On the national scene in 1858, Minnesota had joined the Union, James Buchanan was president, and Abraham Lincoln had debated and lost the senatorial race to Stephen A. Douglas. Less than three years later, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln took the oath of office as our Commander in Chief.
In Lancaster County’s Caernarvon Township in April 1858, sixty-two citizens signed a petition requesting that Lancaster County build a bridge over the Conestoga Creek (now known as the Conestoga River) near Poole Forge. One of the signers of the petition was Isaac O. Blight, who had been the owner of Poole Forge since 1854. He lived in the mansion with his wife Matilda and their son, William. A daughter, Matilda, was born in 1859. They employed two domestics, Catherine and Sarah Grish.
In April 1858, the Court of Quarter Sessions of Lancaster County appointed Henry Roland, Solomon Diller, and Henry Yundt to view the location proposed for a bridge where the “Downingtown and Ephrata Turnpike crosses the Conestoga Creek at Poole Forge in Caernarvon Township in Lancaster County.” The court required that “public notice of the time and place of the meeting of the viewers be given by advertisements put up in three or more of the most public places in the vicinity at least ten days before the meeting; — and by a Rule of the Court, the proof of the notice shall be in writing.”
On June 8, 1858, Justice of the Peace Levi Ringwait and Hanson B. Jacob signed an affirmation for the proposal for the erection of a bridge. The affirmation stated that four notices had been posted at Ringwait’s store, Hollinger’s Blacksmith Shop in Beartown, and in Churchtown “at least twelve days” before the time of a meeting for all persons interested in the erection of a bridge. The meeting was scheduled for 9 o’clock a.m., June 10, 1858, when all persons interested in the erection of a bridge could attend, “if they see proper.”
The three viewers, Roland, Diller, and Yundt, recommended that “in view of the danger of fire from sparks from said forge, said bridge be made without a roof,” and that the location of the bridge be eighty-nine feet from the south corner of the Poole Forge Coal House.
On May 16, 1859, Levi Fink signed a contract to build the bridge for “twelve hundred nineteen dollars.”
On August 23, Levi Fink wrote to the Court of Quarter Sessions requesting that he had lately erected by contract with the County Commissioners a bridge over the Conestoga Creek near Poole Forge in Caernarvon Township. He “prays the board to appoint proper persons to view and inspect it, and make report of their proceedings to this court.”
The Court appointed three men—Andrew Robinson, David Styer, and Henry Voneida, to view and inspect the erection of Poole Forge Bridge and report their findings to the Court. If any two of the men agree that the bridge is erected in all things in accordance to law, they are to give notice to one or more of the commissioners, or a copy of such notice at the dwelling house of one of the commissioners. The three men appointed by the state planned to build “a modern bridge at a spot near the Poole Forge Bridge and change the location of a portion of the road.”
In August 1980, the Poole Forge Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places along with its legal description in the Lancaster County Courthouse, North Duke Street, Lancaster, and its survey listed in the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg, PA:
- The UTM: Zone 18
- Owner: Lancaster County/Caernarvon Township
- Stream: Conestoga Creek
- Truss Type: Burr
- Builder: Levi Fink
- Year: 1859
- End Post to End Post Length: 99 feet
- Width: 15 feet
- Condition: Fair
- Distinguishing Features: The Poole Forge Bridge is located just off of T773, carrying only foot traffic as the bridge has been bypassed. Its vertical plank siding reaches three quarters of the way up the side walls, leaving an open window area under the eaves of its gabled roof.
In 2005, the bridge became the property of Caernarvon Township to be included in a park managed by Historic Poole Forge, Inc. Several floorboards were replaced and electric sensor lights installed. The stone abutments were reinforced in August, 2007. The Theodore Burr Society has been decorating the bridge with Christmas wreaths and colored lights each December since 2006.