The History of Humpback Bridge. I am sure there are many here today who could give the history of Humpback Bridge much better than I and especially Gay Arritt who has handled our publicity and who gathered the facts regarding the history of the bridge more than 15 years ago. However, as Chairman of the Humpback Bridge Restoration Fund Drive, I am honored and delighted to tell you the Humpback Bridge Story.
Humpback Bridge is one of the oldest and most interesting landmarks in Alleghany County. It is almost as old as the county itself. Alleghany County was formed in 1822 and just 13 years later, in 1835, Humpback Bridge was built. And, so Humpback Bridge is linked with the history and development of Alleghany County. At the time the bridge was built the population of Alleghany County was 2800.
Persons who have made a study of old covered bridges, say there are only two bridges of this design known, Humpback and another in France.
Early county records do not give the details of the construction of the bridge, but it is said that Humpback Bridge was built by the Kanawha Valley Turnpike Corporation, who had by 1824 built a passable road to Kanawha Falls to take the place of the old state road.
The name of the builder or contractor of the bridge is said to have been a Mr. Venable, but the man who played a large part in the construction of the bridge was Captain Thomas McDowell Kincaid, father of Mr. Charles A. Kincaid of Covington. Thomas Kincaid was 18 years old at the time and his principal tool was an axe. Young Thomas Kincaid cut the oak timbers and hewed them out by hand. He also made the locust pins with which the timbers were put together.
The bridge is 120 feet long, and the abutments are placed 100 feet apart, an unusual feature being that there is no middle support. The center of the floor and roof is about eight feet higher than the ends, thus giving the humped appearance from which the name was derived. The roof, floor boards and portions of the exterior side walls have been replaced and repaired from time to time, but the framing and abutments are the original work of 1835. The main upright timbers are about 10 feet apart, 7" x 10"., in size and morticed in at the top and bottom, with no nails being used at all. Twain stringers at the top of either side are 10 inches square, are bolted to the uprights by means of hand made bolts. Timbers bracing the uprights are wedge shaped, being six inches in diameter at center and tapering to three inches at the top and bottom, where they join the main timbers. The bridge is said to be so constructed that the load is thrown evenly from one end to the other without the need of a center support.
Age and elements have not varied the location of the bridge an inch since its construction. Captain Kincaid told his son that on the day the bridge was completed, when the props were knocked from beneath it, the bridge swayed a few inches down stream, then seemed to snap back and settled down firmly on its present resting place, exactly in plumb, a piece of perfect engineering.
When the Covington-White Sulphur gap in the Midland Trail was completed in 1929, the present steel bridge was erected, but for a number of years the residents of this community continued to use Humpback Bridge, and even today the Carl Byers family uses the bridge to go from one field to another on the farm, so actually Humpback Bridge has been in continuous use since 1835. With the restoration of the bridge by the Virginia State Highway Department as we see it today, no doubt Humpback Bridge will be used for many, many years to come.
Stage coaches, carriages, men on horseback, peddlers on foot, even occasionally an Indian drivers with their herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, Conestoga wagons with freight, were the first to cross Humpback Bridge. At that time a toll was charged for every person, head of cattle, or vehicle using the road or bridges.
In the year 1849 many a traveler bound for the California gold regions sought shelter from the sun and rain beneath its roof. During the Civil War "Old Humpback" felt the trample-trample of both the Blue and the Gray and the wheels of the cannon going to battle. Cannon balls have been found under the bridge and Mr. Frank Hammond has one which will be placed in the park later.
By 1872 the C&O Railroad had been completed to Huntington, and a year or so later the stage coach days and days of high adventure and excitement on the turnpikes were over and travel over Humpback Bridge was reduced to private carriages and vehicles, but, located almost midway between Hot Springs and White Sulphur, it still served many a socialite through the greater part of the Gay Nineties. The first automobile crossed the Humpback Bridge early in the present century.
