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Historic bridges of MissouriPosted Tuesday, February 24, 2009, at 8:49 AM
This old Bollinger County bridge at Gipsy is just one example of the historic bridges around Missouri which have been abandoned and are being replaced with concrete bridges, which James Baughn refers to as UCEB (Ugly Concrete Eyesore Bridges). In his Feb. 23 presentation to the Stoddard County Historical Society, Baughn showed some of the 6,000 bridge photos he's taken throughout the United States. I took this photo last year on a little amateur history tour with some Advance friends.
Wow! Wow! Wow! Baughn works for the Southeast Missourian in Cape, I gather, and, in fact, he's the one designed the websites for our papers. This talented young man has traveled Missouri and nearby states collecting information and taking photos of the old bridges before they fall into oblivion. He concentrated on the bridges of Stoddard and Bollinger County, but his collection of photos includes historic bridges around St. Louis and all over the state.
Along with the photos, Baughn gave construction details about each bridge, whether they were "pin-connected" (built before 1920), or "rivet-connected;" whether they were "through truss bridges" or "pony truss" bridges. He explained that "pratt truss" bridges with flat tops were the most common in the state and had a length limit of about 120 feet. He also referred to "Parker trusses," "Penn trusses," and "Warren trusses."
"I wasn't going to talk about the different types of trusses tonight, because I thought it would be boring for you," Baughn said. HA! He little knew this group!! We were FASCINATED by all this bridge construction stuff! You'd have thought we had plans to build one in our back yards!
Baughn has a WONDERFUL website at http://www.bridgehunter.com. He has a passion for the preservation of old bridges and told us about the "Chain of Rocks" bridge, an all-steel bridge which has been restored in the St. Louis area on old Route 66. Foot traffic is allowed on the bridge, but several of last night's audience cautioned us to "take all your valuables with you" if we decide to visit the bridge. The parking lot is a high-crime area, and items are stolen from cars with regularity.
The McKinley Bridge, built in St. Louis in 1910, has also been restored and has a bike trail, which is being expanded.
Baughn simply mentioned too many bridges for me to include all of them here! Among them were bridges in Aquilla, Avert, Puxico (Indian Ford Bridge, among others), Wapappello (longest truss bridge in Southeast Missouri, built in 1911), Dexter (on 114 by the radio station, 1922 Pony truss bridge), Old Hiway 25 bridges built in 1922), Sedgewickville (largest Parker bridge still standing, at 170 feet), Old Appleton bridge (built in 1879, destroyed by flood, rebuilt by the community), Black River bridges, Morehouse plate girder bridge over the Big Ditch......
You must go on his site and see the bridge near Jefferson City - the first one to be replaced by the stimulus money. Oh, my! What a spectacular bridge! Baughn also has a photo of a truck which took a wrong turn and tried to cross one of the old bridges. Oh, dear, oh dear!
The hour-long presentation went far too fast for our group, and we made him promise to come back for a second dose! I confess that I would like to spend today and the rest of the week, traveling around the countryside, looking for old bridges! What a wonderful hobby! Then, after we find them, let's come up with a way to SAVE them!!
If you are interested in attending some of the society's programs, they occur at the Stars & Stripes Museum in Bloomfield at 6:30 p.m. on the last Monday of each month. Dr. Nickell will present a historical program on U.S. presidents Washington and Lincoln at the March meeting.
From the bridgeless community of Tillman, Missouri, this is your rural reporter, suffering from a severe case of Bridge Nostalgia...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.