Barrackville Covered Bridge


Barrackville Covered Bridge

Barrackville is the home to the second oldest covered bridge in West Virginia and the first such bridge in Marion County. Barrackville was founded in 1767 by William “Indian Billy” Ice and named in honor of an early settler, John Barrack (it was incorporated January 25, 1968).  Construction of the bridge was completed in1853, the same year that the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Barrackville and was part of the Fairmont & Wheeling Turnpike.

The only hostile army ever in Marion County crossed this bridge on the morning of April 29, 1863. General William E. “Grumble” Jones at first planned destruction of the bridge but decided to spare it with persuasion from the Ice family, nearby mill owners and Southern sympathizers.  However, two other B&O bridges in the area were destroyed by “Jones Raiders”.

In 1850, Lemuel Chenoweth, a cabinet maker by trade (also a self-taught civil engineer, and often described as a mechanic, inventor, draftsman, and craftsman) arrived in Richmond, VA with a model of his bridge packed in his saddle bags.  He brought the model before the Board of Public Works which was then considering bids for the constructions of bridges. Chenoweth assembled his model “made of poplar and nary a nail in ‘er”.  He suspended the frail looking toy between two chairs, stood upon it, and challenged his competitors to put their models to the same test!

Needless to say, Lemuel Chenoweth along with his brother, Eli, is associated in the building of this and many other covered bridges in West Virginia, between 1851 and his death in 1884.

The construction of stone work was let to Squire James E. Conaway and the masons were the fore-fathers of many prominent Barrackville citizens.

Built at a cost of $1,852, the Barrackville Covered Bridge remained in use for over 130 years.  It was the only covered bridge in the state that supported traffic loads without the use of modern reinforcement, a tribute to the expert craftsmanship of the Chenoweth brothers.  It has been said that the 159 year old engineering marvel was built by the most talented bridge builder in America.

The Barrackville Bridge, using a 145 foot long modified Burr truss (which integrates an arch into the truss framework), was fully restored in 1999 and has been bypassed with a modern road and bridge. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

The covered bridges that remain across the state possess intrinsic beauty and charm, a testimony to the craftsmanship of their builders. Their practical straightforward design created long-lasting structures, which have survived the gales of war, floods, ice, and even grievous fires over the past century and a half.

Do you know which body of water the bridge spans?