Our Covington Business and Professional Women's Club has used the picture of Humpback Bridge on its local programs, state programs,, and in 1948 we sent 1,000 copies of the Humpback Bridge pencil sketch by J. R. Jones, Jr., of Covington, to our National BOW Convention in San Francisco to be given out as souvenirs of Alleghany County, so you see that our club has a real love for "Ole Humpback" and you can readily understand why we volunteered our services to the Covington Chamber of Commerce when they needed some one to solicit $5,000 for the restoration of the bridge and the establishment of the wayside park.
Mr. Peter A. Reavis., Executive Vice President of the Covington Chamber of Commerce, had been working on the project for five years, and early in 1953, through the efforts of Mr. John A. Cline of Callaghan, a member of the Highway Committee of the Covington Chamber of Commerce, arrangements were made with Mrs. Carl Byers and Mrs. Rosa Byers for the State Highway Department to take an option on five acres. This option called for five acres surrounding the bridge at a cost of $500.00. The option is dated February 28, 1953 and was recorded in the Clerk's office on December 22, 1953.
Early in June 1953, our BOW committee met with Mr. H. J. Neale., landscape engineer of the Virginia Highway Department, and on June 26th, 1953 our BOW Club started its campaign to raise the $5,000, which amount was to be matched by the Virginia State Highway Department. On August 11,1953, Miss Lily Albert., treasurer of the Humpback Bridge Restoration Fund, delivered to Mr. Reavis a check for $3,000 made payable to the Treasurer of Virginia. And on February 26, 1954, the final check for $2,000 was presented to Mr. Reavis.
In the early fall of 1953, the Highway Department started work on the restoration. The boards were taken from the south side of the bridge and placed on the side facing Route 60, so that side of the bridge is the original lumber used in building the bridge. The south side has been covered with a specially treated lumber which, in a year or two, will have the same antique look as the north side facing route 60. Our Highway Department has done an excellent job of restoring the bridge and putting it in first-class repair.
During our fund drive we were delighted to learn that so many Alleghanians were interested in Humpback Bridge and it was most gratifying to have more than 600 individuals from Alleghany County contribute to the Humpback Bridge Restoration fund. Our Alleghany County Board of Supervisors and our Covington City Council were most generous in appropriating $500 each to the fund, our industries supported the drive, there were 88 donations from business firms and professional men, and 37 civic and fraternal organizations contributed, including an extra boost from the Covington Lions Club in the form of the light bulb sale. Donations were also received from individuals in California, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, Washington and the City of Washington, D.C*
Our four garden clubs likewise contributed. With Mrs. C. B. Nettleton as general chairman, the four garden clubs will start the planting and landscaping this fall. They will work with Mr. Neal of the Highway Department.
Through the efforts of Mr. James E. Steger, a picture and write-up of Humpback Bridge was included in the 1954 travel guidebook, What to See in Virginia." On Sunday, May 23, the Richmond Times Dispatch travel section guide had Humpback Bridge and wayside park written up as the 46th roadside park in Virginia.
We regret that our plaques are not in place at this time, but I am sure that Mrs. Harold Hodges and her committee will have these ready in the very near future.
We are indebted to Station WKEY and the Covington Virginian for the wonderful publicity given us and without whose help we would not have been able to have put on our drive for $5,000.
As you came in today I am sure that you were impressed with the wonderful road that has been built. Judge R. E. Tyche, without payment of any kind, permitted the Highway Department to expand the right-of-way so as to have the turn-off to the right of the road going west. He also gave the Highway Department permission to cut down the bank so as to clear the area sight distance coming around the turn, and the dirt was given to the department without charge.
We are indeed indebted to our State Highway Department in matching our $5,000 for the restoration of the bridge and the establishment of the park,
We also wish to express our gratitude to General James A. Anderson, our Virginia Highway Commissioner, who has been most generous with his help and interest in our project and which is manifested by his being with us for our dedication of Humpback Bridge today, Wednesday, May 26, 1954.
We are all going to enjoy this lovely little park along with our state and out-of-state visitors, and every one who contributed in any way to the success of the project of restoring Humpback Bridge can take great pride in having helped to preserve the most interesting landmark in Alleghany County -- Humpback Bridge. Thanks to you all.
