C. C. Jamison’s Masterpiece: The Minos West Ford Bridge

Minos West Ford Bridge

Charles C. Jamison rose to be the number one stone arch bridge builder in Butler County, Kansas. Despite the premature failure of one of his very first bridges, this ambitious young man nevertheless succeeded in gaining a reputation for building quality, affordable bridges.

To this day the quality of his work stands out. With well-cut and well-laid stonework, these beautiful bridges have stood the test of time very well. In fact, many of Jamison’s bridges are still an important part of the rural transportation network in Butler County.

Out of all of the bridges that Jamison built, the one that received the most accolades is the Minos West Ford Bridge, built in 1906. This bridge still ranks as one of the largest (as well as the most scenic) of the more than 20 stone arch bridges in Butler County.

Minos West Ford Bridge
The Minos West Ford Bridge carries SE Ellis Road over Hickory Creek south of Leon, Butler County, Kansas

Large Spans

The Minos West Ford Bridge spans Hickory Creek using a large 40-foot span, ranking it as one of the larger Butler County stone bridges.

When this bridge was built, only one stone arch bridge with a longer span was in existence — a 50-foot span over the Whitewater near Potwin built by Walter Sharp some years earlier.

Later, Jamison went on to build the 45-foot-span Dillers Bridge near Cassoday over the Walnut River, which became the second longest span in Butler for a time. However, Walter Sharp’s Potwin bridge collapsed dramatically in 1915, while the Dillers Bridge still stands.

Today, then, the Dillers Bridge has the longest span on a stone arch bridge in Butler, while the Minos West Ford Bridge is tied with several other stone bridges for second longest span stone arch bridge in the county.

The Minos West Ford Bridge Story

The contract for the Minos West Ford Bridge was awarded to C. C. Jamison in late 1905.

Jamison agreed to build this large bridge at a cost of $900. As far as he would have been concerned, there was nothing terribly unusual about the bridge design; in fact, he had already completed a very similar bridge the year before over Rock Creek near Latham.

The work on the Minos West Ford Bridge apparently went along quietly and smoothly into 1906, when a disaster occurred. In February of 1906, the centering supporting the unfinished arch gave way under the weight of the masonry. The resultant collapse of the unfinished arch meant that Jamison was forced to start again with additional expense. As the newspapers observed, the failure of the centering entailed a severe loss on the builder.

It is a credit to C. C. Jamison to observe how quickly he began again, still without sacrificing the quality of the work. While the exact reason of the failure is at this point unknown, it is interesting to note the thickness of the arch ring of the bridge. Clearly, this thick, strong arch has some serious weight to it! The thickness (and hence the weight) of the arch may have contributed to the failure of the formwork, though it makes the finished bridge a very strong and substantial-looking one.

The Minos West Ford Bridge was completed in the spring of 1906, and was immediately recognized as a phenomenally well-built structure. The county commissioners accepted the bridge, and the Logan Township Board proclaimed it to be one of the best bridges built in the county. Jamison himself was satisfied with the work, and even showed off pictures of the bridge at the county courthouse.

The Minos West Ford Bridge Today

Well over a century later, the Minos West Ford Bridge is still a first-class structure. The bridge actively carries SE Ellis Road over Hickory Creek south of Leon. The only major modification is the concrete scour aprons at the bottom.

Minos West Ford Bridge
Closeup of the downstream face of the Minos West Ford Bridge.

The Minos West Ford Bridge is largely unaltered, and is located in a very scenic area. Of all the stone arch bridges in Butler County, this one has to be one of the most breathtaking. It is a must-see for the stone arch bridge enthusiast, and a tribute to the perseverance and quality work of Butler County’s foremost stone bridge builder Charles C. Jamison.

Additional resource: Index of the Stone Arch Bridges of Butler County, Kansas