Horton Mill Covered Bridge, Oneonta Alabama

Date added: January 26, 2024 Categories: Alabama Covered Bridges Town Lattice Truss

The Horton Mill Bridge is one of three surviving covered bridges in Blount County, Alabama, one of the last strongholds of covered bridge building in the United States. Spanning an impressive 70-foot-deep gorge, the structure is noteworthy as the nation's highest-covered bridge.

The Horton Mill Covered Bridge is the highest above water in the United States. It is one of only sixteen remaining in Alabama out of 46 which were standing in 1958. In the 1930s, when the bridge was built, there were several hundred of these vanishing rustic structures in Alabama.

The present covered bridge is a replacement of the one 3/4 mile downstream built in 1895 by T. M. Horton to make his mill complex more accessible. Horton had built two dams to provide water power for corn and flour mills, a cotton gin, and a sawmill. He also had a blacksmith shop, a general merchandise store, and a woodworking shop. This mill complex covered about five acres of the Horton farm.

Covered bridges were first built in the late eighteenth century in the north-eastern United States. The bridges were covered chiefly to protect the wooden flooring so it would have to be replaced less often. The covering also prevented easily frightened horses from seeing the rushing water beneath them and provided a haven for weary travelers.

In addition to filling a vital role in transportation many of the covered bridges were toll bridges, providing additional revenue for an area.

The local covered bridge also doubled as a community social center. It was an ideal gathering place for political discussions, gossip, or a friendly game of checkers. The beams and rafters were perfect substitutes for the modern "jungle gyms" to occupy the rambunctious children while their parents visited.

The covered bridge often provided a drill floor for the local militia. Even revival meetings were held at the bridges, and the sidewalls were often plastered with local advertisements. For the romantically inclined, the bridges seemed designed for courting; they were so popular as "sparking" places that they earned the nickname "kissing bridges."

The Town type truss, used on the Horton Mill Bridge, was promoted by a New Englander, Ithiel Town, who was granted a patent on the truss. His bridges were built in a lattice style with planks forming a webbing. Only vertical forces were used on the abutments. A genuine American invention, the Town truss made for a durable bridge that could withstand an excessive amount of weight.

Bridge Description

The Horton Mill Covered Bridge is a two-span structure with a Town truss. It is 220 feet long, 14 feet wide, 10 1/2 feet high, and 70 feet above the Calvert prong of the Warrior River.

The end abutment of Horton Mill Bridge is constructed on a massive rock ledge, and the center piers are of masonry and concrete. The floor and truss are wooden, but a tin roof now replaces the original wooden shingles. Years of former neglect have caused the bridge to tilt, and a wire cable tied to a big mountain oak has become one of its main supports.

In 1967, Blount County made minor, temporary repairs to protect the wooden truss and flooring, covering the sides of the bridge with tin.

Built in 1934-35 by Zelmer Tidwell, the bridge is located less than 100 feet off the west side of Alabama Highway 75, five miles north of Oneonta in Blount County.

The bridge crosses a deep gorge with vertical rock cliffs. It is surrounded by scenic woods offering the potential development of a nature trail.

Horton Mill Covered Bridge, Oneonta Alabama East view of bridge (1970)
East view of bridge (1970)

Horton Mill Covered Bridge, Oneonta Alabama South view of bridge (1970)
South view of bridge (1970)

Horton Mill Covered Bridge, Oneonta Alabama (2002)