38°4’6” N, 94°13’54”W
The Papinville Marais des Cygnes River Bridge, which carries Old County Road 648 over the Marais Des Cygnes River in Papinville, Bates County, Missouri, was constructed in 1884 and is the only remaining nineteenth-century pinned Pratt through-truss in Bates County. As one of Bates County’s two oldest vehicular bridges, the Papinville Bridge is historically noteworthy as an intact and extremely well documented remnant of early highway transportation history. Among the earliest of all pinned Pratt through trusses statewide, the bridge is representative as a late nineteenth-century example of pinned truss construction.
The pinned Pratt was easily the most common bridge type erected in Missouri from the 1870’s through 1910. Through trusses, in both pin-connected and rigid connect form, constitute the single most technologically significant structural type among Missouri’s vehicular bridges. With exception of the Eads Bridge, all of the Missouri and Mississippi River structures consist of long span through trusses. Through trusses, as a group, comprise the longest spans in the state, and, for most counties, they are the most substantial bridges erected.
The Marais des Cygnes (or “marshes of the swans”) River flows across the southwest corner of Bates County and unites with the Little Osage near Papinville, forming the Big Osage River that, together with the Marais des Cygnes, forms the boundary between Vernon and Bates Counties. In 1821, missionaries from New York settled the first community in Bates County, Harmony Mission, to serve as a school for Native Americans, in 1821. In 1841, Bates County separated from Van Buren County and In 1847, Papinville became the county seat because of its close proximity to the river. A brick courthouse was completed in 1855. In the same year, county lines were again redrawn and the southern part of Bates County became Vernon County. This change left Papinville at the southern edge of Bates County. Despite objections by Papinville citizens, the county seat was to be moved to Butler in 1856 because of that town’s central location within the redrawn county boundary.
In an attempt to help retain the county seat the citizens of Papinville urged the county court to build a bridge crossing the Marais Des Cygnes River. The first bridge to span the river was a timber/iron combination truss built in 1853. General Price’s men burned this bridge in 1861. It was replaced in 1873 by a Howe combination truss manufactured by the St. Louis Bridge and Iron Company. This bridge was constructed on the original stone abutments. Ten years later, the county ordered the construction of a new all iron superstructure to replace the “wood one now decayed.” On December 3, 1883 a $2,175.00 contract was awarded to the Kansas City Bridge and Iron Company to erect a new bridge. The approach spans for the Papinville Bridge are rigid-connected Warren pony trusses. Two British engineers, James Warren and Willoughby Monzoni patented the Warren truss in 1848. This bridge was completed by July, 1884. A pinned-Pratt truss, the structure represents one of the few remaining bridges of this design to predate the twentieth century.
Papinville was unsuccessful in their bid to keep the county seat and it was moved to Butler, a more central location. The bridge continued to serve transportation needs in the Papinville area from nearly 100 years until its closure to vehicle traffic. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
For additional information on this bridge, please click here to see the National Register of Historic Places application.