13 More Cowley County Stone Bridges

Cedar Township 337th Road Culvert(6)

We recently found no less than 13 small stone arch bridges (culverts, technically) in southeast Cowley County not found on Cowley’s stone arch bridge brochure. A dozen of these are in Cedar Township. The other one is in Grant Township, and was found during a quick three-mile pass through the township made on our way back west to see if Grant held any potential for more finds. Apparently it does.

The Culverts

The 13 culverts we found are all in the southeast corner of Cowley County. The exact locations are shown in this clipping from our Cowley County stone arch bridge map:

33—45 are the stone arch culverts we “discovered” recently. All save 45 are in Cedar Township.

The culverts are a unique lot, with widely flexible characteristics. Some of the arches are semi-corbelled, while others are well-formed, smoothly curved arches. Below are the photos of the bridges, labeled with their corresponding map number:

The culverts all appear to be in fairly good shape, save for numbers 39 and 40, which have partially collapsed on one side, probably due to a spandrel wall failure that took out part of the arch. This damage has received some makeshift repairs, and the culverts are probably stable for the foreseeable future.

A Unique, Flexible Local Style

One characteristic that really stands out with the Cedar Township stone arch culverts (all twelve of them) is the distinctive style. Yes, there is some variety in the quality of construction suggesting different builders may have been at work, but all of these stone culverts use the same basic design. Just as Walter Sharp used mortar to help make the angles between stones in his bridges, so in Cedar Township did the builders use concrete to help make the angles between the stones. The Grant Township culvert is of a similar style as the Cedar Township culverts.

A Cedar Township stone arch culvert. Truly stone, truly arch, yet see how concrete was heavily used to ensure maximum contact between stones and to help make the curve.

The culverts are built using many small stones. These stones were placed such that they naturally fit reasonably well, then concrete was used to make up the angles as needed. Judging from the concrete that lines the underside of the arch, the stones were either placed on end into the concrete, or the concrete was made very runny and poured in from the top. Incidentally, the construction used is very reminiscent of the two Otter Township stone arch culverts.

In all these culverts there is a wide array of shapes and sizes. Whereas most stone culverts are usually simple Roman arches, in Cedar Township many low-rise arches were used. Curiously, some of these culverts were made quite wide, while others had to be widened later. It is hard to put a date on these structures. At a glance, however, it would seem as though some of them are fairly early (pre 1920), judging by the width, while others, specifically those on the road into Oklahoma (#36 — #41), were built so wide that one must conclude they are newer. Incidentally, a wide bridge over Rock Creek on the same road, which obviously replaced a big concrete arch built there by Walter Sharp years earlier, dates from the early 1930s. Perhaps some of these stone arch culverts are also from the 1930s.

These bridges have been added to our list and map of Cowley County’s stone arch bridges.