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Covered Bridges

The late Zelmer Tidwell must have known his job well.

As construction foreman in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mr. Tidwell led the building of many of Blount County’s Covered Bridges, including the three that remain standing and primarily in use today: the Horton Mill, Swann and Easley Covered Bridges.

When he was “about 16,” Mr. Tidwell began work with his uncle, D.F. Tidwell, who taught him the art and techniques of bridge construction as they built high-water and low-water bridges around Blount County.  When D.F. retired, his nephew continued contractor bridge work for the county.

Speaking from his Locust Fork home at then age-82, Mr.Tidwell remembered the bridges fondly. “I always thought Swann Bridge was the prettiest — the way it looked after it was built — its surroundings. I’ll never forget when we finished building it; the people in the community were so proud to have it they gave us a big supper.”

Horton Mill Bridge was built in 1935 to replace another, located about three-fourth mile below the present site and built in 1894 or ’95 by L.M. Horton.

The 42,000 board feet of lumber required for Horton Mill Bridge’s town-truss style was bought at $17 per thousand.  All work was done strictly, securely, and solidly “by hand” without benefit of modern tools.

When asked about the deep gorge spanned 220 feet (Horton Mill rises 70 feet above the Calvert Prong of the Warrior River making it the highest covered bridge above water in the United States), Mr. Tidwell said simply, “I just threw me a couple of braces across.  We had to build it part of the way and then move on up and work on the other.”

The restoration of the bridges in the early and mid-1970s was due primarily to efforts of the Blount County Historical Society.  Horton Mill then became the first covered bridge in the South to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Horton Mill Bridge is located just to the left off Alabama75 about five miles north of Oneonta.

Swann Bridge is located one mile west of Cleveland, just off Alabama 79, and is the longest in the south with a 324 feet span.

The Easley Bridge is north of Oneonta on U.S. 231 between Oneonta and Cleveland at Rosa (turn on the road leading beside Pine Grove Baptist Church).  It is considered the “baby” of the three bridges at just 95 feet but may be the most picturesque of them all.  It is a Town-type bridge 14 feet wide and just 18 feet above the river there.  It was built in 1927 and 1928 shortly before the other two.