The BOWER BRIDGE COMPANY of MAYSVILLE, KENTUCKY

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The most well-known location of the Bower Bridge Company was Maysville, Kentucky though it was associated with Flemingsburg for the majority of its existence.

When or if the company was incorporated is unknown. One reference to the “Bower Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio” has been found from 1882, though this is considered to likely be a mistake. No record of a Bower Bridge Company in Cuyahoga County has been found.

JACOB BOWER:

Jacob Bower was born in either 1819 or 1820 in either Maryland or Pennsylvania – accounts of his life vary. Family history reports that he began his bridge career as an apprentice to Lewis Wernwag and later bridged his way through Maryland and Pennsylvania before settling in Brown County, Ohio in 1859 or 1860. The earliest known documentation to a Bower-built bridge is from 1869 authorizing payment for construction of the Sugar Creek Bridge in Sandusky County, Ohio. A resident of Ripley, Ohio in the 1870s Bower became a resident of Maysville, renting the home of Mrs. Moses Dimmitt in East Maysville in late 1884. In the Census of 1900 he was listed as a resident of Fleming County.

Jacob & Artie (Artemesia) Bower were parents to six children. Three of their four sons DeVault, Isaac, and Louis followed their father into the bridge trade. DeVault, the oldest was killed in a bridge-building accident in 1873. Ike settled in Brown County, Ohio and later became a successful surveyor and, in 1912, was elected Sheriff of Brown County.

Jacob Bower is reported to have built the Claysville Bridge at the Harrison – Robertson County line in 1874. He is confirmed as the builder of Bourbon County’s Colville Bridge in 1877 and the Johnson Creek Bridge in Robertson County in 1882. Bower also constructed several iron trusses including the 1884 Limestone Bridge in Maysville.

The elder Bower was long credited as the likely builder of the recently restored Cabin Creek Bridge in Lewis County. Other accounts have credited the bridge to William Henderson. Neither is correct. Lewis County Fiscal Court transcriptions from 1873 record that the bridge was built by a “Mr. Bryant of Ohio.” In all likelihood this is Josiah Bryant of Mt. Orab. Bryant was a noted covered bridge builder in the Buckeye State and one of his bridges still stands. As covered bridges could often be identified by physical details, the structural and empirical similarity of Cabin Creek to two of his confirmed former Brown County covered bridges validate the fact.

By the 1890s Jacob Bower had mostly retired from bridge construction and turned control of the company over to his son Louis. He lived the remainder of his life farming in Fleming County where he died in 1906. Artie died in 1913 and both are buried in the Maplewood Cemetery in Ripley, Ohio.

Louis Stockton Bower, Sr.

Perhaps the most active period for the Bower Bridge Company was under the stewardship of Jacob and Artie’s youngest son, Louis. Born most credibly on May 15, 1863 in Ohio, he apprenticed his father in the bridge trade as a teenager becoming head of the Bower Bridge Company by the age of thirty. Between 1887 & 1919 the younger Bower built or repaired no fewer than twenty-six covered bridges in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Bower resided in Flemingsburg in the early 1900s and in February, 1919 purchased the home of Mr. George M. Diener which still stands at 506 Forest Avenue in Maysville. The Bower family, including his wife, Mary and their sons, Stock and Ridgeway (Bill) resided in the home until 1928 when they moved to a farm on the Clark’s Run Road.

Louis Bower repaired the bridge over the south fork of Elkhorn Creek in Franklin County at the Forks of Elkhorn in 1901 and the Switzer Bridge in 1906. He repaired the Dover Bridge circa 1912, Dixon Pike circa 1915, Helena-Wedonia circa 1910. Bower is known to have repaired four of the five highway covered bridges in Pendleton County – he built the fifth. It was long believed, including by his family, that the last Kentucky covered bridge built by Louis Bower was the bridge over Fleming Creek on the Hussey Pike near Dalesburg in Fleming County in 1909. Recently it was discovered that Bower built a covered bridge over Salt Lick near Valley in Lewis County, in 1919.

Louis Stockton Bower, Sr. died August 8, 1936 the result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident August 5th. He was returning from Monroe County, Ohio after speaking with county officials about repairs to the still extant Foraker Bridge. After not hearing from him, County officials contacted the family to discover he had died. Thirty one-year-old Stock was given the contract.

Louis Stockton Bower, Jr.

The last of three generations of Bower bridge builders never built a bridge though he repaired many.

Louis Stockton Bower, Jr. was born April 24, 1905 in Flemingsburg. He was a graduate of Maysville High School and attended Millersburg Military Institute and the University of Cincinnati where he studied engineering. He was an infantry Captain during the Second World War and led a company at Normandy. Stock apprenticed his father in the bridge trade at the age of thirteen and was given his first solo bridge project at the age of fifteen when he was tasked with raising and repairing the Dover Bridge. He raised and repaired Bourbon County’s Colville Bridge in 1937 as well as repaired its See Pike Bridge that same year. His other repairs included Greenup County’s Bennett’s Mill Bridge in 1954 and, again, the Colville Bridge in 1973 after it had been struck by a truck. In 1968 he saved Fleming County’s Goddard Bridge from demolition by restoring the truss utilizing elements of both Ithiel Town’s 1820 and 1835 patents. In 1972 he rebuilt the floor system in the Valley Pike Bridge, adding the unique cattle guard floor which replaced a gate at one portal. Stock’s final project was the restoration of the Ringos Mill Bridge in Fleming County. During this project he was stricken with Macular degeneration and was unable to complete the project. The restoration was finished by LeRoy and Gary Wood of Brooksville.

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