Note: This is a part of a series about the covered bridges in southwestern New Hampshire. While I reference the covered bridge I had come from and the one I was headed to visit, these articles can be read without needing to read the entry about the previous bridge visited. The six covered bridges visited in this journey are: Carlton, Sawyer’s Crossing, West Swanzey, Slate, Coombs and Ashuelot.
Returning to New Hampshire Route 10, I turned left and left the West Swanzey Covered Bridge in the rearview mirror. After a short drive along Route 10, I took the left onto Westport Village Road and a short distance later, the covered bridge appeared before us. Pulling to the side of the road, I stepped out to study the bridge.
This is the second covered bridge to stand at this location, having been erected in 2001. The bridge has a single span crossing the Ashuelot River. It was erected with a covered Town Truss and has a length of one hundred and forty-two feet. Like the previous covered bridge, this one continues to be called Slate Covered Bridge after the family that owned a farm to the north of the bridge.
The original covered bridge was erected in 1862 with a Town truss and was a couple feet longer than the current bridge. It was built to replace the previous bridge that crossed the river at this location. This bridge had collapsed in 1842 as William Wheelock and his oxen were crossing it. Despite the collapse sending them all into the river, neither Wheelock nor his oxen were hurt.
Due to time, the bridge began to show wear. In the early 1990s, talk of fundraising to help with the rehabilitation of the bridge began. However, before the bridge could be rehabilitated, it was destroyed on March 8, 1993, when it was set on fire.
Note: There was a suspect looked at for the arson, but the case against him was weak from the start. It was weakened even more in late 1993 when the state failed to discover gasoline or any other accelerant being used to burn the bridge down. The case went to trial in December 1993 and the suspect found not guilty of the act of arson. Nobody else was ever charged and the arson remains unsolved. There was a theory going on at the time this bridge was burned by a serial arsonist who was set on burning down covered bridges as Slate Covered Bridge was one of a number of covered bridges which had burned in New England states during this time period. As I far as I can tell, this theory was never proven to be true.
After seven years of fundraising, Wright Construction of Vermont was awarded the contract to rebuild the Slate Covered Bridge in the style of the original. The present covered bridge reopened in 2001 and remains open to traffic.
As I got back in the vehicle, my mother spoke. “You seem to be missing a covered bridge on your list.”
“I missed a bridge?” I asked curiously as I believed I had all the covered bridges in the area.
“Coombs Covered Bridge,” she replied. “I was looking at the covered bridges of the Swanzey region and it came up and it’s not on your list.”
“I guess we have another stop to make,” I responded as I pulled back onto the road and followed her directions to the next covered bridge.
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