Yesteryear’s Memories: Building a bridge

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February 11, 2020

In 1817, when Mt. Vernon was founded, there weren’t many people available who could be considered city planners. In fact, most settlements in the Midwest just developed in a rather haphazard manner. Whatever was needed at the time was met by local people who saw the need and did their best to fill it.

This small town certainly had potential, but there was a problem. There were no real roads. The routes into and out of town were just paths that the foot travelers, horses, and wagons used to find their way through the trees and the mudholes that surrounded the settlement. There were marshes and creeks to get past. Someone had to do something.

Two local men, Carter Wilkey and Benjamin Hood, decided to build a bridge southeast of town near where Route 142 traverses now. Casey Fork rambled through the area but it was at least a little dryer than the swampland a little further west. In Indiana, there were quite a few early covered bridge builders because of the many creeks and waterways that crisscrossed the terrain but Southern Illinois seemed devoid of such engineers of the time — so most bridges were built by local people who copied the designs of other bridges they had seen. No pictures of this first bridge exist, but most of the structures of the early 19th century were devised with supports dug deep into the ground and set with the largest rocks that could be found. The picture here is the probable type of bridge built over this creek called a King post. Two timbers leaned towards a middle post, spreading the weight across the platform. It is a simple but very effective way of supporting the weight of people and wagons. From there, a road extended towards the south side of Mt. Vernon, making travel a little easier to the King City.

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