A couple of Saturdays ago I attended the annual Ham and Bean Feed at Powell, which is a benefit for the continued preservation of the nearby historic 100-plus year old truss bridge.

A couple of Saturdays ago I attended the annual Ham and Bean Feed at Powell, which is a benefit for the continued preservation of the nearby historic 100-plus year old truss bridge.
Our family lived outside of Powell (technically we lived at Tribulation) when I was very young, but I remember our old house - which had been the Tribulation post office - very well. Attending the benefit was almost like coming home in a way. Well, what used to be home anyhow. I spent most of my youth on the opposite side of McDonald County. The best part is I got to go to the bean feed with both my own young family and also my parents and uncle (whose birthday it was). Although I have been back to Powell multiple times as an adult, I think this was the first time I had been there with my parents since we moved away from the community in the mid-'80s.
Hats off to the Powell Historic Preservation Society for saving the bridge from the wrecking ball in the first place, and for their continued efforts to preserve it. I know their plans are to open a little park there at the bridge for people to sit at and enjoy. Proceeds from the ham and bean feed - which was by donation only - went toward that worthy goal. I hope they reach it in the near future. I hope more folks are able to attend next year.
The 210-foot long bridge, which spans Big Sugar Creek, opened in 1915 at a total project cost of $4,000 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now closed to vehicle traffic, and a new concrete bridge was built beside it in 2014. I must say, the new bridge, while obviously much safer and needed, is rather boring compared to the old iron truss one. The latter was simply going to be demolished until some great folks stepped forward and said "wait a minute!" I'm glad they did.
Before the bridge was built there was just a ford there, which was unusable whenever the creek flooded. In 1913 the local citizens petitioned the county for a bridge, and construction began in 1914 and was finished in August 1915. Local Powell resident and former county engineer W. Mose Lett drew up the engineering specifications, and the East St Louis Bridge Company got the bid for the superstructure, while Fred Appleby of Kansas City got the bid for the substructure.
The old bridge served its purpose for almost 100 years, before it finally was deemed no longer safe for vehicles and closed to traffic. It saw many a horse and wagon and horse and buggy cross over it in its early years, before the automobile finally took over in even the most rural parts of the Ozarks and the entire nation.
The historic Powell bridge is one of those “if only it could talk, the stories we'd hear” sort of things. I hope it is with us for at least another 100 years.
If you're on Facebook, please visit, “like”, and share the Powell Historic Preservation Society page. I'm sure they would appreciate it.