The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Iron Bridge Site Across Poteau

Gene McCluney of Van Buren provided me with several historic newspaper articles and also several maps of Fort Smith, as I have noted in earlier posts. These and other sources convinced me that the Beale Wagon Road Bridge across the Poteau was built “near” but not “at” Fort Smith by early 1860.

The Old Butterfield Trail ferry crossing site {the Bower Ferry, in Choctaw Nation; or Carnall Avenue into Fort Smith} was E. F. Beale’s proposed site, but the two newspaper clippings given below and other sources make it clear that the old Iron Bridge {two-span Whipple bowstring} was built across the Poteau totally in Indian Territory {Choctaw Nation}, almost certainly near the old Federal Mail Route to Fort Gibson {1855}. This route would go south from downtown Fort Smith down Towson Avenue and Texas Road and now southwest along US 271 & OK 9. The actual Poteau bridge crossing is believed to be just below the mouth of Cedar Creek in Le Flore County, OK about 1.5 miles west of the Arkansas state line, where the USGS 1890 survey of the area shows a crossing site to be located. See this site at:

This site is consistent with the descriptions given in the two 1870 Fort Smith newspaper articles Gene McCluney sent me. Relevant extractions from these articles and {my comments} are given below:

Fort Smith New Era, October 10, 1870

The Bridge Across Poteau.

“Just before the breaking out of the rebellion the Government built a fine iron bridge across Poteau some seven miles above {in this case South of} this place. This bridge was badly injured during the war, so as to have been out of use ever since. Our enterprising fellow citizen, Mr. J. H. Haymaker, has recently obtained from the Secretary of War all the interest of the Federal Government in the bridge, right of way, etc., and is about to rebuild the bridge, so important to the interests of this city.

He proposes, however, instead of rebuilding it at the former crossing, to do so on the reserve near this city at some advantageous point …

The Council, in accordance with a petition on the subject, has ordered that the sense of the people on the proposition should be taken at the general election next month. …”

Fort Smith, Ark., November 3rd, 1870 {published in the Herald on the 5th}

Editors Herald:

“Gents: -- This city, with commendable liberality, has voted a generous aid for railroad purposes, and we are now again called upon to vote a large amount {a bond of $10,000 @ 8% for 15 years} for the purposes of having an Iron Bridge across Poteau, at some point adjacent to the city. …

Mr. Haymaker has obtained from the {U.S.} government the right to place an Iron Bridge across Poteau at any point he may select within eight miles of the city: either near the city or at the old place. …

… {Tax Payer’s analysis} is sufficient to convince any person that he {Mr. Haymaker} is mistaken {his proposed Iron Bridge site at Bower Ferry near downtown Fort Smith is actually not good}; as in this case, the {approaching land} travel {across a new Iron Bridge at Mr. Bower’s ferry connecting at Carnall Avenue} would have to be though the bottom all the way, and {but} by the old Iron bridge route—there are only three miles of bottom; and that over a ridge or elevation in the bottom. From the old Iron Bridge to Fort Smith, is six and three-quarter miles, all a good ridge road, and all travel going North or to Fort Smith, would, as a matter of necessity, be compelled to pass through the city, as both roads terminate at the same place, enter Garrison Avenue at the alley by General Czarnikow’s or lower on the Avenue, if any opening could be had. …

Mr. Bowers now {in 1870, but widow Bowers owns the Indian land and perhaps Carnall Ave. ferry by the later 1888 US act authorizing the nearby E-Street bridge plan} has a good ferry at the mouth of Poteau, and crosses wagons for twenty-five cents, and there is not crossing enough at his ferry to pay one dollar per day, whilst by Mr. Ainsworth’s ferry, which is four miles further than by the old Iron Bridge route, and naturally a much worse route, all the travel passes …”

Tax Payer

Messages In This Thread

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Re: Beale Wagon Road Bridge Site in Ft. Smith Foun
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Iron Bridge Site Across Poteau
Re: Iron Bridge Site Across Poteau
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Re: James M. Messer, 37th Ark. Infantry??
Re: Iron Bridge Site Across Poteau