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6 Mile Creek Road Bridge

West Haven Bridge

   


6 Mile Creek Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: April 17, 2006 and March 3, 2011
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
6 Mile Creek Road Over Shiawassee River
Location
Rural: Shiawassee County, Michigan
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
By Builder/Contractor: Morse Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
128 Feet (39 Meters)
Structure Length
132 Feet (40.2 Meters)
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.9 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
76308H00007B010

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Short Biographies of the Three Morse Brothers

View An Obituary For H. G. Morse

View Short Biography of Thomas Long, Contracting Agent For Morse Bridge Co.

View Short Biography of Julian Kennedy, Superintendent For Morse Bridge Co.

Henry Grant MorseDon't let the name of the road fool you, this unique bridge goes over the Shiawassee River. Six Mile Creek empties into Shiawassee River near this bridge, however.

This eight panel pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge is the only remaining bridge in Michigan built by the Morse Bridge Company. Sadly, very few examples of this company's work remain nationwide. The Morse Bridge Company is one of the most interesting bridge companies to have operated in the 19th Century, because rather than sticking to a particular design, the company tended to vary its decorative details on the bridges. In the case of this bridge, the arched, pedimented portal bracing with a builder plaque in the center is the unique decorative feature. The other extremely unusual aspect of this bridge is that it has no struts or sway bracing and instead uses heavier overhead lateral bracing that comes in the form of angles to make up for the lack of struts. This unusual detail has been found in a couple other Morse Bridge Company bridges.

The only thing that appears to remain of the original railings on this bridge is the end posts, suggesting perhaps the original railings were pipes.

The bridge sits on fieldstone abutments. The northwestern abutment appears to have had some major concrete repairs long ago, which mostly covered up the field stones. The southeast abutment appears to be completely original, with no concrete patching visible. The stones still appear to be all in place, although their is little to no mortar present. The abutment is highly unusual. Although it uses what would appear to be random field stones, perhaps found laying around in the local area, the stones are coursed (lined up in rows) which is unusual since most abutments of this type in Michigan are randomly placed.

This bridge was closed to vehicular traffic many years ago, but pedestrians were allowed access to the bridge. The closure of the bridge was reported to have been prompted by abuse of the posted weight limit by vehicles. In particular, when a fire truck crossed the bridge this was the last straw after which the bridge was closed. However, by 2011, the county road commission had decided to bring an end to allowing visitors to walk on the deck of the bridge and they have installed "No Trespassing" signs and installed cyclone fencing to prohibit access to the bridge. The road commission undoubtedly has no intention of spending money to repair and reopen the bridge to pedestrians. However, Shiawassee County Road Commission would very likely entertain any proposal to transfer ownership of the bridge to a third party for relocation and preservation. HistoricBridges.org is also happy to assist any interested third party in learning more about the bridge and the potential for any reuse of the bridge. It is assumed that any reuse of this bridge would be for non-motorized traffic. This bridge would make a fantastic and functional centerpiece to any non-motorized trail or path system. HistoricBridges.org may also be able to guide any interested third party to firms that work with historic bridge and likely would be able to restore this bridge to like-new condition for pedestrian use at a cost similar to that of a modern pedestrian bridge.

Edwin Kirtland MorseNote that when the county fenced off the bridge, they also removed one of the two plaques from the portal bracing. In the interest of ensuring that these publically owned artifacts from the bridge remained publicly owned (and not part of a road commission employee's private collection) HistoricBridges.org contacted the road commission to inquire about the status of the bridge plaques removed from historic bridges (they also removed plaques from the Martin Road Bridge). The county road commission reports that the plaques are being stored at the county road commission facility. It is presumed that if a third party works out an agreement with the road commission to transfer ownership of the Martin Road Bridge for relocation, preservation, and reuse, that the plaque would also be made available to the third party so that they could be placed on the restored bridge.

About The Morse Bridge Company

Morse Bridge Company AdvertisementThe Morse Bridge Company was formed in 1878 by Henry Grant Morse and his brother Charles James Morse. A third brother, Edwin Morse, worked for the company initially as a machinist and blacksmith before briefly leaving the company to get an education in engineering. He then returned to the company and worked as an engineer for the company. Charles Morse has an interesting biography. He apparently had an interest in art, eventually developing an interest in oriental art that caused him to visit Japan to study it extensively in his later years. While there is no proof, it seems possible that someone interested in art like Charles might be the reason why bridges built by Morse Bridge Company show an unusual variety in aesthetic details from bridge to bridge. A number of bridge companies included decorative elements and details in their bridges, but they usually stuck to a few similar designs. However, among the small population of Morse Bridge Company bridges that survive today a surprising variety can be found in the aesthetic details employed.

