Cowley County, Kansas, considered the stone arch bridge capital of the state, has numerous well-known stone arch bridges. However, it is clear that there are more waiting to be “discovered.” As mentioned in a previous post, we found nine stone arch bridges in Dexter Township that were not on the county’s stone arch bridge brochure. Recently, having uncovered four stone arch bridge references in The Udall News, we checked out the locations of these bridges. Of the four bridges referenced, two remained. Furthermore, while driving a gravel road north of Winfield, we discovered another stone arch bridge for which no newspaper references have turned up as yet.
The Newspaper References
There were two newspaper references that led us to Ninnescah Township looking for stone bridges. One was the letting for bids for a single stone bridge; it appears to no longer remain. The other was for another letting of bridge bids, this time for three stone bridges. Of these three bridges, two remain, both of which have been widened. Below is this second significant newspaper reference:
We, the township board of Ninnescah [T]ownship advertise for sealed bids to be mailed to [the] township clerk not later than 12 [p.?]m. June 8, 1908 for the erection of three bridges.
One bridge to be built 1/4 mile west of Seely; stone arch bridge 6 feet deep, 12 feet wide, 16 feet long; one bridge to be built 1 mile south 1 3/4 miles west of Udall, on section line, between 6 and 7, same dimensions; one bridge to be built on county line at southwest corner of section 7.
Said bridges to be built of best quality stone and cement. Board having right to reject any and all bids.
W. M. Stout Trustee
H. Burrow Treas
Andrew Miller Clerk.“Notice”, The Udall News, May 28, 1908.
The Crooked Creek Bridge
The Seely Bridge referenced above took a little research to find; first a 1905 plat book of Cowley County had to be consulted to find the town of Seely. This accomplished, it was determined that the bridge, if still extant, would span Crooked Creek on 51st Road. A visit to the site revealed that this gem of a stone arch bridge was not only still extant, but in superb condition.
The Crooked Creek Bridge, while technically a culvert in dimensions, is quite large. It has some minor concrete additions and has been widened on one side, rather like the well-known Thompson Bridge near Winfield. Unfortunately, we were unable at this time to find out who the builder was. The bridge is in outstanding condition, and features an excellent build quality. This bridge has been added to our list of Stone Arch Bridges of Cowley County, Kansas, map number 27. Please refer to this list and its accompanying map for the precise location of this bridge.
The County Line Bridge
Though the original portion of the section 7 Ninnescah Township county line bridge is on the west side of the bridge, facing Sumner County, the structure is actually a Cowley County one, having been erected by Ninnescah Township as shown in the newspaper article above. This bridge is, perhaps, a little smaller than the Crooked Creek Bridge. It also has been widened on one side.
This bridge obviously was built by the same builder as that of the Crooked Creek Bridge. It is in overall good condition, though there appears to have been some slipping of two arch stones at the joint between the old bridge and the newer widening.
At any rate, these two slipped stones do not appear to pose an imminent threat to the long-term stability of the bridge. There is no obvious dip in the road above the bridge, and concrete on the road surface suggests that if there was indeed such a weak spot it may have already been repaired with concrete. Overall, the structure appears to be in good shape, any slipped stones aside, and was built by a good mason. It has been added to our Cowley County stone arch bridge map and list, map number 28.
The Fairview Township 112th Road Culvert
This culvert was an unexpected find. On our way to Ninnescah Township, we spotted this large stone culvert on 112th Road in Fairview Township, just east of 112th’s crossing of Timber Creek.
The culvert has been widened with what appears to be old boiler sections. No newspaper references to this culvert have turned up as yet, and it is unclear who the builder was. The stones have seen little to no shaping, giving the culvert a distinctly crude appearance, yet the builder clearly knew how to “turn the arch” as a look through the culvert confirms.
One other noteworthy aspect of this culvert is how narrow the stone section is. Clearly, as was often the case with township culverts, the structure was built extremely narrow, and had to be widened for road safety reasons. This culvert has been added to our Cowley County stone arch bridge list, map number 26.
Township Stone Culverts
Ninnescah Township clearly merits a further search for stone bridges, for, during our journey to the Crooked Creek Bridge, we chanced upon a former stone arch bridge. This bridge, which had been widened on one side, utilized a sizable Roman arch, the top of which had obviously caved in, and had been rebuilt with concrete. We could not count this structure as a true stone arch bridge any longer. No references to it turned up in our initial search of The Udall News, the implication being there could very well be more stone arch bridges in this township not referenced by newspapers yet waiting to be found. In fact, to judge from appearances, the whole county may very well have numerous stone arch bridges that are as yet little-known. Though township stone bridges in the southern Kansas area were often too narrow to be safe for modern road traffic, it is beginning to seem as though Cowley County townships frequently opted to later widen the old stone structures rather than simply replace them.
Incidentally, the well-known Stalter Bridge near Rock appears to be a narrow township stone arch bridge that was widened essentially by eliminating the curbings. Based on tangential newspaper references and the general appearance of the bridge, it seems likely that the Stalter Bridge was built by the Butler County stone mason and bridge builder Abe Matheney. For those who want to go more in depth on this, compare the picture of the Stalter Bridge on our Cowley County stone arch bridge list (Cowley bridge/map number 16) with those of the Thomas Jefferson Smith Ford Bridge, which was known to have been built by Abe Matheney, on our Butler County stone arch bridge list (Butler bridge/map number 20).