Kilgore Mill Covered Bridge and Mill Site, Bethlehem Georgia

Date added: February 11, 2024
Looking west (1975)

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The Kilgore's Mill Covered Bridge was constructed in 1894 by D. J. Thompson for the sum of $256.00. Approval of the construction was given by the Commissioners of Walton County on October 6th, 1894. This bridge of 1894 was constructed to replace an older bridge at the same location. Adjoining land was first granted to Isiah Sanders by lottery on July 25th, 1822, and he subsequently established a mill nearby on the Apalachee River. In 1823 the land was deeded to Joseph James who in 1833 deeded the land to Willis Kilgore, Sr. The land remained in the Kilgore family for over 75 years and the Kilgores built a sawmill and grist mill nearby powered by a dam on the Apalachee River only a few yards downstream from the bridge. The area together with the bridge became known as Kilgore's Mill. The mills no longer stand and only remnants of the dam, sluiceway and stone foundations can be seen today. In 1924, the adjoining land was deeded to E. M. and G. R. Briscoe who retained title until 1940. As a consequence, the bridge also became known as the Briscoe Mill Covered Bridge.

The unpaved country road serving the area and the route which crosses the Apalachee River via this bridge is known as the Carl Davis Road in Walton County and the Briscoe Mill Road in Barrow County. Originally, the land on both sides of the Apalachee River in this area was in Walton County formed on December 19th, 1818, from the Creek Cession of January 22nd, 1818. On July 7th, 1914, Barrow County was formed and that area north of the Apalachee River in Walton County became a part of Barrow County. Thus, the ownership is now divided between the two counties and the maintenance responsibility is likewise divided.

The Kilgore's Mill Covered Bridge is one of 22 covered bridges remaining in Georgia and one of only 14 still in use. Thirteen of Georgia's remaining covered bridges are built of the Town Lattice design and the Kilgore's Mill Covered Bridge is one of them. The Town Truss was designed and patented in 1820 by Ithiel Town, an architect of New Haven, Connecticut. Town realized the need for a covered bridge truss that could be quickly built by a carpenter and his was the first truly American design. The design consists of a web of light planks crisscrossed at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees, like a lattice, and fastened together with wooden pins or treenails, at each intersection. It is the most popular design for covered bridges though the number standing grows less each year.

Kilgore's Mill was part of frontier Georgia. It apparently was built shortly after the Creeks lost their land following the end of the war of 1812, or as it is known regionally, the Creek Indian War. The Creeks signed a treaty with General Andrew Jackson in 1815; and through a second "treaty" ceded another track of land on January 22nd, 1818. The area of Walton County became part of Georgia then.

Although the early records are incomplete, there is a reference to a private road called James' Mill Road, going to the Apalachee, in a survey made in 1819. (Wayfarers in Walton, 1967, Anita Sams, p. 56). Joseph James was in the area at that time, for he served as a member of the inferior court on June 5th, 1820.

In an article written for the Walton Tribune's Sesqui-Centennial edition of December 1968, Ms. Sams wrote in detail about the covered bridge and mill. The land was drawn in the land lottery of 1820 by Josiah Sanders who sold it in 1823 to Joseph James for $100 and the deed refers to the mill road.

James sold the mill to Willis Kilgore Sr. in the fall of 1833 and it stayed in the family for 56 years. Willis was sheriff of the county for two terms and served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1845-8. He was a Walton County delegate to the Secession Convention at Milledgeville, then the state capitol, which was held in January 1861. Although he owned 26 slaves, he twice voted against secession, but when it was apparent that the motion would carry, he voted affirmatively.

In 1849, there were 23 grist mills, and 23 sawmills, and five flour mills in Walton County, which was larger than it is now. George White, in in his Statistics of the State of Georgia for 1849, wrote that there were six bridges "over the Alcovi, and six over the Apalachee." Land at that time ranged in value from $2 to $5 an acre.

Bridge and Mill Sire Description

The Kilgore's Mill Covered Bridge spans the Apalachee River which forms the boundary between Walton and Barrow Counties, Georgia. The bridge is completely covered and extends 117 feet in length with only one span. The bridge is 16.5' wide and 15.5' high from the deck to the roof at the center of the bridge. The piers are made of native stone and held together with mortar or cement. Construction is of the Town Lattice type and all wood is rough sawn pine. The diagonal timbers are 2.5" x 10" and there are two pins or treenails at each intersection. The deck is covered with crossboards 2" x 10" in size and longitudinal runners of 2" x 12" are laid on top of these to provide a smoother roadway for traffic and to minimize wear on the deck. The sides are vertical boards extending the full height of the bridge. There are two lower chords made of timbers 2.5" x 10" doubled. The upper chord is made of the same size timbers and also doubled. The ends of the bridge are ceiled on the inside for a distance of nine feet to protect the timbers from the open weather. The portals are of the plain barn type and do not provide any overhang. Maximum vehicle clearance is about 10.5 feet. The roof extends for about a foot over the portal on each end of the bridge. The roof is made of sheet tin and is in fair condition. The bridge is in good condition structurally but needs some repairs to the roof, the siding, and the approach to the north end.

The Kilgore's Mill Covered Bridge is listed as No. 10-147-01 in the "World Guide to Covered Bridges," published by the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Inc., 1965 edition.

The foundation ruins for the Kilgore's Mill Complex are approximately 150 feet downstream (east) of the covered bridge. Only a small portion of the corrugated piping and original raceway remains. The raceway is across the river (west) and close to the bridge. The mill foundation was made of local stones which have been scattered. The entire area is wooded.

The cornerstones for the original miller's cottage are close to the mill site. (The structure was called the original cottage by the present landowner.) The house burned in February of 1974. It was a three-room frame building with a high loft, unfinished. It originally had two front rooms and one long room across the back. The left front room had a fireplace on the outside wall and all rooms had outside doors. There was no hallway. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Kinsey, had made a fourth room and used the cottage occasionally.

Kilgore Mill Covered Bridge and Mill Site, Bethlehem Georgia Looking west (1975)
Looking west (1975)