It’s been a long road for residents of Brumley who have been working to save the Brumley Auglaize Swinging Bridge, which was in danger of closing due to lack of funding to maintain its cables and structure, which had been rated “poor” condition by engineering companies in 2018.
Receiving donations from Ameren helped their cause, but being named to the National Register of Historic Places cements the bridge’s ability to avoid closure. The 3-ton capacity continues to restrict vehicular traffic over Auglaize creek, connecting the Brumley area to the rural Linn Creek area.
Save the Historical Swinging Bridge Organization is responsible for the nomination to the National Historic Register. The group has been holding monthly meetings since early 2019, and sponsoring clean up days for the bridge parking lots and primitive campground. Kelly Warman-Stallings, Mark, Joyce, and Victoria Beabout spearhead the committee, with Warman- Stallings spending hours filling out nomination forms and researching bridge history, including 29 pages of written history for the nomination process on bridge builder Joseph Dice. "The nomination process took 1 year to complete and went through many phases. But the end results were worth every word that was written" Warman-Stallings commented on the nomination process.
Locals don’t think twice about crossing the rusty, creaking one lane bridge by car, but newcomers park in the gravel and walk across, marveling at the structure with no supports underneath, and the sometimes rushing creek waters below. It is one of six remaining wire suspension bridges in Miller County.
The 500 foot bridge was built in 1931 by Joseph A. Dice, only planning for the bridge to last for 60 years at the most. It is now 89 years old, according to Miller County Museum archives,and still swaying gently. Dice, of Warsaw, built as many as 40 bridges in Missouri in his career, seven of them alone built between 1905 and 1930 in Miller County. All of his bridges measured 14 feet wide, and the measurements were obtained by “feel” with a ball and twine for measuring. When the highway department required Dice to begin submitting blueprints for his bridges, he retired. Incidentally, Dice only had a 4th grade education, apprenticed his knowledge in Benton County, and sourced his materials for each bridge with local supplies, only ordering the wire as necessary from outside the area.
*source-Miller County Museum archives.
The Auglaize bridge was designated to the National Register of Historic Places on October 8th, 2020, with the Brumley Save the Historical Swinging Bridge organization receiving the certificate of designation November 4th. The registration has been filed with the Miller County Commissioner’s office, and gives the bridge opportunity for grants to maintain the bridge, and repair aging components. The larger of the two swinging bridges is known officially as the Grand Auglaize Bridge, with the smaller swinging bridge not qualifying due to flat flooring replacement, thus altering its original construction.
On any October weekend, Swinging Bridges Road has become one of the lake area’s hottest tourist destinations, surprisingly seeing the dusty gravel road lined with cars flowing out of the overcrowded Cave Pumpkin Patch parking lot, at times seeing cars with license plates from surrounding states lined almost all the way back to State Highway 42. Past the pumpkin patch, cars extend on the side of the road to the Swinging Bridge. Recently, another enterprising neighbor opened a fishing and kayaking rental service between the pumpkin patch and the Swinging Bridge, adding to activities available to tourists. The Bridge has been recently featured in Roadside America, Trip Advisor online, and Missouri Life Magazine. The National Historic Register placement saved the bridge for generations to come with appropriate repairs and maintenance now ensured.
The National Register of Historic Places is administered in Washington, DC, after passing through a nomination process within the state through Missouri’s Historic Preservation Council, along with the Department of Natural Resources State Historic Preservation division.