At the start of the Civil War, there had been several brand new Whipple Cast & Wrought Iron Bowstring Arch bridges built in Indian Territory under a special federal contract. This work was a part of a federal push to build an efficient wagon road from Fort Smith, Arkansas to California. Lt. E. F. Beale’s federal survey of 1858 along several immigrant trails to California had shown that the most efficient wagon road followed the 35th parallel, the shortest route that provided abundant water, grass and timber. Wooden bridges were built on the preferred route during Beal’s survey with more permanent iron bridges proposed for a later contract on six of the wetter streams crossed in Indian Territory.
When this road was made operational, it became known as the Beale Wagon Road to the Pacific. In Indian Territory the road went west from Fort Smith thru Spiro-Stigler-Whitefield-Eufaula-Hanna-Edwards Trading Post, and therefrom on to California via Santa Fe, New Mexico. None of the Oklahoma towns existed at the time. All of the bridges were soon destroyed during the Civil War.
The American Railroad Journal, Railroad Locomotives and Cars, Vol. 32. P. 747 (11-2-1859) provides the most succinct and complete listing of the iron bridges Beale proposed building on the Plains. The six bridges going west from Fort Smith were:
1. Poteau River near Fort Smith (two-span)
2. Red Bank Creek, west of Skullyville
3. Little Sans Bois Creek
4. Big Sans Bois Creek
5. Longtown, or Frenchman’s Creek, and
6. Little River in Creek Nation, at Edwards Trading Post
All but the last were located in the Choctaw Nation.
The Journal of the Franklin Institute, Volumes. 97-98, p. 305, states that the Squire Whipple bowstring arch design with cast- and wrought-iron members was used to build seven bridge assemblies in Philadelphia that could be easily disassembled for shipping and reassembled in the field. Four had a span of 100 feet, and three of 50 feet. Two of the four 100-foot spans were used to cross the wide Poteau River (connecting to Carnall Avenue in Fort Smith). Big San Bois (near Iron Bridge) and Little River at Edwards Trading Post got the remaining two 100-foot spans. The three 50-foot spans must have gone to the smaller stream crossings of Red Bank, Little Sans Bois, and Longtown Creeks.
Several references describe the bridge construction activity and progress being made during October 1859. For example, the biography of Edward Fitzgerald Beale in “The Journey along the 35th Parallel,” Chapter 13, p. 253 (available in Google Books) on 10-15-1859 states: “The other streams between Fort Smith and Little River are crossed with substantial iron bridges sent out from Philadelphia. Mr. Edwards (Henry B. Edwards, Chester, PA, Beale’s friend and construction superintendent) has his men now engaged upon the double-span bridge over the Poteau, which will be completed ere long.” The Wanderer, a correspondent with the Philadelphia Press, writing from IT in October 1859, states: “The abutments of all the bridges are complete, except for the Poteau. Red Bank bridge is complete, and that of Little River will be in a few days, when the wooden flooring has been put down.”
The Poteau and Little River Beale bridges have been described by Gene McCluney and Jack Beale Smith, in Bridgehunter. See the former at https://bridgehunter.com/ar/sebastian/poteau-river-iron/
Thanks for your support. I trust you found this subject historically informative. I hope someone will locate Winchester Mountain and find out what happened to the Little Sans Bois and Longtown bridges.