Mystery Bridge Nr. 171: The Lone Star Church Bridge in Wagoner County, Oklahoma

All photos courtesy of Jeremy Lance

.

This bridge was brought to my attention by fellow bridgehunter, Jeremy Lance, as wel were talking about the demise of the Jefferson Highway Bridge in Okay. As you saw in an early article, that multiple-span bridge has been reduced to one standing and it is most likely the wreckage and the standing span will both come down in the near future due to liability issues.

This mystery bridge is located in the same county as the one at Okay, and like its relict, this span used to span the Verdigris River but has since been sitting abandoned with much of the overgrowth covering the entire structure. The bridge has been bypassed and the road running past now has a culvert that crosses what is left of the river, as it has been rechanneled and what is left of the original river is nothing more than a small creek.

Unlike the bridge in Okay, this bridge relict features the main span- a Parker through truss, with pinned connections and Howe lattice portal bracings supported by curved heel bracings. On both sides of the main span are Pratt pony truss spans. All in all, the bridge has a total length of between 250 and 300 feet; the main span is about 150 -170 feet. There is no information on the bridge except to say that the bridge is at least 125 years old and was built during the time where roadways were needed and counties were racing to build as many bridges like this one as possible, using local contractors and/or bridge agents of large bridge companies to transport the steel to their respective locations, while workers assemble the bridge. So two questions come about with this structure:

  1. Who built the bridge and how was it constructed?
  2. When was it built?

The bridge is located one mile south of Lone Star Church and half a mile west of S. 220th Road on a township road, yet according to Mr. Lance, the road dead ends after passing the bridge and entering the corn field, hence the access is only available on the east end. The entire decking and lower chords of the bridge are missing and therefore, restoration efforts would be only possible if the bridge is encased into a modern structure made of concrete, thus only functioning as a decorative element. Yet before any attempts are made to restore the bridge, the question is whether to restore it on site or relocate it to a site where it would garner more visitors than sitting in a remote location. Once that is done, the question is how to restore it and make it attractive again.

With Oklahoma losing its pre-1950 bridges right and left in the past, attempts are being made to keep what is left and restore them for either local use or recreational purposes. The potential for this bridge is there. The question is whether it is worth the effort or should it be left to nature. With the truss bridge in Okay gone, the answer will lie with the county and how it values its historic places in comparison with the resources it has available vs it can obtain to save this bridge. And that one we do not know at present.

.

A gallery of photos of this bridge can be seen by clicking here. All the photos are courtesy of Jeremy Lance, whom I thank for allowing me to use them. Feel free to comment on the bridge’s history and what it should be done with it.

.

One thought on “Mystery Bridge Nr. 171: The Lone Star Church Bridge in Wagoner County, Oklahoma

