Apr 222016

Last week the Kansas Department of Transportation announced a grant to the Fort Scott/Bourbon County Riverfront Authority to help pay for moving the 1902 Long Shoals metal truss bridge from the Little Osage River to the Marmaton River at the Riverfront Park in Fort Scott. The Ft. Scott Tribune carries the full story: http://www.fstribune.com/story/2296125.html

Several years ago, field research for Damming the Osage took us deep into Kansas as we traced the river’s course and the migration of the Osage tribe westward. My “Trip Notes” for one day recorded that we turned east on K-31 “to search for overgrown iron bridge over the Little Osage River, near Kansas-Missouri state line.” We found it. Right next to the uninteresting, but safer, new concrete bridge that replaced it.

My notes continue: “found bridge which is almost completely obscured by trees, vines, foliage. Took many photos but need to come back in winter.” Lesson learned – best iron bridge visuals are when the leaves are off the trees.

IMG_5497-v2 IMG_5499-v2 IMG_5503-v2

For more and clearer images and technical and historical information on the Long Shoals iron bridge see http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/long-shoals/

One day, this now-abandoned bridge will grace a park in Fort Scott!  A far better fate than the one that befell the Schell Cty Bridge over the Osage in Missouri – not far from Fort Scott.


Oct 042012

Phyllis Stewart of the Papinville Historical and Cemetery Association explains the history and significance of Harmony Mission to the crowd.

The Papinville, Missouri, Historical Association held its annual picnic this year on the first day of autumn. This afforded the rare opportunity to tour the site of  Harmony Mission on the banks of the Marais des Cygnes in Bates County.  The first Indian mission in Missouri was established in response to a request  by the Osage Indians to the President that a school be built  and the missionaries and families arrived in 1821. The mission was located next to the “Great Village” of the Osage Indians on the Marais Des Cygnes River. The site is now on private land, but for this day the owner allowed visitors.  A small ‘train’ of horse drawn and motorized wagons drove through the pastures and pecan groves to the site.

Chief Jack Arthur Whitehorn of the Missouriah-Osage tribes spoke at the museum about Osage history in Missouri. Other activities on the grounds of the museum included, live music, cake walks, a pie auction and picnic. The Association reported they are “singing a happy song due to the great success of the 21st Annual Papinville Picnic.”

Continue reading »

Sep 262012

Just north and west of Schell City, Missouri, down the old “River Road” are the ruins of an iron truss bridge that for a hundred years spanned the Osage River, connecting Schell City and Rockville. It’s not far from where the Bates County Ditch (which has its own interesting and little known history) enters the Osage. Closed traffic for many years, it fell into the river in February of this year. Sadly each year there are fewer and fewer of these wonderful iron truss bridges. The usual cause of their demise is obsolescence and lack of maintenance. They are replaced by architecturally uninteresting steel and concrete girder bridges. This 317 foot iron bridge became structurally deficient when maintenance stopped.

We have posted here on our website and on YouTube a video tribute and mini history of this iron bridge.

We think the Schell City bridge died a natural death, but there were local rumors that it was dynamited. The history of bridging the Osage River and its tributaries is covered in our new book, DAMMING THE OSAGE by Leland and Crystal Payton, which will be available by December 1.

Nov 182011
Rivers both provide and obstruct transportation routes. A book about a river requires attention to and consideration of the ways the river has been spanned.

In Vernon County, northwest of Schell City, down a gravel, then a dirt road (aka Rockville Road/Old River Road) is the Schell City iron bridge over the Osage.  This once well-traveled road is treacherous now, even when dry. Spring rains make deep mud of the river’s bottomlands; tractor ruts made in spring harden to ragged ridges that threaten to snag our rented KIA. We hike the last half-mile with cameras and tripod.

Since our last trek, the approach from the south end has collapsed.  Stone support pillars, the main span and the north approach are still straight and (apparently) sturdy. The stone pillar on the north side is almost completely swallowed up by sedimentation on that bank.  Not far upstream the ill-conceived and appropriately name Bates County Ditch joins the Osage. Dug in the early 1900s, the Ditch probably destabilized the hydrology of the Osage, swinging the sediment load to the north bank, slowly building it up and burying the pillar.
You can find more information on this and other historic bridges at http://bridgehunter.com/mo/vernon/schell-city/
We’ve been roaming and photographing the upper Osage for more than 30 years. Old buildings and old bridges – if you want to see them, make haste.