C.W. Gove of Windom, Minnesota

Petersburg Village Bridge
Petersburg Village Bridge in Petersburg (Jackson County), MN Photo taken by MnDOT in 1963

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view. More information is needed on this gentleman, who contributed a great deal in engineering southwestern Minnesota, including Jackson, Cottonwood and Murray Counties. If you have information that will help, the contact details are at the end of the article.

Charles Wallace Gove is a little known figure in the engineering business as his primary focus was building bridges, roads and ditches in southern Minnesota, in and around Cottonwood County  (where Windom is located). Little is known about the bridges he built except records  indicated he built two bridges in Jackson County (which are profiled at the end of this info  sheet) and an unknown number in his county. On the political level, he was a dedicated  farmer and political journalist who left his mark at the State Capitol with his plan that is still  being used today for commercial farming.

Born in 1863 in De Witt, Iowa, he and his brother Wade settled in Jackson County, Minnesota in 1886, where he farmed and taught in nearby Lakefield until his move to Cottonwood County in 1895, where he established his farmstead in Great Bend Twp. northwest of Windom.  From that time on until his death in 1936, Mr. Gove busied himself with the transportation sector, first as a surveyor until 1912 and then afterwards, as a county engineer. During his tenure as surveyor, he led the efforts in constructing ditches in Cottonwood, Nobles and Murray Counties and later on in parts of Jackson County, as flooding was rampant during that time, and farmers needed them to provide runoff for the excess waterflow.

It was also during that time that he led the bridge building effort in parts of Jackson County, as county officials were turning to local builders who were willing to construct bridges at an affordable price. While the bridges he built were not spectacular in design, his most worthy structures were the bridge near Rost as well as the second crossing at Petersburg, built in 1912 and 1915, respectively.  When he was not building bridges and maintaining the roads in Cottonwood County, he wrote various articles and essays for local and regional newspapers, including his most famous one, the Minnesota Plan. There, he advocated simpler farming techniques, which included constructing  deeper and systematic plowing before planting and ditches to provide water run-off.  His writings dealt with philosophical thoughts mixed with a bit of wit and humor that made the readers enjoy every paragraph. He was recognized by the state for his work at the time of his death. Charles Gove died on 29 August, 1936.

Rost Bridge
Rost Bridge. Photo take by MnDOT in 1948

The Bridges built by C.W. Gove:

Rost Bridge

Location:  Little Sioux River at 390th Avenue, 0.1 mile south of Interstate 90 in Rost Twp.

Type:  Steel stringer with steel railings (altered in the 1970s)

Dimensions: 32.3 feet long; 16.4 feet wide

Built in 1912, replaced in 2002

This bridge used to carry a key road to the unincorporated village of Rost, located 2 miles north of the bridge. The village had a couple trading businesses and a church, the latter of which still exists today. The contract was given to C.W. Gove to build this bridge on 8 July, 1912, which was completed by the end of that year. The road was cut off by the Interstate in 1973 and after 90 years in service, this bridge was replaced by a pair of culverts in 2002.

 

Petersburg Village Bridge

Location: West Fork Des Moines River on a local road in Petersburg

Type: Two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections and steel cylindrical piers

Dimensions: 171 feet long (2x 81-foot truss spans); 16 feet wide

Built in 1915 replacing an earlier structure; destroyed in the 1965 flooding during the construction of its replacement upstream. Replacement bridge opened in 1965

The Village Bridge was the longest bridge known to have been built by C.W. Gove. He was awarded a contract to build the structure for $3050 to replace the bridge built 30 years earlier, just after it was founded. The bridge was in service until the Flood of 1965, which destroyed the structure. It was also at that time that a construction worker at the new bridge, located one mile west of the old one, fell into the icy river and drowned. His body was recovered in June 1965, three months after the replacement bridge opened to traffic

 

Do you know of other bridges built by C.W. Gove or have some more knowledge about the Minnesota plan or his written work? Let’s hear about it. Contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and feel free to provide some additional information for this fact sheet about this unknown engineer who left a mark on the local level. The info will be added and/or modified  based on what comes in.

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Photos of the Rost and Petersburg Village Bridges are courtesy of MnDOT

 

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New Bridge Builder’s Directory

 

Some additions and expansions of the Chronicles is getting in full gear as we’re receiving a wider selection of the audience. This includes new social network pages and a couple pages on the wordpress menu. This is one of them.

In 1984, Victor Darnell created a directory with a list of American bridge builders and the dates of their existence, based on the data found through research by historians on the local, state and national levels. It was later expanded by James Stewart, who provided not only detail about the builders listed, but also included the names of other smaller bridge builders that may not have contributed much on a regional level, but did do on a local level.  A link to the guide can be found via link here.

