Tourists traveling to see one of Union County's historic covered bridges will now be able to learn a little of the history behind the structure, as well as take in the pastoral scene.

Tourists traveling to see one of Union County's historic covered bridges will now be able to learn a little of the history behind the structure, as well as take in the pastoral scene.

The public and county officials dedicated a new historical marker at the Bigelow covered bridge, along with its surrounding area, the Darby Plains, on Friday. The bridge spans the Little Darby Creek just north of state Route 161 and the Bigelow Cemetery state nature preserve.

Historical marker committee member Steve Stolte said that remembering the county's historical sites is a key part of honoring Union County's past.

"It's wonderful that residents and local governments in our county recognize the importance of remembering and acknowledging our historical heritage," Stolte said.

Built in 1873, the Bigelow Bridge spans about 100 feet across the Little Darby, and was designed by the well-known Union County bridge designer Reuben Partridge. Partridge was recently commemorated in an Uptown Marysville mural painted on the side of the Hatfield Chiropractic Clinic.

According to a history of the bridge researched by the historical marker committee, the covered bridge is named for Eliphas Bigelow, an early resident of Union County who built the nearby Bigelow House on the south side of Post Road (route 161). The superstructure was built by Partridge at a cost of $12.50 per liner foot, while Bercupile & Snell built the masonry foundation of the bridge.

From 1989 to 1991, Union County engineer employees rehabilitated the bridge by installing a new support system, for which the project received the 1992 Engineered Timber Bridge Award from the National Forest Products Association.

The opposite side of the marker honors the Darby Plains, and places the viewer back into the natural countryside of Union County.

"As you read this text, you are looking south across the Darby Plains," the marker reads. "The plains are noted for their level surface and deep, rich soils. The area used to consist largely of prairie with scattered groves of oak, hickory and plum trees. Native wildflowers and tall grasses, some reaching enormous heights, grew in abundance."

In the early 1800s, members of the New Light Christian Church moved from New England to start a colony on the Darby Plains, according to the committee's research. The ideal grazing land allowed the settlers to raise livestock, and the farmers later added ditching, tiling and draining to the prairie to combat its wet seasons.

"With the help of artificial drainage, the plains became excellent for growing grain," the marker states. "Some of the best agricultural land in Ohio is found in the Darby Plains."

Administered by the Ohio Historical Society, the historical

marker program enables Ohioans to commemorate and celebrate local history and to learn more about the state, according to the Union County Chamber of Commerce.

The markers, designed to be permanent and highly visible, are large cast aluminum signs that tell stories about aspects of Ohio history.

Union County now has nine Ohio Historical markers, placed at the Amrine Settlement, the Richwood Opera House and Town Hall, Charles Warren Fairbanks' birthplace, Magnetic Springs, Major General Robert Sprague Beightler, the Pottersburg bridge, the Spain Creek Bridge, the New California Presbyterian Church, and now the Bigelow bridge.

The Chamber of Commerce plans to dedicate four historical markers per year over the next five years.