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For 80 years it served Owen County — a notable amount of time to service a community. In a matter of a few seconds it was gone, but memories of days when it was a vital part of the Gratz scenery live on in the hearts and minds of local residents
In earlier times, a hand-pulled ferry transported people, horses, and wagons across the Kentucky River from Gratz to Henry County, but in 1931 (some claim the year was 1932) a steel reinforced concrete bridge was built to replace the ferry. The bridge shortened the time to Louisville and to the tobacco warehouses in Shelbyville. It made faster mail service possible, and doctors could attend to patients on either side of the river more quickly.
Grown men recalled their youth, when jumping from the bridge to the deep water beneath evoked the thrill of danger. Others remember walking its 1,100 foot expanse and watching the churning waters as the river made its timeless journey down to the Ohio.
On Feb. 15, a charge of explosives brought down the Gratz bridge. Owen County Historical Society President Jeannie Baker, along with board members Darryl Baker and Larry Dale Perry, silently watched as this piece of Owen County history plunged into the Kentucky River.
Jeannie remembers many years ago her father, Howard Dawson, had taken his boat under the Gratz bridge and noticed that it was sliding off its piers. He was concerned about the safety of the bridge and commented that someday it would have to come down. True to Howard’s prophecy, a longer, sturdier bridge now stands in gleaming newness; and all that remains of the old Gratz bridge are memories of those whose lives were touched by its presence.
In 2002, the Gratz bridge was included on the National Historic Register, but more importantly it is included in the rich history of Owen County. A history that is preserved by the Owen County Historical Society and the people of the county whose dedication to our past make possible our dreams of the future.
Our thanks to those who have dropped off used ink cartridges at the museum. They are important, for the refund we receive from them helps with our museum expenses. Our yearly dues also are necessary to help us financially, so if you are a member of the historical society and haven’t paid yours, please do so as soon as possible. We would like to invite everyone in the county to join. The dues are only $20 a year, a small amount for helping preserve the rich traditions of Owen County.