Observations of Beale’s Iron Bridge Across Sans Bois Creek
1863. Jack Beale Smith had produced a great display and eyewitness commentary on the Civil War Battle of “Iron Bridge Oklahoma” at:
1934. Hall of Fame Oklahoma Historian Grant Foreman notes:
“Part of the iron frame of this bridge is still to be seen in the waters of Sans Bois Creek, and the place acquired the name that appears on modern maps as “Iron Bridge.” It is a few miles (9 miles) east of the present Stigler, Oklahoma."
Survey of A Wagon Road from Fort Smith to the Colorado River. Grant Foreman, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 1934. See footnotes 8 (for Redbank Creek) and 9 (for Sans Bois Creek), both on page 77 of OSU’s digital library for the Chronicles of Oklahoma. See the website:
2020. Kyle Burch, born and raised in Stigler, Oklahoma, only nine miles from the Iron Bridge across the Sans Bois and who now lives 21 miles east of the bridge in Spiro, e-mailed me the following:
On Monday, March 23, 2020, 01:36:45 PM CDT, Kyle Burch wrote:
“My uncle probably knows the Sans Bois better than any man currently alive. He was born and raised on the banks of the Sans Bois and he/his family have owned property on the eastern side of Sans Bois Creek that adjoins the Corps of Engineer land (for Kerr Lake on the Arkansas) for more than his entire life (he is 70). He was a trapper back in the 70's-80's as well as having one of the largest private Native artifact collections probably in existence. I say these things because he has spent literally thousands of hours searching up and down Sans Bois Creek, even prior to Kerr Lake being built. I went to see him a couple weeks ago knowing that if anyone could give a first-hand account of seeing the Iron Bridge’s abutments or metal, he would be the one. Keeping also in mind that when Indian Artifact hunting around bodies of water, the prime time to do so is when the water has receded. Thus, you might say, he has spent nearly a lifetime waiting on low water.
I asked him if he knew where any old iron bridges crossing the Sans Bois might be. He immediately said “Yes” but quickly said it was now underwater due to Kerr Lake. My uncle also confirmed that he had seen hand stone-cut abutments there. I said “if I showed you a map of the area, could you point to where you remember the bridge to be?” I pulled up Google Earth (keeping in mind that I had not shared with him the supposed location). Within seconds he pointed to the place where he remembered it to be. It turns out it was almost exactly where your GPS coordinates are listed as the bridge site.”
Be advised that Beale's small Otter Creek (Little Sans Bois) iron bridge lay only about two miles due east of
Big Sans Bois. And it is not in Kerr Lake. I hope someone will find either or both soon, but BE SAFE!