As mentioned in previous posts, we have discovered nine small stone arch bridges in Cowley County, Kansas, which are not on the county’s stone arch bridge brochure. All these appear to be township culverts, and range in size from the small but stately Plum Creek Bridge to the diminutive and partly filled-in 182nd Road Culvert.
These are all relics of Dexter Township’s massive road improvement campaign. Some (like the Plum Creek Bridge) were contracted out to local builders. However, judging from newspaper accounts, Dexter Township Road trustees themselves over the years put in stone culverts.
Locations of the Dexter Stone Bridges
The old newspapers indicate that Dexter Township had a definite focus towards building roads on the east side of Dexter, and this may explain the fact that all 9 stone culverts we “discovered” in the township were on the east side of Dexter. In fact, with the exception of the second 251st Road culvert, all were found on the northeast side of Dexter. Below is a map showing the locations of these culverts, which is taken from our complete Cowley County stone arch bridge map shown on our Cowley County stone bridge page, the base of which is courtesy of the Kansas Department of Transportation. The numbers on the map correspond with the numbers on the bridges in the photo gallery above.
Characteristics of the Dexter Stone Bridges
Many of these culverts share similar characteristics. They feature small arches with stones that are not always radial, but which were roughly shaped and/or chosen to fit without being entirely dependent on mortar. The arch rings are often quite thin (we estimated an 8″ arch thickness at the crown for the 176th Road Culvert) and often built of fairly small stones. Sometimes they were built dry-laid with the mortar after words poured into all the joints, forming a thin coating of mortar on the underside of the arch barrel. The third 251st RoadCulvert is a unique culvert, as this structure has a complete stone facing, yet the middle of the arch appears to have been built with concrete, representing the township’s transition from the more labor-intensive stone to the more easily formed concrete. Stone was readily available and thus a very cost-effective material but the arch was always the largest difficulty for stone arch bridge builders, as it requires some skill to successfully turn. This was not, of course, a problem with concrete.
The Bridge North of Dexter
The bridge north of Dexter is a well-known stone arch bridge that is on the Cowley County bridge brochure, but deserves mention because it clearly has similar traits to the other Dexter Township culverts. Compare the photo of this bridge (which has been widened with a concrete structure built on top) with some of the other bridges in the photo gallery above.
It seems probable that the Bridge North of Dexter was built by the township and, indeed, the same people who built many of the culverts on the east side of Dexter.
Dexter Township built many stone arch bridges to achieve permanent roads in the township’s early days, and it is clear that the above-average build quality used paid off in the long run, for many of these structures remain in use on the roads.