I was out riding around on Friday afternoon and stopped for something cold to drink at the Oak Hill Grocery. When I walked out of the store, I really had no plan, so I decided to head north on State Highway 21. About 5-1/2 miles later, I saw a sign that said “Hamburg Road,” and my thoughts turned to something I’d read about the old Hamburg community a year or so ago.
I recalled that the book “Covered Bridges of Alabama” by Wil Elrick and Kelly Kazek, which was published in October 2018, contained a 1938 black and white photo of a covered bridge across Pine Barren Creek on the Hamburg Road. Longtime residents of that area told me that the covered bridge was located between Hamburg and the McBrydes community, but that it was replaced years ago by a more modern bridge.
With all of this in mind, I turned down the Hamburg Road and began to follow it through the dense woods east of Highway 21. This dirt road was in good shape and about two miles from the blacktop, I encountered a white, wooden sign that read “Hamburg Cemetery, Founded Early 1800s.” A black arrow on the sign pointed me down a shadowy lane that ended in a metal gate across the path.
I drove down to the gate for a closer look and found it locked up tight with multiple padlocks. As prehistoric-sized horseflies buzzed all around me, I stood there at the gate and looked for any sign of the old cemetery. Seeing none, I hopped back in my truck and backed down the lane to the Hamburg Road.
|Old covered bridge at Hamburg in 1938.|
I continued east towards Pine Barren Creek and was surprised a few minutes later to see three large turkeys sprint across the road as if they had pressing business to attend to elsewhere. I slowed to let them pass, knowing that their days were probably numbered until the start of next turkey season. Less than a mile later, I came upon the old Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and Community Day School.
I parked, got out of the truck and strolled around the grounds for a few minutes, looking at the old church, school and sprawling cemetery. Many of you will remember that Alabama Heritage magazine recently listed this old church and school on its list of “Places in Peril,” an annual list of “places that have suffered from neglect, indifference and insensitive development.” According to Alabama Heritage, the church was built in 1912, and the school was built in 1915.
When I got back in the truck, I checked my phone and was surprised to see that I had decent signal, so I pulled up Google Maps to see if I was still tracking towards the old bridge. I then turned left back onto the Hamburg Road, but less than a half-mile later I was met with an unexpected surprise. The nice, smooth dirt road that I’d been traveling down suddenly petered out into a washed-out trail that became overgrown with tall grass off in the distance.
Even though all of the maps I had and Google Maps showed an established county road all the way to Pine Barren Creek and beyond, my eyes were seeing something else entirely different. That little voice in my head began telling me to turn around and head back the way I came or else I’d end up stuck out in the middle of the woods on a hot August afternoon. I learned years ago to pay attention to that little voice, and it’s so far kept me out of a lot of trouble.
|Hamburg Community Day School.|
On Saturday, I was telling a friend of mine about my field trip down the Hamburg Road, and he informed me that I’d actually been pretty close to Pine Barren Creek. He said it was probably less than a mile away, but he’d heard that the bridge there had fallen in some time ago. He said it might be possible to reach the old bridge site from the McBrydes side of the creek, but he couldn’t say for sure.
In the end, I enjoyed my drive down the old Hamburg Road and seeing the old church and school house. I can only imagine how this once-thriving community looked in its heyday when houses and farms dotted the length of this old country road. Also, before I close out, if anyone knows if Pine Barren Creek can be reached from the McBrydes side of the old bridge, please let me know. I’d like to see the site of the old covered bridge with my own two eyes, if possible.