Raymond and Campbell- Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Moscow Mills Bridge Photo taken by James Baughn in 2008

 

Another bridge builder worth mentioning and listing in the Bridge Builder’s Directory is a company based in Council Bluffs, Iowa named Raymond and Campbell. While only one bridge example remains which is credited to the name of the firm, multiple newspaper sources claimed that dozens of bridges were built  by this company during the last two decades of the 19th century, with more claimed to have been built by the company’s primary agent, George C. Wise, who later established his own business with his brothers. This included the bridges in Jackson County, Minnesota, one of the bridge builders’ primary customers. According to research done by the author for a bridge book on this topic, from 1883 until 1907, between 10 and 17 bridges were credited to the company’s name and to that of George C. Wise. This includes all but four crossings along the West Branch of the Des Moines river as well as those along the Little Sioux River. By 1955, all of them were replaced with current structures.

Yet the question we still have is what other counties and states did Raymond and Campbell do business with and how many bridges were built?  Before opening the question for forum and adding some examples to this article, let’s have a look at the history of the company and its primary agent, George C. Wise:

Little has been written about the company partly because there are only a few records of its existence.  However, the company was unique for the founders originated from the northern third of North America and migrated to Iowa to make their living there. E.W. Raymond (1842-?) originated from Lockport, NY and made his way down through Illinois, before settling in Council Bluffs in 1868. Charles Edward Henry Campbell (1850-1902) was a Canadian from Prince Edward Island, who immigrated to the US in 1867, eventually settling down in Omaha, located across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Together, the gentlemen founded the bridge building company in September 1874. It is unknown how long the company stayed in business, except the fact that Raymond and Campbell, during the 1880s, had employed about 50 workers and made over $200,000 worth of business.[1]  Apart from Mr. Wise, Raymond and Campbell did have an agent for a short time, who would later reach his fame in bridge building through constructing magnificent bridges and patenting his own truss bridge design. That gentleman was John Alexander Low Waddell, and much of his work still exists today. (Click on this link to see his profile)

As for the company’s primary agent,  George C. Wise, Raymond and Campbell hired him in 1875 as an agent for the upper Midwest. Born in Huntingdon County, PA in 1851, Mr. Wise served in the Army for five years, was involved in many military conflicts with Native Americans in Nebraska and Wyoming, as well as serving as an escort for the peace commissioners in brokering a truce with Sitting Bull and his Northern Sioux tribe in the Black Hills in July and August of 1875. Shortly after the peace agreement was signed, he was honourably discharged from the Army and emigrated to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he worked for Raymond and Campbell. According to the Pottawattamie County history books, Mr. Wise worked there until he established his own bridge building accounts and worked independently in 1883. He oversaw the construction of crossings in Minnesota and other places and even had his brothers join the business, some of whom continued the business after he retired from the business in 1907. George spent the rest of his life involved in public affairs in Council Bluffs until his death in 1916.

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Moscow Mills Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2016

The only known bridge that is still standing today is the Moscow Mills Bridge. Built by Raymond and Campbell in 1885, this Pratt through truss bridge with a three-layered combination of Town Lattice and X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections has a length of 214 feet (the main span is 177 feet). Closed for over a decade, the bridge is sitting idle with overgrowth covering the portal bracings and part of the top chord. Yet plans are in the making to convert this bridge into a recreational crossing in the future, as county officials would like to utilize the bridge as part of a city park. Before doing that though, the bridge will need to be rehabilitated and a new deck. This bridge is located over the Cuivre River on the east end of Moscow Mills in Lincoln County, Missouri.

 

Other examples of bridges built by Raymond and Campbell but no longer exist include the following (this is an ongoing list as more examples will be added here.)

North Bridge
North Bridge in Jackson, MN  Photo courtesy of the Jackson County Historical Society

