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The Bloody Bridge

Just off State Route 66 in western Ohio, between Saint Mary's and Spencerville sits an unassuming bridge over what was once part of the Ohio canal system. On a normal day, most people drive right past it without giving it a second thought.

A closer look, however, reveals a plaque that sits at the side of a gravel parking lot. The inscription on the plaque tells the story of a love triangle gone wrong during the heyday of the Ohio-Erie Canal in the mid 1800's.

Though there were thousands of boats that used the Ohio-Erie canal over the years, our story involves only 2 - The Daisy and The Minnie Warren.

Canal boats were pulled along the canal ways using a team of up to 2 mules and a mule driver. The mule driver would be responsible for the care of the animals and would walk alongside them as they pulled the boat. They would move at speeds of about 2 miles an hour and could covers as much as 36 miles in a single day.

Jack Billings worked as a mule driver for the canal boat called The Daisy and Bill Jones worked as a mule driver for the canal boat called The Minnie Warren. 

The Minnie Warren was named for the daughter of the boats captain, who was by all accounts a beautiful and caring young woman. Men would stare as she walked by, but she only had eyes for Jack Billings.

Jack Billings Akron Daily Democrat 10 Dec 1894.JPG

Since Jack was the driver for The Daisy, he and Minnie didn't get to see each other very often. If the ships were not docked in the same location, they would occasionally pass each other in the canal as one would be headed north and the other headed south. When they passed, Jack would make it a point to boisterously say hello to Minnie, yelling and smiling from ear to ear at the sight of her. He would blow her kisses and promise to see her again soon as they moved away from each other.

This relationship that was blooming between Jack and Minnie did not go unnoticed by Bill, who felt that he should be the one courting Minnie. He was, after all, the mule driver for her Fathers ship! As time wore on, Bill would grow more and more jealous of the affection between Jack and Minnie, until he just couldn't take it anymore.

It was the fall of 1854, and the Minnie Warren and The Daisy were both docked at a lumber yard waiting on a load of lumber that would take a few days to load. This downtime was the perfect chance for Jack and Minnie to spend some time together as well as getting to meet some of the local residents. During the stop, Jack, Minnie and Bill would all be invited to attend a formal get-together being held by one of the young women in town. This was to happen the night before they were set to leave and so all three were excited to go and have a fun night out before hitting the canal again.

The day of the party came, and the 3 young adults set off for an evening of fun. Jack and Minnie were so infatuated with each other that they did not notice Bill stewing angerly during the walk to the party, or the fact that he didn't stick around long once they arrived. Bill had been hoping for the chance to spend some time with Minnie alone, and the fact that Jack was there meant he wouldn't get any time with her.

Jack and Minnie would spend the evening dancing and laughing with their new friends, staying until long after the sun had gone down.


As they walked back to their respective boats, Jack and Minnie knew that this might be the last chance that they would have to be together for days or weeks. They took their time and made the most of the stroll under the moonlight as neither of them wanted the night to end. 

As they drew closer to the docks, they approached a bridge that spanned over the canal. Illuminated only by the moonlight, it was too dark for them to see the figure of Bill standing on the other side, waiting on them to arrive. As Jack and Minnie walked onto the bridge, Bill jumped out from the shadows, wielding an ax.

Bill would begin yelling at the couple, saying "Ho! Ho! My pretty pair! you have played it fine tonight, but my turn comes now!" As he said this he drew nearer and nearer. Jack would stand between Bill and Minnie, trying to protect his love from the sharp blade that Bill was now raising high above his head. He brought the ax down with all his might and in one fowl swoop he would sever the head from Jack Billings.

Minnie screamed and, in a panicked state, would scramble across the bridge as Bill closed in. Not able to see where she was going, Minnie would find the edge of the bridge and scramble over it in a feeble attempt to get away. Plunging into the water below, she would disappear from view. 

Bill would have gone after her, but he could now hear voices coming from nearby houses and moving in his direction. Minnie's scream had alerted several people and he only had moments to run. He took one last look at the water below and then ran into the night, dropping the ax as he left.


The local townsfolk would arrive very quickly to find a horrible scene. Jack's headless body was lying on the bridge in a pool of blood. Minnie was nowhere to be found, but her body would be located in the canal after a brief search. Jack and Minnie would be buried together in a nearby cemetery.


As for Bill, he would go missing. Many years later, a skeleton would be found in a local well and many people would claim that it belonged to Bill and that justice had been done.

That is the end of the story, but not the end of the trail. While doing research for this legend, I found a few glaring plot holes that bring into question the truth of the tale.

I was unable to find any record at all to show that Jack Billings, Bill Jones or Minnie Warren ever existed. On top of that, I wasn't able to find any records for the canal boats they supposedly were tied to. I did find several newspaper articles from the late 1800's that tell the story, with all of them being the exact same story word for word.

Clipping from the Journal-News1925
Clipping from the Journal-News1939

The newspapers reprinting the story, word-for-word the same, points to a high probability that this may have started out as a story written down as a piece of fiction at some point, but the original work appears to be lost. This isn't definitive proof that the story isn't true, but it seems really odd that they would just reprint it without changing anything at all, aside from the one detail in the 1939 article about the bridge being torn down in 1904.

Aside from the newspaper articles, I was able to find another, tiny bit that puts a wrench in the story. According to, a site that tracks the history of bridges in the United States, the "Bloody Bridge" wasn't built until 1893. If that is the case, then at the very least the bridge with the plaque naming it is not the right bridge.

Clipping from the Daily Democrat 1894
Clipping from the Richwood Gazette 1895
Map of Noble County from 1860
Modern Day Bloody Bridge Map

Looking at a side-by-side comparison of the map from 1860 and a modern-day overview from Google Maps, you can see the bridge that is there today was not shown in 1860. 

What I think most likely happened here is that someone wrote a fictional story for a newspaper sometime in the mid-late 1800's and that story wound up being taken as a true event that happened. The canal era was dying in the late 1800's and so a story about a young romance where the couple is murdered would most likely have drawn a lot of attention from people who were sad to see it go. In a way, it follows the same kind of thing that happened with the old west dying out and I am sure there were other stories that have just been lost to time while this one survived. Overall, it is an interesting story and an excellent addition to the Ohio Legends and Tales library!

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