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A new covered wooden bridge in Cowlesville will be dedicated to a World War II veteran

Sergeant Charles Cannon was lost in action while trying to cross the Rhine River in March 1945. This dedication will bridge his legacy for another 100 years.

COWLESVILLE, N.Y. — It isn't too often a new covered wooden bridge is built.

But to replace a steel bridge on Schoellkopf Road in Cowlesville that was built in 1930, engineers went with wood. 

"When this bridge needed replacing, they developed several different options, and doing a covered bridge wound up actually being economically feasible," said Bennington Town Supervisor Ellen Grant. 

The $3 million bridge is being paid for with federal and state funds, Wyoming County will only need to pay for 5% of the overall costs. 

Aside from the bolts and some small support crosses along the walls, the entire bridge is made of wood. Pine, if you were curious. 

One engineer on scene told 2 On Your Side that a 3,200 pound paver and a 15-ton trailer with asphalt were on the bridge at once and "it's still standing." Which is good, really. 

But the fact sheet about the bridge isn't the story, it's who it's named after. Sergeant Charles R. Cannon. 

"I thought instead of naming it for the neighborhood, or the creek or whatever, let's pick somebody who paid the ultimate sacrifice and remember him," Grant said.

Sgt. Cannon grew up along Cayuga Creek and was an Attica High School graduate. Upon graduation, he immediately enlisted in the Army in June 1941 and was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, California. 

As a member of the 35th Engineer Combat Battalion Company C, Sgt. Cannon and his unit were sent to the north to build the strategically vital Alcan Highway. 

"They were instrumental in getting the Alcan highway built as part of the defense against the Japanese," Grant said.

The highway was completed in 1942. Later on in the war, the 35th Engineers were dispatched to the European front. 

Their mission was to make their way to the front of an offensive push and lay new bridges for the allies to cross, as the Germans blew up theirs while in retreat. 

According to a newspaper clipping, Sgt. Cannon survived the Ludendorff bridge collapse on March 17, 1945. He and fellow engineers of the 35th were awarded the Silver Star. Six days later, however, he was lost in action while trying to cross the Rhine River. 

"They were attempting a nighttime crossing, and waiting until things get dark," Grant said. "They didn't believe that there was going to be too much resistance from the Germans that were pretty much in retreat."

As the 35th Engineers made it three-fourths of the way across the Rhine, German flares lit up the night sky. 

"Mortar and machine-gun fire, they were just shooting the soldiers right out of the boats," Grant said. 

A military thesis about the 35th Engineer Battalion written by Major Shawn Umbrell cites that Sgt. Cannon pushed forward with his unit despite the German attack. 

"Staff Sergeant Charlie Cannon was steering his boat as best he could, encouraging the men to keep paddling. Privates Espinosa and 123 Richard Stobart, in the front of the boat, pulled hard on their paddles, as did the eight infantrymen on board. Suddenly the boat was hit with a barrage of bullets. With the exception of Stobart, everybody on board was killed."

Sgt. Cannon's body was never recovered, and it wasn't until the early 1990's that he was officially listed as killed in action. 

A bridge-builder on the front lines will now have one dedicated in his honor back at home. 

"We had Sergeant Cannon and all the pieces seem to fall into place with him," Grant said. "Being in an engineering battalion with him growing up on the banks of Cayuga Creek, it just seemed like the perfect fit."

The Cannon Covered Bridge is still under construction and Schoellkopf Road remains closed. Grant says that a few paperwork items are being buttoned up in Albany and once that goes through the final roof work can begin. 

Engineers say the bridge could last between 100 and 125 years because it's covered. 

Indeed a perfect fit to bridge Sgt. Charles Cannon's legacy for generations to come.