Filed Under Fort Benton

Fort Benton Bridge

Fort Benton Historic District

When railroads replaced steamboats, Fort Benton’s importance as a trade center declined. In response, Fort Benton businessmen formed the Benton Bridge Company to construct a bridge across the Missouri River to capture the trade of the rapidly developing Judith Basin. This first steel bridge across the Missouri River in Montana made it possible for ranchers and farmers to ship their livestock and grain from the Fort Benton railhead. It thus preserved Fort Benton’s significance to regional trade. Since the Missouri was classified as a navigable waterway, the newly formed Benton Bridge Company needed federal permission to build. Congress approved the project after requiring that one span be built on a pivot so the bridge could open to let boats through. In 1888, the firm of Haney and Ryan began sinking the bridge’s piers, which they protected with ice breaks built of heavy timbers. The work was dangerous; two men died during construction. The Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works Company built the steel and iron superstructure. On completion, the newspaper declared the 825-foot, six-span, pin-connected, through-truss bridge “as strong and durable as it is handsome.” It cost pedestrians 5 cents and a horse and buggy 25 cents to cross. Each head of cattle cost 12.5 cents, with special rates for large droves. The county purchased the structure in 1892. After June 1908 floods washed out the swing span, the Army Corps of Engineers gave permission to replace it with a permanent pin-connected, steel Parker through truss span. Vehicles continued to cross the Missouri over “the Great Iron Bridge” until 1962.

Images

Fort Benton Bridge Fort Benton Bridge. Close view from the foot of the bridge structure, facing east to southeast at the intersection of 15th Street and Front Street. Source: Overholser Historical Research Center, Fort Benton Tour; Fort Benton, MT Creator: Ken Robison Date: July 2020
Fort Benton Bridge Fort Benton Bridge. Side view/overview of the bridge structure, facing east to northeast near the Shep Memorial on the west bank of the Missouri River. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: July 2018
Fort Benton Bridge Fort Benton Bridge. Close view from the foot of the bridge structure, facing east to southeast at the intersection of 15th Street and Front Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: July 2018
Fort Benton Bridge Fort Benton Bridge. View from the bridge structure, facing east to northeast above the Missouri River along 15th Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: July 2018
Fort Benton Bridge Fort Benton Bridge. View of the bridge structure over the Missouri River, facing northeast on the west bank of the Missouri River near Front Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019

Location

15th Street, Fort Benton, Montana | Public

Metadata

Montana National Register Sign Program, “Fort Benton Bridge,” Historic Montana, accessed November 28, 2022, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2780.