The Great Plain States


Once Zenas King found that his bowstring and truss bridges were efficient, effective and marketable products in the states east of the Mississippi, he began to make plans to extend his bridge building activities to the west.  Once the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company was incorporated in the early 1870’s, he decided create a western branch of the firm, with his eldest son, James A. King, a president and build a bridge fabricating factory in Kansas. The first plant was built in Iola, but was later moved to Topeka, where it operated for a few years before financial problems caused the decision to close the Topeka factory and concentrate all the fabricating activities to the main factory in Cleveland. (See the HISTORY section for more details.)


The Topeka plant was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad, with whom King had close working relationships and was later used a staging facility for new European immigrants coming to develop the agricultural economy of the great center of America.




Kansas was the base of mid west operations for the King Bridge Company even after they closed their factories. For a time their marketing headquarters was located in Topeka and the picture of this six span bowstring bridge built across the Kansas River in 1870 in that city was featured in Scientific American Magazine of July of that year.


There are few of these old bridges remaining in Kansas.


1. The Austin Bowstring -1872- Chanute, Neosho County This bridge, documented in Donald Jackson’s book, “Great American Bridges and Dams “was made in the Iola factory of the King Bridge Company. It   is now located in a county park and used by pedestrians. It is one of the oldest existing bowstrings and is cited in “Great American Bridges and Dams” by Donald C. Jackson, John Wiley & Sons 1988.


2. The Old Jefferson Town Bowstring -1875 –Oklaloosa County –This bridge has been moved twice ending in Old Jefferson Town in 1975 where is provides access to various points of interest. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. The Old Jefferson Town Bowstring -1875 –Oklaloosa County –This bridge has been moved twice ending in Old Jefferson Town in 1975 where is provides access to various points of interest. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Now the only King bridges we have evidence are still in place are the following ;


1.      KATY Trail Camelback Bridge -1910 – Cooper County

This old railroad bridge is now part of a rail-trail.



2.      Henkins Ford Bridge -1887 –Caldwell County

This bridge was closed to traffic but left in place when a replacement bridge was built.

( See



The King Bridge Company, along with its big rival the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, was very active selling its bridges to the farming counties and towns in Iowa. Early company catalogues featured the multi-span truss bridge in Des Moines at Locust Street which also appeared in the 1890s versions. The 1890s catalogues also featured one the company’s most unusual projects, the ill-fated elevated railroad in Sioux Falls ( see the special article in HISTORY for more details.)


While these structures are long gone, the Iowa  Historic Bridge Inventory list 13 King bridges still standing, three of the most notable are included below, along with two other preserved bowstrings. The other 10 can be found at



1. The Hale Bowstring* (three spans) -1878- Anamosa State Park, Jones Co.+ This impressive 3 span 260 foot bridge is listed in the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). It was dismantled in 2003 then relocated in March 2006 to serve as on pedestrian and bicycle path in the Anamosa State Park in Jones County through the efforts of the Jones County Historical Commission. The spectacular relocation of the three spans by helicopter was covered by the national media including the History Channel/( See NEW 3/19/06, and 3/9/03)

2. The Miller Pony Truss -1884- Madison County — There is a King Bridge in MADISON COUNTY, famous for the movie, “The Bridges of Madison County”.  It is an 1884 Pratt Pony Truss near Winterset that is still in service and included in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s historic bridge survey. The Iowa DOT website notes the existence of 16 additional King bridges (including those of George King, Zenas’s nephew and one-time agent) built during the three decades from 1870 to 1900. We received some new pictures this year from Michael Finn of Wapsi Valley Archeology who has been doing research on the Miller Bridge ( We are glad to see that it is still a useful structure, perhaps even in a movie shot.  See


3. The Quarry Bridge -1885- Marshall County+

Back in April of 2003, we received an email with a picture attached from John Fleming of a King built Pratt truss over the Iowa River near LeGrand in Marshall County. It turns out that he visited the bridge at the same time that the consultants doing the Iowa historic bridge survey were there doing their research and had also had collected an 1885 King Bridge plate just upstream from the bridge . With apologies to John for our tardy posting of his pictures, we would like to note that this bridge, known as the Quarry Bridge , is now documented in the Iowas Historic Bridge Inventory  prepared for IDOT and can be found at


4. The Kent Park Bowstring – Johnson County – 1870s -This is one of six old bridges that have been placed in County parks over the last decade under the direction of Superintendent of the Johnson County Conservation Board, Larry Lovetinsky. It is beautifully preserved 70 foot span crossing a small lake.


