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.