The Covered Bridge

The Concord Covered Bridge is the focal point of the surrounding Historic District.It is famous as the only covered bridge remaining in Cobb County, still open to automobile traffic, and traffic counts show it as the busiest covered bridge in the state.If you have not experienced a drive through the mill area and covered bridge, you are missing out.

February 14, 1954, Richard Sanders Allen Collection, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Roy Brooks

HISTORY

There is said to have been a bridge at this location since the 1840’s, probably a flat-decked bridge initially before it was covered to be better protected from the elements. Before a bridge was built, travelers likely crossed the Nickajack river at a ford a little bit upstream near the present-day Silver Comet trail crossing.

Bridge over Nickajack Creek. (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

Early bridges up and down the Nickajack creek milling areas were built of timber piers and spans, looking similar to these photos:

Early Georgia Bridge ca. 1910 (Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center, Francis E. Price collection)

Throughout the nineteenth century, the community was often at the mercy of the elements, rainfall in particular, and too little or too much rain seemed to affect everyone. Bridges, in particular, were at risk when the creeks flooded. The following anecdote from May 12, 1874 was widely reported in Georgia newspapers, although the precise Nickajack bridge is not identified:

A Narrow Escape–On Sunday evening our good friend Mr. John S. Lowe of the firm T.J Lowe & Brother, left Atlanta, and started out in a fine suit of clothes and handsome horse and buggy to Cobb County. Yesterday he returned without horse or buggy, clad in a faded suit of grey jeans. The way the metamorphosis took place was as follows: As he was returning to the city he found Nickajack Creek was much swollen and at the end of the bridge furthest from him the current had swept around it. Before venturing to cross, he called to a man on the opposite bank to know if it was safe. Being assured that it was he plunged in. The first slip he made his horse went out of sight, dragging the buggy with him. He hopped off the buggy, catching at some bushes. He missed his grasp, and the current swept him rapidly down the creek. Being a powerful swimmer he kept his head above the tide, though his boots which were now filled with water, were fast dragging him down. At length, he was swept upon a shallow reef, where he gained a footing, and crawled out of the flood. His horse and buggy he never saw again. (The Georgia Weekly Telegraph)

Damage from another May flood in 1880 was recorded in the Marietta Journal, and picked up by other papers around the state.

The recent heavy rains have been very damaging to mill dams, bridges, fences and farms in this county. Down on Nickajack creek, Ruff’s, Hunt’s, and Eaton’s mill dams were washed away, and Dodgen’s mill floor was ripped up. When the dam at Ruff’s mill gave way, the county bridge at that place was swept away, and the mud, sand and rock filled the pond of the Concord factory completely up, leaving a small creek channel where the water flows over the dam. How to get about one hundred car loads of dirt out of that pond, is a question of momentous importance to the Concord factory.  [Weekly Constitution, Page 3]

The bridge was likely rebuilt immediately thereafter. As the years progressed, bridges were built of better and better construction. The present-day bridge appearance probably dates to 1891 when John Wesley Ruff rebuilt the covered bridge on stone piers. This bridge, according to reports, had the “appearance of durability”. John Wesley Ruff was the son of Martin Luker Ruff who is credited with earlier bridges in the area.

To Bridge Contractors. Sealed bids will be received at this office until 5 o’clock, p.m. July 11th, next, to furnish material and build a modern bridge across Nickajack creek at Ruff’s Mill. The bridge will be about 135 feet long. The propriety of making it a covered bridge will be considered. Full particulars can be learned at this office. Right reserved to reject any or all bids. JM Stone ordinary. (Marietta Journal, June 9, 1891)

Work began in September of 1891:

Work has begun on the pillars of Concord’s new bridge, (J W Ruff contractor). When finished this bridge will be one of the best in the county. (Marietta Journal, September 17, 1891)

And completed within only a month or two:

By the end of the present week Concord can lay claim to the best bridge in the county. (Marietta Journal, October 22, 1891)

Concord’s new covered bridge is finished and painted. It is a very solid structure, of good material and has the appearance of durability. J W Ruff is repairing, remodeling and adding improvements to his house. (Marietta Journal, November 19, 1891)

Over the years that followed, the bridge has been maintained, repaired, and strengthened a number of times.

There is a good deal of activity observable at Concord just now. Mill and factory are making full time and the bridge here is being remodeled overhead and strengthened with new bents between the stone pillows. Mr Wielcher, of Cherokee, has charge of the work.  (Marietta Journal, February 27, 1896)

The Concord Covered Bridge survived without incident the major floods of 1913 that washed out or damaged dozens of bridges in the county, including others on the Nickajack creek.

