then 40 years later deeded the land over to his son. The land lot was in the Kilgore family up to 1889. There is some speculation that there were up to three different bridges in this same location.
The County Commission had gathered over $300,000 to preserve and protect the area with a 10 acre park that was to be built around the covered bridge area. Then, on April 23, 1993, there was a case of arson and the bridge burned before the plans were in production. It was never rebuilt, although there was a small attempt to gather interest in the rebuilding of it.
New SalemCovered Bridge
New Salem Covered Bridge combined a king post with a queen post design with steel tension rods for support. It was a single span bridge, of 46 feet in length, over Gun Creek in Banks County.
New Salem has the distinction of being the last historic covered bridge built in Georgia, in 1938. The bridge was built by William Madison Thomas, a Banks County Commissioner. This bridge fell in 1984; a mere 46 years after it was built.
Knox Covered Bridge connected Georgia to South Carolina over the Tugaloo River. It was made part of the National Register of Historical Places in the South Carolina listings, but not the Georgia listings.
Samuel Knox made this bridge in 1852 with the help of slaves. It had a door at each end of the bridge and travelers were charged; either 25cents for vehicles or 5cents for pedestrians. It had the good fortune to survive the August 1854 freshet and the flood of 1887 where the water raised 45 feet above the common level and went 10 feet up into the bridge itself. It had a history of robberies in the early times. Bandits and raiders would hide in the bridge and drop down onto coaches and carriages to rob the passersby.
It was rebuilt once in 1900 and then again in 1934 where it was raised with concrete pillars. Another repair was in 1950 due to fire damage. Knox it seemed was prone to many problems, both to the structure of the bridge and to its travelers.
This was the last covered bridge to join two states.
Kesler Covered Bridge spanned the Middle Fork Broad River over what was later the county line road between Banks and Franklin Counties. This road led from the Kesler property to the Prospect Church. The area around where the bridge was located was a cemetery where both masters and slaves could be buried together.
Unfortunately, this bridge collapsed under the strain of snow and was not rebuilt.
Steele’s Bridge was built by local townsfolk and was named for Washington Steele, the owner of the land up river. This is a great example of an early bridge that wasn’t built by a master craftsman and was the definitive character of the bridge. The community near considered it the “people’s bridge”.