After some research and traveling, we have found in Cowley County, Kansas, three small stone arch bridges on the roads near Dexter that do not appear at present on Cowley’s stone arch bridge brochure. Two of these small stone arch bridges (technically stone arch culverts) are somewhat reminiscent of the Stalter Bridge near Rock in northern Cowley County, while the third is small and somewhat crude in design. We have updated our list and map of the stone arch bridges of Cowley County, Kansas, to reflect these new discoveries.
Lew Welch Builds a Stone Arch Culvert
Of the three stone culverts we found near Dexter, we found one of them as a direct result of newspaper research. This culvert was mentioned in an item about a township board meeting found in the January 30, 1908, edition of the Dexter Tribune:
“….The contract for a stone arch culvert near J. W. Nichols’ was let to Lew Welch.”“Township Board Meeting,” The Dexter Tribune, January 30, 1908.
Finding the J. W. Nichols residence was easily accomplished with the aid of the 1905 atlas of Cowley County digitized by the Kansas Historical Society. This revealed that the stone culvert in question spanned Plum Creek on what is now 271st Road. The builder, Lew Welch, was from Dexter, and later on was appointed by Walter Sharp as foreman over the building of the triple-arch Pudden Bridge also near Dexter. (See Pudden Bridge (Esch’s Spur Bridge): History and Heritage.) A visit to the site of the stone bridge over Plum Creek built by Lew Welch confirmed that it still existed.
The Plum Creek Bridge is rather scenic, even though concrete curbs have been added to the top of the structure and scour prevention measures have had to be implemented.
A Chain of Stone Arch Culverts
The 1908 stone arch culvert was not the only one on 271st Road. It would appear that there was originally a sequence of three small stone arch culverts at this site. The northernmost was the 1908 culvert mentioned above. The middle one appears to have been replaced with a concrete pipe, but the third is still extant. This small stone arch bridge is quite picturesque, and spans a branch of Plum Creek.
A concrete pipe has also been added at the southernmost end of the structure.
The 182nd Road Culvert
This tiny stone culvert is located almost exactly halfway between 182nd’s intersections with 271st Road and 291st Road. We spotted this one on the way through heading for 271st Road after an unfruitful search for a different stone culvert on 182nd Road.
Unlike the two stone culverts on 271st Road mentioned above, the 182nd Road Culvert is small and overgrown, and remarkably crude in design. The joints in the arch do not necessarily follow radial lines, and the joints between the stones are not as tight, perhaps, as they could be. The south side of this culvert may have been widened with a more modern structure, but, as this side of the culvert was heavily overgrown at the time of our visit, we cannot say for certain. The culvert appears to be partially filled in as well.
Dexter Township Stone Culverts
Dexter Township built quite a few stone arch culverts, to judge from newspaper sources. Indeed, there still are many stone arch culverts in this area; a thorough investigation of the culverts on the township’s roads will be necessary to determine how many.