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Paint Creek Bridge

Carroll County Bridge 85 - Red Bridge

Paint Creek Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 19, 2016

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Delphi: Carroll County, Indiana: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1874 By Builder/Contractor: Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
67.0 Feet (20.4 Meters)
Structure Length
67.0 Feet (20.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View The Official Wabash and Erie Canal Webpage

This important historic bridge has been researched extensively by Dr. James Cooper. Please review his comments prepared for the DHPA Historic Bridge Survey below.

This rare cast and wrought iron bowstring truss bridge has been relocated and preserved (in 1999) for pedestrian use. It is part of a unique collection of relocated and preserved historic bridges in Delphi. A rare patented Massillon Bridge Company bowstring, it feature's the company's patented Howe truss design (composed of pipe and plate) for its built-up top chord (typical for their bowstring bridges) and this bridge also uses the Howe truss design for its floorbeams as well. This bridge retains excellent historic integrity and documents the design very nicely. Its location in a beautiful historic setting only enhances the experience of visiting the bridge.

Visit the Fremont Mill Bridge page for additional discussion and primary source documents about Massillon Bridge Company patent bowstring truss bridges.

Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey


By the time the Carroll County commissioners gathered for their spring session in 1873, an unusually large number of constituents had already pressed their county's executive to build quite a few new bridges. For years the commissioners had contracted through Alpheus Wheelock of Auburn, Indiana, for most of the county's longer spans. Wheelock had started as an agent for the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, which prefabricated timber trusses, many of which used Robert Smith's patents and improvements. Agents bid the company's spans across Indiana, although few achieved more success than Wheelock who worked the Wabash and Erie Canal corridor in the northern part of the state. An inventor in his own right and would-be entrepreneur, Wheelock patented his own iron substructure for bridges and organized the Wheelock Bridge Company to contract for the erection of spans of his own or of others' manufacture. By 1873 the established bridge-building patterns in Carroll County were coming under increasing scrutiny. The spread of the railroad westward with and after the Civil War challenged the dominance of the Wabash and Erie canal across northern Indiana and the companies which had built market networks dependent upon the canal. Part product and part instigator of the burgeoning iron industry, the iron horse carried a cadre of agents across Indiana from a number of new Ohio bridge-building companies located beyond the easy reach of the canal system. Many of the new companies fabricated iron-truss spans which they increasingly priced competitively with timber. Troubles with the old system supplemented the enticing promotional offers of the new in Carroll County. One of the covered timber-truss structures--the Adams Mill Bridge--which the commissioners had purchased from the Wheelock Bridge Company only the year before was already in distress. The commissioners verified reports in the late summer of 1873 that the east abutment--an example of Wheelock's patented iron substructure--was "about to give away and render said bridge unsafe for travel," and they ordered the bridge company to repair it. To keep a prudential eye on the other timber-truss structure--the Lancaster Bridge--which Wheelock also built in 1872, the commissioners appointed a special "Superintendent" to monitor its condition and assure its "good repair" if needed. With public demand for new bridges high and old patterns of contracting being questioned, the board of commissioners decided to take the unusual step of unpacking bridge-construction contracting into a two-step process--first, determining design, and then selecting builders. In early September 1873, the board ordered the county auditor to advertise for "plans and specifications" of "either of wood or iron" for bridges at three locations: (1) across the Wabash River at Carrollton, (2) across Paint Creek between Camden and Leonard's Mill, and (3) across the Middle Fork of Deer Creek at Wyatt's Ford. For a fourth location, across Deer Creek at Ulery's Ford, the board would entertain only plans "for an Iron Bridge." Having received on 20 October "plans and specifications for the several bridges proposed to be erected in this county, and hearing the merits of each plan and kind of bridge discussed by builders and contractors," the board adjourned for some private conversation before making its judgment public. The drift of its decision could be generally forecast from its earlier decision to seek specifications only in iron for the Ulery Ford Bridge. In a few days, the board formally ruled that the four structures included in the September advertisement and a fifth, a bridge over the Wabash and Erie Canal on Washington Street, Delphi, would be constructed of iron using Joseph Davenport's patented "Wrought Iron, Howe Truss Arch" design. Not surprisingly, Davenport's Massillon Iron Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio, won the contracts for all five structures in December.

