Porter-Parsonfield Covered Bridge, Porter Maine

Date added: February 26, 2024 Categories: Maine Covered Bridges Paddleford Truss
Looking South (1970)

Porter is the southwestern town of Oxford County. Hiram bounds it on the East, Brownfield on the North, Freedom, New Hampshire on the west, and Parsonfield on the south. The land surface is generally uneven with low hills for the most part, but in the northeast, there are several high elevations. This township was purchased of Massachusetts in 1795 by Dr. Aaron Porter of Biddeford, Caleb Emery of Sanford, and Thomas Cutts of Saco. The town was settled by Soldiers of the Revolution who cleared the forests of pine and oaks for agricultural purposes. The town became noted for its orchards and cattle raising. Saw and grist mills were evident in the earliest of times giving way later to the small manufacturing of woolens, spools, boots, and shoes. The territory of Porter was known as the Pequaket until it was incorporated as the town of Porter on February 20th, 1807. The population of Porter in 1880 was 1,095. Today, (2020 census) it is 1,600.

Parsonfield is the Northwest town in York County and is bounded on the west by New Hampshire, on the south by Newfield, on the east by Cornish, and on the north by Porter. The surface of the town is rough and hilly. Parsonfield is part of a tract of land sold in 1661 by the Indian chief Captain Sunday, to Francis Small who conveyed an individual half to Major Shapleigh of Kittery. Shapleigh's descendants conveyed their half to Thomas Parsons in 1771. Settlements were started in 1772. The town was incorporated in 1785. Settlers cleared the forests of pine and oak for agricultural purposes. Grist and sawmills were evident in early times. The population grew to be 1,804 in 1880. Today, (2020 census) the population is 1,791.

The Porter-Parsonfield Bridge

The first bridge on this site was begun in 1798 and finished in 1800. The second bridge was built in 1808. This bridge was rebuilt in 1858, but a squabble erupted between the towns over the distance each town should be responsible for. The argument lasted some time and they seemed to be getting nowhere when Ivory Fenderson, Selectman, suggested a method of settling the question. The Porter Selectmen walked into the bridge from their side of the stream. The Parsonfield town fathers walked in from their side. They met in approximately the middle and Ivory Fenderson took out his jack-knife, pitched it energetically into the plank at his feet, and shouted, "the town of Parsonfield shall build so far and no farther."

The third bridge at this site, the present bridge, was built in 1876 each town sharing in the costs and so it was that two kinds of roofing bore witness to the fact that Parsonfield and Porter shared repair costs fifty-fifty until 1967 when the Maine State Highway Commission obtained title to the bridge, retired it, and restored it. A new cover of cedar shingles was applied thereby visually indicating the end of the old squabble.

Bridge Description

This wooden covered bridge spans the Ossipee River as it passes between the towns of Porter in Oxford County and Parsonfield in York County. Once the traveler is oriented in the village of Porter, on Rt. 160, they may proceed South for ½ mile, arriving at the Ossipee River and the Porter-Parsonfield Bridge. Should they continue on for 3½ miles they would arrive in North Parsonfield village. The Ossipee River originates in the State of New Hampshire, crosses into Maine, and eventually merges with the Saco River and thence to the Atlantic. The Ossipee River, as it flows by Porter and Parsonfield, is slow moving, but after passing beyond, it abruptly becomes rapid at Kezar Falls. The setting is rural in the vicinity of this bridge. This southwestern section of Maine holds a landscape of fields, farms, and villages that date to the earliest of the Whitemen's penetrations.

This wooden two-span structure of 152' long, 22' wide, and 26' high from the flooring to the peak of the gable roof. The overhead clearance at the portals is 15'6" and the side clearance is 18'. The bridge is built on granite block shore abutments with a granite block pier midway of the river. The basic engineering concept employed in the two spans of this bridge is best described as being Paddleford Truss construction, a modification of a Long Truss system. This system consists of a series of crossed beams and King posts. One beam is morticed first into the King post near the bottom end, while this beam's other end is morticed into the top of the next King post. The King posts are morticed into the top and bottom chords. In this manner post and cross beams run the length of the truss strengthening the bottom chord. To gain additional strength two sets of two laminated arches were built in. These arches, 24" wide, hold 21 layers of 2" by 24" planks bolted together. The laminated arch's ends rest on the abutments at one end and at the other end on the pier. The King posts are then fastened with tree nails to this arch. The bottom chords of the four trusses are tied with cross beams which provide the base for a plank floor over which asphalt tiles 1½" thick have been laid in more modern times. The top chord provides a plate for roof rafters which end in the peak of the gable. Knee braces support the rafters. Rafters support purlins to which cedar shingles are nailed, completing the cover of the gable roof. The sides are boarded in up 2/3 of the height of the King posts. Boards run up and down. The ends of the gable roof, or portals, are boarded in down to the clearance and then covered with clapboards with trim pieces. The ends of the gable are painted white. The balance of the bridge is not painted.

Porter-Parsonfield Covered Bridge, Porter Maine Looking South (1970)
Looking South (1970)