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PACKSADDLE BRIDGE
1929-1985

     "Dedicated to future generations to travel, and to commerce.....", by Gov. William J. Hollaway on October 29th, 1930.

     In 1929, the decision was made to construct a three-quarter-mile-long (3,810 ft.) bridge across the South Canadian River on Oklahoma Highway 34, now US. Highway 283, between Ellis and Roger Mills Counties.

     This construction was significant architecturally and historically. It ended the barrier that made crossing the great South Canadian River dangerous and laboriously slow. One either crossed it or traveled a 100 mile detour.

     Crossing the river was a major decision in dividing the county in the early days. With the county seat at Ioland, then at Grand, people south of the river had great difficulty getting to the court house. The Canadian River, could at times, have rampaging walls of water two to three feet high, making river crossing dangerous, if not impossible. Areas of quicksand in the river bed created problems as well.

Packsaddle Bridge

(Taken from Roger Mills County, looking into Ellis County)

     The "Through Truss" bridge, the longest in the state, consisted of 26 steel trusses, each 144 feet long. These rested on 25 piers and two abuttments, all of concrete. The original decking was all wood, on 6 X 14 inch stringers. Some 250,000 board feet of creosoted timber went into it, along with 200,000 6-penny nails, 15,800 10-pennies, and 6,000 20-pennies.

     In 1962, a lightweight concrete deck replaced the wood. The cost of this project was $320,000.00. The local construction engineer was Mr. Charles Vernon WORD of Arnett, Oklahoma.

     Between 5,000 and 6,000 interested citizens were on hand for the celebration held on the north end of the bridge in October, 1930. Another account says it was estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 people attended the dedication ceremony. Lola Mariam Word, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. V. Word, broke a bottle of Coca-Cola on the steel of the bridge at 2:45 p.m. on Oct 29, 1930.

     Governor W. J. Holloway formally dedicated the bridge which formed one of the final links of an International Highway stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

     Music for the festivities was provided by the Gage, Shattuck, Sayre, and Elk City Bands. In addition to the governor, the ceremonies were attended by several other dignitaries. Delegations were present from every town in Western Oklahoma for more than 100 miles.



Packsaddle Bridge

(Taken on the north side of the river looking east-southeast into Roger Mills County)

     The historic bridge's 20-foot width and 15'6" vertical clearance became inadequate for modern traffic and was replaced by the new reinforced concrete Mark "Buzz" Bradshaw Packsaddle Bridge on June 7th, 1985.

     In contrast to the thousands attending the ceremonies for the opening of the original bridge in 1930, the formal dedication of the newly built bridge, which took place June 7, 1985, was attended by over 100 people . The new bridge was dedicated to former Representative Mark Bradshaw, who had put together a bill to rebuild the bridge, but the proposal was dropped after his death.

     Rep. Rollin Reemer and Sen. Tim Leonard put it the bill back together after a portion of the bridge collapsed in 1983. Both were involved in the dedication ceremonies

     Governor George Nigh was on hand for the dedication. Bradshaws two sons, Jason, 15, and Jack, 8, assisted in the ribbon cutting. One-fifth of the extra penny gas tax went to finance the new bridge.

The old bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Taken at the dedication ceremony of the new bridge.
Photo Credit: Haskell MOSELEY
The Ellis County Historical Society has written ownership of these photos for reprinting.
Submitted by: Ellis County Historical Society

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