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More Covered Bridge Mail Bag

Willis Leggett and the Willis Leggett Bridge

November 18, 2001
Mr. Nelson: Was surfing the net and came upon your web site that included the following pictures of the Wellis Leggett Bridge, Compton County 61-18-09. This bridge was arsoned on July 8 or 9, 2001. (See photos of Leggett Bridge by Elmer Jackson in NSPCB Newsletter, Fall 2001 issue on this website.)
       It so happens Mr. Willis Leggett was my uncle and can remember this bridge being built when the old one was destroyed by a flood. The property above the bridge was owned by Willis Leggett. The government builder was a Frenchman who stayed at the Leggett home. I have photo of the bridge when it was to be opened after road fill. My greatest worry is the new bridge amount of damage was done. Is there any possible way to contact Elmer Jackson?
Brendan Larrabee; bwlarrabee@rogers.com

November 18, 2001
Dear Mr. Larrabee: I'm afraid that no one will ever make connection with Elmer Jackson. Elmer passed away in 1977. Phyllis his wife still lives in North Andover Mass. and will be 90 years old this coming December.
Willis Leggett photo by Elmer
Willis Leggett, Bridge Builder
Photo from Elmer Jackson Collection
© N.S.P.C.B.
       As far as the photo on the web site or in the Newsletter, I must say that I am responsible for the release of these photos. Elmer was a very good friend of mine. Several years before he passed away, after probing and coaxing me to take over the publication of the Connecticut River Valley Covered Bridge Newsletter. I finally took over the CRV. Elmer had the forethought to realize that he was sick and decided to pass on his collection of covered bridge material. I am sure it was not an easy decision. The CRV merged with the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges Inc. in 1989. Between the two groups, now actually the National since the merge. I believe that we have accumulated the largest amount of photographs and slides in the nation. Mr. Richard Sanders Allen author of many books on the subject and an authority on the subject, donated to the NSPCB, 10,000 negatives and 40,000 photographs of covered bridges.
        There are several people working on the NSPCB Archives. We hope someday to have a permanent place to display this material.        I hesitate to give you Phyllis,s address or phone number. I personallybelieve that she will not know who you are at this point. If you really want them, let me know, I will send along. Phyllis also gave her slides to me several years after Elmer passed away.
       When I heard of the Willis Leggett Bridge being burned. I immediately sent photos to Joe Nelson and to the Newsletter Editors. Their first issue just came out in September. I believe that they will do a very good job.
       I, and Joseph Nelson, who runs the Web Site that you visited and is responsible for this site, would be very interested in any information that you would have concerning this bridge.
       If you wish to contact me concerning this bridge, please address to >dickroycb1@ Juno.com<
        You realize that there is a Quebec Covered Bridge Society. Another good friend, Gerald Arbour, from Longueuil, Quebec, began this Society about 20 years ago, and would also be very glad to hear more about the bridge.
       If you are looking for photographs of this bridge, I believe that thereare more in Elmer's Collection.
       Yours in Bridging, Dick Roy

How Many Covered Bridges Were There?

November 17, 2000
Dear Mr. Nelson: I am writing a book for Yale University Press, "Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850." I want to draw attention to covered bridges as important parts of the American landscape in that day. Could I please ask you a few questions about them?
       How many U. S. covered bridges might there have been originally, both in the entire nineteenth century and in the years 1800-1850?
        Exactly how many covered bridges from the nineteenth century survive today? How many from 1800-1850?
       Are you familiar with the Summit Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, Delaware, 1820s, demolished 1860s? This must have been one of the most remarkable bridges of its day, yet I have found no information about it. If you could tell me the designer of the bridge, what type of truss it employed, and whether you know of any historian who could tell me about it in detail, I would be grateful.
       W. B. M., Newark, DE

November 30, 2000
Mr. Maynard: My name is Dick Roy and I am historian for the National Society a job I inherited and enjoy very much. I can answer some of the questions posed by you.
       First, on the subject of the Summit Bridge also called the Buck's Bridge. In the book "Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States" By Richard Sanders Allen - Stephen Green Press, Brattleboro Vermont. 1959, Library of Congress Number 59-14038. This should be readily available in any large library.
       There is a photo of this structure on page 42. The credit page list Ralph Townsend, I am not familiar with this person. The structure is of the arch Design and most probably of the Burr Arch design. The designer of the particular structure would have to be sought in local histories. The bridge was removed c.1870 with several workmen taking apart the bridge.
       It is almost impossible to accurately depict how many were built in the 19th Century. and in the 1800's to 1950's. There were literally thousands of these structures. For instance about 200 covered bridges alone were lost in Vermont in the 1927 flood. I have a listing of about 600 of Vermont bridges that are or once existed. I have documented about 385 in New Hampshire alone and 55 of these exist today give or take one or two. It seems that every time one turns around another is added to the list. I am willing to say that there were over 5000 in the US at one time, However this is strictly a guess.
       Many of these bridges were burned during the Civil War, especially railroad covered bridges.
       I hope that this information has helped. If I can assist you any further feel free to contact me.
              Dick Roy; Manchester, NH, dickroycb1@juno.com

