The Medora Bridge
The Medora Covered Bridge was built in 1875 by noted timber bridge builder J.J. Daniels. It was built to carry local traffic across the East Fork of the White River forty years before there was a state highway system. In the early twentieth century, route US 50 crossed the river here, using this bridge. Later, and until 1972, State Road 235 crossed the river on this structure.
This bridge is the longest historic covered bridge in the nation. Its span between the abutment faces is 431 feet. Shed extensions for weather protection extend 16 feet on each end beyond the actual bridge span. The Medora Bridge is also the last remaining three-span covered bridge in Indiana.
The bridge is classified as a Burr Arch truss, which combines timber arches with a stiffening truss. This is a sophisticated structural system in which the arches greatly strengthen the truss, and the truss keeps the arches in their proper curve. Daniels used oak for the bottom truss members, for the vertical posts, and for the deck. He used yellow poplar wood for the rest of the structure. You can see marks of hand-hewing on some of the top truss members. Wrought iron bolts and the rods clamp the many pieces together.
Joseph J. Daniels was born in SE Ohio in 1826. His father, Stephen Daniels, was a prominent carpenter and bridge builder, and an agent of the pioneering bridge engineer Stephen Long. J.J. assisted his father and learned well as a young man.
At age twenty, the younger Daniels began to take bridge commissions on his own. Between 1847 and 1852 J.J. built several bridges in Ohio. In 1853 he built a notable 600-foot long covered bridge over the White River near Hazelton, IN. In 1861 Daniels moved to Parke County and went into business for himself. He built the 207-foot span Jackson Bridge in that year. Fourteen years later he designed and built the Medora Bridge.
Daniels came to prefer the Burr Arch truss style, and usually built that except when required to use a different type. The robustness of his designs were much respected, and many people considered him the best covered bridge builder in the state. More than 53 covered bridges are known to have been built by Daniels.