A Classic Butler County Stone Arch Bridge: The Rock Creek Bridge

SE Satchell Creek Road Rock Creek Bridge

In Butler County, Kansas, near Latham is a simple single-arch stone bridge spanning Rock Creek. This large bridge is truly a classic, featuring a gently rounded road grade, stone guard walls, and massive stones. Located on Satchell Creek Road, this picturesque bridge has been in use for over 115 years.

SE Satchell Creek Road Rock Creek Bridge
SE Satchell Creek Road Rock Creek Bridge.

This is one of Butler County’s better-known stone arch bridges, having been specifically mentioned in The Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner, and it is arguably one of the best-known sites of the Latham area.

C. C. Jamison and the Rock Creek Bridge

Surprisingly little is said about the Rock Creek stone arch bridge near Latham in old newspapers. No specific name for the bridge is given, and it is sometimes mentioned in conjunction with Piper’s Bridge, which was another stone arch bridge built at the same time due north of Latham over the north branch of Rock Creek. According to the July 14, 1905, edition of the El Dorado Republican, C. C. Jamison built the Latham bridge. He also built the Piper’s Bridge previously mentioned. C. C. Jamison was not new to stone arch bridge building, and had developed a good reputation for his work. He was also a skilled farmer. An apt description of C. C. Jamison is found in a short article in the June 17, 1904, weekly edition of the Walnut Valley Times:

C. C. Jamison whose heart is big as a water pail with generosity brings the Times folks a meal of[ ]strawberries that for size and flavor are unmatched this season. Jamison is a successful fruit grower, gardener, farmer, stock man and arch [b]ridge [b]uilder. When Jamison does it it is done right and done well.

From the June 17, 1904 weekly edition of the Walnut Valley Times.
C. C. Jamison
,C. C. Jamison, from a photo found in the March 23, 1906 weekly Walnut Valley Times. This same edition of the Times went into some depth on C. C. Jamison’s background, noting that he was one of the most prominent and reliable stone contractors in the area, and that he was also a good stone cutter who kept a close eye on his jobs. The same issue of the paper also featured a picture of the Rock Creek Bridge.

Little was said about the Rock Creek Bridge after C. C. Jamison was awarded the bridge contract. One piece of information that may be related to the bridge is a brief article found in the October 27, 1905, of the weekly Walnut Valley Times. This article stated that C. C. Jamison purchased a gasoline-driven water pump to aid in building bridge foundations.

A Masterpiece

Though little was said about the Rock Creek Bridge, it nevertheless received some attention. On March 23, 1906, the weekly Walnut Valley Times did a write up on C. C. Jamison. As part of this article, they presented a picture of one of C. C. Jamison’s stone arch bridges. Though they did not say which bridge it was, the bridge shown is almost certainly the Rock Creek Bridge.

Rock Creek Bridge
A photo of a bridge by C. C. Jamison which appeared in the March 23, 1906 weekly edition of the Walnut Valley Times. Please note that we did some slight lighting and clarity adjustment on the photo to make it easier to see. Though this bridge was not specifically named in the paper, based on appearances and timing it is almost certainly the Rock Creek Bridge.

The Rock Creek Bridge closely resembles the Minos West Ford Bridge that C. C. Jamison built the following year. The Minos West Ford Bridge was said at the time to be the best stone arch bridge ever built in Butler County. The Minos West Ford Bridge was, judging from all accounts, a favorite bridge of C. C. Jamison’s.

The Rock Creek Bridge Today

The Rock Creek Bridge is still in largely unaltered condition. The bridge is truly picturesque, and was built to last. With its graceful form and timeless design, it is little wonder that this is a popular bridge. That said, it has seen some damage and very slight alteration over the years. There have obviously been some minor repairs done to the stone guard walls, which on both sides have small, unobtrusive slabs of concrete tucked away under the stones. This repair is very unobtrusive, and hardly detracts from the appearance of the structure. The most significant damage to the bridge, however, is waterline deterioration of the masonry. This waterline deterioration is a very common fault in limestone bridges.

On the Rock Creek Bridge, water-related damage has manifested itself in the form of discoloration and crumbling away of the stonework at the very base of the bridge, just visible in the first photo of this bridge above. A few years after the Rock Creek Bridge was built, Butler County started building stone arch bridges with concrete instead of stone at the waterline to cope with this all-too-common problem. Furthermore, many of the Butler County stone arch bridges that were not built with concrete at the waterline have been modified with the addition of concrete aprons around the foundations. This both protects the stone from direct water contact and prevents scour. The fact that the Rock Creek Bridge has been able to stand for over a century without needing repairs to its base is a testament to the durability of the stone used and the solidity of its foundation.

It is likely that some form of repair will be required on the Rock Creek Bridge in the future to stop the deterioration of the waterline stonework. Butler County obviously takes pride in its stone arch bridges, judging from how much care the county’s stone bridges have been receiving in recent years. For this reason, it seems hardly probable that the county will allow the waterline deterioration on the Rock Creek Bridge to continue to a point where the whole bridge suffers. Other than this noteworthy problem, the Rock Creek Bridge appears to be in good overall condition.

The Rock Creek Bridge on Satchell Creek Road near Latham is a favorite classic bridge in Butler County, Kansas. It was built by C. C. Jamison and stands as another testimony to his quality work.

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