One characteristic of masonry structures in general, and stone arch bridges specifically, is the fact that the person(s) who built the bridge inevitably left behind a hallmark. Not just any and all plaques, but the workmanship itself is often telltale. Each builder has his own method, and, in the case of bridge contractors, the contracting company itself had its own method.
Walter Sharp, who built many bridges in Kansas, generally used large, chunky blocks of stone, not necessarily all even in size, and tended to build daring-looking spans with relatively thin arch rings. The outer ring of arches he built is usually more or less precision cut, with the arch stones tending to be almost squarish in shape. It is obvious that the rest of the masonry was not precision cut for each place so much as just squared off and mortared in its position.
Jerry Hammond, who built a few bridges in Cowley County, Kansas, (as well as, apparently, Oklahoma) appears to have stuck with smaller spans with smaller stones. Jerry Hammond seemed to use liberal doses of mortar. On the Thompson Bridge, which he built, the arch ring faces are leveled off and do not use precision cut stones; instead, mortar and stone chips make the angles even on the arch face. The Stewart Bridge, the only other bridge of his remaining in Cowley, is also a small span, but he did not take as much time trimming the stones. In both cases, he seems to have relied on stone chips extensively to help shim up stones.
C. C. Jamison
C. C. Jamison built numerous bridges in Butler County, Kansas. He seemed to favor the Roman arch as a general rule, though not always. The masonry on his bridges is inevitably an excellent fit, usually consisting of random-sized stones that are trimmed precisely to fit well against their neighbors. At a glance, some of his bridges may resemble Walter Sharp’s work; however, a closer look reveals the stones are better trimmed.
Curiously, the arch rings on some of his bridges consist of rectangular blocks with the long side used along the arch ring; typically rectangular stones are placed on end in most stone arch bridge construction, which Jamison did in some cases. The choice was likely determined by the nature of the local stones being used.
C. C. Jamison’s workmanship is inevitably outstanding, which may explain why so many of his bridges are still in good shape and still being used.
Abe Matheney built a few bridges in southeastern Kansas. His methods seem somewhere between Walter Sharp’s and C. C. Jamison’s. Abe Matheney seems to have favored more rounded arches. His arch stones are often squarish, and sometimes seem somewhat loosely fitted. Overall, his bridges seem to indicate that he did not spend much time cutting the stones so much as simply placing them so they fit, even if somewhat loosely.
These four builders represent just a few of the stone arch bridge builders in Kansas, let alone the country, yet they serve to show how each mason has his own style. After studying many bridges in an area with confirmed, known builders, one can often form a guess as to the person behind other bridges of an unknown origin in the area.