More than nostalgic � it was historical

More than nostalgic â�?�? it was historical Writer at Large By: Bob Karolevitz We took a notstalgic trip over the Missouri River on the â�?�?agingâ�? Merdian Bridge before the barricades were put up on each end to stop automobile traffic from using it while a new span was being built. After all, I had written reams of copy about the old bridge and the disruptive plans to bring it to reality. At first it was to be a railroad crossing to connect with a transcontinental line in Nebraska. The Yankton, Norfolk & Southwestern Railway was created with John T. M. Pierce as its president. Financing was to come from Great Britain, but when Argentina couldnâ�?�?t (or wouldnâ�?�?t) pay interest on its debts to a British firm, that source disappeared. A couple of years later â�?�? in 1891 â�?�? towns which would be served by a rail line across the river raised enough money, and J. T. M. Pierce went back to England on behalf of the project â�?�? again with no success. Then the Winnipeg, Yankton & Gulf Railroad showed up with plans to cross the river, but the ambitious plans were scuttled by the Panic of 1893. Seven years later J. S. Meckling, the railroad baron (after whom the town of Meckling was named) announced that the Yankton-Norfolk was revised, and the bridge would be built forthwith. It never was! In 1909, an engineer and a contractor appeared on the scene and promised that a bridge would be erected â�?�?at last.â�? An order for several thousand feet of rope was submitted and 19 carloads of big timber arrived to make a trestle bridge. Again the engineer and the contactor disappeared, leaving the ties and assorted lumber as a souvenir of their visit. A New York financier apparently died of acute indigestion after promising South Dakota representatives that he had the money and was ready to participate in the venture. In 1912, a London firm agreed that the Winnipeg line was worth supporting and a bridge over the Missouri was something they would finance. But by this time the local people had had enough of the absentee donors and a county bridge company was formed, Deloss B. Gurney was named president and the necessary funds were raised locally. There were skeptics when the Meridian Highway Bridge Company was incorporated in 1919, but construction started a year later. I write this to show that the old bridge didnâ�?�?t happen overnight. Gurney said he would serve for three months â�?�? and he was still in a leadership role years later. Our trip across the Meridian Highway Bridge was more than nostalgic â�?�? it was historical! �?© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz

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