Helen V, Childs
Covington Business and Professional Women's Club.
A SPECIAL COVERED BRIDGE WEEKEND with HISTORY OF HUMPBACK BRIDGE
Several New York State Covered Bridge Society Members were able to attend the Southern Covered Bridge Association's Safari and meeting June 12th and 13th. Harry and I were the two New York Society members from New York State. Mrs. Betty Gallup, President of the Southern Covered Bridge Association chose Old Humpback Covered Bridge, Covington, Virginia as the site for the Festival and meeting. The Safari was conducted on Saturday. It was a day long trip from southern to northern Virginia beginning with the Woolwine Covered Bridge and ending with Reynolds (Red Maple Farm) Covered Bridge, then on to Covington. During the day various groups joined the Safari for their area Covered Bridge, a few had booths near the covered bridges with food, arts and crafts for sale. Entertainment was held in the court house in Covington that evening followed by Mrs. Gallup's coffee hour in the motel meeting lounge.
On Sunday at 11:00 A.M. many organizations from the area, as well as a few individuals and the Southern Covered Bridge Association were ready and waiting to sell their varied items to those who went. Soon after 2:00 P.M. the Southern Covered Bridge Association Members gathered in a designated place in the park for the annual meeting. Guests were invited to join us at this time, the Mayor, some Chamber of Commerce members, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Historians, News Representatives, as well as the President of Business and Professional Women's Club. These people after a welcoming by Mrs. Gallup made a brief "Welcome to Our Area" speeches. Mr. Ben C. Moomaw, Jr. Executive Vice President of the Covington Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce read the History of Humpback Covered Bridge and of it's Restoration. This material was readied by Miss Gay Arritt, who is also Secretary -Treasurer of the Covington Virginian paper. Miss Arritt gave permission for me to use all or part of the History of the Humpback Bridge article printed in their newspaper - 50 of which were for sale at the Festival.
Certificates and Prints of the Covered Bridge were awarded to some guests in recognition of their organizations' help at the time of the Preservation of Old Humpback.
A business meeting was conducted. Mrs. Gallup was re-elected President for the 1971- 1972 Society year and in agreement, plans will be made to hold next year's annual meeting in Blount County, Alabama.
Mrs. Evelyn Thomas, Foxboro, Mass. was Auctioneer, giving to the highest bidder the framed original ink drawing of Old Humpback Covered Bridge, sketched by Betty Gallup.
We enjoyed being with Covered Bridge friends that we do not see often and were pleased to meet and add more
Covered Bridgers to our ever growing acquaintances.
Because OLD HUMPBACK COVERED BRIDGE is of very rare design, I believe the article by Miss Arritt will be most interesting.
Humpback Bridge, located three miles west of Covington, was built in 1835 for the James River and Kanawha Valley Turnpike Corporation, which had by 1824 built a passable road to Kanawha Falls, later extended to Kentucky, replacing the Old State Road.
Sometimes called Humpback East, it was one of three covered bridges across Dunlap Creek, the other two being some miles west of Humpback, and both destroyed many years ago.
The contractor for Humpback Bridge was a man named Venable, who lived near Lewisburg, W. Va., but the person who played a large part in it's construction was Thomas McDowell Kincaid of Alleghany County. As a youth of 18 years, with an axe as his principal tool, Kincaid cut the oak timbers and hewed them by hand. He also made the locust pins with which the timbers were put together.
During the Civil War, Kincaid became a captain in the Confederate Army and served under Generals Ewell and Ashby. He has a number of grandchildren living in Covington and other parts of Virginia.
At the time the bridge was built, it was related by Captain Kincaid to his son, the late Charles A. Kincaid of Covington, to be the only one of its design in America. The only other known one of the true "humpback" design was said to be in France.
There have been reports in recent years of a similar bridge near the Canadian border and other points, but some of these, at least, are not true "humpbacks" since they have middle supports.
