Grave Creek Covered Bridge

Grave Creek Covered Bridge

There are 54 or 56 wooden Covered Bridges in Oregon still depending on what guide you read. This last week I had the opportunity to visit several of them as I was searching for ghost towns.

Grave Creek Covered Bridge

The Grave Creek Covered Bridge is the furthest south in Oregon. Located in Josephine County, it crosses Sunny Creek about 15 miles North of Grants Pass. When traveling down I-5 look for signs pointing to the Applegate Trail Interpretive Center. The bridge is just north of the museum. According to the Graves Creek Bridge has “…six gothic style windows on either side, concrete abutments, a Howe truss, rounded portals and a shake roof.”

Of much more interest to myself was the history sign next to the bridge. It says:

“This covered bridge is the one reamaining covered birdge in Josephine County. It was constructed by Elmer J. Nelson in 1920 as part of the new Pacific Highway Project at a cost of $21,128.65. It was built on Joesphine County’s first donation land claim.

In the fall of 1846, the first emigrant train from Fort Hall, Idaho, to travell the souther route to the Willamette Valley camped on the north side of this creek, then Woodpile creek. Martha Leland Crowley, 16 years old died of Typhoid fever during this encampment and was buried one-hundred fifty feet noth of the creek on the east side of a white oak tree that was later removed for the present roadway, the the name Grave Creek.

When James H. Twogood laid out his land claim in the fall of 1851 and filed on it May 1, 1852, he named it the Grave Creek Ranch in memory of that unfortunate incident.

Grave Creek Covered Bridge

McDonough Harkness, his partner, was the first postmaster of Josephine County in the newly named town of Leland on March 28, 1855. Harkness was killed by Indians in April 1856 while riding dispatch for the Army during the second Indian War of southern Oregon which started in October of 1855.

A stockade was built around a log wayside and the hotel building at Leland. The small town was gateway to the lower Rouge country where Indians retreated so it became the gather point of a large force of regular army and volunteers and was known as Fort Leland.

A major encounter of the war took place some 8 miles west of the Fort known as the Battle of Hungry Hill. This ill-fated engagement produced some 37 dead, wounded and missing. Some of these soldiers were buried north of the Fort at the corner of the present Leland road and old Pacific highway.

The Last remnants of old Leland are the 3 large maple trees to the north on the east side of the road & the Ft. Leland rock-lined well on the west side of the road both on private property.

In 1860 the Grave Creek Ranch became an overland stage stop for the California Oregon Stage Line. A new hotel known as the Grave Creek House #2 was built and operated until it burned down in December of 1875. A nearby farmhouse was enlarged enough to accommodate the stage company and was known as the Grave Creek House #3 or Harness Inn. President Hayes, his wife and entourage spent the night here on September 28, 1880.”

Lots of good history packed into that one sign.

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