Camp Clarke Bridge

Henry T. Clarke was a veteran Nebraska freighter and bridge builder, whose best-known bridge (at Camp Clarke, near Sidney) was completed in June 1876. Clarke recalled before the Nebraska State Historical Society annual meeting on January 9, 1901, the circumstances of his construction of the Camp Clarke Bridge (NSHS Proceedings and Collections):

“In the winter of 1875 and ’76, Stephens & Wilcox of Omaha and other merchants requested that I should look over the North Platte line to Camp Robinson and Sheridan. They and other Omaha jobbers wanted to make a short line between Sidney and the military stations and the Black Hills gold country, which was then going as far west as Cheyenne, and crossing the Platte at old Fort Laramie, ninety miles west of Camp Clarke, and see if it was practicable to bridge the Platte at that point. I did so, and reported favorably. The bridge would be some 2,000 feet or more long. They then undertook to form a bridge company and put in a bridge, but found Omaha people were not willing to put money in so large an undertaking in the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian country, and had to give it up. Then they came to me and wanted to know if I would put in a toll bridge and accept a bonus. I answered, ‘Yes,’ and the amount named was satisfactory. They soon made up the amount, and I placed one of my bridge foremen in the lumber yard of Katers & Son, Moline, Ill., and Schruker & Miller, Davenport, Ia., to construct the bridge.

“The Chicago & Rock Island and the Union Pacific Railroads saw the importance of the move and freighted all material free of cost from those points to Sidney-consisting of three large wagon train loads and teamed it from Sidney to the river.

“The iron was manufactured at Milwaukee and piles secured in the hills southwest from the bridge site. This bridge was completed in June, 1876, and was one of the strongest and best of the Platte River bridges, the seventh one I built. . . . It was strong enough to carry mining machinery over, on short, coupled wagons, drawn by seven to ten yoke of cattle, being, in fact, strong enough to carry a railway train.”


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