MIDDLEBOURNE, W.Va. — An historic bridge made famous by a loyal beagle met its end this week in Tyler County.
The steel truss bridge is featured in no small part in the book series and three movies about Shiloh, a lovable dog who is adopted by Marty Preston, the story’s lead character. The award-winning novels were written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who described how an abused puppy came into the little boy’s care.
The story takes place around the county and mentions familiar locales such as Friendly, Sistersville and Middlebourne on more than one occasion. Children across the country have read the book and have seen the movies, and there is still a friendly beagle — who looks much like Shiloh — living in a home near the bridge.
Although you can see the old bridge spanning Middle Island Creek in the movies, it is now history.
By Thursday, contractors had taken down about half the bridge. Located beside the old steel truss bridge, a new bridge connects County Road 14 to both sides of the creek and will serve many families in the Shiloh community.
“Though I’ll miss the bridge, to rehab it was not economically feasible,” said Matt Powell, the engineer in charge of building the new bridge for the West Virginia Division of Highways’ contractor, Triton Construction. “The old bridge was not safe anymore.”
DOH spokesman Brent Walker said the $2.3 million dollar bridge building project began earlier this year and travel across the bridge began this week.
He said the new steel beam bridge with a concrete deck replaces an older wooden deck bridge that was repaired in the fall of 2015.
A twist to the plot: Powell grew up playing under the shadow of the old bridge.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Powell, 39, who grew up in Paden City. “Our family has had a camp in Shiloh for more than 75 years. I spent a lot of time fishing and swimming by that bridge.”
Powell said the old bridge’s steel truss design inspired him to go to West Virginia University to study civil engineering.
“The old bridge was an amazing piece of ingenuity and craftsmanship,” Powell said. “I took my children across the bridge a few a weeks ago so they could walk where I walked. My time when I was kid around that bridge was a big part of who I became today.”
Preservationists had hoped to save the bridge and see it restored.
“I’m disappointed that this historic structure was taken down,” said Mary Stewart, who has spearheaded efforts to save the bridge. “I think it is a missed economic opportunity due to its fame from the books and movies and it was featured in a DOH documentary about bridges in our state.”
Shiloh was Stewart’s hometown and her family has deep roots in the area. Her family still owns property in the area.
“I have great memories of the bridge and the Shiloh village,” said Stewart, 62, of Parkersburg. “I read the books. I’ve always had an interest in history. This bridge means so much more to me than I can say.”