The Rulo Bridge

This page added 06-09-01

A group led by John Mullen of Falls City, Nebraska, laid the groundwork for the Rulo Bridge, located near the town of Rulo, in 1933, when it secured permission from Congress to build and operate a toll bridge over the Missouri River.  The War Department approved the bridge in May, but several months later Mullen approached the Richardson County Board with an offer to assign the county all rights to the bridge.  The county accepted Mullen's offer, but only on the condition that it not have to pay for construction.  Mullen proposed that the county apply for a federal grant and loan, and it did, but the process dragged for almost five years.  Finally, in September 1938 the Public Works Administration agreed to fund nearly one-half of the bridge's construction.  To cover the balance, the county issued bonds that would be repaid through bridge toll revenue.  Construction began in 1938 and continued steadily through the bridge's completion in November 1939.  The bridge was operated as a toll bridge until the late 1950's, at which time it was deemed paid for and the toll was lifted.  Editor's note: My father, Samuel White Cochran and some of his brothers worked on the Rulo Bridge when it was built. Russell Clark worked on the bridge as an iron worker and Tiny Thomson, Ida's husband worked on the piling.  Caleb Calvin Cochran, my grandfather, worked on the railroad bridge.

Dedication of Rulo Bridge

The dedication of the bridge was held Dec. 19, 1939.  The program got under way at 12:20 p.m. with a concert on Rulo's Main Drag by the Oregon, Mo., High School band. Other bands playing throughout the afternoon were: the Hiawatha National Guard band, the kilt-uniformed band from Highland, Kan., and other bands from St. Joseph, Mound City, White Cloud, Sabetha, Falls City, Humboldt and Shubert.

Foster May, the "Man on the Street" came down from Omaha Radio WOW to do his program, the Lewis & Clark Monument was dedicated, and Nebraska Gov. R. L. Cochran, with the help of Lt. Gov. Harris of Missouri, cut the ribbon for the $760,000 bridge at 4:30 p.m.  A banquet for bigwigs, attended by 156 persons, followed at 6:30 at Hotel Weaver in Falls City.

Falls City schools closed to let the young'uns in on the "big moment", many local businesses closed, and the banks and Courthouse suspended business for the afternoon.

Former Gov. Arthur J. Weaver of Falls City was the master of ceremonies for the dedication part of the program.  He led the successful fight for the Public Works Administration grant of $326,000, when the fight seemed all but lost.  To pick up the remainder of the cost, the county issued revenue bonds totaling $435,000 at 4 1/2 percent interest.  The bonds were to be paid off in 15 1/2 years (they weren't) from the toll charged to cross the bridge.  For a car and a driver making a round trip, the cost was 60 cents, plus five cents for every passenger.  If you were going to herd some livestock across the bridge, you paid 10 cents a head.  The cost was $3 for large tractors. Dan Mahan of Rulo was the bridge superintendent and one of the toll takers.

The Journal estimated the crowd at 5,000 and said it was "gay and behaved" (despite the fact you could buy a pint of Jim Beam for 90 cents).  The program was held on the ball diamond and because of a cold, windy day, the speeches were kept short.

The Journal came out with a special edition, covering all the bases, and in one of the large ads, 18 Rulo merchants heralded the new span and the linking of Nebraska and Missouri.

However, the new bridge didn't please everyone.  According to a story in The Journal, Henry Olson, Rulo ferryman, who was left high and dry, so to speak, and "intended to go down fighting unless the county bought out his business."  Knowing county boards over the years, I would guess he went down fighting.

Plans for a new bridge have started

A meeting concerning the study of a new traffic bridge over the Missouri River at Rulo was held the evening of May 01, 2001, at the Camp Rulo River Club.  The present bridge was super in its day, but it wasn't built for 2001 tractor trailers and other sizable farm implement traffic.  It's just too narrow.

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