Mystery Bridge Nr. 47: The Twin Bridges Over The Des Moines River In Minnesota

Sherman Bridge northwest of Windom. Photos taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next mystery bridge features two bridges and is part of the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River (for more, click here). This one takes us to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, located north of Jackson County, where the author grew up, and a main throughfare that crosses the river three times in the same county, County Road 15. The road enters the county from neighboring Murray County at Talcot Lake and after crossing the third Des Moines River bridge, terminates at US Hwy. 71 north of the county seat Windom.

Two of the Des Moines River crossings are featured here because they are literally identical. Both bridges feature Pratt half-hip through truss designs, with M-frame portal bracings and V-lace endposts. They are both approximately 80 feet long, despite the fact that the difference in total length between the two are only 40 feet apart. Both were built before or around 1900 but the information is very sketchy- sometimes “suspect” because of questionable data. The only difference is the location of the two- one is next to a golf course just outside of Windom, the other is only four miles to the west after the river bends to flow southeasterly.  To be specific as far as what bridges the author is talking about, here is what we know about the two bridges:

Side view of the Sherman Bridge. Photo courtesy of MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman Bridge :

Location: Des Moines River at the Golf Course, 0.3 miles west of County Road 13  at Sec. 21 Great Bend Twp.

Length: 141 feet total (main span: 80 feet)

Replaced: 1960? with a concrete slab bridge

Thompson Bridge Photo taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thompson Bridge

Location: Des Moines River, 0.4 miles north of County Road 40 at Sec. 14/15 Springfield Township.

Length: 95 feet total (77 feet main span)

Replaced: 1963 with a wooden trestle bridge

Questions remain open regarding the history of the two bridges. First and foremost is the question of the date of construction and the bridge builder. Judging by the features of the two spans, they were most likely built by the same company at about the same time. Some possible bridge builders that did business in Cottonwood County include Raymond and Campbell of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Hennepin Bridge Company of Minneapolis and Joliet Bridge Company of Joliet, Illinois. Judging by the markings of three bridges built in neighboring Jackson County during the time frame between 1880 and 1905, they appear to be the work of Raymond and Campbell, for its agent, George C. Wise had conducted business in the region between 1880 and 1910, both under the auspices of R & C as well as an independent contractor. He had built at least a dozen bridges in Jackson County and most likely did business in Cottonwood County. Yet more evidence in the form of newspaper articles and other information would be needed to confirm this. Joliet Bridge most likely built the Dempsey Bridge, located five miles northwest of Windom over the Des Moines River, but more information is needed to determine if it built other bridges at that time. The same applies to Hennepin Bridge Company, one of many bridge companies operated by members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders which featured the Hewett family, Commodore Jones and Alexander Bayne.

The other question deals with the replacement date for the two bridges- in particular, the Sherman Bridge. National Bridge Inventory database and even the history books have the bridge being replaced in 1960, yet according to records and photos provided by Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the bridge was still standing as of 1962. This leads to the question of whether the Sherman and the Thompson were replaced at the same time and if so, when. While working on a book on the bridges in neighboring Jackson County, an error was found in the NBI and state historical society records indicating a through truss bridge in Jackson being built in 1930, when city records pin-pointed its construction date of 1907, built by Joliet. This means that in the case of the two bridges, further information will need to be found as to when they were constructed and when they were replaced, in order to update all records to reflect on their history.

This is where you come in. If you have any information on the history of the Sherman and Thompson Bridges including photos of their existence and even replacement, the author would be much greatful if he could use them for the book project. Please send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Any information on the two bridges will be useful to complete their history. It is very rare to have twin bridges sharing the same road with little knowledge. Yet through your help, you can solve their mystery.  Looking forward to the information that is forthcoming.

Thompson Bridge. Photo taken in the 1940s by MnDOT