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The Old Iron Bridges
of Lavaca County

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
In 1891 the Hallettsville Herald called itself “the official organ of Lavaca County” and the paper took a lot of pride in keeping the residents of this area up to date on local news.

Recently, while researching the May 7, 1891, issue, I came upon some information that was quite fascinating to me – leave it to the world’s best history book, a newspaper, to provide little-known information about the past.

The article that caught my eye was a report concerning the old iron bridges located in Lavaca County. Calling them “old” at that time would have been incorrect, for they were not aged back then; fact is they were some of the most modern of structures. In 1891 the county had a total of 19 iron bridges; the paper referred to them as “substantial structures” and folks back then took great pride in their creation.
Old iron bridge in Lavaca County Texas
The old iron bridge located on County Road 172, over Rocky Creek, near Worthing in Lavaca County. It was removed around 1999.

Photo courtesy Friench Simpson Memorial Library (Hallettsville).
John Buchanan, county clerk at the time, prepared a report which was published in the Herald and it contained some very interesting information about the bridges. His report showed the location of the structures, the precincts they were in, and the cost to build each one. The paper reported, “This statement shows a progress in the facilitation of travel and commerce between the different sections of the county not surpassed by any other in South Texas.”

However, there were some complaints from folks in the northern section of the county who didn’t think the bridges were as equally distributed as they might have been. Buchanan’s report didn’t show any bridges in Precincts 6 or 7. According to the paper, Precinct 6 was a large tax-paying portion of the county.

We must remember that this newspaper article was written over 114 years ago. So far, I haven’t found anyone in the area who knows of all these bridges. But chances are some of the old timers have heard stories from their ancestors about the structures. Another interesting piece of information that the old article reveals is the existence of eight precincts back then, compared to the four we have today.
* * * * *
The print in the article was not very legible, but I am including here what I could read. As previously mentioned, Buchanan’s report included the locations and cost of construction for each bridge. In Precinct 1 the bridges were listed as follows: Hallettsville, Lavaca River, $3,800; Moulton crossing, Lavaca River, $2,608; Rocky crossing, Lavaca River, $3,040, and Hinkley crossing, Lavaca River, $2,276.

In Precincts 1 and 4 the report included: Neeld crossing, Rocky Creek, $2,900, and Perry crossing, Rocky Creek, $2,137. Also Precincts 1 and 3 showed another Rocky Creek crossing on the Hallettsville to Cuero route. The cost of that structure was $2,900. Again, some of the names of the crossings may be incorrect due to my inability to read a portion of the print in the old article.

Continuing, Precincts 1 and 8 showed a crossing on the Navidad for the Hallettsville to Sublime road, that bridge cost $2,755 to build. In Precinct 2 were the following: Navidad crossing, Hackberry to Schulenburg road, $2,391; Navidad crossing, Hallettsville to Schulenburg, $3,800, and Rocky Creek on the Hallettsville to Hackberry route, $1,500.

In Precinct 3, the following were listed: Ponton Creek, Shiner to Shiner, $2,384; Mustang Creek, Sweet Home to Flatonia, $1,733; Rocky Creek, Sweet Home to Flatonia, $3,690, and Rocky Creek near Shiner, $2,965. Precinct 4 showed these: Brown’s crossing, Lavaca River, $2,888, and Wallace Mill, Lavaca River, $6,500.

The last one listed was Precinct 5 and these were shown: Navidad crossing, Mixon Mill, $3,000, and the Hallettsville-Boxville Road, $4,091.

According to the report, the total cost to build the 19 bridges was $57,358.
* * * * *
Newspapers are a valuable resource when we seek to recover information from bygone days. Just as the old article from 1891 revealed the in-depth information about the iron bridges once located in Lavaca County. Perhaps the data from that aged story will jog a memory, and maybe more information about the structures will be forthcoming.

In this particular case not only did the story provide interesting data, the reporter indicated the obvious pride that Lavaca County took in maintaining its roads and creating new bridges to span the rivers and creeks. The article ended this way, “We doubt if any county in our state can boast of more bridges than Lavaca County.”
© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary >
January 19, 2006 Column
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