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History of the Pomeroy Academia
Covered Bridge

Recent news about funding for the restoration of the Pomeroy Academia Covered Bridge
can be found on the JCHS News website.

Photographs of the Bridge restoration can be viewed on the Pomeroy – Academia Bridge Restoration page.

It is not known when the first bridge at Academia was built, or by whom but it crossed the Tuscarora Creek close to the old mill [Beer’s Mill] that still stands in Academia. The bridge was wooden, as county documents record ‘plank’ repairs in 1870. The bridge was an important one crossing the Tuscarora Creek at this spot. It provided easy access for farmers to the mill as well as access to the village of Academia which had grown up around the Lower Tuscarora Presbyterian Church, the Tuscarora Academy and the Tuscarora Female Seminary.

In March 1901, warm temperatures induced the breakup of ice on the numerous streams and creeks in Juniata County; heavy rains and melting snow added more water to the streams. The resulting ice jams and flood-water did major damage to bridges crossing the Mahantango and Tuscarora Creeks; the Mahantango Creek bridge, at the county line dividing Juniata and Snyder, was swept off its foundation and destroyed. The Pomeroy Bridge, which crossed the Tuscarora Creek, dividing Beale and Spruce Hill Townships was also extensively damaged though apparently it remained on its foundation.

The County Commissioners met at the site of the Pomeroy Bridge on March 18th and found the bridge in an unsafe condition and closed it to the public. One month later the April 11, 1901 Juniata Tribune noted that “the condition of the Pomeroy Bridge hinders a great many people from attending church at Academia”. A later paper also noted that the fording site near the bridge on the Tuscarora Creek was flooded and impassable.

The Commissioners acted swiftly, in conjunction with Snyder County authorities to replace the Mahantango Bridge as a contract was awarded for a new wooden bridge on April 19, 1901. The Commissioners did not act as expeditiously concerning the Pomeroy Bridge, perhaps because they thought it salvageable. In April, repairs were made to the trestle of the Pomeroy Bridge. The minutes of the Commissioner’s June 12th meeting state that they would meet on June 15th “to take action in regard to the building of the Pomeroy Bridge.” But on June 22nd they granted an order for $16.00 to G. F. Goodman for trestling the Pomeroy Bridge. The trestling orders suggest that attempts were made to repair the bridge but no supporting documentation has been found that confirms this possibility. Finally, in December, the county grand jury, with foreman Joseph Landis, approved construction plans for the bridge and the public roads leading to them and on January 20th of 1902 the Commissioners met at the site to “take measurements preparatory to making specifications for bridge” construction.

On February 8th, 1902 the viewers reported “in favor if a public bridge across Tuscarora Creek located and described as follows. “Beginning at a post one hundred and eighty four feet (184 ft.) below the breast of Pomeroy’s Dam on the right bank of said creek thence due west two hundred and seventy feet (270ft.) to a post sixty (60ft) below breast of said dam on left bank of said creek between township of Beale and Spruce Hill to connect….

In February of 1902, Commissioners H. Cloyd Horning, John W. Hostetler and John B. Jenkins passed a resolution to erect the bridge at county expense noting “the said bridge is necessary and that it would be too expensive for the…township[s] of Beale and Spruce Hill to erect the same and more than it is reasonable said townships should bear and it is hearby entered on record as a county bridge.”

The County Clerk was directed to advertise for bids for the erection of the bridge according to the plans and specifications that were on file in the Commissioners office. The bids were due March 22, 1902 by 1:00 PM.

On March 22, 1902 the bids were opened and reviewed and the bridge contract was awarded to James N. Groninger for being the lowest bid.

The following were the bids received for the construction:

Matthews and McCahan Wood bridge $9950
W. A. Milliken    “       " $7100
G. F. Goodman    “       “ $6700
James N. Groninger    “       “ $6484
York Bridge Co. Iron Structure $9875
Nelson and Buchanan Co.    “       “ $8969

The one lane-bridge was built with a double span, having an overall length of approximately 278 feet [portal to portal] and an overall width of almost 18 feet. The design was based on the plans of Theodore Burr [1771-1822] who was the preeminent bridge architect and builder of his time. Burr developed an arch and truss design that was patented in 1804 that came to be known as the Burr truss.

The Juniata County commissioners accepted the Pomeroy Bridge in June 1903 and it was in use in the Pennsylvania Highway system until 1962. In the summer of that year a new bridge was under construction and the covered bridge was slated for demolition. The Juniata County Historical Society, at its July meeting, voted to assume responsibility for the bridge with the goal of having it restored. The contractor, not knowing of their plans, began at the end of August to take the bridge down. The Historical Society acted quickly, with the help of the County Commissioners, and were able to get the work stopped for two days, enough time for the Society to deliver a signed statement to the Commissioners declaring their intentions to assume responsibility for the covered bridge.

This year [2003] the bridge is marking a century of existence. Except for some general repairs on the roof and siding, repairs after weather damage, the re-pointing of the stone piers and the collars placed around the headwalls and the piers to stop water erosion, no other work has been completed. The fact that it is still standing after 100 years is a credit to the quality of Burr’s design and the workmanship of the laborers who built it.

Viewed from afar, the bridge is picturesque though dilapidated and obviously in need of repairs. However, up close, if one looks carefully it is obvious that time and insects have ravished it. The bridge has suffered extensive damage from powder post beetles, as well as general deterioration. Our engineers tell us that if we don’t do major restoration work on the bridge now, sometime within the decade, its going to collapse into the Tuscarora Creek.

In 2001 the Historical Society hired the engineering firm of P. Joseph Lehman Associates of Hollidaysburg, PA to prepare a cost estimate and a comprehensive plan for the restoration of the Covered Bridge. They will also manage the application process for funding opportunities. Visit the P. Joseph Lehman Site to see pictures of the bridge and an artist’s sketches of the park that will be part of the Covered Bridge Restoration Project.

The Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania is a non profit organization founded in 1959 to promote public appreciation of covered bridges. The Society is named in honor of Theodore Burr, a pioneer American Bridge designer and builder who did his principle work in Pennsylvania. The Pomeroy Academia Covered Bridge is a Burr Truss design bridge. Visit the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society's Web Page to learn more about Covered Bridges in Pennsylvania.

revised September 2008

All written content and photos ©2001-2009 Juniata County Historical Society, all rights reserved.