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Toms Creek Bridge stopped 'Ike,'
but not school children

Richard D. L. Fulton

Originally published in the Emmitsburg Dispatch

The little covered bridge that once carried South Seton Avenue over Toms Creek may have stopped a military convoy in its tracks in 1919, but it provided passage over the creek for many area students before it was torn down in 1923.

In 1919, a military convoy was assembled to see how quickly the army could get from coast to coast. Setting out from Washington, D.C., the convoy picked up Dwight D. Eisenhower in Frederick, and soon got stuck in the South Seton Covered Bridge as it tried to wind its way to Gettysburg. The convoy broke up, some vehicles fording the creek and others finding routes around the old bridge.

Although few photographs seem to remain of the old structure, and little information is available about when it was built and by whom, there are a handful of residents in town who have personal memories about it.

Sister Ruth, 95, a resident of St. Joseph's Provincial House, lived in a house near St. Anthony's Church until she was 19. Like the covered bridge, her home is no longer standing.

Ruth attended St. Euphemia's School and Sisters' House, 5052 DePaul Street, and, although her parents drove her to school, she walked home each day, on a route that carried her through the old bridge.

Sister said she recalled that the road was paved then and that it generally looked like the current Roddy Creek Covered Bridge located near Thurmont.

Elizabeth K. William, 92, a life-long resident of Emmitsburg and the area, lived on Old Frederick Road in the vicinity of Toll Gate Hill. She also attended St. Euphemia's, and walked through the bridge going to and from school, a two and a half mile trip each way.

William also recalls the bridge generally looked like the current Roddy Creek bridge, and also remembered that there were "a lot of road men (unemployed) walking the road back then. I was leery of them."

Agnes Topper, 93, born and raised in Emmitsburg, lived on Dry Bridge Road on a farm while in school, and also walked to St. Euphemia's. "There were no buses back then," she pointed out.

Topper's hike to and from school was a three-mile journey each way, which took her through the old covered bridge.

"As we came to school we could see men not working along the side of the bridge fishing. We were not afraid back in those days. You didn't have the trouble the children have now," Topper recalled, obviously referring to the same men William mentioned.

"There were names carved in the bridge by some of the older children," Topper remembered, and, "They usually painted the bridge green," a rather unusual color for covered bridges back then, but colors often depended on what paint was readily available and how much it cost.

Topper remembered that the road (South Seton) was paved beginning near the approach to the bridge.

Kenneth Hardwood, project manager with Frederick County Office of Transportation Engineering, Frederick County Department of Public Works, told The Dispatch that there were originally more than 50 covered bridges in Frederick County alone during peak of covered bridge construction in the the mid to late-1800s.

Bridges were covered for a very functional reason. Bridge engineers during the 18th century had the bridges covered to protect the trusses (frames) from weathering, adding decades to the lifespan of the bridges. They were not covered to keep horses from shying at stream crossings, or to keep snow out of the bridge, or to protect travelers.

Have your own memories of the Covered Bridges in Emmitsburg?  
If so, send them to us at: history@emmitsburg.net