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Conowingo Covered Bridge #2

Cecil & Harford MD-07-14 #2x & MD-12-08 #2x Susquehanna River Burr 10 1744' 1859 1927
Conowingo Bridge 1890
Second Conowingo Bridge, about 1890, from Richard Sanders Allen book Covered Bridges of The Middle Atlantic States. Photo taken by Bertram N. Stump.

The first Conowingo Covered Bridge was built by Lewis Wernwag in 1820 and lasted until a flood in 1846 destroyed all but the two center spans.
The loss of the first Conowingo Bridge prompted the local community to successfully obtain an Act of Legislature in 1847 to rebuild the bridge with money raised by selling shares of a newly established company at $20 each, with a capital stock of not more than $60,000.¹
Conowingo Bridge Company Stock
Conowingo Bridge Company (1847-1927) Stock Certificate, courtesy Russ Sears.

An editorial in the Aegis of March 6, 1858 reported that only $8,000 was still needed for rebuilding the bridge. The contract awarded stated, "the bridge is to be built in the Burr plan, double track, of first class rock work laid in hydraulic cement, and to be completed on the first day of January, 1859." In an Aegis article, January 15, 1859, "the bridge will be ready for public travel sometime in February." The Baltimore Sunpapers on February 26, 1859 reported, "Conowingo Bridge Finished - The new bridge over the Susquehanna River at Conowingo, 30 miles below Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, has been completed, and was thrown open for the use of the public on the 17th instant." The bridge was partially constructed on Balderson's Island, bridge traffic passed through Dublin and then took the present Castleton Road to the west side of the span. Parts of the Conowingo Bridge were washed away on March 18, 1865 when the bridge became completely submerged and the tow path washed out. Another flood in February 1904 took out two complete sections which were replaced by iron spans. In 1907 a fire destroyed seven spans of the bridge. Damage was estimated at $50,000.²
The burnt out sections were replaced by metal spans in 1909 at a cost of $85,000. An article about the fire appeared in the Washington Post on June 7, 1907:
CONOWINGO BRIDGE BURNED - Incendiaries Saturated with Kerosene Long Structure Over Susquehanna. Elkton, Md., June 6. The Conowingo Bridge, which spans the Susquehanna River between Cecil and Harford counties at Conowingo, was destroyed by fire last night. The blaze was discovered at 10:30 o'clock.
The bridge, which was a wooden-covered structure, was set on fire by firebugs from the Harford County side, and so rapidly did the flames spread that about three-quarters of a mile of the structure was consumed by the flames. The incendiaries used kerosene, which was spread over a quarter of a mile of woodwork.
The loss is estimated at between $100,000 and $125,000. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Postal Telegraph and Cable Company, the Diamond State Telephone, and The Maryland Telephone Company also suffered in the destruction of the bridge by having their wires destroyed, which will temporarily cripple their business. Their loss will run into the thousands.
Many bridges in Maryland played a role in the Civil War. From Our Harford Heritage by Milton C. Wright: "During the Civil War years Conowingo Bridge was the only crossing over the lower Susquehanna. Federal troops guarded the bridge for three years determined to prevent Southern troops from crossing." Explosives were placed at the bridge but never used.
Conowingo Bridge about 1925
Conowingo Bridge, about 1925, view from the Cecil County side. From Richard Sanders Allen book Covered Bridges of The Middle Atlantic States. Photo by Frank H. Jacobs.
Conowingo Bridge Dynamited 1927In 1911, the State of Maryland bought the Conowingo Bridge and ended toll collections. Subsequent fires plagued the bridge until November 29, 1927 when it was dismantled and dynamited. At that time only two of the ten spans were wooden. The building of the Conowingo Dam and road crossing deemed the old bridge unnecessary. Its remains lie at the bottom of the Susquehanna.³

UPDATED: 12/11/2008, text revised. UPDATED: 12/06/2008, for photo date & photographer credit.

¹ C. Milton Wright, Our Harford Heritage, A History of Harford County Maryland, (Self published: 1967), p. 112.

² Harford Historical Bulletin, Six Susquehanna Bridge Crossings: Thirteen Bridges (The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc.: Number 92, Spring 2002), p. 7, 9-11.

³Aegis (February 10, 1977).

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