Hand colored postcard, circa 1910
Marais des Cygnes, variously creatively spelled, is the principal extension of the Osage River. Through Kansas it’s a more bridge-able stream, and was crossed in many places by iron truss bridges beginning in the 1870s.
In the background of the low Ott Dam, which once powered a grist mill, is another iron “wagon bridge” as they were called. These bridges were a huge improvement to rural life as the mud bottomed and banked Marais des Cygnes was difficult to ford even in dry weather. Pictures of the construction of these bridges are almost unknown. Once built, there were popular subjects for commercial photographers. As they disappear, replaced by sturdier but singularly unattractive beam bridges, there is usually a round of nostalgia-fueled protest in the local newspaper.
Every week we will post an unpublished image that relates to the Osage River, its ecology, history and development. None of these have been used in Damming the Osage, but they relate to the themes of the book. A brief caption identifies the location and our thoughts on its significance and meaning. Feel free to use these images for personal use if you credit “Collection of Leland and Crystal Payton.” For commercial use, email us for details and a modest fee for a higher resolution image. We have thousands of historic photographs and brochures as well as our own contemporary photos.
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