Joseph Davenport shared a lot with many of the other men who invented metal trusses or bridge devices in the middle half of the nineteenth century. Like others, he worked in timber as well as iron, and he did not limit his inventive genius to bridge trusses. Born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1815, Joseph left school at fifteen and apprenticed with his brother who was a coachmaker in Cambridge. Within two years of collaboration, the brothers acted as partners to build the first American-made railroad passenger cars for the Boston and Lowell Railroad. In 1840, Joseph designed a snowplow for a B&L locomotive, and in the spring he converted the plow into the nation's first cow-catcher. Three years later, he created the first enclosed cab for a locomotive's crew. The younger Davenport moved to Massillon, Ohio, in 1850, where he soon joined in partnership with C. M. Russell under the name of Davenport, Russell and Company to build and repair railroad cars. In his spare time, Davenport invented a passenger-carrying steam car and built two prototypes. While his forerunner of the street-car or trolley came too early for commercial success, the same could not be said of Davenport's bridge designs. To build his trusses, Davenport in 1869 organized the Massillon Bridge Company. He incorporated his bridge operations formally four years later into two separate companies--The Massillon Bridge Company to fabricate in timber and iron, and the Massillon Iron Bridge Company to work exclusively in metal. Both companies prospered. In the 1850s Davenport invented his "Howe Truss Straight" design or lattice girder in which two flat pieces "of common boiler-plate iron" were webbed using the pattern which William Howe had developed for his part-timber and part-iron truss (with diagonals in compression and verticals in tension). Two Davenport Straight Howe Truss bridges survive in Ohio. For longer spans than the straight design could efficiently carry, Davenport like others in Ohio experimented with the bowstring girder which used an arched top chord in compression, in turn tied into place at its ends through a lower chord in tension. Davenport employed a strengthened version of his straight Howe truss for the arched top chord or his "bow" and added flat plate-iron for the lower chord or "string." He patented the resulting model in 1867. While tinkering led Davenport to a second patent in 1868, thereafter he sidestepped the patent system and simply imbedded improvements in the specific designs he offered for sale with growing success. Davenport's 1873-1874 bridges for Carroll County embodied a number of the design changes accumulated over the years beyond the first patented model. At the same time that the Carroll County commissioners advertised for bids to build Davenport trusses across Paint Creek between Camden and Leonard's Mill, the board also sought collateral proposals. They need stone abutments "built of Negro heads with copings of square dressed stone to be not less than ten inches in thickness." With the lowest bid at $4.50 per cubic yard, Henry Wolf of Logansport secured the contract for the Paint Creek as well as for the Wyatt's Ford and Ulery's Ford bridge substructures. Even before the substructural stone could be laid, however, the ground had to be properly excavated. James Coyne of Delphi secured the contract for this work.

Statement of Significance

The state-of-the-art trusses erected over Paint Creek in 1874 make a number of important connections over time. In its locale at the time of construction, the span wove Leonard's mill more tightly into Camden's community network and brought the mill's output more effectively into at least the regional marketplace by reducing transportation costs to the local railroad station. Within the context of the county, the bridge was one of five that reflected an important shift from timber to iron-truss bridges. As the only example of that pivotal moment to survive, it carries the significance of the whole. At the state level, the bridge is the only Davenport patented span to survive essentially intact. In sum, the Paint Creek Bridge was significant to its neighborhood and its county when constructed, and it has grown to statewide importance and beyond in the century since its building: once a most modern iron span for Paint Creek; now a rare artifact of early industrial inventiveness. This is one of two bridges surviving in Indiana which follow the early and most unusual design of the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio.