Humpback Bridge is 120 feet long, with abutments 100 feet apart, with no middle supports. The center of the roof and floor is about eight feet higher than the ends, thus giving the humped appearance from which the name was derived.
The roof, floorboards and portions of the exterior walls were replaced from time to time during the period of 1835 to 1929, when it served the daily traffic. However, the framework and abutments are the original work of 1835, and are in a remarkable state of preservation.
At the time the reconditioning program started in 1953, the underneath pinning and west abutment were wearing badly. Vandalism accounted for the gaping holes in the walls.
The main upright timbers are about 10 feet apart, 7" x 10" in size, and are morticed in at the top and bottom, with no nails being used. Main stringers at the top of either side are about 10 inches square, and are bolted to the uprights by means of handmade bolts. Timbers bracing the uprights are wedge-shaped, being six inches at the top and bottom where they join the main timbers. The bridge is said to be so constructed that the load is thrown 'evenly from one end to the other, without the need of a center support.
Captain Kincaid told members of his family that on the day the bridge was completed, when the props were knocked from beneath it, the bridge swayed a few inches down stream, then seemed tor snap back and settled down firmly on its present resting place -exactly in plumb, a piece of perfect engineering.
Three major floods, 1842, 1877 and 1913, which completely destroyed, or badly damaged far more elaborate structures, did not damage old Humpback, and for some reason it escaped destruction in the Civil War, when the bridge over Jackson River at Covington was burned by Yankee raiders.
Humpback Bridge is closely linked with the history and development, not only of Alleghany County, but the Kanawha Valley and the entire country west to the Mississippi.
Tracing the history of our highways, we find the Midland Trail, or Route 60, followed what was originally known as Buffalo Trail, later called Indian Trail, Lewis Trail and the Old State Road. It was during the period of 1811-1873 while known as the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, that the most historical and picturesque developments occurred.
The mineral springs in this section were drawing guests from the North, East and South long before this time, and the famous old Callaghan Tavern and Crows Tavern were flourishing stopping places for travelers when stage coach lines ran all the way to Kentucky landings on the Ohio River, by 1827. The population of Alleghany County at that time was 2,800.
Stage coaches, carriages, men on horseback, peddlers on foot, drovers with their herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and Conestoga wagons with freight, were the first to cross Humpback Bridge. At that time, a toll was charged for every person, head of cattle, or vehicle using the road or bridge.
In the year 1849, many a traveler bound for the California gold regions sought shelter from the sun and rain beneath its roof.
Then the railroads began to threaten the supremacy of the turnpikes. The Virginia Central (later Chesapeake and Ohio) was completed from Richmond to Jackson River Depot (Selma) in 1857.
Financial conditions, followed by the Civil War, stopped railway construction in this vicinity for ten years. Then old Humpback felt the tramp-tramp of both the Blue and the Gray. Many a weary soldier spent the night under the arched root on his homeward trek after the war.
On July 4, 1869, the first train crossed the railway bridge a few feet from Humpback on the route from Covington to White Sulphur Springs, and by 1872 the railroad had been extended to Huntington, W. Va.
A year or so later, the stage coach days, and days of high adventure and excitement on the turnpikes were over. Travel over Humpback was reduced to private carriages and vehicles. However, since it was located almost midway between White Sulphur Springs and Hot Springs, and with Old Sweet Springs and Sweet Chalybeate in their peak of popularity, it still served many socialites through the greater part of the Gay Nineties, as they went "spring hopping".
The first automobile crossed Humpback in the early part of the present century, and a few years later the highway had come into its own again, but at a faster clip.
A new concrete and steel bridge replaced old Humpback on Midland Trail in 1929, and since that time it has been used only by private property owners in the vicinity.
Humpback Bridge Wayside
While the Virginia Department of Highways retained title to the bridge, the land around it was owned by Mrs. Rose Byer and the late Carl T. Byer. From 1929 to 1953, the bridge deteriorated badly and the land around it grew up in brush. There was no entrance from Route 60 to the bridge, except to slide down an embankment on foot.
For several years the Highway Department had discussed the possibility of reconditioning the bridge and establishing a wayside park.
