EDVY Closes April 26th! Enter Now Top Link
Home > Infrastructure   +   Looking Back Moving Forward

A Covered Bridge Over Ohio’s History

A Covered Bridge Over Ohio’s History

Photo Credit: Megan Payne

By Luke Carothers

Written in the names of streets and towns–scattered throughout the State of Ohio in aging ruins amongst rural communities–the reverberating waves of its past as a center for canal building can still be seen almost two centuries later.  Despite its current position squarely within the Midwestern United States, Ohio was a frontier territory at the start of the 19th century, becoming the 17th state admitted to the Union in 1803.  Settlers flocked to Ohio in droves–setting up farms, communities, and towns in places like the Cuyahoga and Ohio river valleys.  However, even with promises of rich land, Ohio was still a frontier, and many of its citizens found the years after its founding tremendously hard to scratch out a living.  In the years after its founding, much of Ohio was a hard place to live–made even harder by a distinct lack of access to wider networks of trade.  Although Ohioians had access to Lake Erie to the north and the Ohio River to the south, there wasn’t a reliable route connecting these to economic assets.

There had been plans to build a canal between Lake Erie and the Ohio River for some decades, but political entanglements slowed any of these plans from coming to fruition over the first two decades of Ohio’s existence.  This changed in 1825, however, with the completion of the nearby Erie Canal linking the Hudson River with Lake Erie at Buffalo as a new national transportation network began to take shape.  The completion of the Erie Canal dramatically shifted the economic fabric of what was then America’s Western frontier, connecting the Great Lakes with Eastern markets like New York City for the first time.  This shift set off a rush of canal construction, and plans were soon drawn up to build a canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.  Completed in sections from 1825 to the 1830s, the Ohio and Erie canal formed the superhighway of the age, transforming places like Cleveland, Akron, and Columbus into burgeoning economic powerhouses.  Its construction and economic flow also carved out a number of small communities along the route, places like Lockville, that existed to operate and maintain this vital network of infrastructure.

From its construction in the 1820s and 30s to the ending of the American Civil War, canals defined the Ohio economic and social landscape.  However, as the 19th century moved forward, it soon became apparent that canals were no match for the emerging power of railroads, and many sections of the Ohio and Erie Canal began to fall into disuse and disrepair.  Further flooding in the early 20th century led to the canal’s total abandonment by 1913.  After their economic value dwindled to nothing and work ceased on their upkeep and maintenance, many of these canals and their locks fell into disrepair or were removed to make way for roads and trains.  Some few remain to this day, and have found a new life in the modern age.  While they no longer bear witness to the thrumming clamor of flowing goods, animals, and people, many still rest where they were first set in the Ohio soil.

These forgotten relics of our ever-developing understanding of infrastructure and mobility now sit quietly amidst the verdant Ohio countryside–in places like Lockville Canal Park, which sits just outside the town of Carroll.  Once a bustling place of commerce, Lockville is now an unincorporated community that houses a handful of neat little homes.  Just beyond these homes and the road is what remains of the Ohio & Erie Canal through this place.  The depression left where the canal once was is straddled by another relic of a similar tradition: the covered bridge.  On either side of the bridge’s red walls, some 50 yards in either direction, sit what remains of Lock South 11, Lock South 12, and Lock South 13.  Although worn and tumbled by the passage of time, massive slabs of native sandstone still tower over those who walk between them.  Although it didn’t cross the Ohio & Erie Canal until 1967 when it was moved there to prevent its destruction, the Hartman No. 2 Covered Bridge has formed a poetic relationship with its new setting–giving eager visitors solid footing with which to step into the region’s history.