By Mike Steely
Years ago, before the automobile, many bridges in our area were covered to protect them from the elements. Few of those continue to exist but there are some here and there that are still in use.
It’s interesting to visit a covered bridge to see how our forefathers constructed them and how they were used. You can imagine someone with a wagon resting beneath the roof there during a rain storm or crossing them in fair weather rather than fording the creek or river.
Sevier County has two notable bridges, one much older than the other.
The Harrisburg Covered Bridge was built in 1875 over the Little Pigeon River. It is located south of Pittman Center, east of Sevierville just off Highway 411 on Old Covered Bridge Road. The other bridge, the Emerts Bridge, was built in the year 2000 and is just off Pittman Center Road off Highway 231.
Pittman Center began as Emert’s Cove, settled by Frederick Emert as early as 1785. A Methodist minister, Dr. John Burnett, founded Pittman Community Center as a settlement school and it was named for Eli Pittman, a New York preacher who help Burnett secure funds. The Pittman Center merged with a school in Gatlinburg to create the Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.
When the community was incorporated by the state as a city in 1974 the local Sevier County residents chose the name Pittman Center. The town is about six square miles in size and has just over 500 residents. The Greenbrier entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains is in Pittman Center.
An interesting bridge is located south of Bulls Gap on Highway 349. The Bible Covered Bridge was built in 1923 over Little Chuckey Creek and restored by the county in 2004. Originally it connected the Bible family with the rest of the county.
The Elizabethton Covered Bridge is 134-feet long and was built in 1882 over the Doe River. Although no longer connecting roads the span is open to bicycles and pedestrians. It is known as the “Five Dollar Bridge” because the contractor hired for the project only received that amount for his service.
The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Carter County community holds an annual bridge festival there.
Scott County has the Litton Covered Bridge southeast of Huntsville.
Knox County once had a covered bridge. The Brice Bridge was built in 1878 but was burned by pranksters in 1968.