Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to get from Swede Holler to Poverty Ridge

I got to worrying about this old bridge over the White Breast while headed to the grocery store Friday afternoon. You just never know.

There used to be lots of cast iron rustbuckets like this in Lucas County --- lots of cricks to cross. Compared to some, this is a minor example. But most are gone, so it's a rare survivial --- having prevaled against decay, indifferent maintenance, high water, 212-ton tractors, a perceived need for more than one lane of traffic and the occasional drunk.

So before picking up my frozen corn and peas, I drove the 12-mile-or-so circuit out northwest of town to check it out. So far, so good.

One key to bridge survival has been location --- on a road that's never been anything but dirt and now is classified "minimum maintenance --- Level B." That means the road's graded as often as the county boys get around to it.

It's a pretty place, too.

To get there, drive out 4-5 miles northwest of Chariton to the Swede Holler road (it's not marked, you've gotta know the territory), mostly gravel but part dirt. Then wind up the holler --- a narrow valley carved by a small tributary creek to the White Breast where enough Swedish immigrant families once lived to give it a name.

Rising out of the holler to the north, keep your eye out on the left for the bridge road, curving down hill to where the holler crick and the main crick converge.

Just beyond the bridge, you've got options. Take a right onto another dirt road headed upvalley to the north and you'll come out on the pavement west of Oakley. Keep going straight west, and you'll come out on the Poverty Ridge road.

If you decide not to keep going west at the "T" --- through a gate in the fence and back across a hayfield to Parr Cemetery --- you'll want to turn left here, cross the White Breast again and climb onto the ridge itself --- so-called because the soil is so thin and rocks so plentiful that anyone who tried to farm it was guaranteed poverty.

It's a pretty little drive, but since freezing rain is in the forecast --- I'd make it today.


Anonymous said...

Many days spent on those roads, hunting walnuts, rabbits and squirrel. just past the Krutsinger farm, and the round house. quiet and friendly....

Jeanetta Hall Williams said...

Thanks for this article. It brought back so many memories. I grew up in Swede Holler. Our family moved from Osceola to Swede Holler when I was 5. I remember crossing that bridge when we moved(I think there were two bridges then?), and it would rattle. It really scared me. Yes, people would come out to Swede Holler to park and drink--then get stuck, and come knocking on our door for help in getting out. Dad (Darwin Hall) would always get up and go out and help them, and it was usually in the middle of the night! It was a beautiful area, and reading this article brings back so many fond memories. Dad and Mom lived there around 37 years.

Kevin A. Gwinn said...

Hi, I also lived in that area and have heard other stories about that bridge as well as having some to tell my self. I farmed the bottom ground on the west side of the crick and north and south of the bridge. That was when Comstock owned the ground' The story I'm wondering about pertains to the bridge being named Walkers bridge which is what all of my friends and I used as a landmark when coon or deer hunting along the Whitebreast Crick. Which leads to another ? why was Whitebreast named Whitebreast. Which I am sure would lead to a lot more ?. Thank you for hosting this blog spot !!! Kevin A.Gwinn
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Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Kevin. I've always known the old bridge as "Wheeler Bridge" after Sam Wheeler, who owned land in the area, so I can't help on Walker. The name Whitebreast (or White Breast, depending upon whether we're talking about the crick or the township) is something of a puzzle, but it's a name that predates white settlement and probably was applied down along the Des Moines River, where the White Breast ends. The best answer I've come across is that White Breast or Whitebreast was the surname of a Meskwaki family that lived near the mouth of the creek along the River. Whatever the case, the crick is an ancient path from the Des Moines River Valley into Lucas and other counties along it and that explains the the large number of prehistoric artifacts and camps found along it.

Unknown said...

My understanding is that the bridge was named so for the murdered Dr. Wheeler, found facedown in the creek about a hundred years ago. Story can be confirmed from a Lacona newspaper article that can be found at the Lacona library.