In April 2017 we led an expedition to Knights Ferry, California. Founded in 1849, Knights Ferry features ruins of the Tulloch Flour Mill and the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. It is located just off of highway 120/108 about 40 miles east of Modesto on the Stanislaus River. The Tulloch Mill site and the covered bridge are part of the Knights Ferry Recreation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
A little history about the town of Knights Ferry.
William Knight arrived in California with the Workman-Rowland party in 1841. His wife and family arrived the following year. In 1843 they settled along the Sacramento River and founded the town of Knights Landing, in Yolo County. In 1849 Knight moved to a site on the Stanislaus River, where he and a partner established a trading post and ferry. Unfortunately, in November, 1849, William Knight was shot and killed in town.
Brothers John and Lewis Dent took over the ferry business after Knight’s death. In 1856 the Dent's sold the ferry business to David Locke. Locke built a flour mill and a bridge across the Stanislaus river which was completed in 1857. Being located on the main road from Stockton to the Southern Mines, Knights Ferry became an important stage and supply center. By 1859 there were two hotels, four general merchandise stores, a physician, blacksmith, livery stable, boot store, and a book and stationery store.
Towards the end of 1862, the Stanislaus River flooded. The river peaked at thirty-five feet above its low water mark. A torrent swept through town, washing away many homes, much of the business district, and the flour mill. The Knights Ferry bridge was knocked off its foundations and washed away.
After the flood the old ferry was brought back into service. A new flour mill was built by David Tulloch and construction began on a new covered bridge. The new bridge opened in 1863 and still stands today. Spanning 330 feet, is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. Before the turn of the century, Charles Tulloch, David’s son, converted the flour mill into a hydroelectric plant. This plant provided electrical power for the surrounding countryside until the late 1920’s.
Some of the historical buildings in town include: The Lewis Dent House (1851), The General Store (1852), and Millers Hall (1863).