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Waco Suspension Bridge

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The Waco Suspension Bridge crosses the Brazos River in Waco, Texas. It is a single-span suspension bridge with a main span of 475 feet (145 m). Opened in 1869, it contains nearly 3 million bricks. It is located north of Downtown Waco, connecting Indian Springs Park (on the southwest side of the river) with Doris D. Miller Park (on the northeast side of the river). Every year on Independence Day, the bridge serves as a place where thousands of locals gather to watch fireworks. The Indian Springs Park marks the location of the origin of the town of Waco, where the Huaco Indians had settled on the bank of the river, at the location of an icy cold spring.

Before 1869, crossing the Brazos River was a time-consuming and sometimes dangerous ordeal. The only way to cross the river was via ferry, and due to the location of Waco on the growing Chisholm Trail, local businessmen knew that a bridge was needed to support commerce. A charter was received from the state in 1866.

A banking firm called Flint & Chamberlain decided to retain the renowned New York firm of John A. Roebling Co. This was the firm that had originated the suspension span bridge concept, and later oversaw the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Col. John T. Flint, an Austin lawyer and banker, who had moved to Waco after the war and established Flint & Chamberlain, went personally to New York to handle the deal.

In October 1868, Chief Engineer, Thomas M. Griffith supervised the construction using cables from the Roebling company of Trenton, New Jersey. The logistical and engineering difficulties were extraordinary for the time.

Due to lack of machine shops in the Waco area, getting the materials to the building site was a journey in itself. The nearest railroad was 100 miles (160 km) away, and the closest town with artisans with the skills needed was Galveston, over 212 miles (341 km) from the build site. Supplies were loaded onto a steamer in Galveston, and ferried to Bryan. From there, they were loaded onto wagons pulled by oxen. The pothole-filled dirt road from Bryan to Waco was bad, even by 19th century Texas standards.


The following winter Indians killed Laughlin McLennan and several members of his family and captured his children; the other families moved down to Nashville-on-the-Brazos for security. John McLennan was killed by Indians in 1838. Neil McLennan was a member of George B. Erath's Milam County "Mounted Volunteers," engaged in Indian scouting and warfare in 1839,when he first saw the territory that was to become McLennan County. He stopped to survey land and in 1845 returned to the South Bosque River, built a house and planted crops, thus becoming the first white settler in the Waco area, west of the Brazos River.

Here he lived until his death in 1867. When the new county around Waco was organized in 1850 it was appropriately named McLennan in his honor.

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