Friday, April 10, 2009

Ironwood Bluff Bridge

The current iron bridge over the Old Tombigbee River at Ironwood Bluff dates back to 1922 and is one of our county's architectural treasures. A contract was awarded in October 1921 for the bridge's construction with a deadline given of June 1, 1922 for its completion. The Vincennes Bridge Company of Indiana was the lowest and best bidder (and only bidder!) with a grand sum of $11,640.

The bridge at Ironwood Bluff was authorized by a special act of Congress in February 1911 as part of legislation aimed at bridging and protecting navigable waters of the United States. Why was Ironwood Bluff selected as the site for the bridge in Itawamba County? I do not know and can only speculate. The bridge over the Tombigbee River at Fulton was finished in 1907, and I imagine that there was a push to locate a bridge in the southern part of the county. Such a bridge would provide the residents in southern Itawamba County and northern Monroe County better access to the emerging markets as well as the railroad in Tupelo.

Ironwood Bluff was a community established along the Tombigbee River in the days before there were roads and settlers depended upon the river for travel and commerce. Although Ironwood Bluff never really developed into an important trade center like its northern counterpart, Van Buren, the area was once home to several large farms and even had a boarding school located there, Henry Stegall's "Ironwood Bluff Young Ladies Boarding School." William Price Standifer built a large antebellum mansion at Ironwood Bluff.

It is believed that the present bridge over the Old Tombigbee River at Ironwood Bluff is the only bridge ever built at the site. This point in the river was not very deep and thus easily forded. If there was ever a ferry in existence, it probably wasn't a regular one.

View of bridge from the north

Underneath bridge, view from northeast shore

South side of bridge, eastern approach

View of truss from eastern end

The photographs above were found on the Library of Congress website and are part of the Historic American Engineering Record collection at the Library of Congress. [Bridges of the Upper Tombigbee River Valley, Tombigbee Valley vicinity; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER MS, 44-COLUM.V,3] The photographs were noted to have been taken by Sarcone Photograph, Columbus, Miss., September 1978.


Don Dulaney said...

Mona, You snuck this one in on me! Awesome pics!!! I mean Awesome! I am jealous!! Loved the post!

Mona Robinson Mills said...

Thanks, Don. Have you ever seen this bridge? Before the waterway came through, we traveled to Peaceful Valley via the bridge at Beans Ferry. During rainy season however, water over the roads at Beans Ferry prevented us from taking that route and necessitated the longer route to Ironwood Bluff where we would cross the river over this iron bridge. If the flooding was particularly bad, we had to go the even-longer route around by Frog Level or through the roads by the Fire Tower.