Barrs Ferry bridge crossed the Tombigbee River in Itawamba County, below Ironwood Bluff, and connected the communities of Smithville and Peaceful Valley. Originally, only a ferry existed at this point of the river. When water levels were low, river boats could only get as far north as Barrs Ferry, thus increasing the importance of this landing in southern Itawamba County for the county's commerce when boats couldn't make it to Ironwood Bluff, Van Buren or Fulton.
The landing at Barrs Ferry served both the town of Smithville as well as the citizens of southern Itawamba County. It was the responsibility of Itawamba County's board of supervisors (then known as the police board) to establish and maintain ferries, and they in turn authorized private citizens to operate the ferries, which were generally flat-bottomed and square-ended boats. Supposedly, it was a Major Barr who established the ferry and operated it until the 1880s, thus the name Barrs Ferry.
In 1919 Congress authorized construction of a bridge which was a wood-decked trestle bridge completed around 1922. This bridge apparently was used until about 1940, and for the following fifteen years, southern Itawamba County was cut off from Smithville, in Monroe County, until a new bridge was built around 1953.
The only way citizens of Peaceful Valley and Cardsville could get to Smithville was by way of the bridge at Ironwood Bluff, then down Highway 25 to Smithville. If the water was out across Ironwood Bluff, and it often was during rainy season, then folks had to go a bit further by crossing the bridge at Beans Ferry near Tilden. Having a bridge at Barrs Ferry reduced travel time on rough, gravel roads (even Highway 25 was gravel) by about twenty minutes or longer for the Pennington and Sloan families living at Peaceful Valley.
According to the newspaper article below, the idea for a new bridge across Barrs Ferry originated with the Smithville Lions Club, and six weeks later the bridge was in place! Supervisors from both counties got on board for the project along with citizens of Peaceful Valley and local lumber companies. Fessie Pennington, my grandfather, and his uncle, Joe Blake, collected money for nails and other incidental expenses. Fessie, Uncle Joe and others also cut logs and hauled them to the lumber mill for use on the bridge.
Following a dedication ceremony, Fessie held a fish fry for all participants and contributors.
You will have to click on the image of the newspaper clipping to get a better look, but these gentlemen are standing on the newly built Barrs Ferry bridge. Fessie is standing third from the right.
In the 1955 picture below, my mother is sprawled across the hood of a car that she and her sister, Jo Ann, shared. The car is parked on the Barrs Ferry bridge. Note the safety rails that are present in both pictures of the bridge.
Tomorrow: the rest of the story.