The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Allaman Bridge

John Allaman's great grandfather Jacob Allaman, moved here at age 46, from Thompsontown, Pennsylvania in 1857.

The railroad went from Pennsylvania to Gladstone which back then was called "Sagetown." Many traveled looking for new opportunity, as there was a recession in Pennsylvania.

Jacob heard that some people had moved here and reported back of the cheap land, and good crops. So, Jacob being a farmer, a bridge builder and a carpenter, packed up his bags, his wife Sarah, and their several children and came.

With him, he brought the tools and patterns to build what was and is, after its second construction, known as the Henderson Covered Bridge.

Jacob had built at least three other covered bridges in Pennsylvania.

The story of the well-known "Allaman" or Henderson Covered Bridge, John Allaman knows well. It's a cherished story he doesn't mind retelling.

The first bridge over Henderson Creek, between Gladstone and Oquawka, had been demolished when a storm washed it out. It was the only means of travel from Gladstone to Oquawka.

The Henderson County Board asked for bids for a covered bridge, because they last a lot longer so joints and the wood didn't rot from the rain.

Jacob was the successful bidder and he built the bridge work in 1866. Oquawka had a big sawmill and the pine logs used for the main beams, came from Minnesota.

They were cut during Winter and in the Spring after snow melted, they were floated down streams to the Mississippi River.

They tied a whole bunch of them into a huge raft. Two steam boats guided it down the river as they hit the various lumber yard/saw mills.

"Oquawka had a big supply and Jacob oversaw the proper sawing at the mill," John said.

After they were all cut into proper size and shapes he needed, in late summer they hauled them by team and wagon, down to the area where the bridge was to be built.

When the stream was low in the fall, they assembled it across the creek with a crew of 5 or 6 men.

The bridge is of Burr Arch construction named after Theodore Burr who developed and patented the design.

The total cost of carpenter work on this bridge was $2,125.00.

The stone abutment on each end were purchased and placed on a separate bid from a stone mason.

"According to Jacob's ledgers, the 6 carpenters on his crew were paid $1.00 per day when he was working, no overtime or extra benefits or health insurance, but still they put in long days and were glad for a job.

"Jacob stayed in Oquawka rather than ride clear back by horseback to his Rozetta farm. He had bought a 40 acre farm for a homestead at first, just west of the cemetery, their home is now pasture land owned by descendent, brother Charles Allaman."

"Jacob died in 1868, two years after the bridge was completed at age 67, probably of a heart attack. He had a contract to build another covered bridge by Keithsburg.

The forms Jacob used to build the bridge had been stored overhead in the barn on the Charles Allaman farm, until they were used again on reconstruction after the flood of 1982 destroyed it.

The forms were again used for its reconstruction and are now stored on the John Allaman property.

"The Allaman Bridge" carried traffic until 1934 when the new highway was built between Oquawka and Gladstone. In 1935, the state acquired the bridge from Henderson County and has since developed a very attractive rest area around it.

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in February of 1975.

In July of 1982, a flood washed the bridge from its abutments. Members of the Historical Society and Illinois Department of Transportation salvaged the bridge. The bridge was taken apart and new white pine beams were custom sawed by a mill in Wyoming to replace the cracked or rotted ones. They were then cut to shape using Jacob's original templates which remain in the Allaman possession.

From July through September of 1984, the bridge was reassembled and placed across Henderson Creek in its original location.

A dedication ceremony was held Sept. 29, as part of the Henderson County Heritage Trail Festival.

IDOT won the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Biennial Award for Historic Preservation and cultural Enhancement for their work on the project.

It is two miles south of Oquawka, along Route 164, and is one of only 5 covered bridges remaining in Illinois.

After forty years, 36 as President, retired Historical Society President John Allaman, enjoys walking through one of his treasurered memories of Henderson County restoration and preservation, The Henderson Covered Bridge, 2 miles south of Oquawka.