Yesterday afternoon I was driving through Elizabethton as the sun was setting downtown. I had seen the beautiful covered bridge over Doe River, but never really took the time to hear the story behind it. Well, here it is.
This bridge is one of the oldest of its kind, and its still gets a good bit of use from the good folk of this little town. Down on the bank, a nice family was feeding the ducks, and after I struck up a conversation, they were kind enough to give me some history on the bridge.
This 132-foot covered bridge is almost 130 years old, and connects 3rd Street and Hattie Avenue. In 1882 the Carter County Court approved $3,000 for the bridge and $300 for approaches. The court appointed a committee to select a site for the bridge. However, the committee encountered an unexpected problem — the men could not find a qualified contractor to erect the bridge.
After county officials were unable to find a bridge contractor, a local doctor, E.E. Hunter, accepted the contract and hired experienced people to work on the bridge. Hunter selected Thomas Matson, who had been an engineer for the narrow gauge Tweetsie Railroad as an engineer and architect. Hunter referred to the bridge as his “five dollar bridge” since he made a profit of $5 as contractor.
Oh, and why the need for a covered bridge anyway? Well, turns out that a bridge over moving water can really spook a horse, and the covered-ness helps to reduce uneasiness! And not only that, it has helped to enhance the bridge’s durability as well.
Although logs from a lumber operation and a barn were thrown against the covered bridge and its supports during a disastrous flood in 1901, this was the only major bridge in the area to survive. It has weathered the ravages and history to stand as a monument of the strong willed people that live in this area.
On my way out this family stopped me once more to extend a hearty invitation to their 44th Annual Covered Bridge Celebration going on this weekend, June 3rd – 5th. There is fun and activities for the whole family! Music on the Bridge will feature some of the best local talent including everything from bluegrass and gospel to 50’s and 60’s beach music. Southeastern artisans will display some of their unique and traditional arts and crafts. And don’t forget about the more than 150 classic cars that will be cruising the historic downtown streets on Saturday evening!
Hope to see you there!