State Street (a.k.a. North) Bridge in Jackson, MN:  Spanning the West Fork Des Moines River at State Street and Ashley Park, this bridge has had its own history which could easily be written into a booklet and sold at the County Historical Society. The bridge was unique because it was the first structure built over the river in Jackson. It was rebuilt seven times over the course of 150 years, counting the current structure. Three of which were credited to Raymond and Campbell and especially to George C. Wise, who was the county’s primary provider of bridges. The first structure was built during the winter of 1866/67,  using oak pile and hewn wood courtesy of Welch Ashley. It lasted only a couple months as it was destroyed in an ice jam. It was rebuilt later that year and lasted 12 years until a contract was awarded to Raymond and Campbell to build a new structure in 1879. The iron structure measured 194 feet and had a width of 22 feet. It survived less than two years as flooding and an ice jam took out the structure in March 1881. It was one of several bridges along the river that was destroyed that spring. The county contacted Wise again for a fourth structure, which was built later that summer. The structure only lasted 15 years and Wise was asked to build a stronger structure in 1896, which upon its completion, featured a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. The bridge was a permanent fix, providing access to the east and north of Jackson for 58 years. The bridge used to carry two primary highways (US 71 and 16) until it was realigned through a new crossing at the junction of Springfield Parkway and Third Street (near the now demolished St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church) in 1924. That bridge eventually was relocated to the site of the last Wise structure in 1955, after city officials revealed that the bridge was no longer able to carry traffic because of structural issues. The North Bridge was the site of many accidents and stories involving floods and ice jams, yet inspite of its checkered history, it was only one of a few rare stories of bridges built either by Raymond and Campbell, George C. Wise or both. This one clearly belongs to the third category, especially as Wise continued to have Jackson County as its primary customer until his retirement in 1907.

 

 

 

Source page:

[1] Waddell, Dr. John Alexander Low and John Lyle Harrington. “The Principal Professional Papers of Dr. J.A.L. Waddell” unpublished manscript. Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008; Keatley, John H. “The History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.” Council Bluffs, IA, 1883, p. 50  Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008. Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008,  Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008.

[2] Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008; Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008; George C. Wise obituary Pottawattamie County Genealogy. Obtained on 3 November, 2008.

 

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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.

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 47: The Twin Bridges over the Des Moines River in Minnesota

Sherman Bridge northwest of Windom. Photos taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next mystery bridge features two bridges and is part of the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River (for more, click here). This one takes us to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, located north of Jackson County, where the author grew up, and a main throughfare that crosses the river three times in the same county, County Road 15. The road enters the county from neighboring Murray County at Talcot Lake and after crossing the third Des Moines River bridge, terminates at US Hwy. 71 north of the county seat Windom.

Two of the Des Moines River crossings are featured here because they are literally identical. Both bridges feature Pratt half-hip through truss designs, with M-frame portal bracings and V-lace endposts. They are both approximately 80 feet long, despite the fact that the difference in total length between the two are only 40 feet apart. Both were built before or around 1900 but the information is very sketchy- sometimes “suspect” because of questionable data. The only difference is the location of the two- one is next to a golf course just outside of Windom, the other is only four miles to the west after the river bends to flow southeasterly.  To be specific as far as what bridges the author is talking about, here is what we know about the two bridges:

Side view of the Sherman Bridge. Photo courtesy of MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman Bridge :

Location: Des Moines River at the Golf Course, 0.3 miles west of County Road 13  at Sec. 21 Great Bend Twp.

Length: 141 feet total (main span: 80 feet)

Replaced: 1960? with a concrete slab bridge

Thompson Bridge Photo taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thompson Bridge

Location: Des Moines River, 0.4 miles north of County Road 40 at Sec. 14/15 Springfield Township.

Length: 95 feet total (77 feet main span)

Replaced: 1963 with a wooden trestle bridge

Questions remain open regarding the history of the two bridges. First and foremost is the question of the date of construction and the bridge builder. Judging by the features of the two spans, they were most likely built by the same company at about the same time. Some possible bridge builders that did business in Cottonwood County include Raymond and Campbell of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Hennepin Bridge Company of Minneapolis and Joliet Bridge Company of Joliet, Illinois. Judging by the markings of three bridges built in neighboring Jackson County during the time frame between 1880 and 1905, they appear to be the work of Raymond and Campbell, for its agent, George C. Wise had conducted business in the region between 1880 and 1910, both under the auspices of R & C as well as an independent contractor. He had built at least a dozen bridges in Jackson County and most likely did business in Cottonwood County. Yet more evidence in the form of newspaper articles and other information would be needed to confirm this. Joliet Bridge most likely built the Dempsey Bridge, located five miles northwest of Windom over the Des Moines River, but more information is needed to determine if it built other bridges at that time. The same applies to Hennepin Bridge Company, one of many bridge companies operated by members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders which featured the Hewett family, Commodore Jones and Alexander Bayne.

