Carl Brown of Lafayette, IN rescued the open letter bridge manufacturers sign from a local junkyard in Monticello, White County, Indiana shortly after the Oakdale Dam Bridge was demolished in 1984. Carl has provided a history of the bridge.

Diana Lynn Morrison Jones of Austin, TX, great-great granddaughter of the founder and owner of Columbia Bridge Works, has provided a company history.

Oakdale Dam Bridge

In 1833, Anthony Sheets constructed a sawmill on the Tippecanoe River in the southwest corner of Jefferson Township, Carroll County, Indiana. It was known as Sheets Mill  and was later expanded to handle the grinding of corn and wheat. An 1863 map of the County shows the two mills and two taverns at this site. In 1882 the Mill changed hands and was renamed the Oakdale Mill (often referred to as the Oakendale Mill).

In September 1888, the Carroll County Commissioners authorized the construction of a wrought iron bridge over the Tippecanoe River at “Sheets Mill“ ( currently county road 725 N ) The contract for the superstructure was awarded to the Columbia Bridge Works, Dayton, Ohio for a contract price of  $9,129.80, one-half payable 12 Jan 1988 and the remainder on completion and over time with interest. Representing the contractor was Craven Smith, Engineer and Superintendent. The bridge was two spans totaling approximately 190 to 200 feet, Pratt Truss construction.  The County Commissioners certified the contract completed on 5 March 1888.

In 1921 a Hydroelectric dam was built at the site of Sheets Mill, just above the bridge. This dam formed Lake Freeman and the bridge was thereafter referred to as the Oakdale Dam Bridge.

On 23 April 1984 the first span of the iron bridge was pulled down to prepare for a new concrete bridge at this site. The remaining span was demolished on 18 May 1984.  Both spans were dropped into the Tippecanoe River, cut up, and hauled away for scrap.

One interesting note comes from a 24 July, 1890 local paper. Apparently The Columbia company had won a contract in September 1889 for another bridge over the Tippecanoe connecting White and Carroll Counties at the site of the “Paper Mill” ( now known as the Tioga Bridge).   In the 1890 article it was reported that the contract had been let again to the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, with the following  quotations. “ The commissioners of White and Carroll Counties were in joint session here Tuesday to receive bids again for the superstructure of the paper mill bridge, the contract for which had once been let to the Columbia Bridge Co and afterwards thrown up by that concern”  “Even the flunking Columbia was there with a new name and a new bid some $2000 higher than its former bid.” ($13,837.50).

Sources for Oakdale Dam Bridge history
1) Delphi Journal, 19 Sep 1889.
2) Monticello Herald . 24 Jul, 1890
3) Minutes of meetings, Carroll County commissioners, Book 15, p60, 136, 147,& 502, Sep 1887 thru Mar 1888.
4) Carroll Co Postal History, Mayhill 1954 ( Carroll Co Historical Museum)
5) Monticello Herald-Journal, Apr 23 and May 19, 1984

Columbia Bridge Works

David H. Morrison founded Columbia Bridge Works in 1852.  The son of Thomas Morrison and Harriet (Humfreville) Morrison, he was born in 1817, died in 1882 and had four sons who worked with him in the bridge building business:  Charles C. Morrison, James H.S. Morrison, Julius C. Morrison, and Samuel R. Morrison.

A self-taught man, his Obit "Dayton Daily Herald, Sat. July 22, 1882 states he began life as a poor boy, and few education advantages." However, we know from historians that young David learned about construction from his father, Thomas Morrison, who was one of the pioneer contractors in Dayton, Ohio and a builder of churches, houses and factories. Also at the Dayton Academy, David who signed his name D. H. Morrison studied under E. E. Barney, the founder of Barney & Smith Car Works. As well, he was student of public works projects, became a rodman, surveyor and assistant engineer of the Miami & Erie Canal Route. He was an Ohio Civil Engineer and the first city engineer of Dayton, Ohio 1848. And, in 1851, he built the first iron bridge west of the Allegheny Mountains.

He was adept at using all the standard bridge materials of the age:  wood, stone, cast iron, wrought iron and combination structures of both iron and wood. He developed a wide variety of designs including arches, bowstrings, trusses, suspension bridges and movable spans.  He designed and patented many of his bridges and his workshop was located in Dayton, Ohio.  One of his earliest designs was a wooden truss devised in 1852 and called the “D. H. Morrison Truss Bridge.” And among his many patents were the “Morrison Patented Cast and Wrought Iron Low Truss Bridge” 1857, “Morrison Patented Wrought Iron Arch Truss Bridge” 1867 and renewed 1871, “Morrison Patent Suspension Truss Bridge” 1859, “Morrison Patented Wrought Iron Double and Triple Quadrilateral Truss Bridge”.  Also in 1857, he designed and built a suspension bridge. Washington Roebling, John’s son, did some suspension bridge design work for David H. Morrison early in the 1870’s. The Historic American Engineer Record (HAER) lists David H. Morrison as “one of the most important bridge engineers and manufacturers in 19th century Ohio.”

Liver cancer took David H. Morrison’s life on July 21, 1882; and in his will and codicil, David H. Morrison named three sons: Charles Carroll Morrison, Julius Curtis Morrison and Samuel Robert Morrison to succeed to his business known as the Columbia Bridge Works.  The name “Columbia Bridge Works” was changed to “Columbia Bridge Company.”

It is believed (not verified) that Columbia Bridge Works was absorbed by Andrew Carnegie and merged into his Keystone Bridge Co. The Keystone Bridge Co. was one of the 28 bridge fabrication and construction companies combined in 1900 by J.P. Morgan to form the American Bridge Company (AB). AB became a subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation in 1901 and remained so until 1987 when it became privately owned.

It is said that the symbol of Columbia Bridge Works stood for well-constructed, well- proportioned bridges that served their users well for generations. Some of CBW’s bridges are a part of the Historic American Engineering Record and others are restored and in use today. The Carmel Achor Bridge completed in 1882, spanning the north fork of Little Beaver Creek in Columbiana County, Ohio is used by light vehicular traffic.  The Gallman Road Bridge completed in 1887, has been relocated to the pedestrian trail over Raccoon Creek in Newark, Ohio.  The Germantown Covered Bridge completed in 1865, spanning Little Twin Creek in Montgomery County, Ohio is restored and used for foot traffic.  It is a combination wood and iron rigid suspension truss bridge and an early work of David H. Morrison that has been in use for 6 generations.

Columbia Bridge Company history provided by Diana Lynn Morrison Jones, great-great granddaughter of David H. Morrison who was founder and owner of Columbia Bridge Works, Dayton, Ohio.