It would be impossible to name all of those who assisted in raising the funds and planning the preservation of Humpback Bridge. To mention a few there was Gen. James A. Anderson, now deceased, then State Highway Commissioner, and H. J. Neale, landscape engineer for the Highway Department. They had several conferences with the late Peter A. Reavis, then executive vice president of the Covington-Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce, who was vitally interested in seeing Humpback Bridge preserved, and a wayside park established.
John A. Cline of Callaghan was another of those laying the groundwork for the project. He was a member of the Highway Committee of the Chamber of commerce, and it was through his efforts that arrangements were made with the Byer family for the Highway Department to obtain an option on five acres of ground. The option was dated Feb. 28, 1953.
Early estimates were that it would require $6,000 to recondition the bridge and do the grading of the ground, prepare an entrance and other features of a wayside park.
Since the writer had written a history of Humpback Bridge back in 1937, she was contacted about a possible backer for raising $3,000 of the fund, which was to be matched by the Highway Department.
The project was suggested to the Covington Business and Professional Women's Club, which endorsed the move and immediately set out to organize fund drive. Before it was underway it was learned that the project would be more expensive, and would require $5,000 in local funds. The club readily agreed to the larger sum.
The executive committee appointed to spearhead the drive was composed of Miss Helen Childs, chairman; Miss Lily Albert, treasurer, Miss Gay Arritt, publicity, and Mrs. Cecil R. Smith, Mrs Lottie Earman, Mrs. Harold B. Hodges, Miss Negeble Ellis, Miss Thelma Bishop, Mrs. John Hamlett, and Mrs. Henry Wright, then president of the club.
However, all members were active in the drive, and the membership contribute 100 per cent at the meeting previous to the opening of the fund campaign, so that when the campaign opened on June 26 1953, there was already a nice sum in the treasury. This sum included the first donation of $50.00 that of John A. Cline, and the second $50.00, that of Peter A. Tranakos.
The drive was highly publicized, and donations came from many parts of the country, as well as from local citizens and civic organizations, the City of Covington and Alleghany County, so that the necessary funds were in hand by the end of September, 1953.
The dedication ceremony for the new Humpback Bridge Wayside Park and reconditioned bridge, took place May 26, 1954. The address was given by Gen. Anderson, and he also cut the ribbon. Miss Childs gave a brief history of the bridge before a crowd of several hundred persons.
The ceremony was planned by the late Mr. Reavis. The invocation was by the Rev. W. G. Winton. Earl M. Key was master of ceremonies, and the speaker was introduced by the late Senator Hale Collins, then president of the Chamber of Commerce. Special music was furnished by the Covington High School Band, under the direction of Mrs. Nell Fleshman.
In 1957, Miss Childs again headed a committee to furnish and erect a marker. In a short time the sum of $500 was raised for the bronze marker, which was unveiled in a ceremony on Sept. 24, 1958. Here again, the Covington Business and Professional Women's Club was the financial backer.
Serving with Miss Childs on the marker committee were Senator Hale Collins, Miss Arritt, Mrs. Harold Bell, Mrs. Burns 0. Severson, Ralph Query, John A. Cline and Mrs. Lottie Earman.
In January, 1969, Humpback Bridge became one of the first 56 entries for the Virginia Landmarks Register, and it was also nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
Pictures and stories about Humpback Bridge have appeared in newspapers and magazines all over the country. It has been featured in American Home Magazine, Covered Bridge Topics of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, and is included in "Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States", by Richard Sanders Allen (1959) page 84.
Land on the opposite side of the highway was donated to the Highway Department by the late Judge R. E. Dyche so that the highway could be widened and the visibility improved at the entrance.
In addition to the many local citizens and organizations who contributed, there were donations from residents in California, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, Washington and District of Columbia.
A scrapbook with the list of contributors and stories of the preservation of Humpback Bridge and the establishment of the park is in the Charles Pinckney Jones Memorial Library, also a scale model of the bridge made by the late T.W. Flint, and used in a Labor Day parade in 1953.