The other question deals with the replacement date for the two bridges- in particular, the Sherman Bridge. National Bridge Inventory database and even the history books have the bridge being replaced in 1960, yet according to records and photos provided by Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the bridge was still standing as of 1962. This leads to the question of whether the Sherman and the Thompson were replaced at the same time and if so, when. While working on a book on the bridges in neighboring Jackson County, an error was found in the NBI and state historical society records indicating a through truss bridge in Jackson being built in 1930, when city records pin-pointed its construction date of 1907, built by Joliet. This means that in the case of the two bridges, further information will need to be found as to when they were constructed and when they were replaced, in order to update all records to reflect on their history.

This is where you come in. If you have any information on the history of the Sherman and Thompson Bridges including photos of their existence and even replacement, the author would be much greatful if he could use them for the book project. Please send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Any information on the two bridges will be useful to complete their history. It is very rare to have twin bridges sharing the same road with little knowledge. Yet through your help, you can solve their mystery.  Looking forward to the information that is forthcoming.

Thompson Bridge. Photo taken in the 1940s by MnDOT

 

Mystery Bridge 41: The Queenpost Truss Bridge over Okabena Creek

Photo taken by Sam and Anna Smith in 2012

Our next Mystery Bridge article takes us back to Jackson County, Minnesota, specifically along Okabena Creek. Flowing west from Heron Lake to Brewster and beyond in Nobles County, the creek was once laden with pony truss bridges, built between 1900 and 1910, some of which were relocated here in the 1930s. The Okabena Creek Bridge near Brewster (known by MnDOT as Bridge L5245) is one of those structures that was built in the early 1900s but relocated here during the Depression era. According to records, the bridge was built in 1905 at an unknown location. It was one of seven Queenpost pony truss bridges built in the county during that time. Characteristics of a Queenpost pony truss bridge are a bridge built with three panels, with the center panel featuring a pair of diagonal beams crossing together, making the letter X. Most of the Queenpost spans are pin-connected, making it easier to disassemble and reassemble wherever needed.  This bridge is unique because it is the oldest remaining bridge of its kind left in the state, according to state historical records. Relocated to its present spot in 1938, this bridge once served a minimum maintenance road known as Township Rd. 187 but now known as 330th Avenue, and despite being closed to traffic since 1990, it can be seen from County Road 18 to the north.

This bridge is mysterious in the way for there are no known facts as to where the bridge was originally built at the time. Even the builder’s date of 1909 is vague, for it was based on the testing of the metal parts of the structure. Yet some of the features of the bridge (in particular, the V-laced endposts) match those of a couple bridges built by the bridge contractors, Raymond and Campbell in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Established in 1874, the bridge building firm was Jackson County’s prime contractor, having George C. Wise as their agent. Over two dozen bridges were built between 1880 and 1915, first by the bridge company, and later through Mr. Wise himself, who had left the bridge company in 1881 to start off his own business.  At least seven of them were located over the West Branch Des Moines River, including the one at Kilen Woods State Park, whose very first structure featured a through truss bridge with similar endposts like this one. More evidence is needed to determine whether this hypothesis is true or not.

According to local newspaper articles, the bridge was relocated here in 1938, most likely as part of the Works Progress Administration project that was undertaken during that time to get as many of the unemployed back into the workplace as possible. Many of these structures were relocated during that time to replace wooden structures that either had worn out or had been washed away by floods. It is possible that a previous structure had taken its place before 5245 came in to replace it. It was one of at least two bridges along Okabena Creek that was relocated to their current spots.  The other was the County Road 9 Bridge north of Okabena, relocated to its current place from Owatonna in 1936 to serve traffic until its replacement in 1998.

At the present time, the bridge near Brewster is still idle, waiting to either be reused as a pedestrian bridge or be part of the nature that is currently taking its course. Talks are still being carried out as to how the bike trail network should be extended from Jackson onwards, including adding one along the Des Moines River. Yet with scarce funding and opposition from county residence, it will take a few years until the project is realized. Yet this bridge would be a key asset, together with Bridge 2628, located three miles east of this one and is scheduled to be replaced in two years’ time. Like Bridge 2628, Bridge 5245 is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique bridge design and age. Yet more information is needed to fill in the missing gaps left in the bridge’s history. This includes:

1. Where and exactly when was the bridge originally built?

2. Who was the bridge contractor?

3. Was there a bridge at this location prior to 1938?

4. Who led the efforts to relocate the bridge here?

Any leads and other information should be sent to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the e-mail address in the informational page About the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  While the bridge was mentioned in the County’s Bridge book, there is still a possibility that more information is out there, which warrants some searching and inquiries, especially if the bridge was to be reused as a bike trail bridge in the near future. The more information for this unique bridge, clearer the information will be regarding its history and significance in the county and the state of Minnesota.