The Stovall Mill Covered Bridge

Photo by me, September 2017.

On a piece of bottom land lying between Lynch Mountain and Grimes Nose in White County near the Habersham County line and in the community of Sautee Nacoochee flows Chickamauga Creek. Highway 255 crosses Chickamauga Creek just beyond Penny Lane and if you are traveling east on 255 you should look to the right very quickly or you might miss an old covered bridge that's in terrible disrepair.

This is the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge. The mill and dam that once accompanied the covered bridge were washed away in 1964. The old bridge that has been standing here since 1895 was replaced by a concrete bridge a few yards away in 1959 and the road has been straightened out and paved since then too. So the old Stovall Mill Covered Bridge sits there off to the side of the road in the shade trees collecting graffiti from the locals on dark nights.

Photo by me, September 2017.
Photo by me, September 2017.
Photo by me, September 2017.
Photo by me, September 2017.

People should be ashamed of themselves for the graffiti on this landmark bridge. The entire inside and parts of the outside have been trashed with the graffiti.

The less attractive replacement bridge and Chickamauga Creek. Photo by me, September 2017.

Fred Dover who built the lost mill and dam in the late 1800s had constructed a bridge prior to the one that still stands today but it was washed away in the early 1890s. The bridge that stands there now was built by Will Pardue in 1895 as a replacement. Fred Stovall Sr. purchased the mill, dam and bridge from Dover in 1917 and today the bridge is known by his name. The bridge now is under the ownership of The White County Historical Society.

Holes in the roof of the bridge. Photo by me, September 2017.
Boards broken and missing from the side of the bridge. Photo by me, September 2017.

You can still walk across the bridge as the decking and supports are still in good condition it seems. However there are holes in the roof and boards are missing from the side of the old bridge.

Photo by me, September 2017.
Bolts larger than the average human fist. Photo by me, September 2017.

From a structural perspective the bridge is a modified version of a queen post truss design. The trusses have two vertical posts composed with iron rods and are separated by a crosspiece that is horizontal. The bridge sits on two piers of stacked stone that are reinforced at the water level with concrete. The length of the bridge is 38 feet and it is one of the smaller covered bridges in Georgia.

The bridge is also known for appearing in a movie.The bridge was in the first few minutes of the 1951 movie I'd Climb The Highest Mountain starring Susan Hayward and also featuring Rory Calhoun in a supporting role. The movie is largely a religious propaganda movie about Hayward's character in which she plays a preacher's wife freshly arrived from the big city to the rural life in a mountain community.

All of the location shooting for the movie was done in the North Georgia mountains in 1950 when  red dirt roads were plentiful. The movie, which can be difficult to find, is a nice time capsule of the scenery of the area.

On a side note about Susan Hayward, the famous actress though born and raised in Brooklyn is buried in West Georgia in the city of Carrollton. She died of brain cancer in 1973 and is buried next to her husband.

Photographer unknown. Georgia Archives.

Here is the bridge in 1975 in a photo I located in the Georgia Archives.

Photo by me, September 2017.

It is a shame that the bridge is in such a state of disrepair at this time. It would be nice to see the bridge receive better maintenance and security to prevent the vandalism. In an area that relies heavily on tourism to have such a postcard quality scene be so neglected is rather unfortunate. It is almost as if they don't want people to see the bridge as I have never seen it promoted in tourism information of the area. The bridge for me is more interesting than the tourist trap of nearby Helen with its faux Alpine Village motif.