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Scandalous Toll Bridges across the Red River


Newspaper photo
This 1929 map isn't a clean image because it's from a scanned newspaper. I lightened and contrasted it a bit because while not the clearest, it does reveal the toll bridges (and two free bridges) along the Texas/Oklahoma border that cross the Red River.

The map above was found in a June 8, 1929 article about the U.S. legislature wanting to eliminate toll bridges across the Red River (and other places) due to scandalous behavior. The article stems from Harlow's Weekly. Harlow's was a publication headquartered in Oklahoma City, dedicated to investigative journalism and in-depth coverage of current events in the early 20th century. This illuminating magazine collection is held at the Oklahoma Historical Society.


1. Between Denison (Grayson County, Texas) and Durant (Bryan County, Oklahoma) was the toll bridge at Colbert, home to a major ferry and a short-lived wagon bridge (opened in 1874 and flushed out in 1875 by a flood). The Colbert toll bridge became the site of the "Red River War" between Texas and Oklahoma in 1932. After the free highway bridge (US 75 & US 69) was erected, the corporation that owned the toll bridge sued Texas for a breach of the toll bridge contract. An injunction was placed on the Texas side of the free bridge, enforced by Texas Rangers, to persuade motorists to cross on the toll bridge. The state of Oklahoma activated the National Guard to keep the free bridge in use. Scandal!


2. The Woodville bridge (Marshall County) was lost when Lake Texoma was built and not replaced until the 1960s. Prior to that, citizens of Marshall County had to divert to Love or Bryan counties, or swim, to cross the river/lake. They could also take a ferry, but these were not modern nor popular, because they still had to pay for the privilege. Scandal!


3. Just north of Gainesville (Cooke County, Texas) was the toll bridge that replaced Sacra's Ferry. It linked Texans to Marietta (Love County, OK) via Thackerville. When the free bridge for US 77 (today's interstate 35) opened, the toll bridge operators tried to sue for an injunction, but an investigation by Texas legislators discovered that they were overcharging for tolls AND misreporting the amount of tolls they received (their contract stated that they could receive the difference between the toll charged AND the estimated tolls they could receive based on their traffic). Scandal!


4. A toll bridge stood between Ringgold (Montague County, Texas) and Terral (spelled Terrel on the map) in Jefferson County, Oklahoma. The operators were found to have also overcharged customers and the state. Scandal!


5. The last toll bridge between Texas and Oklahoma out west linked the oil fields at Grandfield (Tillman County, Oklahoma) and Burkburnett (Wichita County, Texas) via Devol (Cotton County, Oklahoma). In 1932, this bridge was bought of $625 by an oil company to convert it into a pipeline carrier. One hundred years ago, this area was one of the richest places in the world. There's a whole 'nother story on why these fields (and the oil wealth of SW Arkansas/NW Louisiana) have not brought sustained wealth along the Red River Valley. Scandal!


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