The National Bridge Inventory and the Historic Bridge Inventory give an 1896 construction date for the Six Mile Creek Road Bridge. However, the Morse Bridge Company, whose name is clearly identified on the bridge's undated plaques, ceased operations when the bridge works burned in 1888. Therefore, this bridge must date to between 1878 and 1888. It is possible that 1896 is a typo and that the 9 should simply be an 8, which would give an 1886 construction date, a date that seems plausible given the design details of the bridge.

After the Morse Bridge Company's works burned, the Charles and Henry Morse went their separate ways. By 1890, another group of people bought the Morse Bridge Company works site and reconstructed the facilities, creating a new company named the Youngstown Bridge Company. For this reason, Youngstown Bridge Company is often listed as a successor to the Morse Bridge Company. However, it appears that the only connection it has to the Morse Bridge Company was that it occupied the same location. By the 1890s, when the Youngstown Bridge Company was doing business, Charles and Henry Morse were working at the Edge Moor Bridge Works. Edwin Morse had moved to Pittsburgh where he was involved with the construction of a number of large bridges.

Thomas John Long was a contracting agent for the Morse Bridge Company from 1885 to 1887. Julian Kennedy was superintendent for the company from 1879 to 1883.

Thomas John LongJulian Kennedy

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

The only known surviving example of metal truss bridges built in Michigan by the Morse Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio, one of many medium-sized truss bridge companies located in the midwest in the nineteenth century. It is notable for its distinctive portal and top lateral bracing.


History of Morse Bridge Company From Historic American Engineering Record

...Henry G. Morse (1850-1903), an important late l9th-century businessman. Morse and his brother, C. J. Morse, formed their firm in January 1878. Thus the firm was in business only a few weeks before receiving the Berks County contract.

The company employed 100 workers to fabricate "all classes of iron bridges, roofs, and boilers." A contemporary noted large derricks by which "the heaviest bridge girders" were loaded for shipment on one of the two railroads serving the plant "by which they ship direct by every railroad" entering Youngstown.

This description placed Morse Bridge Company in the company of typical mid-19th-century metal bridge building firms formed to build the first generation of metal bridges. The virtue such firms possessed for customers such as the Berks County Commissioners was that they were "equipped to execute a complete construction job." The county could expect Morse to produce "a finished bridge ready for traffic."

In 1878, 28-year-old Henry G. Morse was in the early years of an important career. He had graduated from Rensselaer Institute of Technology in 1871 as a Civil Engineer. From that time until 1873 he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. For the next four years he was an engineer for the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, Canton, Ohio. This training placed him in the company of experienced engineers who rapidly mastered or improved metal bridge design between 1850 and 1880.

Nine years later, in 1887, Morse left his Youngstown firm to become president of Wilmington, Delaware's Edgemoor Bridge Works. In 1896 he began a brief two-year tenure as president of the Harlan and Hollingsworth shipbuilding firm in Wilmington Perhaps his most important activities occurred between 1896 and his premature 1903 death in J. P. Morgan's office. Contemporaries believed he left Rarlan and Hollingsworth despite "reorganizing it and placing it on a successful basis" because of "a difficulty" over his stock demands. He resolved to form his own company to build "the most modern shipbuilding plant in the world."

Morse succeeded. He built in Camden, New Jersey, s shipyard the author of his obituary termed "the finest shipbuilding plant in existence." That claim is difficult to evaluate, but the firm was important enough to be "a thorn in the flesh of the new shipping combine." Morse's aggressiveness and quality workmanship were graphically illustrated shortly before his death. He successfully lobbied with the White House and Navy Department to give him a contract for two cruisers originally awarded to William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Company. Morse persuaded President Roosevelt his bids were lower, "all things considered."

Apparently he planned to build a completely integrated shipbuilding plant similar to the type of installation Ford later created at the Rouge plant. He hoped to become "entirely independent" of outside suppliers. His contemporaries feared the facility Morse planned; the "shipbuilders" pool offered him $50,000 to refuse to bid on a job. Morse's fatal stroke occurred in Morgan's office because the financier was in 1903 seeking an "alliance" between Morse and other shipbuilding firms.

Morse's early death probably robbed him of a major role in early 20th-century business history. As it was, his career reflected themes prominent in late l9th-century American business history. He deserves more study than he has received.

View the Historic American Engineering Page From Which This Excerpt Was Taken

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