Note: Although this is a part of a series, each article can be read individually and in any order. Stops on this journey include: Neff’s Mill Covered Bridge, Lime Valley Covered Bridge, Byerland Mennonite Meetinghouse, Baumgardner’s Mill Covered Bridge, Colemanville Covered Bridge, Forry’s Mill Covered Bridge, Siegrist’s Mill Covered Bridge, Kauffman’s Distillery Covered Bridge and Shearer’s Covered Bridge.
There was a slight feeling of disappointment as I stepped out into a very foggy morning. I knew the covered bridges I had hoped to photograph in the early morning light would have to wait for another day – I would be lucky if I could find anything unless I was right on top of it due to the thick fog that had settled over Lancaster County.
Due to that fog, I skipped the first three covered bridges I had hoped to visit that morning and decided to make a stop in Strasburg to start my journey. As I finished my stops in Strasburg, the fog was beginning to lift, so I decided to see if I would be able to photograph and headed westward out of town. I soon found myself on Penn Grant Road as I cautiously drove through the patches of thick fog.
Finally, the covered bridge appeared out of the fog. Coming from the east, I did not see any place to safely park and passed through the covered bridge. On the western side of the bridge, I found a place where I could pull most of the way off of the narrow road near the historical placard that gave some information about Neff’s Covered Bridge. Putting on the hazard lights, I stepped out of the vehicle and studied the fog enshrouded bridge.
Thankfully the road was not too busy that morning, giving me the time and opportunity to explore the bridge. Known also as Pequea #7 and Bowman’s, the bridge spans Pequea Creek, connecting West Lampeter and Strasburg Townships. As I was determining how I wanted to photograph the bridge I heard the sound of a cow bell approaching on the opposite side of the creek. I soon had a small audience of cows appear from the fog who took their place at the fence, watching my every move.
Leaving my audience, I walked over to read the historical placard near the western entrance to the bridge.
The first bridge erected at this site was in 1797 by the county at the petition of Wendel and Anne Bowman who ran a mill which once stood at this location. The bridge is also known as Bowman’s Covered Bridge, because it was the first bridge to be erected near their mill. By 1803 the bridge was in poor condition but the county did not provide financial assistance to fix it. In 1824 a new bridge was erected and it was rebuilt again in 1874 – this one was known to be covered. By the time the 1874 covered bridge was erected, Henry Neff owned the mill and the bridge was named after him. In 2018, 142 years after being erected, Neff’s Mill Covered Bridge would be completely rehabilitated.
Note: Was the 1824 bridge at this location covered? Everything in the regional newspapers suggest the first bridge that was definitely covered was the one erected in 1874. However, there are a couple sources that hint the 1824 may have also been covered. I have not found anything definite stating the 1824 bridge was covered – the informational placard at the scene only states there was a bridge erected at this location.
The current bridge has a single span and with a double Burr arch truss design. With a length of 102 feet, Neff’s Covered Bridge has the distinction of being the narrowest bridge in Lancaster County at fifteen feet. It is painted the traditional red with the approaches painted white.
I finished my visit and peeked around the corner of the bridge before leaving – my audience was still carefully watching. I left them standing there and set out toward another nearby covered bridge, which was just a short distance away. As I left the bridge, I did not realize that Pequea Creek was going to be my partner while I explored Lancaster County and the two of us still had a ways to go before our journey was finished.
Note: The creek, which rambles forty-nine miles through Lancaster County before emptying into the Susquehanna River, is derived from the Shawnee group Piqua, also spelled Pequaw, who once lived along the stream.