The oldest covered bridge still in use in Michigan,
White's Bridge crosses the Flat River in Keens Township,
Ionia County. It is among the area's best-known 19th
Covered Bridge was the third bridge built across Flat
River at or near the same site, originally called
White's Crossing in honor of a prominent pioneer family.
The first was a primitive log-corduroy bridge built
in 1840. A second bridge, built around 1856 for a
mere $250, was demolished by an ice jam in the spring
of 1869. Residents of nearby Smyrna decided they must
erect a more substantial structure, despite having
no means of immediate payment. The current White's
Covered Bridge was built in 1869.
N. Bresee, who built the covered bridge at Fallasburg,
along with Joseph H. Walker, were contracted to build
the 120- foot long bridge for a deferred payment of
$1000 due in 1870, plus $700 due in 1871. They planked
the floor with second-hand lumber in an effort to
finish the job quickly. When the townspeople discovered
auger holes in the planks, they deducted $25 from
the first payment. The bridge was built in just 84
days with only man, ox and horse power.
Bridge is a frame structure with a gable roof. Its
construction is of the through-truss type, and the
trusses are completely sheeted over with rough pine
boards. The floor is 14 feet wide and 116.5 feet long.
All of the truss members and dimension lumber are
hand hewn and secured with wooden pegs. The sheeting
and roof boards are fastened to the rafters with hand
cut nails. The abutments are made of local fieldstone.
After repair of the abutments in the fall of 1955,
White's Bridge was reopened to automobile traffic.
for occasional siding replacement and a new cedar
shingle roof, White's Bridge is much the same today
as it was a century ago. It is built with the Brown
truss, a type of construction which enjoyed a brief
popularity, only in Michigan.
and patented in 1857 by Josiah Brown of Buffalo, New
York, the Brown truss resembles the Howe arrangement
of "X" bracing and counter bracing, but uses lighter
and less timber. It contains no upright members and
no iron except for bolt connectors at the timber intersections.
Bresee and Walker used the Brown truss successfully
in at least four covered bridges in Michigan, three
of which are still in existence.
White's Covered Bridge was listed with the Michigan
State Register on February 17, 1965. It was awarded
a Michigan Historical Marker on July 2, 1965.
From the Fallasburg Bridge, drive northeast on Covered
Bridge Road. Turn east on Potters Road, then north
on White's Bridge Road.
more information: White's Covered Bridge; an essay
in history by R.C. Gregory, Editor Emeritus -- The
For more information, contact:
West Michigan Tourist Association
800-442-2084 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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