Sitting on County Highway 182 between Spencerville and St. Mary’s, is a bridge which crosses the muddied waters of the Miami-Erie Canal.
Popularly dubbed the “Route 66 Bloody Bridge,” it is the site of a brutal and grisly murder that took place in 1854.
As the story goes, two men, Bill Jones and Jack Billings, worked as mule drivers, guiding boats up and down the canal. One of the boat captains they worked with had a lovely, young daughter named Minnie Warren. Neither men had ever before seen such a beautiful woman and each desired to be the one to win her over.
As can be expected, an intense rivalry soon developed between Bill and Jack for Minnie’s attention. And, in the end, it was Jack who finally caught her eye. The two quickly fell in love. Seeing them together became more than Bill could handle and his jealousy turned to rage.
It was a quiet night in 1854 when Bill’s mind finally snapped. As Jack and Minnie returned from a party, they had no idea Bill was laying in wait.
As the happy, young couple began to cross the bridge, Bill jumped out of hiding, wielding an axe. His ambush caught them completely by surprise as one fell swoop took Jack’s head clean off.
Once the sudden shock of the events had a chance to sink in, Minnie began to scream at the top of her lungs. Some say her screams were silenced by Bill’s axe as well. Others say that in her panic to escape the carnage she fell off the bridge and drowned.
Bill escaped into the night and was never seen again.
The shocking news of the gruesome murder spread quickly across the countryside. And, it didn’t take too long after that for rumors to circulate about the strange sights and sounds witnessed in the area of the bridge.
Whispers made their way through town of a headless man seen stumbling across the bridge in the dark of night. There were even morbid tales of people who said they could see poor Minnie’s face staring back up at them from under the water.
According to legend, the murder was so vicious and brutal that the blood stains were still visible for decades after the incident. It is for this reason that locals referred to it as simply, “Bloody Bridge.”
Years later, a skeleton was found at the bottom of a well near the area. Some say there was a rusty axe head discovered near the corpse as well. Speculation quickly swirled that this was the remains of Bill Jones and many wondered how he could’ve ended up there. Was it a suicide or was it revenge?
In 1904, Bloody Bridge was torn down and a new bridge built in its place. People from all over the area converged on the site to grab a piece of local history; a true-crime relic.
The legend of Bloody Bridge has so ingrained itself in the folklore of the region that, in 1976, the Auglaize County Historical Society erected a plaque at the bridge in remembrance of that awful night. The plaque reads,
“During the canal years of the 1850s, a rivalry grew between Bill Jones and Jack Billings for the love of Minnie Warren. There became hatred by Bill because Minnie chose Jack. On a fall night in 1854, returning from a party, Minnie and Jack were surprised on the bridge by Bill, armed with an axe. With one swing, Bill severed Jack’s head. Seeing this, Minnie screamed and fell into a watery grave. Bill disappeared, and when a skeleton was found years later in a nearby well, people asked was it suicide or justice.”
The bridge is considered a historical landmark and, to this day, is known only as Bloody Bridge.
Bloody Bridge crosses the Miami-Erie Canal on County Highway 182 in St. Mary’s, Ohio.
“Aluminum Paint Hides Bridge’s Gory History,” Lima News, 27 Feb 1949
Bloody Bridge, Ghosts of Ohio
“Haunted Ohio III,” by Chris Woodyard, (c) 1994