About the Paddleford Truss

November 16, 2001
Hello: I am part of a committee in Littleton, NH that is advising on the design of a bridge for our river-walk project. We are very interested in building a Paddleford truss covered bridge because of the historical connection with Littleton.
       I read your piece on the web (appendix C from your book). It was by far the most information I could find on the web about the Paddleford truss. I wonder if you could answer a couple of questions for me.
1. Did Paddleford succeed in making an improvement on the Long Truss? Was it stronger?
2. Many Paddleford truss bridges today have an arch. Is it likely that they were built that way, or was the arch added later?
3. Some (in town) suggest that the arch is a primary feature of the Paddleford truss design -- but I interpret your pages on the web to say that the arch is not part of the "Paddleford truss" design, rather it is for added support. Is this correct?
4. I have read that Peter Paddleford is from Littleton. Do you know if he was living there during his bridge designing/constructing days?
5. How would I find out how many bridges he built? How many were built with his truss design?
thanks in advance for your time. If you can respond, please send the response to both my work address (tbreen@amcinfo.org) and my home address (julietim@together.net). (replying to all should do this).
      Take care--Tim

November 17, 2001
Mr. Breen: Some information in addition to that supplied on the web page is included in the following email from "Our Panel of Experts."
       I am forwarding your inquiry to Jan Lewandoski, bridge builder, and John Weaver, VAOT structures engineer and builder of the new Paddleford bridge in Irasburg, VT, to Dick Roy, Vice President and Historian of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, and to Dick Wilson, President of the New York State Covered Bridge Society. Maybe between us all, we can answer your questions.
1. Did Paddleford succeed in making an improvement on the Long Truss? Was it stronger?
A. I don't know that the Paddleford truss is stronger per se. I need to consult on this point.
2. Many Paddleford Truss bridges today have an arch. Is it likely that they were built that way, or was the arch added later?
A. None of the four surviving Paddleford bridges in Vermont feature an arch, while many bridges in NH do, with Paddleford and other trusses as well. As live-load requirements have increased over the years authorities have made changes to the wooden bridges to strengthen them. For a number of years the addition of an arch was felt to be a solution to the problem of carrying heavier loads.
3. Some (in town) suggest that the arch is a primary feature of the Paddleford Truss design -- but I interpret your pages on the web to say that the arch is not part of the "Paddleford truss" design, rather it is for added support. Is this correct?
A. See "2"
4. I have read that Peter Paddleford is from Littleton. Do you know if he was living there during his bridge designing/constructing days?
A. Yes.
5. How would I find out how many bridges he built? How many were built with his truss design?
A. An educated answer might be found in the historical archives of the NSPCB and the NYSCBS.
       Yours in Bridging, Joe Nelson

November 17, 2001
Dear Joe, Mr. Breen, and other interested parties.
       The relationship between the Paddleford truss and the Long Truss depends upon which type of Long we are looking at. Several Longs in the Concord, NH area, such as the Bement Bridge, have their counterbraces designed to work in tension, i.e. they have a tension connection at both ends. The big Long's such as Guilford- Sangerfield in Maine (which I rebuilt after it was swept away in 1988) or the two on the Upper Delaware River in NY, or even Blenheim, which is a modified Long, only use the counterbraces as a pre-stressing mechanism ( as Col. Long discusses in the particular patent), thus they are meant to be in compression, as odd as that may seem for a counterbrace. (If anyone wants more information on this please email me)
       If Paddleford was looking to improve the tension braced Longs, he definitely made an improvement. Wood is very strong in tension yet it is difficult to make a strong tension joint due to its relative weakness in horizontal shear . Lots of end distance and multiple shoulders are needed and Paddleford got this by having the counterbrace cross several panels and thus many members, giving it both end distance and several bearing shoulders. He also got more stiffness out of the repeated triangulation. When I replaced broken counter and main braces on the Israel River Bridge in Lancaster, I found I had to free up 30 ft. of top and bottom chord just to get at the connections for one pair of main and counter braces.
       Jan Lewandoski, Stannard, Vt.

November 19, 2001
Gentlemen: I am not overly familiar with the evolution of covered bridge truss engineering ideas, however the traditional Long truss with a pre-stressing counterbace seems to be an improvement over simple kingpost construction, and the Paddleford truss seems to be an improvement over the traditional Long truss. The reason for the latter observation is the fully developed use of the counter-brace in truss design: with all diagonals functioning under all load conditions (100% of the time) we have a very efficient and redundant structure indeed.
       As for arches in conjunction with Paddleford trusses or other trusses: My experience has been that sometimes arches were built integrally with the trusses, and sometimes they were added later to bolster bridge capacity - to enhance dead load or live load capacity, or both - that seems to have been the thinking. The Poland Bridge in Jeffersonville, VT seems to have original arches which act in conjunction with kingpost trusses. However, due to shallow depth and slender cross-sections, as well as articulated members and intermittent connections to the trusses, most arches that I have seen on covered bridges seem to provide little more than localized bracing to truss members. I can think of few exceptions where substantial arches have been developed on short spans.
       John Weaver, P.E.

