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Covered Bridge #1 at Ellicott's Mills/Ellicott City

Baltimore & Howard MD-03-09 #1x & MD-13-06 #1x Patapsco River Unk 1 Unk c1850 1866
The Ellicott's Mills area was thriving in the 1850s with its many mills and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks skirting the banks of the Patapsco River. The Patapsco River divided Baltimore and Howard counties. The Baltimore and Fredericktown Pike crossed the Patapsco connecting the south side of Baltimore County to the north edge of Howard County at Ellicott's Mills.
At least three covered bridges are known to have crossed the Patapsco River at Ellicott's Mills (or Ellicott City). Newspaper articles from the Baltimore Sun from 1842 to 1861 often mention a covered bridge or substantial bridge, probably at this location, but confirmation is not possible. An article on August 27, 1842 about damage from the summer storm reported, "A new, and it was thought, substantial bridge, which had been built across the branch a year ago, was carried away." On August 5, 1848 a classified ad ended with, "at the first place after the covered bridge on the Frederick Turnpike." Another article in 1848, on November 6, said, "Bridge of Turnpike Company, at Ellicott's Mills, was allowed to become so dilapidated that it broke down."
In February of 1857, Ellicott's Mills suffered another flood. The Baltimore Sun reported, "The bridge at Hollowfields, belonging to the two counties, (Baltimore and Howard), was entirely swept away." Shortly thereafter, William Hollifield submitted a plan to rebuild the bridge and the County Commissioners of Howard County approved his request. An advertisement to rebuild the bridge appeared on July 21, 1857 requesting bids for building a 168' bridge over Patapsco Falls, on Old Frederick Road. The plans and specifications were to be shown by "Mr. William Hollifield, living at the place." This bridge replacing the one swept away in the 1857 flood was a little north of Ellicott's Mills, in an area previously known as Ellicott's Upper Mills near the intersection of Dogwood, Old Frederick and Hollofield Roads at what is now known as "Hollofield" on various map services. Hollifield is the correct spelling of this area named for the Hollifield family, but is often misspelled as Hollowfield or Hollofield. The bridge was rebuilt early in 1858 by William Timanus and on February 20, 1863, the Commissioners authorized repairs for the bridge at Hollifield, including provisions for it to be covered. This likely means the original one built in 1858 was not covered for the authorization did not say "replacing the roof."
The first real confirmation of a covered bridge across the Patapsco River at Ellicott's Mills comes from an artist's rendition of the Ellicott's Mills area in 1854. The flood of 1847 at Ellicott's Mills destroyed every bridge except the one connecting the B&O Railroad to the Patapsco Mill.¹ The new bridge built after the flood was very likely the covered bridge shown in the 1854 lithograph.
Ellicott's Mills 1854
Ellicott's Mills 1854, Covered Bridge (center) over the Patapsco River

The second confirmation of a covered bridge at Ellicott's Mills occurred during the Civil War. Ellicott's Mills was guarded by Union soldiers, protecting the town and railroad line. An unfortunate incident cost the life of a Union soldier while guarding the covered bridge. Private William Knight was accidentally shot to death on November 18, 1862, by Private Simon Fishbeck of the 60th New York Volunteers while on guard duty. The two were playing around with their bayonets when Fishbeck's gun, which he did not know was loaded, fired, killing Private Knight.²
On page 21 of William Hollifield's book, From Difficulties Made Easy-History of the Turnpike of Baltimore City and County: "In September 1866, the Bridge at Ellicott's Mills and one abutment with its wing walls, were entirely destroyed. A new covered bridge was then erected."
Be sure to visit web pages for the second and third covered bridges over the Patapsco at Ellicott's Mills/Ellicott City.

¹ Henry K. Sharp, The Patapsco River Valley, Cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Maryland (Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore: 2001), p. 19.

² Daniel Carroll Toomey,The Patapsco Guards, Independent Company of Maryland Volunteer Infantry (Toomey Press, Baltimore, MD: 1993), p. 8.

UPDATED 07/29/2010. More information provided in general about the bridges at Ellicott's Mills/Ellicott City. Bridge #2 added, built in 1866, lost in 1868 and bridge #3 added, built in 1870, lost in 1914.

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