  1. This bridge was difficult to track down, for reasons that are enumerated. I have attempted to provide the clearest picture I can establish, based on the newspaper archives. I include the sources in the event someone wants to see what else they can turn up.
    The bridges of Wagoner County, Oklahoma, have a long and complex history. From where the Verdigris river enters Oklahoma east of South Coffeyville in Nekota County, it snakes it way through the state to Oologah Lake, resumes its winding river course at Highway 88 to where it empties into the Arkansas River south of Okay and north of Muskogee. More or less, the Vedrigris bisects Wagoner County roughly in half. Also complicating the story, Wagoner County was initially located in Indian Territory before Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907. Searching newspaper archives is tedious work when status, names, and terminology shift. That being said, I have attempted to organize the bridge history data I could find about the specific Mystery Bridge on the old channel of Verdigris, southwest of Inola and northwest of Neodesha in an effort to identify what is known of the bridge. For brevity, I will organize a list of chronological dates of events that seem significant to the potential identification of the bridge’s early history and the newspaper and other sources.
    ▪ 1889-1890: The Oklahoma Territory was defined in 1890, following the Land Run of 1889 with the entry of some 50,000 non-Indian settlers into “unassigned lands”. The Organic Act of 1890 established a territorial government for what became Oklahoma Territory , separate from Indian Territory. The two territories subsequently became the state of Oklahoma in 1907. (Wilson, L. D. (n d). Statehood movement. In The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved March 31, 2022 from https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ST025).
    ▪ 1900: Elmer E. Colly of Chickasha secured the contract for the bridge work in Wagoner County to begin locating and estimating cost of constructing bridges, two across Grand River, three across Verdigris, and two across the Arkansas rivers as soon as locations were secured. (“Getting Bridge Busy”. Jun 4, 1900, The Porter Enterprise, p. 1).
    ▪ 1907: After the new commissioners of Wagoner County were sworn in November 16, 1907, they began establishing county policy. They approved licenses to operate ferries across the 3 rivers crossing the county: Grand, Arkansas, and the Verdigris. They established10 townships, “And of course, a prime item of business was establishing roads and bridges throughout the County.” $10,000 was designated for roads and bridges to be divided among the townships. Commissioners toured the county to determine where to locate bridges. Ferries continued to be used up through the decade of the 1930s. (History of Wagoner County. Centennial Report: Wagoner County Board of Commissioners November 16, 1907-1917. Retrieved March 30, 2022 from https://www.ok.gov/wagonercounty/About_Wagoner_County/History_of_Wagoner_County/1907_-1917/),
    ▪ 1909: Inola’s County Commissioner contacted Wagoner County in regard to building a joint bridge across the Verdigris “south and west of town.” Wagoner County replied they were ready and willing to build their part. (“That Verdigris Bridge.” May 27, 1909, The Inola Register, p.5.).
    ▪ 1912: Wagoner County commissioners open bids for the construction of 4 bridges in Wagoner County, receiving bids from Canton Bridge Co., Illinois S. B. Co., K. C. Bridge Co., and Vincennes B. Co., including one across the S. Verdigris and one across the N. Verdigris. (“Commissioners’ Proceedings, October 7, 1912.” Oct. 24, 1912, Wagoner County Courier, p. 5.).
    ▪ 1921-1925: Discussion of building a bridge across the drainage ditch west of Dr. Guinn bridge over the Verdigris as held. (The Record-Democrat, Jun 16, 1921, p. 9.). In August, further discussion was held regarding need for roads and bridges, including “…a good road to Coweta, with a side feeder to Porter, a lateral to Grand river from the brick schoolhouse south of town, a line to Poindexter ferry, and a connecting line northwest to the Dr. Guinn bridge..” (“Making Good Start.” Aug. 25, 1921, The Record-Democrat, p. 1). By December, the commissioners met to review bids for the Guinn Ditch and Slough Bridge in section 9-16-17-17. The proposals for the material and labor to build a steel bridge over Guinn Drainage Ditch in mile 8 Section “M” State Highway 8-18-17. Bids were received from Vincennes Bridge Company ($26,796), Joplin Concrete and Steel Co. ($28,275), Missouri Vall Mach. Co. ($19,669) for the bridge construction. There is no notation of who was awarded the contract. The Jan. 26, 1922 Record-Democrat, p. 3, reported the results of the Tax Payers League Meeting reported bridge construction news that the Guinn Ditch bridge was $7500. Nov. 15, 1923, it was reported the Guinn Ditch bridge had “again washed out.” October 23, 1924, Roscoe Kennedy was killed while attempting to cross the Guinn Bridge with a loaded wagon. The bridge collapsed, sending him, the wagon, and the mules to their deaths 45 feet below. The bridge had been condemned several months previously, and a temporary abutment constructed. (“Man Killed at Bridge”, Oct. 23, 1924, The Porter News, p. 6.). The county commissioners met to develop plans to put in an 80 foot span in the Guinn bridge, northwest of Wagoner, which had caved in with Roscoe Kennedy a month before. (The Record-Democrat, Nov. 20, 1924, p. 1.). The county commissioner notes from the November 20 meeting were published in The Coweta Times, Dec. 4, 1924, p. 2 and the resolution to repair the “Wagoner County Bridge on the public highway at a point about four and one healf miles northwest of Neodesha…known as the “Guinn Bridge” passed. The contract to repair the bridge was awarded to the Froebe-Hamblin company for $6,500 (or $4500) to “replacing the destroyed approach span with a 64 foot steel span designed according to the State of Oklahoma Highway Department standards and to set same in tubular poers and also to furnish and place all necessary wood joist and floor for same.” Mar. 12, 1925, the commissioners reported no funds available to pay for the repairs, and Froebe filed for collection. (The Record-Democrat, p. 1.).
    ▪ Based on information from the newspapers that Dr. Guinn’s farm was 12 miles northwest of Wagoner, that would place it close to the bridge location at EO665 Road. (See screenshot of Google map attached.). The county commissioner’s report indicated the Guinn Bridge that was damaged and cause the loss of life of Roscoe Kennedy was 4 1/2 miles northwest of Neodesha. Both of these directions would indicate the location of the EO665 bridge. It seems likely that the terms Guinn Bridge and bridge over Guinn Drainage ditch may have been used to indicate the same bridge in some newspaper accounts. However, the item that described the death of Roscoe Kennedy puts the location of the Guinn drainage ditch “west of the Verdigris in Coal Creek township. It described the bridge as “a steel span covering the bed of the ditch but the approaches are of timber, and it was the west approach that gave way under the weight of the team and its load.” (“Team Goes Through Bridge.” Oct 23, 1924, The Record-Democrat, p. 1.).
    ▪ A topographic map for sections 9,16 and 17 of Wagoner County show the location of the “mystery bridge” and the area called Guinn Bottom that takes in the Coal Creek Township west of the Verdigris and the old river Chanel of the Verdigris. (https://www.topozone.com/oklahoma/wagoner-ok/city/neodesha-2/) ▪The final item related to Guinn Bridge replacement was in 1935. The Works Progress Administration granted Oklahoma three Wagoner County projects. “Plans to rebuild the washed out bridge over the Guinn drainage ditch in the northwest part of Wagoner county under the Works Progress Administration program were discarded this week by WPA officials when a small delegation from that area protested location of the bridge” (“WPA Projects are Approved: Guinn Bridge Replacement is Cut Out of County Program When Location Protested.” The Record-Democrat, Sep 12, 1935, p. 1). The delegation threatened court action if WPA proceeded with the bridge. WPA engineers removed the project and said they would spend the $100,000 elsewhere.

    Nothing in the newspaper archives I could locate identified the exact time frame of the construction of the bridge, nor any identifying information about Dr. Guinn other than the location of his farm.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.