Veterans Bridge: A shared county historical site
Published 2:41 pm Monday, January 3, 2022
The Veterans Memorial Bridge that spans Highway 231 south of Brundidge was built in 1921, one bucket at a time. The bridge is thought to be the first reinforced concrete bridge in Alabama. The bridge was dedicated to the residents of Dale County who died in World War I.
The Dale County Historical Society and the Alabama Historical Commission adopted the bridge as a historical site and erected a sign that mark the bridge that was dedication on August 3,1921. The cost of the bridge was $92,106.92.
The area around the bridge is also thought to be the first paved road built in the state. The bridge is located at the place those native to the area call Becks’ Mill.
The area also supported a mill as far back as 1832. A homesteader named Edmond Black settled there in 1831 and built a mill the following year. In 1844, a post office was located along the river site along with a sawmill and a place where wool was carded for cloth making.
The Veterans Bridge was constructed during World War I. Derricks were built, one on each side of the river and cables were used to pull concrete buckets back and forth across the river by trucks, one bucket at a time.
As reported in The Messenger, by Fran Sharp, John Powell, formerly of Trojan Terrace, shared the stories his dad told him about the construction of the Pea River Bridge. The work was done by his dad, O.A. Powell, and the crew in a slow but effective process.
According to Powell, the derricks were on each side of the river with cables strung across the river that carried buckets of cement with a pulley. The workers would fill the buckets on one side of the river and then a truck would drive up the river and pull the bucket out to be dumped. That process would be repeated time and time again.
World War I REO trucks, a brand like General Motors, were used to do the hauling. The trucks had dump bodies and were chain driven.
The work was long and laborious and required men with strong backs and strong “constitutions.”
Freddie Turner, a member of VFW Post 7055 in Brundidge, said he thanks God there were people like those who had the will and the knowledge to build such a bridge when there were no premixed concrete trucks and hydraulic cranes to do much of the work for them.
Once completed, Veterans Memorial Bridge almost immediately became a local attraction. The stately structure provided the backdrop for photographs for local and area residents who took great pride in the stately bridge.
The area around the Veterans Memorial Bridge quickly expanded to provide recreational and entertainment opportunities for residents throughout the area and beyond. The area was host to a tourist camp, dance pavilion, swimming pool and an entertainment stage where Hank Williams performed often during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The Veterans Memorial Bridge is no longer in use but it stands as a proud testimony to the men who constructed the bridge, one bucket at a time, and, as a memorial to WWI veterans, specifically, and to all those who have defended America’s freedom over the years.
Although, the Veterans Memorial Bridge is not located within Pike County, it has, historically, been a memorial to all who have served this nation and also a place of recreation, entertainment and quiet refuge for the people of Pike for more than 100 of its 200 years.