LEWISBURG — The second oldest of the “white-painted” bridges is the Dixon Branch (also Dixon’s Branch on some maps and in some records) covered bridge located in the Lewisburg Community Park. Presently, the Dixon Branch bridge is the only covered bridge in Preble County not located over a stream.
The original location was across Dixon Branch, a small stream located in Dixon Township on Concord Road, approximately 1/3 mile west of Wyatt Road and was built in 1887. The original constructions costs, including superstructure, abutments, footers, and grading totaled $1,824. The covered bridge replaced a light steel span which had been severely damaged by a tornado in 1886.
Dixon Branch takes its name from Eli Dixon who was the first settler in the township which bears his name. He moved from Georgia and lived in Preble County for just fourteen years early in its history (1804-1818). Little is known about him, beside the fact he was a captain in the Ohio Militia.
Dixon Branch was originally a 60-foot structure, one of 14 Childs truss bridges built by E. S. Sherman during his 10-year career in Preble County. Sherman was born to a bridge-building family in Delaware County in 1831. The two-story frame house built for his father, David T. Sherman, still stands in the tiny community of Berkshire, where recent renovations uncovered the massive framing (enormous even by nineteenth-century standards) of a rear wing built in the mid 1850s. Like modern contractors, the Sherman’s had incorporated leftover bridge materials into their new residential addition. The first known work to have been done by Evret Sherman alone was the erection of a bridge at Sunbury in 1867. He then built his first Childs truss, known as the Chambers Road Covered Bridge, in 1883. This bridge in Delaware County is the only remaining Childs truss in the world outside of Preble County.
In the winter of 1963, 77 years after the destructive storms which brought Sherman to Preble County, a windstorm damaged the Dixon Branch bridge, destroying its roof. County officials decided to replace the wooden structure with a concrete and steel bridge and granted the Civitan Club of Lewisburg permission to remove the covered bridge.
You may be asking yourself — Why didn’t the county officials just repair the damage and keep the bridge in its original location? This is where the progressive agricultural and transportation methods come in direct conflict with historical and cultural preservation. As many of you know, Dixon Township is a highly agricultural area where even in the 1960’s machinery and trucks were getting too large for the covered bridges. Many farmers rightly claimed the bridge was not wide enough to move their machinery through the bridge and not structurally sound enough to carry the heavy loads of that era. I’m sure the county officials were getting requests for a wider bridge capable of handling the larger legal loads of the day, and most likely thought the best way to honor the farmers needs and keep the bridge for historical and cultural reference was to grant the bridge to the Civitan Club.
The organization reconstructed the bridge in the Lewisburg Park at a cost of about $100. All the other costs were defrayed by donated labor and equipment. In rebuilding the bridge, the structure was shortened to 50 feet. On July 4, 1964, Dixon Branch bridge was dedicated during the village Independence Day festivities.
The following is an excerpt provided by Brenda Zumstein-Gullickson that was written by Seth Schlotterbeck of Lewisburg, and former Preble County Engineer’s Office Superintendent, that appeared in the June 11, 1964 edition of the Lewisburg Leader.
“One year ago yesterday at 8 p.m. an unexpected and severe windstorm swept across Preble County from the northwest to the southeast (a most unusual direction) leaving much damage and destruction in its wake. One object that felt its fury was the covered bridge over Dixon branch on the Concord Road in Dixon Twp., the roof being blasted off and destroyed.”
Schlotterbeck goes on to say, “ A considerable number of persons have wondered just why have a bridge, even a covered one, in the Lewisburg park where there is no stream and only a slight draw for one span. The reason is exactly the same as that which motivates people to hunt up old bread boxes, churns, cobblers’ benches and the like and install them in their living rooms as valuable pieces of furniture and the rarer such things are, the more value is placed on them. This is not a life and death matter but I am hereby making an appeal to all men of this community to get behind the restoration of this bridge immediately, financially as well as physically; complete re-roofing it, finish the abutments and grading, and give it a couple of coats of paint. The reward to yourselves, your posterity and your community is beyond estimation. This is a call to arms.”
I applaud the efforts of the Civitan Club and the residents of Lewisburg for their time and efforts in restoring and maintaining the Dixon Branch Bridge. Just another fine example of the people of Preble County coming to the rescue of its historic national treasures.
The next article will be about the Harshman covered bridge and the mysterious legend of Tallawanda!
This is the fourth in a series of columns being writtend by Simmons on behalf of the Preble County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the “Year of the Covered Bridge.”
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