Yet, thirty-plus years later, we still have more bridge builders that were not listed in the Darnell category, and we still have a lot of questions about the ones listed. Examples include the Continnental Bridge Company and its gap during the bridge building era, the question about the number of bridges built by Raymond and Campbell in Minnesota and Iowa, and even the question of more involvement of bridge builders in the Minnneapolis, Pittsburgh or even Chicago schools, as documented by prominent bridge historians, like Stewart, Fred Quivik, Eric Delony and others.  From the author’s perspective, the key questions we need to know about are the following:

  1. Who founded the company and what was his/her profession prior to that?
  2. How long did the company existed? Did it expand or fold under the pressure of competition?
  3. What characteristic features of the bridge company can be found on the structures in terms of design, portal, plaques, keystones, etc.?
  4. Which bridges were built by the company and where are/were they located?
  5. What about the role of bridge builders in other countries? Did they bring their expertise to the United States, like Ralph Mojeski did, or did they remain competitive on their native soil?

While extensive research has been done with the main companies, like King Bridge Company, American Bridge Company, and the Champion Bridge Company, more is needed for the other companies, whose history is full of holes, resembling Swiss cheese. For those wishing to find out more about the bridge company for their research, a library with a detailed list of bridge builders is the starting point.

Henceforth, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has just created a directory of Bridge Builders which can be found on its wordpress page (click here for details).  Here, you can find information that has been written about them, categorized in alphabetical order and classified in brackets where they originated. Also included are the dates of their existence. The essays and other facts come not only from the Chronicles itself but also from different websites. All you need to do is click on the bridge builder you are seeking, and the information is right at your finger tips; included are examples of bridges built by the company, even though there were perhaps more than what is presented.

Apart from additional bridge builders that will be provided by the Chronicles, both based on previous research on the US ones as well as those currently being researched in Europe, the Chronicles is also taking articles and essays of bridge companies, engineers and the like that have not been listed yet. If you have a bridge company that you researched and would like to have posted on the Chronicles page, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details below.  Please include examples of bridges built as well as either a couple photos, links to the bridges or both if you have some that are related to the company. They will then be added to the directory.

The list provided at the moment is not complete, but more bridge builders will be added as the weeks go by. Only you can make the library bigger. So if you have a bridge company worth adding, we’re looking forward to reading about it. After all, another researcher, historian, teacher or even enthusiast will be thankful that you contributed on the research.

 

Historic Bridges: Management, Regulations and Rehabilitation: Seminars in Texas and Oregon

State Highway 78 Bridge at the Texas-Oklahoma border

 

 

MADISON (WI)/ MINNEAPOLIS (MN)/ AUSTIN (TX)/ PORTLAND (ORE)- Historic bridges represent a significant portion of the history of American architecture and infrastructure. Its unique design, combined with the significance in connection with the bridge builder and/or other key events makes them valuable pieces of our landscape- encouraging people to visit, photograph and even learn about them. Yet when it comes to preserving them, many people don’t know the policies that exist, such as the Historic Preservation Laws (and in particular, Section 106), many ways to rehabilitate and repurpose them and avoiding adverse effects when they need to be remodeled to meet the demands of today’s traffic standards.

The National Preservation Institute, in collaboration with Mead & Hunt, and Departments of Transportation in Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are conducting two seminars this year to focus on ways of designating and preserving what is left of our engineering heritage.   Amy Squitieri (Mead & Hunt), Kristen Zschlomer (MnDOT), Amber Blanchard (MnDOT), and Steve Olson (Olson & Nesvold Engineers) are heading two interactive seminars, scheduled to take place on the following dates:

 

April 4-5, 2017 in Austin, Texas

September 12-13 in Portland, Oregon

 

In the seminars, one will have a chance to look at bridge history and typology, rehabilitation and preservation techniques used on historic bridges that meet current and historical standards, ways to avoid adverse effects when reconstructing bridges, finding alternatives and solutions to bridges slated for replacement, and navigating through the process of Sections 106 and 4(f) of the Historic Preservation Laws.

 

Those who have taken the seminar have benefitted from this in a substantial way, as you can see in the evaluation comments in the NPI page (here).  Participants of the interactive seminar include federal and state agencies dealing with transportation and historic properties, as well as managers and consultants preparing compliance documents under actions dealing with Section 106 and other laws, as well as those interested in learning about the policies and practices involving historic bridges.

 

Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are three of only a dozen states in the country that have a comprehensive and successful track record in statewide inventories and the preservation and management of historic bridges. Some examples of successful bridge stories in photos can be seen below.

Piano Bridge in Texas- This bridge was restored in 2013- when the truss bridge was dismantled, sandblasted and reassembled; known as in-kind restoration
Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN: Restored in 2016
Portland Water Works Bridge in Oregon, prior to its relocation to a storage area in 2015, awaiting reuse. Photo taken by Michael Goff

Costs and discounts are available via link. You will receive a confirmation of the reservation as well as the venue and schedule of the events. For more information, please contact NPI via phone at (703) 765-0100 or send them an e-mail at: info@npi.org.