Drought Reveals History in the Platte River
"History has been uncovered because of the drought."
"History has been uncovered because of the drought." Video by kmtv.comvideo
Louisville, NE -- There are signs that the drought might be easing, but it's not over. National forecasters predict the drought may last until November. However, they don't expect conditions to worsen. The percent of the nation in the drought is unchanged at 62%. While the drought's taking it's toll on the Platte River a controversial piece of the heartland's history is coming out.
As the Platte River recedes, a piece of history that's long been forgotten emerges. Sarpy County Historian Ben Justman never knew it was there. "History has been uncovered because of the drought," said Justman.
Just outside of Louisville between Sarpy and Cass counties sit rows of wooden posts. Justman explained, "In the year 1890 a public wagon bridge was constructed across the Platte River."
For many people it takes an air boat to get to the historic site. The historian added, "It's pretty special that suddenly there's something that people have probably driven by or boated by along the Platte all the time and never realized."
The wooden posts are remnants of a controversial vital structure. Old black and white pictures show just how impressive the wagon bridge was to the people of Louisville and Mission. Justman believes hundreds of people used the public bridge, many relied on it daily.
Its history goes deeper. Sarpy County Court documents from February 6, 1902 detail a feud between Cass and Sarpy counties. You see - Cass County built the bridge but Sarpy County collected all the toll money.
With two boxes of court documents in his hands Justman said, "Most of the district records that we have are real thin, they weren't a big deal. By the amount that I see here it must have been a very extensive case."
And it was. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Nebraska. In 1912 Cass County won the rights to the bridge and $3,000 dollars from Sarpy County. Then in February 24th 1916 the prized bridge met its demise. Justman found a local newspaper article that told what happened. "The Platte River is again up to it's old tricks and Monday night the Lewisville wagon bridge was swept away by the ice which started to break up during the day," he read.
So the wagon bridge sat, under the water for 96-years. It's long forgotten until this historic drought.
The public wagon bridge isn't the only history being uncovered from the drought. A wooden steamboat that crashed in 1884 was found in the Missouri River.
Reported By: Liz Dorland, firstname.lastname@example.org