Ceylon Covered Bridge renovation celebrated

Authored by Jim Langham on Jul 16, 2012

Even nature showed its favor on the dedication of the restored Ceylon Covered Bridge on Saturday evening as a welcomed breeze blew through the bridge as over 100 individuals gathered for celebration of the restoration of the historic shrine. The bridge, which had been restored by Jutte Excavating of Fort Recovery, Ohio, was completed June 30.
"What a great day in Adams County, we welcome back to life our Ceylon Covered Bridge," said Doug Milligan, currently executive director of Swiss Heritage Village. Milligan has shared a vision for the bridge restoration since his initial involvement with South Adams Trails.
Milligan told those present at Saturday's gathering that the bridge, which had initially been built as a simple bridge across the Wabash River, was converted to a covered bridge in 1880. That, Milligan said, occurred just nine years after the first train came through the area and eight years after Buffalo and Alexander merged to form the town of Geneva.
"In 1880, there were 600 oil wells in this area; it was 15 years before Gene Stratton-Porter moved to Geneva and built her log cabin," Milligan said.
Milligan said that at one time there were 23 covered bridges across the Wabash River, but the Ceylon Bridge is now the only remaining covered bridge across the largest body of water in the state.
"This is a very significant spot," commented Milligan. "It was the early roadway of Native Americans, French and missionaries. It is close to the continental divide where the Wabash River flows south to the gulf and the St. Marys River flows north to the Great Lakes."
Gary Habegger, president of South Adams Trails, said that a side trail connection to the Ceylon Covered Bridge has been a dream of South Adams Trails officials. He noted that the Trails organization raised matching funds to help satisfy the OCRA grant that brought the financial assistance that triggered the possibility for the renovation.
Habegger lauded the support of the Adams County Commissioners and the work of Doug Milligan who broke trail by applying for the first grant and David Milligan, who piloted the road to successful grant satisfaction.
"Now that this has been completed, we can turn toward our original commitment of a walking, biking project between Berne and Geneva," said Habegger.
"I am proud and feel honored to be part of the restoration of this bridge," said County Commissioner Doug Bauman. "It is not the county commissioners that are owners of this bridge, it is the constituents."
Bauman brought a chuckle from those attending when he told them that 55 years ago he rode Bus 7 of Geneva School driven by Frank Hofstetter as it bounced through the Covered Bridge.
"We always said, 'hey Frank, honk the horn,'" mused Bauman. "This bridge project was a collaborative effort of many people. The citizens of Adams County are proud and appreciate this completed project that we honor today."
Steve Krull of the Adams County Parks Department referred to the county park surrounding the bridge as a, "diamond in the rough," that stands to be developed into multiple trails and service to county residents. Krull said that the park, which was founded in the 1970's with Soil and Water money, stands to play an important role in tourism in coming years.
"This is a wonderful visual example of how people used to cross rivers," commented Cathy Wright, of Indiana Landmarks. "Not only is it a historical bridge of the National Registry, it is a wonderful example of the state's architectural, historical and transportation history."
County Economic Development director Larry Macklin referred to the completed bridge project as another piece of the puzzle that has written a chapter towards the progress of Geneva's future.
Many of those present talked about memories they shared from their own experiences at the bridge. Some mused about dates involving the bridge while others talked about skating on the uneven ice at the base of the bridge. Others recalled honking their horns and listening to the sounds of Amish buggies and horses going through the bridge.
Others from the area unable to be present sent Facebook messages unveiling their memories of days in Adams County involving the bridge.
"When we redid our '54 pickup, we put a painting from one of my pictures on the truck," wrote Shelby (Workinger) Myers. "I can't be there but my heart will be."
"My first 'real' girlfriends' names were carved on that bridge," commented David Flueckiger. "We rode bikes out there from Berne just to carve our names on it. I guess we thought that made our relationship official.
"My first memories were going over that bridge with my grandpa (Herman Cook) to visit his mom (Magdalena Cook) in Ceylon. I am so glad they preserved it. I will be there in thought," added Flueckiger.

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