Architectural Description

The unadorned structure retains its original members, although a number of members have been supplemented over the years. To its written proposal, the Massillon Iron Bridge Company attached a quite detailed set of specifications for each of the superstructures under bid, and the county copied those specifications into its contract with the company. Although the basic design remained essentially the same for each of the five bridges, the structural length of spans varied from 65.5 feet at Wyatt's Ford, through 70.66 feet at Paint Creek, to 101.25 feet at Carrollton, the size of members necessarily grew as structural length extended, and the price charged per lineal foot ranged from $17.25 for the shortest, lightest span to $24.50 for the longest and heaviest ones. The Howe truss arch, top chord, or "bow" of the Paint Creek Bridge consists of a pair of "wrought iron plates" 6-inch wide by 5/8-inches thick placed about 14 inches apart. A pair of 1- inch pipe diagonals and a single 1.25-inch pipe counter seated on cast-iron shoes provide most of the chord's webbing. Vertical bolts (.75-inch) extend through the plates and shoes to tie the separate chord elements into a functional member. Davenport specified that the lower chord or "string" be made of two 5-inch wide by .5-inch thick plates bolted near span-end to an adjoining plate wrapped around a cast iron shoe where the top and bottom chords meet. "Post Rods" serve as vertical webbing between the upper and lower chords. 2.5-inch "star iron" passes through the plates of the top chord, is sandwiched between the lower chord's plates, and is bolted through their sides. One vertical stands at mid-span with two others about 7-feet apart at each end of center. Adjustable .75-inch round rods provide diagonals and counters. Four latticed, 6-inch deep floor-beams carry the 18-foot deck. They sit on the lower chord adjacent to a post rod and extend beyond the chord to "stay rods" or external sway braces of "star iron" forge-welded to a post rod above and bolted through the floor beam below. Adjustable .75-inch round-rods reach diagonally as "laterals" between the trusses' lower chords in panels bounded by the floor-beams. Like the stay rods, the lower laterals provide some protection against the forces that winds and loads moving across the span can generate. The "joists for floor"-- now called stringers -- originally consisted of 12x2.5-inch "good, sound oak" boards placed "not over 20-inches apart." For the riding surface or "floor," Davenport proposed 2.5-inch thick boards, "laid diagonally and spiked to joists, and well secured at the ends by a strip 2.5-inches, fastened by bolts." The metal was to be covered "with two good coats of iron clad paint in good, workman-like manner." After more than a hundred years, the original deck has rotted, the paint has flaked away, and repairs have been made to a number of the span's metal members. Yet, remarkably, all the original metal members remain, including the railings. Seated upon cut stone and concrete abutments and wingwalls, this 67' bowstring pony span consists of five panels separated by cruciform-shaped verticals bolted through both plates of the arch and between the lower chord plates. (Each panel has been subsequently subdivided by a cylindrical bar welded to the arch and lower chord.) Cylindrical eyebars cross all except the endpost panels and are bolted through the lower arch plate and between the lower chord plates as diagonals. The arch consists of three bolted sections of parallel curved plates latticed together with pipe of cylindrical bars. A pair of die-forged rectangular bars serve as the lower chord. Placed above and extended beyond the lower chord to accommodate cruciform-shaped stabilizers, the floor-beams are, like the arch, constructed of two plates latticed together with pipe or cylindrical bars. The floor-beams carry the 17'6" timber deck. Relocated Site Having been officially abandoned by the Carroll County commissioners to the adjacent landowner who subsequently donated the structure to the Carroll County Wabash and Erie Canal Society, the span was removed from Paint Creek, restored, and reerected in 1999 in Canal Park, Delphi.

Other Information

References Charles J. Ritzler, Bridge Inspection Report: Carroll County (Delphi, 1974-75). Carroll Co., "Commissioners Record," 8: 307-passim. Cooper, James L., "A Most Modern Iron Span for Paint Creek."

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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