5. The Coonhunter’s Lodge Bowstring – 1876 – Jones County

This 54 foot bridge was put on the scrap heap in 1987 after serving as a crossing of Kitty Creek, near Montecello. It was acquired from Jones County by a local citizen who donated it to the Lodge. A valiant band of Lodge members, including Paul Rohrbacker, erected the handsome bridge across a dry wash on the golf course where it now stands providing access to the 9th hole.


IOWA – The Iowa Department of Transportation’s website ( has an excellent inventory of the historic bridges in that state organized by date, type and location. Included, in addition to the 1879 three span Hale Bridge in Jones County and the 1885 Quarry Bridge in  Marshall County already documented on our website, there are the following King built bridges in their list:

1871 Green  Mil Ford Bridge in Bremer County (bowstring)
1876 Skunk River Bridge in Story County (through truss)
1878 Lower Road Bridge in Jones County (bowstring)
1879 Wiscotta Bridge in Dallas County (through truss)
1882 Adel Bridge in Dallas County (through truss)
1882 Bentonsport Bridge in Van Buren County (3 span through truss)
1883 McDowell Bridge in Poweshiek County (bowstring)
1884 Miller Bridge in Madison County (pony truss)
1885 Grand River Bridge in Union County (through truss)
1886 Cunningham Bridge in Madison County (pony truss w. Geo. King)
1887 Monsrud Bridge in Allamakee County (bowstring)
1891 Mill Creek Bridge in Cherokee County (through truss with Geo. King)
1891 Morgan Bridge in Madison County (pony truss components)
1894 Fish Creek Bridge in Henry county (pony truss with Geo. King)


It is interesting to note that in the 1870’s and 1880’s, the King Bridge Company’s main competitor, the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio built more iron bridges that appear on this inventory than King, but by the 1890’s more local bridge builders were in the act as the “Bridge Trust” companies like King and WIBCo. were fading. Many of the local companies were spin offs from the big builders, including George King who started in business ad one of uncle Zenas King’s agent.




There are still some of the old examples of King bowstrings still around. Nebraska DOT has undertaken an extensive inventory of its historic bridges which can be found on its website

1.The Wyoming Bowstring -1878 –relocated to the  Lincoln Wetlands Nature   Center, Lincoln (see EXISTING BRIDGES section – Nebraska – Otoe County. (see article in the Lincoln Journal Star  by Algis Laukaitis –

Many King Bridges in Nebraska (Gage, Butler, Otoe & Antelope Counties) See the Federal Highway Administration “Historic Bridges of Nebraska” links.  (Thanks to Lou Merchen for finding these great links with beautiful B&W pictures and history!) Added 6.8.02

2.The DeWitt Mill Bridge at DeWitt in Gage County, Nebraska – (150 feet)-1887*This Pratt truss is the oldest vehicular truss remaining in the state out of the hundreds that were ordered by Nebraska counties in the 1880s. It was originally built to serve an important flour mill on the Big Blue River.

3. The Loosveldt Bridge at the Budd Family Ranch near Rushville, Sheridan County, Nebraska – (260 feet) – 1887-1888 * – This Baltimore truss was once part of the four span Columbus Loup River Bridge on the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30). George E. King, Zenas’s nephew and western agent for the King Bridge Company, contracted  with Platte County for this major bridge which lasted until replaced  in 1933. One span was then moved to Sheridan County  to replace a flooded bridge at Loosveldt . It was then sold to the Budd family in 1984.

 4.The Wolf Creek Bridge near Dunbar in Otoe County, Nebraska – (77 feet) –1889*

This is one of the hundreds of Pratt truss bridges that were the standard design for smaller crossings of streams ans rivers in the Midwest.

5.The Clear Creek Bridge near Bellwood in Butler County, Nebraska – (73 feet) – 1891*

This is a rare Warren truss on a lightly traveled road crossing a tributary of the Platte River. It is still in operation for light-weight vehicular traffic.



King Bridge Manufacturing Company, News