Moonshine central, Gallon House Covered Bridge
Among the numerous covered bridges still in Oregon, Gallon House over Abiqua Creek between Silverton and Mt. Angel probably has one of the most unique stories. The original (un-named) covered bridge was built in 1916. It is a How Truss style Bridge that spans 84 feet across Abiqua Creek and was built at a cost of $3000. This replaced an earlier bridge built in 1904 to cover the creek. It is the last of four Covered Bridges built across Abiqua Creek at this location, and also the last Covered Bridge in Marion County.
Some where between June 6, 1904 when Oregon voters approved the Local Option Act (that allowed each city to locally ban the sale of alcohol,) and November 3rd, 1914, when the voters again passed an amendment to the Oregon state constitution prohibiting the manufacture, sale or advertisement of intoxicating liquor, the town of Silverton and it’s Protestant citizens took advantage of this law. An enterprising Saloon owner from Silverton decided to erect a small house on the north end of the bridge and stock it with a small supply of liquor.
Those residents of Silverton who wanted to partake simply walked the two mile to the bridge, crossed it to the Mt. Angel side, purchased their supply and then returned home. This original house was demolished in 1915, likely in preparation for, or as part of the work to build the new covered bridge. Soon afterwards though, another entrepreneur, Frank Morely built another small house. This time though it served both the non-Protestant residents of Silverton and the overwhelmingly Catholic residents of Mt. Angel after the State Amendment had been passed.
To get around the laws of the time, Mt. Angel residents sold “empty” gallon jugs at the house, thereby earning it’s name. The spirits in the jugs was given away, all perfectly legal. With the official passing of Prohibition Laws nation wide, the house was moved to a nearby farm and went undercover to avoid the law. It was busted in the 1920’s, but no doubt other arrangements made themselves readily available.
The Christmas Flood of 1964 severely damaged the bridge, sweeping it off it’s footings. As it was the only Covered Bridge left in the county at the time, it was declared an historical landmark and rapidly restored to usability.
The bridge was unfortunately damaged again in 1985 when a chord (one of the long beams across the length of the bridge,) broke. County Crews repaired it, and by 1990 it was completely restored to mint condition. The bridge now remains opened to traffic, but the main highway bypasses it so it sees little traffic these days.