The OES visited Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge on May 30, 2005. Built by Martin McGrath and Lyman Wells in 1874, this unique “hump-back” multiple Kingpost truss covered bridge spanned 174.9 feet across Raccoon Creek on Township Road 4 for nearly 140 years. The bridge was known as Geer’s Mill Bridge and Barnes Mill Bridge, named for a nearby mill that had occupied the site since 1812, before it was known as Ponn Bridge. But the humpback bridge was not the first bridge to cross the creek at the site. The original bridge was built in 1848, two years before Vinton County was formed, and carried traffic for over twenty years. By 1869, county officials had begun the bidding process to construct a new covered bridge, complete with stone abutments, at Barnes Mill. The contract was awarded to James Barnes, who completed the new bridge in 1870 for $2,680. However, that bridge’s lifespan was cut short when an arsonist burned it to the ground on May 26, 1874. Despite posting a $1,000 reward for the capture of the person(s) responsible for the fire, no one was ever brought to justice.
Vinton County Commissioners ordered a special tax levy on June 6, 1874, to build a replacement bridge. They hired McGrath and Wells for $1,898 to complete the task. This time the county insured the bridge for $1,200 through a Brooklyn, New York insurance company. The humpback bridge opened later that year. The humpback was included in the design to allow the bridge to pass over the deepest portion of the creek without additional supports rather than to permit boat traffic. The bridge safely carried traffic across Raccoon Creek for 123 years until a new bridge was built just west of the humpback bridge in 1997. Sadly, deputies found Ponn Humpback Bridge burned to the ground on the morning of June 6, 2013, exactly 139 years to the day that commissioners had levied a tax to build it. The fire was deemed to be the work of an arsonist and the bridge was considered a total loss. A $5,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest in the most recent case is being offered through the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the State Fire Marshal’s office at 1-800-589-2728.
Location Information: Destroyed (Arson)
Ponn Humpback Bridge was located on Covered Bridge Road 2¾ miles south of State Route 124; Vinton County.