Monthly Archives: March 2020

Beale Iron Bridges in Oklahoma 1859

This view is looking south up the creek. The metal pieces can be seen at the bottom center of the photo along the west bank of the Creek.
To the right center on the west bank there are, what looks like pieces of old metal piled up. This looks like bridge parts and may be the remains of the old Beale Iron Bridge at Red Bank Creek . Some pieces are bent some are curved one piece is shaped like the bow part of the bridge. To the left center of the photo there appears to be an abutment on the west bank of the creek. There is a pole sticking out of the water in front of the abutment which would have been used to run a cable from one side of the creek to the other. Also not pictured here, but will be posted soon is the evidence of a large construction camp that housed workers and others serving as storage sites. This site is located on the southeast bank of the river. Comments are welcome concerning this find. Jack Beale Smith
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Beale Iron Bridges in Oklahoma 1859-60

Sorry for the fact that I did not mention that Kyle Burch took the photos of the Bridge sign and of the abutments at Red Bank Creek.

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Beale Iron Bridges in Oklahoma 1859

In response to Kyle Burch of Spiro Oklahoma on my Beale Wagon Road Facebook site of January,27, 2020 where he mentioned finding a sign plate that read Beale, J. W. Murphy’s Pt. 59 Whipple Bridge. This absolutely the best evidence found to verify that six iron bridges were built in Indian Territory, Oklahoma during the years 1859-60. You could call this the holy grail of Historic Archaeology. Bridge signs identify the builder of the bridge, and the biggest surprise to me Jack Beale Smith is the fact that Lt. Beale’s name is on the sign. This tells the reader or viewer that Lt. Edward F. Beale was responsible for the building of the iron bridges that were built on the Beale Wagon Road that went from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Los Angeles, California. It was the first federally funded interstate east-west highway built in the American Southwest. Photo by Kyle Burch Also the Red Bank Creek Abutment photo was taken by Mr. Burch.
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Beale Bridges in Oklahoma 1859

Six iron bridges were built in Indian Territory during the years 1859-60. Cut stone abutments were constructed on each side of the stream beds for the bridge frames to be placed on. The bridge types were the Square Whipple bowstring bridge. The design for this bridge was acquired by J. W. Murphey, civil engineer for the Pencoyd Iron Works in Pencoyd, Pa. The owners were two brothers A.&P. Roberts. Most of the bridges were destroyed during the Civil War by Confederate Troops, to slow down the movement of Union Troops. A diligent search for the remains of these abutments by myself and others. A few years ago we located the Beale Abutments for the Little River Bridge located south of Holdenville. The photos below shows what the abutments look like.

A 1909 bridge sitting on 1859 Beale abutments on an old channel of Little River
In recent moths discovery of one of the Beale abutments was discovered on Red Bank Creek located five miles west of Spiro, Oklahoma by Kyle Kurth of that community. Part of the abutment has fallen in the creek as a result of a tree growing in the middle of the abutments. Also part of the abutment is covered by roots and brush on the creek bank. Note how the cut stone matches the Little River Beale abutments of 1859. The bridge over Red Bank Creek was the first completed of the six bridges.
Above is what the Whipple Bowstring iron bridge looked like that were placed in Oklahoma in 1859. More posts to come.
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