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Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge

Frededick MD-10-07 #1x Catoctin Creek Burr 1 90' 1815 1862
Frededick MD-10-07 #2x Catoctin Creek Burr 1 90' 1864 1923

Catoctin Covered Bridge Catoctin Covered Bridge
Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge Postcard. Printing on card: The old covered bridge, Catoctin Creek, const. 1864. Dem. 1923-appr. 90' long. 1 mile west Middletown, Maryland. 202. Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge Postcard. Both postcards are of the 2nd covered bridge at this location.

Catoctin Covered Bridge
Catoctin Creek Bridge. Photo approx. 1920. Photo courtesy Mary Ann Ricker.

Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge was perhaps the most well-known of all the bridges near Middletown. Maybe it was because it crossed the Catoctin Creek via the busy National Pike and maybe because it was one of the few old covered bridges in Maryland depicted on postcards. This bridge is often confused with the Middletown Covered Bridge, located .6 mile southwest of the city of Middletown that also crossed Catoctin Creek. Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge was one mile west of Middletown.

In Covered Bridges in America by Rosalie Wells, she states that the abutments of an old bridge built in 1815 were used to support the trusses of Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge, built in 1864.
Perhaps the best historical account of the two covered bridges at this location comes from an article in The News (Frederick, MD), on July 25, 1923. The article was a copy of a story in the Baltimore Sun by Wm. McClenahan:
Some time about 1815 there was constructed over Catoctin Creek, in Frederick County, Maryland, a wooden bridge, a timber arch, enclosed in weather-boarding, and entirely roofed to protect the supporting parts from the ravages of weather. Sixty years before, Col. George Washington had located the spot on which the bridge was built.
The abutments, wing walls, and approaches to the new bridge over the Catoctin Creek were constructed. The timber arch, with its cone roof, the planking, and lateral bracings were put in, and all the countryside gathered to see that stageload of men prominent in Baltimore make the first crossing.
One day in 1862 hundreds of horses came thundering down the road from Frederick. It was war and Gen. Jubal Early, the Confederate raider was out. Over the south mountain in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, his cavalry rushed, lighted the town with flames, and then the old bridge carried them back again over the Catoctin. The next day the same rush of horses came back over the bridge. Frederick had been told to give up $200,000 or suffer the fate of Chambersburg. While her citizens were delivering the money in market baskets, there entered into the Baltimore side of Frederick a portion of General McClellan's Union Army under the young commander General Rene. This was the call that sent General Early a third time over the structure. General Rene was close behind and as Early's rear guard passed for their last time they set fire to that old structure. As the flames broke through that ivy-covered roof, shot and shell rained.
His work of destruction was not complete and before the war had ended, resting upon the same stonework, another wooden arch stood. For 40 years the wear and tear did not equal the decay. The flood of 1889 which wrought such loss of life and destruction at Johnstown did not injure the old bridge. It was one of very few to escape.
Just a few days ago a young woman and man were killed upon the old bridge in an automobile accident and the announcement was made that a new and modern concrete structure would replace the old veteran this season.
No doubt the bridge should be replaced; it is a narrow structure and is situated in the middle of an "S." Yet never so long as the history of the National Highway is remembed and man cares for stories of gone days, the "old covered bridge" over the Catoctin cannot be forgotten.
The demise of the bridge is confirmed in an article from The News on September 18, 1923, when it reported the bridge has been torn down and a temporary one erected. They reported the new concrete bridge will be 85 feet long and will be "straight with the road" instead of straight across the stream, thereby eliminating the dangerous curve.
The article by Mr. McClenahan, when discussing the burning of the bridge, said, "His work of destruction was not complete..." We believe that the bridge's timber and roof were burned beyond repair but the bridge was still crossable. It took a couple of years until the war was winding down before the town decided to build a new bridge at the same site.
Catoctin Covered Bridge
Photo from Covered Bridges in America by Rosalie Wells, published in 1931.

UPDATED: 5/19/2013. Newspaper articles from 1923 conclude there were two covered bridges at this location. Thanks to Linda Burns for finding the newspaper articles.

UPDATED: 8/14/2017. Added photo.

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