TWO HISTORIC BRIDGE SITES ON THE ELM FORK


Jan and Paul Lorrain


Introduction


The Trinity River had a profound effect on the history of Dallas. Flood control, navigation, and re-routing have been major concerns at various times. But crossing the river has been a concern since John Neely Bryant camped at a good ford in 1841. Soon thereafter in 1849 another ford was heavily used by people traveling to the west and is still known as California Crossing. Other crossings were soon established: the Cedar Springs Crossing, Minter Crossing, Record Crossing, Keenan Crossing, and the Trinity Mills Crossing. Some of the fords became ferries and many of the ferries were replaced by bridges. The Keenan, Record, and California Crossings are still in use. A crossing at Trinity Mills has been closed for many years but the remains of an early bridge are still in place. The remains of earlier bridges are also present at Keenan and Record crossings.  The remains of two other early Elm Fork bridges have recently been discovered. Their locations are shown in Figure 1 labeled as Ledbetter Bridge and Lewisville Bridge.


The Lewisville Bridge


David Box in 'Elm Fork Echos' of May 1993 described a tour from Dallas to Denton which had been published in the 1913 issue of the Dallas Auto Club tour guide. In reconstructing the route he concluded that west of Hebron the route utilized Highway 544 and then turned northwest to a bridge over the Elm Fork and entered Lewisville on College Street. A current topographic map of the area shows an unimproved road from College Street that crosses the river and joins Highway 121. We can see no evidence of that road today but the area east of the river is overgrown with grass and brush and the area to the west is part of the Lewisville landfill. However examining the rivers edge through the landfill we did discover two stone piers. They are shown in Figures 2 and 3.  


Both piers are constructed from quarried stone and mortar. The pier shown in Figure 1 is on the west bank of the river and about 50 feet from the river. Near the base it is about 18 feet wide and 6 feet thick, it is about 12 feet high with sloping sides. The other pier is on the east side of the river and at the waters edge as shown in Figure 2. The eastern pier has a rectangular base 17 feet wide and 10 feet thick. The sides slope gradually above the base. An earthen ramp and several wooden piles remain to the east of the pier.  


James Polser of Lewisville remembers the bridge from the forties or fifties on the road from Lewisville to McKinney. He recalls a bridge with a ramp at each end and with a steel superstructure


The Ledbetter Bridge


Today's maps indicate Beltline Road follows a straight path west from Carrollton and across the Elm Fork. Earlier maps however show the road makes several meanders before it reaches the river. At that point it turns south, crosses the river to meet what is now Ledbetter Drive, and then turns back north until it continues on its original track. We examined the river banks downstream from the current bridge and found the remains of wood pilings on the west side of the river about 25 feet from the waters edge No structures on the east bank were obvious from the river but the area was well covered with trees and brush. Searching through the under brush we ultimately discovered two caissons about 150 feet from the river and still erect. Much of the metal cylinders has been removed or corroded but the concrete fillings are still intact. Photographs of the pilings and caissons are shown in Figures 3.  


The Dobecka family has lived in the area for nearly a century. Pictures in the family's collections from the 1920's show a single lane bridge with wood deck and steel trusses. Johnny Dobecka also remembers the bridge from the 1940's.


Conclusions


The Ledbetter Bridge is typical of other historic bridges in the area. Bridges at Keenan's Crossing, Record Crossing, and Trinity Mills also used concrete filled steel cylinders for support. Similar piers were also used for the Old Alton Bridge on Hickory Creek in Denton County. These bridges were all constructed in the late 1800's so the Ledbetter Bridge probably dates from that time. The Lewisville Bridge is unique however. No other stone piers in the area are known, nor has a ramp been observed at any other bridge. The bridge was apparently in use in 1913 but its age is unknown. However in 1883 the Denton County Commissioner's Court authorized the building of eight iron bridges. Perhaps the Lewisville Bridge was one of the eight.

Ledbetter Bridge - Figure 3

Lewisville Bridge - Figure 2

Originally published in The Record, the magazine of the Dallas Archeological Society, April 2005.

Published here with permission from the author.

Coppell Historical Society ◊ P.O. Box 1871, Coppell, TX 75019 ◊ info@coppellhistoricalsociety.org

08/23/2015

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