Dear Mr. Breen: At this point in the entries in my data base on covered bridges. I have entered 79 Paddleford truss bridges. I am sure that there will be more to add as new publications are issued. Total Paddleford trusses so far: [past and present]
25 in Maine; Cumberland/York County 4; Oxford County 21. Maine is where I believe that there will be more additions.
49 in New Hampshire; Belknap, County 1; Carroll County 11; Coos County 17; Grafton County 10. See page 49 "Covered Bridges of the Northeast" by Richard Sanders Allen (1957)
15 in Vermont; Caledonia County 6; Orleans County 8; Washington County 1.
Joseph Conwill, editor of Covered Bridge Topics, in the last two issues has been publishing c/b's from Oxford County, Maine. Most of these bridges apply the Paddleford Truss. You do not have to look very far from Southwestern Maine, Northern New Hampshire and Northern Vermont. for Paddleford truss bridges. As far as I know, this is the only place on earth that they were built.
I am sending under separate cover the last two issues of "Topics". If I find anything else I will forward.
       Lots of luck in your endeavor, Dick Roy

The following emails answered a previous inquirer about Peter Paddleford

June 24, 2000
Peter Paddleford was born in Enfield, N.H. on Sept. 14, 1785. Died Littleton, N.H. October 18, 1859
       He first built his covered bridges with a Long Patent Truss and he built many this way. He than modified the truss by installing a counterbrace that crossed into 3 panels. Because it was not patented, other builders used the so called "Paddleford Truss"
       I will now refer to a publication, American Wooden Bridges, Published by, American Society of Civil Engineers in 1976. In this is an article = by Raymond Wilson called, Twenty Different ways to Build a Covered Bridge. I will quote from his article on the Paddleford Truss:
       The Paddleford Truss. The unpatented Paddleford Truss is only found in New England, The truss was designed by Peter Paddleford of Littleton, N.H. who had previously erected Long truss bridges. About 1846, he remodeled this design by replacing the counterbraces with a stiffening member fastened to the inside of the posts at points near the top and bottom chords. This resulted in an unusually strong and rigid structure. Other local builders became interested, and a considerable number were erected.
       Richard Wilson, President
       New York State Covered Bridge Society

June 3, 2000
Peter Paddleford, bridge builder and truss designer, was born in Enfield, N. H. in 1785, but is usually known as a resident of Littleton. There he established his business as a millwright and bridge builder, and became very well known. He used the Long truss at first for a number of bridges, but later developed his own plan.
       Never patented, the Paddleford truss was widely used throughout northern New England. Onto a multiple kingpost frame are added counterbraces which overlap the panel points, carefully mortised directly into the chords at either end.
       Paddleford's first bridge with his own design is thought to have been Joel's Bridge of Conway, N.H., built in 1846. The builder's son, Philip H. Paddleford, went in partnership with his father in 1835. In 1849, Peter Paddleford retired, so it is probably to the son that we owe the wide distribution of the truss. Philip H. Paddleford led a very active life as a millwright, bridge builder, and manufacturer, and was also active in politics, first as a Whig and then as a Republican.
       Peter Paddleford died in 1859 at Littleton. The very lovely house which he built in 1840 still stands. Son Philip died in 1876, but the bridge truss continued in use until 1901. It is still found from Orleans County Vermont, eastward across New Hampshire to Oxford County, Maine.
       What influence can we detect in the development of the Paddleford truss? Little is known, but just southwest of Littleton at Bath is an 1832 covered bridge in which the braces overlap the panel points. An identical example of unknown date stands not far away at Thetford Center, Vermont. Perhaps these represent a local vernacular style, from which Paddleford drew the idea for his unusual counterbraces.
       But perhaps, instead, the idea came from a familiarity with current engineering news. On April 22, 1845, George W. Thayer of Massachusetts patented a bridge truss with counterbraces overlapping the panel points. In profile it strongly resembles a Paddleford. However, Thayer seemed not much concerned with the arrangement of timbers; his patent actually covered an unusual method of adjustment to prevent settling. If Paddleford drew inspiration from the design, he did not incorporate this feature. There is no case for patent infringement! But the first known Paddleford truss was built just one year after Thayer's patent.
Ref; Covered Bridge Topics, Winter 1997, page 3; Information sent in by Kenneth E. Curran of Littleton, NH. There is a photo of Peter Paddleford House, built in 1840; Also a sketch of the G. W. Thayer Bridge design.
Ref: Covered Bridges of the Northeast - 1957 -Richard Sanders Allen pp42, 49.
Ref: Spanning Time - 1997 - Joseph C. Nelson - Page 252,253, 258. Paddleford truss 83,84, 85,101,106.
Dick Roy, NSPCB Historian

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267

This file posted June 28, 2001, updated February 6, 2002