Sunday, December 15, 2013


The last of three bridges designed by Svedrup and Parcel dynamited and replaced by new span.

December 8, 2014 – Missouri’s highways and transportation commissioner pushed the plunger, detonating dynamite on a 740 foot section of the Hurricane Deck bridge that once carried Highway 5 over the Osage River arm of Lake of the Ozarks.  According to the website, the 1936 bridge was ‘structurally deficient’ and clearly the highway department agreed. The steel will be pulled out of the lake and the rest of the bridge will be taken down in additional demolitions in coming weeks.

Video from Springfield TV station, KOLR-10, shows the demolition blasts and collapse of the first spans to be dropped into the lake.

Early in the development of the Lake, Sverdrup and Parcel, a St. Louis firm, was engaged to design and construct bridges to connect communities in Morgan and Camden counties that were now cut off from each other.  When Damming the Osage was published (2012), the 1936 Hurricane Deck bridge – which was named the most beautiful bridge in its class that year by the American Institute of Steel Construction – was the last remaining span over the lake by that firm. Additional information is available at

399Leif Sverdrup, a Norwegian immigrant, with his college engineering teacher, John Parcel, founded the company in 1928. During World War II, General Sverdrup became chief engineer for General Douglas MacArthur.


Among many distinctive spans, the firm also designed the graceful twin bridges that cross the Missouri River at Jefferson City.

Sverdrup and Parcel also designed the pair of steel-through-arch bridges crossing the Missouri River at Jefferson City  (Cole County, Missouri) in  1955. These spans still carry traffic on the multi-lane freeway of US 54/63.

(click on image to enlarge)


Saturday, December 14, 2013

"A MOCKERY OF SUBLIME ANTICIPATIONS" - John Joseph Hogan's first glimpse of America

It was 1848 - 165 years ago today that John Joseph Hogan, an eager, 19-year-old Irishman, first set eyes on America. Having gone as far as he could in his studies in Ireland, Hogan had decided he would go to America - St. Louis specifically - to study for the priesthood. Unlike most Irish emigrants, Hogan bypassed the East Coast, instead sailing from Liverpool aboard the clipper ship Berlin bound for New Orleans. 

December 14, 1848 was a Thursday – and foggy.  Young John Hogan, from the deck of the clipper ship, scanned the horizon eagerly for his first sight of America – his destined place. Anchored in the Gulf, waiting for tugboat escorts, they were greeted by the sediment load the Mississippi River carried to the Gulf. “Shrouded in fog banks, we anchored in muddy water that as far as the eye could reach, had befouled the color of the sea.” 

After five weeks and a day at sea, they had reached the mouth of the Mississippi. Hogan’s eager expectations were dashed at the sight of the muddy mingling of Gulf and river.
To a person from the British Isles, the United States, as seen at the mouths of the Mississippi, is a mockery of sublime anticipations. No bold headlands; no high, rocky bluffs; no cities on hills; no hills at all; no heathery uplands or daisied fields leading down to the sea; no murmuring sea, for there was no ebbing or flowing tide, not enough rise of tide to cover a croaking frog; no belt of strand to mark the boundary between land and water, for land and water seemed interlocked and of the amphibious kind—an impenetrable jungle of swamps and bushes, infested with sharks, snakes, and alligators. There was water enough, of the kind it was, but who dare drink of it? Ha! That from the marshes smelt of toads and reptiles; that from the Mississippi suggested a fish trap, for, besides mud, it may have a young alligator in it. And this is America—America indeed. Alas! No help for me now; I am on the Mississippi, and must go it. This ship I am on won't stop until I get to New Orleans; and if I throw myself overboard and attempt to swim ashore, maybe the alligators or the buzzards will get me. See the miserable, muddy banks, not high enough above water for a drowning rat to dry himself on.
From Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir by John Joseph Hogan. 

Undeterred by the impenetrable jungle that made a "mockery of sublime anticipations," Hogan pressed on, arriving in New Orleans the evening of December 15.   

The entire text of Hogan's memoir, Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir,  is contained in On the Mission in Missouri & Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir. On the Mission is his own account of his years as a pioneer priest in northwest and southeast Missouri (including his founding of the Irish Wilderness), spanning the Civil War and its immediate aftermath (1857-1868).  Both memoirs are included in one volume as well as extensive biographical information gleaned in our years of research.

