Note: Although this is a part of a series, each article can be read individually and in any order. Stops on this journey across Ashtabula County, Ohio include: Mechanicsville, Doyle Road, Giddings Road, Netcher Road, and South Denmark Road Covered Bridges.
They were leaving South Denmark Road Covered Bridge by the time I had arrived at the location. I could see them pulling back onto South Denmark Road and I knew the couple I had met earlier in the day were now headed toward Ashtabula to explore the covered bridges there.
The South Denmark Road Covered Bridge sits on the southern side of the road, having been bypassed with a modern bridge in 1975. Slowing down, I pulled off onto the original stretch of road, drove slowly through the covered bridge and parked in the grass. I stepped out to explore the historic covered bridge – with the modern road passing just to the north of it, I knew I would be able to photograph the bridge from many different angles.
South Denmark Road Covered Bridge features a single span of eighty feet over Mill Creek. It has a Town, or lattice, truss protected by exterior walls which remain a natural color – only the approaches are painted white. Small windows are cut into the outer walls to allow light to filter through and another of Ashtabula County’s quilt blocks hangs on the northern side of the bridge.
Note: There is some debate on when South Denmark Road Covered Bridge was erected. The most common date of construction, which is used by Carl Feathers in The Covered Bridges of Ashtabula County, Ohio, is 1890. However, I have encountered numerous places which state it was erected in 1868. Feathers mentions locals believe the bridge was constructed elsewhere and had been moved to this location due to a flood. With this line of thought, I wonder if the bridge was originally constructed in 1868 and, after a flood, was rebuilt at the current location in 1890. To add a little more confusion to the date the bridge was erected, the marker at the bridge states it was erected in 1895.
As I photographed the covered bridge, a story I came across in the August 29, 1879 edition of the Ashtabula Weekly (Ashtabula, OH) related a strange snake story that happened in the region. While not a fan of snakes, the legends and lore that surround them have fascinated me and this one had captured my attention when I read the title: “A Strange Snake Scene.”
The story was to the editors of the Ashtabula Weekly by Mr. John B Merton, a traveling salesman who was passing through the region. Note: While the exact location is not mentioned, it is noted that Mr. Merton had left Conneautville, Pennsylvania, headed toward Jefferson, Ohio on his way to Ashtabula. The article only states his snake story happened in “east or southeast Denmark”.
As Mr. Merlon was driving along, he heard a strange noise coming from the dense undergrowth along the road. Curious, he halted his horse and stepped down from his buggy to investigate. He made his way into the undergrowth and roughly one hundred feet from the road he discovered a circular path of ground – about twenty feet in diameter – that had been cleared by means unknown. As he approached the cleared spot, the area went silent. Mr. Merton sat down on a nearby log and watched the opening, hoping to discover the source of the strange noise.
As he sat there, a number of snakes appeared from the weeds and began moving in a circular motion. Soon seventy or more “striped snakes, milk snakes, rattlesnakes, blacksnakes and water snakes all joined the throng in the greatest harmony.” While the snakes moved in their circular motion, a strange music filled the air – at the edge of clearing were five snakes that were creating the strange noise. In the words of Mr. Merton: “The rattlesnakes were shaking their rattles violently, apparently for the amusement of the snakes in the ring below. The rattles and croaking frogs, which three of the snakes were trying to swallow, made rude music, which furnished very fair marching time to the squirming mass of serpents.”
Mr. Merton made the decision to leave the scene behind and upon moving, the strange gathering of snakes disappeared into the woods. While he claims the events as being true, the traveling salesman was definitely trying to sell a snake story.
Images of rattlesnakes shaking their rattles and snakes squeezing the frogs to cause them to croak in a bizarre harmony caused me to smile. Pushing the story aside, I finished photographing the bridge and put Ashtabula County in the rearview mirror as I headed eastward toward home.
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