MONROE TOWNSHIP — The Geeting Covered Bridge is the only covered bridge ever built in Monroe Township. It spans Price’s Creek in the southeast corner of the township on Price Road, three miles west of Lewisburg. In the winter after the leaves have fallen, if you look closely, you can see the bridge from Interstate 70. The bridge was designated on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1975.
Built in 1894, it is the only bridge ever built there. Prior to its construction, a creek ford and a foot log were the only means of crossing the stream.
The 100 foot bridge was again built by Evret S. Sherman at a cost of $1,350. Koppee Brothers built the abutments for $1,054 while other bills for excavation and fill brought the total cost to $2,691.
Dave Geeting owned the farm south and west of the bridge site. He was so pleased with the prospect of a bridge there he asked for and was given permission to be the first person to drive across the newly constructed bridge. I can almost hear him saying, “Hallelujah, no more having to drive through that stream in the dead of winter”.
He had his horse and buggy ready when the big moment came, and the floor planks were not yet spiked down before he drove across the bridge. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy the bridge very long as he died the year after it was completed.
The roof of this bridge was blown off in 1914 during a windstorm. The roof framing was ripped out in 1969 by an over height truck and floor beams were sometimes broken by over loaded trucks, but each time the bridge was repaired and restored to sound condition.
In 2008, a renovation of the bridge was completed at a cost of $379,753. Again, the project utilized 95 percent Federal funding and 5 percent local funding for the rehabilitation work.
I was very fascinated by an article I received from the Mrs. Audrey Gilbert, a renown expert of Preble County covered bridge history. This article from The Register-Herald is dated July 20, 1961 and written by Seth Schlotterbeck as he informs the public of painting six covered bridges. An excerpt from the article is as follows:
AND NOW—HERE’S ‘ZACE’
It is not generally known that certain members of the local community were important cogs in the development of that marvelous invention, the grain reaper and thresher from its infancy in 18—under Cyrus McCormack to the present day huge combines. The item in particular is the blower, an important part of the old time threshing machine whereby, after the grain was sifted out of it, the chaff and straw were blown through a big maneuverable metal tube up onto great piles called straw stacks. Prior to that bit of genius, the straw was carried out to location on a conveyor known as a stacker and much labor was then required to re-arrange it into a neat rain proof stack.
Zace Kase was living just beyond the old Geeting Bridge and as it was one of those kind of years, had a superabundance of straw in his wheat. Zace assisted others in the neighborhood threshing ring and usually found himself out on the stack placing the straw carried out by the stacker. Came his turn to host the ring and he was thoroughly tired of chaff down his back and chiggers crawling all over, hunting tender spots in which to embed themselves.
The evening the threshing rig chugged into Zace’s barn lot, he was struck with a sudden inspiration and jumping astride the old gray mare, rode across the bridge and down the road to his uncle Zace’s where expounded his idea. Uncle Zace was immediately sold on the project and when the sun came up the next morning and the engineer tooted his whistle long and shrill to hurry up the stragglers, the Kases’ tow fanning mills were sitting side by side under the end of the stacker.
Of course, the two men came in for a lot of joshing from their neighbors, but jeers changed to cheers when the straw from the first sheaves fell onto the fanning mills and a few cranks, was blown out into the center of the barnyard.
No ingenuity was required to see that these fanning mills could easily be made a part of the thresher, run by the same power but until such time, Zace and his uncle turned them by hand and even found that, by a little extra effort, one of them could dispose of the straw while the other rested.
By Noon, a record run of wheat had been threshed and after disposing of one of those bounteous meals such as none but old time threshermen can recall, work resumed and no one too soon, as ominous clouds had begun mounting low in the southwest.
At three o’clock the last load of wheat was coming in from the field and by that time the sky was completely overcast. Stifling heat and a dead calm had settled over the countryside broken only by violent crashes of the thunderbolts and then someone saw it!
Out of the midst of those black clouds and flashing lightning, a huge funnel formed and bore down swiftly upon them. The women and girls rushed outside to see the terror; everyone dropped their work and stood spellbound. That is everyone but Zace.
Leaning over to his uncle, Zace shouted something like ‘Let’s fight fire with fire! Remember how you got out alive from those prairie fires out west? Uncle Zace? Built a fire of your own and then stepped into the place your fire burned over? Fire against fire, uncle, wind against wind! Get your old windmill going!’ And turning his mill in the direction of the oncoming tornado, Zace began cranking furiously and was joined moments later by Uncle Zace.
At first there seemed to be no impression made on the big whirlwind but gradually the approaching speed lessened until it almost stood still. Then it resumed its relentless advance and Zace and his uncle cranked at even greater speed. At this point, Aunt Kelija rushed up between the two mills and began fanning her apron vigorously and with that the funnel began to shrivel up into the black clouds overhead.
‘Who-o-ee!’ Grandpa Zace shouted and in his excitement, grabbed up the old conch shell dinnere horn, delivered a blast that shattered the last bit of the whirling spout into shreds and as the storm roared over them, threw his old straw hat up into it in a bold gesture of defiance and triumph. It (the hat) was never seen again.
Everyone stood watching the storm disappear but the excitement was far from over. All at once Uncle Zace smelled smoke and looking around, saw the fanning mills completely enveloped in flames. The bearings had run dry of their axle grease and had become so hot as to set the mills on fire. The neighbors finally roused out of their trance and grabbed up their pitchforks and dumped the blazing remnants into the nearby creek but it was too late; both were a total loss.
The Monroe Township Trustees heard of the incident, of course, and were going to meet and pass a special resolution to reimburse the Zaces for their loss, since through their quick action the covered bridge was saved from serious damage and probable destruction, but something was taking place farther east that made this action of the trustees unnecessary and therefore not a matter of record.
When the storm began building up, the villagers of Lewisburg, three miles east, began watching it fearfully. Would the funnel hit their homes? Closer and closer it came and they saw they were directly in its path! Then unaccountably and to their immense relief, it broke up into merely a violent windstorm that soon vanished in the distance.
The town was spared and when the citizens heard of the Zaces’ deed and subsequent loss they quickly subscribed to a fund that paid for two of the newest and best made fanning mills for the two men, a new straw hat for Grandpa Zace, a brand new fancy apron for Aunt Kelija and three expense-free days at the county fair for the immediate Kase families.
Futhermore, lest you have forgotten the original point of this tale; with such publicity, the ‘blower’ soon became a standard part of all threshing machines.
Reality or myth, I’ll let you be the judge. If nothing else, it’s a great story. Yet another story where a covered bridge is the center of the plot.
J. Stephen Simmons is a retired Preble County Engineer. His bridge columns are part of a series on behalf of the Preble County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s celebration of 2016 as the “Year of the Covered Bridge.”