Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 2, May, 1993 Page: 97
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Historical Atlas of Columbus
Bridging the Colorado
Columbus grew around the ferry established by William B. Dewees at
Dewees' Crossing in the mid 1830s. Throughout its early history, ferries operated at
the original site of Dewees' and at a site on the north side of town. It was not until 1884,
when the state gave them means to do so, that the county undertook to provide free
passage across the river into its seat of government by building bridges.
Two earlier bridges into Columbus had been built. The first, the railroad
bridge on the east side of town, was opened on November 10, 1867. The first wagon
bridge across the Colorado River at Columbus was built less than a decade later, in 1875,
by the Columbus Iron Bridge Company. The wagon bridge entered Columbus at the north
end of Prairie Street. It, however, was not free. The company recouped its investment
by charging tolls.
On February 4, 1884, the state legislature passed an act allowing counties
to issue bonds and levy taxes to pay for the construction of bridges. Three months later,
on May 15, Colorado County did so. The commissioners court voted that "there shall
be erected constructed or otherwise provided two free public bridges across the
Colorado River at or near the city of Columbus." They appointed two committees, one
to issue the bonds and to attempt to purchase the existing north bridge from the
Columbus Bridge Company, the other to recommend a location for the east bridge. On
June 24, the court approved the recommended location of the east bridge; it would enter
Columbus at a point just north of Spring Street. Two days later, the court purchased
the north bridge.41
They had owned it for just fifteen years when, on June 11, 1899, a flood
destroyed it. The commissioners court immediately planned to replace it. On July 5,
the court accepted a plan for a new bridge. Nine companies filed bids to construct the
bridge, but the court rejected all nine as too high. On November 18, after rejecting seven
more bids to build the bridge according to the previously-accepted plan, the court
accepted one of seven bids to build a bridge of lesser design. The new north bridge was
completed in August 1900. In the interim, the county had operated a ferry at the site,
paying the salary of the ferry man and all expenses with county funds.42
As automobiles replaced horses and wagons, the two Columbus bridges
became obsolete. Their inadequacy was dramatically demonstrated on February 15,
1928, when the floor of the east bridge collapsed under the weight of a heavy tractor.
The tractor and a grader it was pulling crashed to the ground below, killing one man. The
following October, a mass meeting at the courthouse kicked off a campaign to improve
all the roads in the county and to build several new bridges, including two at Columbus.
The campaign met heavy resistance from the voters in the west end of the county, and
encountered legal and other obstacles. As a result, Columbus did not get a new bridge
until 1932. That bridge, constructed by the state to replace the existing east bridge, was
at the east end of Walnut Street. It opened in September 1932.43
41 See Commissioners Court Minute Book 2, pp. 319-322, 331, 353, Deed Book 1, pp. 366-367,
Office of the County Clerk, Colorado County, Texas.
42 See The Colorado Citizen, June 15, 1899, and Commissioners Court Minute Book 7, pp. 165-
166, 168, 171-172, 173, 198-200, 217-218, and 312, Office of the County Clerk, Colorado County, Texas.
43 See The Colorado County Citizen, February 16, 1928, October 11, 1928, October 18, 1928,
November 14, 1929, June 18, 1931, July 16, 1931, July 23, 1931, October 1, 1931, August 11, 1932,
September 22, 1932.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 2, May, 1993, periodical, May 1993; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151388/m1/45/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.