Christman Covered Bridge, Eaton Ohio

Date added: November 18, 2023 Categories: Ohio Bridges Covered Bridges Childs Truss
East portal, south side, looking northwest (1975)

The Christman Bridge was built in 1895 by master bridge-builder Evrett S. Sherman who came to Preble County, Ohio in 1886 from Delaware County, Ohio. It was in Delaware County in 1874, where Mr. Sherman first built a Childs truss covered bridge. This bridge, the Chambers Road Bridge, is the last such span in Delaware County. Like the inventor of the Childs truss, Horace Childs, Mr. Sherman was a native of New Hampshire and that could be the reason he knew of the Childs truss. Mr. Sherman was the only one to ever use this truss type. He came to Ohio following the Civil War and was active in bridge-building in Delaware and Madison Counties. He came to Preble County in 1886 following a great storm that destroyed many of Preble County's bridges. Mr. Sherman impressed the county officials with his model of the Childs truss bridge and was given several contracts to rebuild the storm-wrecked spans. He built at least twenty covered bridges in Preble County. The Christman Bridge was the next-to-last such bridge built by Mr. Sherman. The bridge takes its name from Solomon Christman who owned the land around the site and who had a water-powered sawmill a short distance downstream. The Christmans were large landowners in this and other parts of the county. The Christman Bridge is the only bridge to span the creek at this site even though this road was the most important Eaton to Richmond route until 1840 when the Dayton-Western Turnpike was built. Stone for the abutments came from the Eaton Stone Quarry about one and a half mile downstream and is blue limestone laid in mortar. The pine lumber for the trusses came from the firm of Cobb and Mitchell, Cadillac, Michigan, whose name can still be seen stenciled on the bottom of the top chords. The Christman Bridge is in a very scenic setting. It has been kept in excellent shape over the years and is an outstanding example of Mr. Sherman's bridge-building skills and the maintenance skills of the Preble County Engineering Department.

Bridge Description

The structure under consideration is a one-span wooden truss covered bridge span ning Seven Mile Creek on the Eaton-New Hope Road (county road 12), one and a half miles northwest of Eaton in Washington Township section 28, Preble County, Ohio. This old span has vertical, high-boarded siding, a metal roof, cut-stone abutments and projected portals.

This is known as the Christman Bridge and was built in 1895 on the rare Childs truss plane. The Childs truss is very like the basic multiple king- and queen-post trusses in that it employs the triangular form with the diagonal members in compression and the vertical members are the tension members. However, the Childs truss features iron rods which are used as counterbraces. The truss takes its name from Horace Childs of Henniker, New Hampshire who patented it in 1846. Mr. Childs was a master carpenter and worked for his relative, Col. Stephan Long, who patented the Long bridge truss in 1830. Mr. Childs and his brothers acted as Col. Long's agents both selling and erecting the Long truss bridges. There is no record of any Childs truss bridge being built by Mr. Childs or anyone else until Evrett E. Sherman built one in 1874 in Delaware County, Ohio. Mr. Sherman moved to Preble County, Ohio in the wake of the great storm of 1886 and began building Childs truss covered bridges to replace the bridges that were lost in the storm.

The Christman Bridge was built, as stated above, in 1895, a rather late year for covered bridge building in Ohio. This is proof of how highly regarded Mr. Sherman's work was by the county officials. The Christman Bridge is an 11-panel Childs truss, 100 long overall with a clear span of 8'. The roadway width is 15' and the overall width is 18'10". The vertical clearance is 12'5". Originally, the bridge was roofed with red cedar shingles which have a life expectancy of 30 to 50 years, and according to Seth S. Schlotterbeck, former Preble County Maintenance Engineer, the roof was surely replaced before World War II. In 1961, this replacement was in turn replaced by aluminum raised-seam roofing laid right on top of the old wood shingles. Stone for the abutments came from a nearby quarry. This was blue limestone with lime and sand mortar. Where necessary, the abutments have been "pointed-up" with air-emplaced sand-cement. The bridge was originally painted white as the original specifications called for three coats of white lead and linseed oil. 'Some Preble County covered bridges were painted in 1910, but it is not known if this bridge was one of them. It was painted in the 1930s by the WPA and again in 1961 by the county. In the 1920 most of the pine floor beams of Sherman's Preble County covered bridges had been replaced with oak and during World War 11 it was necessary to double all these floor beams with more oak beams to carry the weight of heavier trucks. Some of these floor beam additions were new and some were oak beams salvaged from bridges that had been removed. On all of Sherman's Preble County covered bridges, the floor beams were suspended from the lower chords on 3/4" to 1" iron stirrups which later proved inadequate and these stirrups were replaced in the 1920's by 2" iron stirrups.

The flooring in the Christman Bridge is beech, laid crosswise with raised runners the length of the bridge. These runners are not part of the original bridge, but are later additions. The termite-infested lower chords were replaced in 1960/61. The shelter panels called for in the original specifications were removed in the 1904s because they had become a haven for rodents, termites, and trash.

Christman Covered Bridge, Eaton Ohio West portal, looking east (1975)
West portal, looking east (1975)

Christman Covered Bridge, Eaton Ohio East portal, south side, looking northwest (1975)
East portal, south side, looking northwest (1975)