Postscript:  Hogan was ordained in the Archdiocese of St.Louis in 1852. He later became the first bishop of St. Joseph, Missouri (1868); and in 1880, the first bishop of Kansas City, Missouri. He died in 1913.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The title of Harry Styron’s blog – Ozarks Law and Economy: How People, Businesses and Nature Compete – doesn’t fully cover the wide range of topics and interests he shares with his readers. Not a dry law and economy blog – Harry (a Branson attorney) writes of the Ozarks he knows and reflects on its image in movies and literature, the history of land and people and the legal and political issues that affect them all in a lively style with erudite insights.

We were very pleased that last week he posted a penetrating review of our new book, Damming the Osage.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


November, 1858: For more than a year, John Joseph Hogan with surveyors and friends had scouted  Missouri's southeastern Ozarks for arable land, filed claims for plots through the land agents of Cape Girardeau and found immigrant Irish who would settle the land and work a farm. Near the end of November 1858 – 155 years ago – Hogan again set out for his southern colony.  This fourth trip would be his longest (11 months) sojourn in the Ozarks and the most active months of development of the settlement he envisioned.

Interestingly – and a fact not noted in most official and unofficial histories of his settlement – Hogan did not prefer the deeper Ozarks.  In 1857, on his first reconnaissance trip, he had claimed land in the area around Ellsinore and along the Little Black River (“480 acres in a body on Ten Mile Creek”) finding it more suitable for agriculture and with “improved land enough” that they would not be starting from scratch.  However when he returned in the late fall of 1858, he found his plans had been dramatically changed.
Arrived at the settlement, I found a difficulty existing. In the district of country where I had bought land the year previous, intending to make the place the center of the proposed settlement, I found that all the government land, fit for cultivation, had in the meantime been bought by parties not Catholics, so that there was no longer a possibility of owning sufficient ground there to form a colony such as I had contemplated. There was improved land enough in the neighborhood that could be bought at a reasonable price and on easy conditions. But the cry was for government land and at government price.

Westward then, though very much against my will, I had to move about forty miles, to a region of country where there was yet much vacant government land, on the confines of Ripley and Oregon counties, along the tributaries of the Current and Eleven Point rivers, about twenty miles north of the state of Arkansas.
Colton's Missouri Map of 1875 clearly locates the central point of Father Hogan's colony on the Oregon/Ripley county line about 20 miles north of Arkansas and a few miles east of the Eleven Point River.  Locations lingered on printed maps sometimes well after their demise. 

From that point on, Hogan and arriving Irish immigrants were busy shaping this growing community.  In Hogan’s classic memoir, On the Mission in Missouri, he compresses the building activities of many months into a short paragraph:

Improvements went on apace; cutting down trees, splitting, rails, burning brushwood, making fences, grubbing roots and stumps, building houses, digging wells, opening roads, breaking and ploughing land, and sowing crops. Already in the spring of 1859, there were about forty families on the newly acquired government lands, or on improved farms purchased, east and west of Current River, in the counties of Ripley and Oregon; and many more were coming …

He mentions the log chapel built on "ground bought and donated by Reverend James Fox of Old Mines, Missouri: a one story log house forty feet square … partitioned into two apartments, one for the chapel and the other for the priest’s residence."  Perhaps the chapel was built while paperwork on the tract of land was in the works. In searching land records, we found that Reverend Fox was issued a land patent on September 1, 1859 (near the end of Hogan’s sojourn in the Ozarks) for 320 acres on Oregon County, which he donated to the flourishing colony. 

In the archives of the St. Louis Archdiocese is a small account book that Father Hogan kept during his time in the Ozarks. In it we found his enumeration of the cost of his log church in the pines: $85.31 (page 48, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness)
Hogan traveled back to Chillicothe at the end of October, 1859, ending his full time presence and oversight of the colony. One more brief trip – November 17 to mid-December 1859 – to southeast Missouri was his last. Soon the Civil War made travel perilous. Demands of his expanding missionary parish in northwest Missouri increased. Hogan remained in the north, but still recalled with affection and concern the settlers he had led to area.

Postscript: Long after the settlement had been scattered by the vagaries of war, another land record tells a sad story of the Irish settlement.  On May 17, 1879, the property Father Fox had donated to the colony for the log church was sold for back taxes.