In the mid-19th
century the town of Chester was an important trading post on the
Mississippi River. Marketable products such as corn, wheat, and lumber
were transported to Chester by wagons and ox carts to be loaded into boats
for shipment up and down the river. In order to facilitate this trade a
toll road was built by a Mr. Hartman between Chester and Bremen, a village
six miles to the northeast of Chester. Hartman charged a fee to users of the road who were traveling
west. The type of road Hartman built was a plank road, where all the low
and swampy places along the route were floored with heavy planks to make
them easily crossable. The biggest natural obstacle on the route between
Chester and Bremen was the Mary’s River and Hartman had a bridge
constructed to enable travelers to cross this river.
Completed in 1854,
the bridge is 86 feet long, 17 feet 8 inches wide, and has a vertical
clearance of 12 feet. The bridge was constructed using native white oak
timber, hand hewn throughout, and used the Burr Arch design with double
arches on either side of King posts. The structure rests on its original
stone abutments and with the exception of the floor, floor joists, roof, and
siding, all of the original timber remains.
The bridge was in
continuous service from 1854 to 1930. In 1936 the bridge was acquired by
the State of Illinois for purposes of preservation and a picnic area.
Currently undergoing preservation work, The Mary’s River Covered
Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in Southern Illinois and was
added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Visiting the Mary's River Covered
There is no charge to visit the Mary's River
Directions: Mary’s River Covered Bridge is
located northeast of Chester on IL-150 (4.2 miles from junction with IL-3 in
Chester) The bridge is located in a small roadside park on the south side of
W 89° 45.974'
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