Swimmers at the bridge around 1916 (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

February 14, 1954, Richard Sanders Allen Collection, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Roy Brooks

1956 Spring Hill Garden Club Event. (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

Concord Covered Bridge before 1963 (Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center, B. H. Whitfield)

1963 Campbell High School Yearbook, CHS Cheerleaders (Paula Norton, Judy Daniel, Nancy Koningsmark, Bonnie Herren, Linda Powell)

In 1963, major maintenance work was done to add steel beams to the bridge flooring, and to add concrete piers between the rock piers.

Two bridges closed in Cobb for repairs. The covered bridge, which dates back to at least 1890 and is probably older, is getting a new wood floor and stronger floor supports including two more concrete piers. Cliff White, deputy county commissioner, said the Concord Road bridge work should be completed in two to three weeks. The covered bridge spans Nickajack creek on Concord Road between Floyd road and South Cobb Drive. County prison crews are strengthening the old structure by adding two concrete piers under it. In addition, steel beams are to be run the length of the bridge and this will be covered with a new wood floor. The bridge already has three supporting piers–one at each end and one in the middle, all built of stone. White said that to preserve the original appearance of the structure, he will enclose the new concrete piers in rock veneering. White said the additions will allow the old bridge to carry a maximum vehicle load of two to three tons. The present load limit is one ton. The bridge is one of only two covered bridges remaining in Cobb County. the second bridge is known as Paper Mill Road bridge east of Marietta. Cost of the two bridge repair projects is some $300k. Other roads provide access to both areas, White said. (Marietta Journal, February 14, 1963)

Concord Road was reopened to traffic last week after repairs were completed on an old covered bridge across Nickajack creek. Flooring strengthened, and two additional concrete piers were placed under the structure to give it increased support. (Marietta Journal, March 11, 1963).

Undated photo, Richard Sanders Allen Collection, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges

In 1964, arsonists attempted to burn the Concord Covered Bridge, and later destroyed the only other covered bridge in the county across Sope creek.

Arsonists scorch old covered bridge. The old covered bridge on Concord Road, survivor of Sherman’s vandals, almost bowed to a set of modern day ones Monday night. They tried to burn it twice and failed. A spokesman at the South Cobb No. 2 station said on the first try at about 8:30 pm only gasoline poured from end to end on the bridge burned. On the second attempt about 12:30 am, a little of the wooden structure ignited. He said only minor damage was done. “It was mostly scorched,” he said. According to Cliff White, Deputy County Commissioner, the bridge, built in 1862, underwent extensive repair work last year. “At that time,” he said, “steel beams were put under it and a new wooden floor was added.” The Concord Road bridge and the Sope Creek bridge are the only two covered bridges left in the county. (Marietta Journal, February 4, 1964)

The Sope Creek bridge was burned within two months of the attempt on the Concord Covered Bridge (Marietta Journal, March 30, 1964).

Undated Postcard, Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Resource Center

Undated Postcard, Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Resource Center

Vehicle damage to the bridge from tall trucks is one of the most frequent causes of road closure today. Usually the offending party is held responsible for the cost of repairs.

County receives check to repair covered bridge. The Cobb County Commission has received a check for $596.04 to repair the famous Concord Road Covered Bridge which was damaged several weeks ago in an accident. A truck knocked out a panel at one end of the bridge–the only covered bridge in Cobb County–knocked rafters loose and bulged out the end of the bridge which spans Nickajack creek on Concord Road. Commissioner Ernest Barrett said a Smyrna man driving a rental truck misjudged the bridge’s clearance. The county now has a check from the man to repair the damage. (Marietta Journal, April 22, 1965)

November, 1971 Postcard, Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Resource Center

 

Concord Covered Bridge (Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center)

 

Undated Photo by Harold MacKenzie, Richard Sanders Allen Collection, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges

In 1973, county repairs replaced the aging roof (Marietta Journal, October 19, 1973):

Concord Covered Bridge around 1975. (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

(Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

1980, National Register Photo, James R. Lockhart

On November 24th, 1980, the Concord Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places. (See nomination form here).

Interior of the Concord Covered Bridge. (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia)

Early 1983 (Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD)

The bridge was closed again in 1983 for more maintenance work by the Cobb Department of Transportation. A cedar shake roof was added.

1983-12-17 Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

 

In the mid-1990’s, the East-West Connector was completed, which relieved most of the increasing traffic from the bridge and the historic district.

 

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