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Colbert's Bridge over Red River?

Ferry and bridge
A photograph, purportedly from 1898, depicting a bridge a Colbert's Ferry. Is it the MKT bridge? Colbert's wagon bridge?

The MKT bridge between Colbert, Indian Territory, and Denison, Texas as illustrated in "The Great South: New Route to the Gulf" in 1873.

Photographs and records of our region are scattered in repositories throughout the United States, and using them as references can be like finding the needle in the haystack. I may remember seeing a source, but WHERE did I find it? And WHY did I not save it? I am my own mystery.

Then, luck appeared.

Jack Robertson, who manages the highly recommended page Achille Kemp Hendrix Yuba Red River Bryan County Oklahoma History group (, posted this photo, which may depict the earliest graphic record of the first MKT bridge over the Red River just below Colbert's Ferry.

Years ago, when I initially came across this photograph, I dismissed it because of the bridge's design. Foolish decision, because I immediately began researching it and a few days later, came across an 1873 illustration of the bridge. I recognized that the photo might match the drawing, but from another angle. But then I couldn't find the source for the photograph again, and I hadn't save the photo, so I couldn't compare them. AAAARGH

When Jack shared this photograph again and tagged me, I was BAM this is what I've been looking for. But maybe not. Is this a railroad or a wagon bridge at Colbert's bridge across the Red River?

Let's compare the bridge in the illustration (1872) and the photograph (marked as originating in 1898, origin unknown):

The illustration appears to depict be a five span, iron truss bridge.

The photograph appears to be a four or five span, wooden covered arch bridge.

Here's what I know:

THE MKT bridge that was built as the first link into Texas from the north was in place in December of 1872. It was an iron bridge.

In 1875, Benjamin Colbert, who ran Colbert's Ferry, built his own wagon bridge. A newspaper item from 1874 described that the interned bridge "will be built of wood and iron combined, will be six hundred feet long, single wagon track, and supported by three stone piers besides the abutments." Unfortunately, the bridge was washed out by a flood the very next year, but a newspaper item from 1886 explained that a large wagon bridge, financed in part by Frank Colbert, "is soon to be built across Red River." I have not found evidence that this new bridge was completed.

Colbert resumed his ferry business, and his tolled wagon bridge that carried traffic on the Jefferson and King of trails highways" was in full operation by 1910 at the latest. This bridge became known as the infamous toll bridge that would sit at the center of the Red River Bridge War in 1932.

In other words, which crossing is depicted in this photograph? If this is Colbert's bridge, which bridge is it -- 1875 or after the flood?

Fill me in if you know!

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MC Toyer
MC Toyer
Jan 22

Jack is a prolific researcher and Facebook poster but seldom does he name or credit his sources. The supposed 1898 photograph is not any of the several configurations of the MKT Red River RR Bridge or Benjamin Colbert's ca 1875-1876 Wagon Bridge. That can be easily proven by the design and construction details and the supposed 1898 date. The 1873 New Century Magazine sketch is a correct depiction of the original 1872 Red River MKT Railroad bridge. It was built on cut stone piers but it was a four span wood post truss design, not an iron truss bridge. The railroad bridge was damaged in the 1876 flood but details on the repair and/or replacement are sketchy. The railroad bridge was complete…

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