Let’s cross a unique bridge on our tour of the structures and places listed on the National Register of Historic Places here in Boone County. As we progress on this tour, do bear in mind that listing on the Register does not guarantee an exemption from removal.
At the northern border of Boone County and the southern edge of Clinton County, where the winding Sugar Creek meanders southwest, is Scotland Bridge. Although bonnie Scotland lies far across the ocean, and Scotland, Ind., is nowhere near Clinton or Boone counties (the little town is southwest of Bloomington), this part of the state was heavily settled by “Scotch-Irish” immigrants.
So, since Lost Road exits Boone County leading travelers to the Scotland Christian Church (built in the mid 1890s) the bridge was named “Scotland.” Official maps and modern land surveys refer to Lost Road as County Road 200 East and identify Scotland Bridge as “Boone County Bridge No. 41.”By either name, the stone, one-lane bridge is among the oldest in Boone County. It has a long history mired by lore, spooky stories and admiration. Since it was first erected in 1901, the structure has been rebuilt twice according to Craig Parks, director of the Boone County Highway Department.
Those makeovers happened in 1908 and 1911 after a barrage of highwater events. How could such an elegant old thing like Scotland Bridge be considered a curiosity? For starters, both the opinions and tales vary widely on how the road leading to it came to be dubbed “Lost.” When paired with the uncommon appearance of the bridge, all theories about Lost Road and its bridge make for good storytelling around a campfire.
A popular legend, like a Brigadoon of Boone, says that before the bridge was built, the road was actually an enchanted path. The story goes that the bewitched lane lured unsuspecting travelers into the realm of another dimension. Hapless victims were entranced, pulled across the waterway, and into the inside of a magical tree where they were made to stay overnight. The spell would persist until morning’s first light. Then the tree would expel them (some say it was a white oak, others, a sycamore) and the groggy folk would be sent on their way.
Others believed that to ford at this spot was a risky adventure. Though shallow enough for crossing, the surrounding area was so swampy that a horse and rider could easily be swallowed by the boggy and bottomless creek. Some even claimed knowledge of a mule team and wagon that tried to cross in the early years of Boone County, but sunk into the water and was lost forever.
Perhaps the most plausible explanation for the name Lost Road may be based on the sinking horses stories. When early settlers came to the county, the land was indeed quite poorly drained. Because of this, it is feasible that there was no clearly defined continuation of the road on the opposite bank of the creek during seasons with generally wet conditions.
Those crossing were said to have all entered into the water where the roadway met the creekbed to cross at the shallows. But there were many exit points used along the other bank depending on weather conditions and the amount of rutting left behind by previous travelers.
As the only remaining “true masonry” bridge in Boone County (meaning the stone is structural, not just a decorative veneer), Scotland Bridge was originally built with four arches. When it needed repairs in 1908, the stone was salvaged and reused.
During this revision only three arches were used. As noted at the top of the story, this is a Historic Register structure. However, in recent years the bridge has begun to crumble. The underside at both shorelines is losing the soil it stands on through erosion. Although the highway department has tried to keep up with repairs by adding rip rap to help abate further damage, the bridge is at a critical state in its lifespan.
Currently, the Federal Highway Department and other agencies are performing an in-depth analysis of the structural integrity of the bridge and the community heritage value of Scotland Bridge.
Signs were posted several months ago at the site to inform users that the discovery process had begun. Although the future of the stone arched bridge will not be determined for some time, things don’t look good.
Many lovers of Boone County history have their fingers crossed hoping that Scotland Bridge and its legends can be saved.