Brave New World - Bonner, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 46° 52.493 W 113° 53.125
12T E 280128 N 5195302
On Highway 200 at Bonner, across from the Flying J truck stop is a statue of explorer and road builder Captain John Mullan, flanked by two historical markers. This one deals with nearby aspects of transportation in the Clark Fork Valley.
Waymark Code: WMMV96
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 11/07/2014
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member ZenPanda
Views: 1

Brave New World

Despite Civil War Turmoil, progress was bravely pushing Westward, leading into the Gilded Age of substantial growth in population and wealth.


In November 1861, John Mullan established Cantonment Wright just across the Blackfoot River to the east of here. The little camp consisted of six crude log cabins from which he planned the next year's construction program while his men built a bridge across the Blackfoot River. The camp was located near a trading post established by Frank Worden and Christopher Higgins in 1860. Called Hell Gate, it was one of the toughest settlements in the territory. Over its four year history and a permanent population that never exceeded twenty people, nine men met violent ends, including four hanged by vigilantes in 1864.

Mullan clearly did not like the area, which he called a "cold and bleak place" and the camp an "abode of not over much comfort." Mullan's men built the bridge during the winter, completing the 235-foot log structure in March and then abandoned Cantonment Wright two months later. Described as a "picturesque piece of architecture," the bridge carried wagons and pack trains over the Blackfoot for only a couple years before high water destroyed it. Mullan's bridge was the first of many bridges that would span the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers here.

The Black Bridge

1896 Missoula County builds a bridge across the Blackfoot at the site of the old steel bridge just to the north.
1908 A devastating flood significantly damages the 1896 bridge. Due to cost, the bridge is repaired just enough to remain open and usable.
1919 The Montana State Highway Commission agrees to fund half of the cost of a new bridge. The county raises the money to pay for the other half of the structure.
1921 Billings, Montana-based Security bridge Company begins construction of the new bridge.
1922 At a cost of nearly $110,000, the new bridge is completed. It was the most expensive bridge built in Montana up to that time. It carries traffic on U.S. Highway 10 for the next three decades.
1950 A new bridge is built downstream after engineers declare the bridge "quite dangerous."


Long closed to traffic, Missoula County and the local Save Our Bridge committee successfully raise money to rehabilitate the old bridge and save it from demolition. The bridge's two original spans are combined into one longer span to negate the need for a concrete pier in the Blackfoot River. The rehabilitated Black Bridge is just over 56 feet longer than the original bridge and once again serves as an important crossing of the Blackfoot River.
From the Historical Marker


Describe the area and history:
A bit of the Bonner Sawmill can be seen across the Blackfoot River to the southeast. Directly south one may see one of the original railroad bridges crossing the Blackfoot just upstream of its confluence with the Clark Fork. To the south south east is the original 1921 highway bridge, abandoned when Highway 200 was realigned and now a footbridge on a walking trail. Not much else in a historical vein is visible from here. There are, however, statues of Captain Meriwether Lewis with his Newfoundland Seaman and Captain John Mullan to each side of this marker.

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