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, Coleman Covered Bridge, Forry’s Mill Covered Bridge, Siegrist’s Mill Covered Bridge, Kauffman’s Distillery Covered Bridge, and Shearer’s Covered Bridge.
Leaving the historic Byerland Mennonite Meetinghouse, I continued along Byerland Church Road. While the first portion of my morning involved moving in and out of thick, foggy patches without any issues, there suddenly seemed to be a lot of deer grazing in the fields nearby. Keeping a watch for any deer that might stray onto the road, I continued my journey toward the next covered bridge on my list to visit that morning.
I could see the old mill ahead and as I came around the turn, Baumgardner’s Covered Bridge appeared before me. While all the property around the covered bridge was posted “No trespassing,” I found a spot I could safely pull most of the way off the road. Putting the hazard lights on, I stepped out of the vehicle to investigate the historical bridge.
I crossed the road to read the information provided on the historical placard which stood near the eastern edge of the covered bridge. Also known as Pequea #10 and Diffenbaugh Covered Bridge, the covered bridge was erected as a single span and features double Burr arch trusses. Like the majority of Lancaster County’s covered bridges, it is painted red with the approaches painted white.
The bridge was built in 1860 by Daniel Kitch at the mill owned by Benjamin Harnish. In 1872, Thomas Baumgardner purchased and fixed the mill – which is located on the eastern side of the bridge – and his name became connected with the covered bridge and is still known as Baumgardner’s Mill in his honor. Baumgardner would outfit his mill with two turbines in late 1881, which were powered by the waters of Pequea Creek, and was able to produce roughly fifty barrels of flour per day.
Baumgardner’s Mill Covered Bridge originally had a length of 105 feet which stood about fourteen feet above Pequea Creek. However, in 1987 it underwent a massive restoration due to flood damage. As a result, the bridge was raised four feet higher over the waters of Pequea Creek and was lengthened roughly nine feet, giving the bridge a length of 114 feet.
Unlike Neff’s Mill and Lime Valley Covered Bridges this one was void of traffic during my visit, which allowed me the time to walk through and photograph the bridge. The interior of the bridge is still in excellent condition. Had I not known that it had been restored in 1987, I would have believed the restoration had only happened in the past couple years.
I made it to the other side of the bridge before pausing to take pictures from that angle. Once I finished, I began my trip back to the spot I had parked my vehicle and to the next bridge on my journey.
Note: While researching the history of Baumgardner’s Mill Covered Bridge, I came across an article from the November 26, 1913 edition of The Semi-Weekly New Era (Lancaster, Pa) titled “Millers Dispute Over Dam.” By 1913, the mill was owned by Edwin Diffenbaugh who brought suit against another mill located roughly 2,000 yards downstream by Abraham Hess. Hess’s mill had been destroyed by fire and when the mill and dam was rebuilt 1906, Diffenbaugh claimed the dam blocked the creek to the point the pooled waters were slowing his water wheel down. The claim also said that the dam had been raised by boards placed at its top, causing the water level to raise another six inches. Diffenbaugh brought suit against the Hess estate to compensate him for damages.
The case, which was filed in January 1913, would not be heard in court until November 1913. By the time it reached a court date, Edwin Diffenbaugh had passed due to an accident in September of that year. Edwin had been found by his son lying unconscious in his mill. His clothing had been discovered tangled in a set screw, which caused injuries to the back of his head. According to the September 29, 1913 edition of The Inquirer (Lancaster, Pa): “There were unfounded rumors that Mr. Diffenbaugh had met with foul play.” Despite the death of Edwin Diffenbaugh, the estate moved forward with the case, which went to a jury trial in late November, 1913.
The defense argued the Hess dam was several inches lower than the mouth of the race – the channel forcing water through the water wheels of the mill – of the Diffenbaugh Mill, so it was not their dam creating issues with the water wheels. It was alleged that rocks, sand and a fallen tree in Pequea Creek was what was responsible for the backing up of the waters. The jury debated the arguments and awarded the Diffenbaugh estate $500.