Society celebrates road, bridge landmark status

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, October 14, 2012

A historic Lawrence County road and bridge received their historical landmarks recently and a fish fry was held Friday to celebrate the occasion.

     A 5.56-mile stretch of Old River Road and the White Sand Creek Bridge were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, and people in Lawrence County have been waiting to get the markers.

     Lawrence County Historical Society President Kay Allen said the markers cost a total of $1,800, with the historical society raising the money.

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     “Our annual fundraiser raised exactly that amount last year,” she said. “God really did look out for us.”

     Friday at noon, a celebration was held at the Bo Bourne Cabin on Old River Road. The Georgia-Pacific Catfish Cooking Team provided lunch for all in attendance.

     Records show Old River Road is one of the oldest roads in Mississippi, having been built when Mississippi was still the Mississippi Territory sometime between 1811 and 1816. White Sand Creek Bridge is about to celebrate its 100th birthday, having been built in 1913.

     The original length of Old River Road was about 50 miles, but only 5.56 miles are left of it after stretches were either replaced by modern roads or abandoned.

     The single-lane White Sand Creek Bridge was closed for repairs in late 2011 and residents worried it might be replaced by a new bridge. But officials decided to repair the old bridge instead of building a new one.

     The effort to get the road placed on the National Register of Historic Places began about four years ago, according to Lawrence County Historical Society member Bo Bourne.

     “The seed was planted in the early 1990s when the bridge was named a Mississippi Landmark,” said Bourne. “It’s been a long journey with a lot of steps and research along the way. We were fortunate there were no real roadblocks.”

     It took many maps and pictures to get the road and bridge placed on the list.

     Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association provided some financial assistance with the project along the way. CEO Mike Wallace said the project had merit to the association.

     “We serve this area and it was a worthwhile project to be a part of,” he said.

     Bourne said Friday was a celebration of all who had contributed.

     “Today was about bringing everyone together who was a piece of the puzzle to get this done,” said Bourne.

     Bill Gatlin, with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, helped the Lawrence County Historical Society get the road and bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. He said the list is a prestigious one, as the nomination for the list must meet U.S. Parks Service guidelines.

     “The list is an official one that contains places and things that people have decided are worthy of preservation,” he said. “They are places that have stood the test of time. The parks service agreed it was an important part of our history.”

     Allen said the people who live along the road today are not that different than those who journeyed along the road many years ago.

     “We’re not far from who we were when people were originally traveling this road,” she said.