As part of my project with the Bucks County Historical Society to inventory and map the county’s current and former Covered Bridges, I’m doing brief bios of each of the 57 bridges that existed here. Here’s a quick look at the little-known Steeley’s Bridge, which sat just outside of Perkasie.
Today, Bucks County has 12 Covered Bridges, which is a lot for one county. Two of them are full reproductions; a third is the South Perkasie Covered Bridge sitting on land in Lenape Park.
The Bucks County Historical Society’s Spruance Library has volumes of information on our Covered Bridges. Since the 1930s, Bucks County residents have been aggressive about preserving Covered Bridges. It took decades of pressure on county and state government officials to get them to stop tearing down Covered Bridges. Before 1960, government officials had 20 Covered Bridges taken down in the name of progress.
In some cases, there were good reasons. But usually officials didn’t want to spend the time or money to save bridges. The combined efforts of our Perkasie Historical Society, the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society, the Delaware Valley Protective Association, the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, and local service groups forced state officials in 1960 stopped tearing down their Covered Bridges, after Mood’s Bridge near Perkasie and Sheard’s Mill Bridge on the Tohickon Creek were put on a demolition list. State highway secretary Park Martin put a policy in place to repair the state-owned Covered Bridges in use or to build a new bridge near them.
About twenty years earlier, Bucks County faced a similar decision with two Covered Bridges it owned in the Perkasie area on Branch Road. The one bridge was the South Perkasie Covered Bridge near Savacool’s Mill; the other was Steeley’s Covered Bridge just outside of Perkasie Borough near Mood’s Bridge.
Steeley’s Covered Bridge ran on Branch Road just like the South Perkasie Bridge. It crossed the East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek. Little is really known about it, such as when the bridge was built by Bucks County.
County engineer Oscar Martin surveyed and took pictures of the remaining Bucks County Covered Bridges in 1919. Steeley’s Bridge measured at 129 feet long; it was made from oak wood. Martin said it was on the “road from South Perkasie to Hagersville.”
In October 1939, the Perkasie News said that the county had removed Steeley’s Bridge over the summer and a new concrete-and-steel bridge was nearly ready to be put in place. It confirmed the old bridge was on the Branch Creek; “several miles east of town.” The newspaper also noted that the South Perkasie Covered Bridge had gotten long-awaited repairs including new weatherboarding on its sides.
Steeley’s Bridge was one of 15 Covered Bridges demolished by county and state officials during the 1930s. Since 1933, Perkasie Borough Council, the Kiwanis Club, and residents had pressured county officials to repair the South Perkasie Bridge.
But in 1940, the Bristol Courier said Bucks County was again threatening to tear down the South Perkasie Bridge it had just repaired. At this point, the Bucks County Federation of Women’s Clubs joined with the Delaware Valley Protective Association to call for Covered Bridge preservation.
While there was no apparent movement to save Steeley’s Bridge, efforts were in place to save the South Perkasie Covered Bridge at the point, if the county stopped repairing it or threatened to tear it down.
In late 1938, Perkasie resident Andy Schuler told the Perkasie News he had an idea to solve the South Perkasie Covered Bridge problem: the bridge should be moved to the newly opened Lenape Park. A generation later, that would happen and the last great fight between Bucks County and its residents about Covered Bridge preservation would have local and national repercussions.