Stalling’s Ford the Site of First River Bridge

One of the very earliest trails approved by the Daviess County judges was the Gallatin-to-Utica road which ran along the south and west side of the Grand River. There are reports that an old trail used by Indians ran northwest from Utica along the river highlands and crossed over the river to the bluffs at Lock Springs. The Gallatin-to-Utica trail was approved in May, 1838.

One of the very earliest trails approved by the Daviess County judges was the Gallatin-to-Utica road which ran along the south and west side of the Grand River. There are reports that an old trail used by Indians ran northwest from Utica along the river highlands and crossed over the river to the bluffs at Lock Springs. The Gallatin-to-Utica trail was approved in May, 1838.

The road from Gallatin to Chillicothe ran along the flood plain north and east of the wide Grand River bottom. As the smaller streams put their flow into the Grand, the places to cross over the bottom prairie got wetter and wider. This wet prairie was over 5 miles wide at some places.

Early federal maps show that the land south of Osborn Lake was not suitable for sale. Swamp land and inundated land ran for 5-1/2 miles to the east and 1-1/2 miles to the south. This big “pool” received the waters of Grand River, the flow of water from Big Muddy Creek, Clear Creek, Lick Fork Creek and other branches.

Water from Big Muddy created a large island in the center of Grand River’s old channel two miles west of present Lock Springs, MO. This area was full of fish, waterbirds, and other water animals — surely enough meat and skins for all residents’ needs for 100 years.

Jacob Stallings was a Gallatin businessman (1838-46) when a trail was made to cross Grand River above the bottom prairie. His last business was the Mansion House Inn and Tavern (licensed June, 1843); G.M. Peck joined in this business in July 1844, and Henry Whittington joined them in 1845 and then took over the business with Jonathan E. Mann in 1846-47.

Stallings obtained a ferry license for the place called the Orr Ford (noted in the county records from March 18, 1845) on Feb. 10, 1848. In October 1845 the county approved a trail from Richmond to the Orr Ford to Trenton. That road was to be 60 feet wide, then the widest trail in Daviess County.

On Aug. 7, 1848, Judge John A. Tuggle and Tobias Miller ordered Dr. John Cravens, John P. Lutz, John Mann and George W. Moore to work with James McFerran to select the “most suitable point for the erection of a bridge across the west fork of Grand River” to draft a plan “for the bridge” and “estiamte the cost.” In September 1848, the county approved a “road” from Stallings Ferry to the Edward L. Ellis residence at the Harrison County line. On Jan. 1, 1849, McFerran was made commissioner to let a contract for the bridge, “Trestle Plan A,” near the Stallings Ferry.

The bridge contract was to state that “the mudsills” (wooden beams on the river bottom) are to be firmly secured in the bed of the river, by large rocks placed upon them and the banks of the river, particularly the west bank, must be well riprapped with rock at least two feet in depth, extending from the top of the bank to low water mark, and running up and down the river, for a space of at least 30 feet, to prevent the banks from washing. The timber used to be of the best quality, white oak, burr oak, walnut, or locust may be used, but none other, in constructing the bridge.

“The contract (for the bridge) to be let to the lowest bidder, by public outcry, in front of the courthouse door. Notice of letting to be published in the Grand River Chronicle for four weeks, and written notice to be set up in each municipal township of the county. The price to be paid is not to exceed $2,000.”

Andrew Shriver was awarded the contract on June 4, 1849, and he received $650 advance payment from the Internal Improvement Fund (ITF) on that day. Lutz, Moore and McFerran were paid $5 each for their work from the same fund.

On Sept. 3, 1849, the court reported that the road from Stallings Ferry to Harrison County was to be “cut out” and “opened 30 feet wide.” In February 1850, Shriver received a progress payment of $400 and on June 4, 1850, he received $275 from the ITF. The court approved an extension for a completion date of Aug. 1, 1851.

The bridge was completed by this date at Stallings Ferry (southeast corner of Section 6, T58N-R26W). The west end of the bridge would have been on land owned today by Jack and Mildred Young. Mr. Young states that there is no noticeable evidence of the bridge or of the Talbot Mill that was constructed there in 1858.

This was the first bridge across the Grand River in Daviess County. It was also the first bridge to wash away. By August, 1853, a second Grand River bridge was being planned for Adkinson Ford.

Jacob Stallings reportedly left the county in May, 1852. The first bridge built here was guaranteed for four years and the builder was bonded. In 1854 Mr. Shriver had a mill at “Mill Dam” outside Gallatin, so he didn’t appear to suffer financially when the bridge washed away.

Andrew Shriver was born near Dayton, OH, in 1815 and married Nancy Ann Ellis Caldwell in 1836 in Tippecanoe County, IN. He served as sheriff in Daviess County, MO, from 1862-66 and resided here over 30 years. He left Missouri in 1881 to live at his son’s ranch near Lytton Springs, CA, until his death in 1904.

Written by David Stark, Gallatin, for publication in the Gallatin North Missourian