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February 10, 2017

The Bridge That "Whiskey" Built 1883 - College Street Footbridge

The Bridge That Whiskey Built

(Based on article by Judge M. D. Aber in the Warrensburg Daily Star Journal, Feb. 14, 1951 )

1883-One approach to the Old Normal College (UCM) was a wooden, high arch shaped foot-bridge about five feet wide over the railroad on Miller Street (now College street). It had been built shortly after the Normal school opened to enable the Warrensburg denizens and the students who roomed north of the railroad, which was almost the entire residential area of the town, to get to the school. The Maguire (McGuire on the map) street bridge over the railroad was built by the railroad because the law required it. The law said that there had to be a bridge where the railroad crossed public road, which that street was in 1864. When the railroad was constructed in Warrensburg. 

"Whiskey Bridge"
Whiskey Bridge - Footbridge Built Over MoPac Tracks on College Street Today Warrensburg MO.  Map from 1869

By 1883, the pressure was strong for a real bridge. But the town treasury was scraping the bottom, in the continuous effort to make the low tax rate pay the bills, By this time, the well-meaning people of Warrensburg had adopted an anti-liquor law in Warrensburg so that all alcoholic beverage sales became taboo. In due course, there sprang up sundry devices, called "Blind Tigers", for evading the law. Most of these opened from the rears of the lots fronting the north side of Pine Street so that the thirsty had to make their approaches from the alley extending west from Holden Street. The journeys of the patrons down the alley gave it the name “Kentucky Avenue".
West Pine Street About 1890, Warrensburg, MO
The Whiskey was served behind the buildings on the left.
In the alley called "Kentucky Street"
The county of officers made no effort to enforce the law apparent connection between politics and law evasions appeared to be in full operation the "Blind Tigers" delivered the vote. The agitation for a bridge was insistent, the funds were non-existent, in other towns, where liquor was legal and license laws existed were at any rate getting some money out the questionable business. Mayor Henry F. Clark was not a prohibitionist, but above all things he was a practical man, a realist of high degree. Therefore Mayor Clark reasoned, “of course it’s bad business, but the State isn’t prosecuting. These men are reaping big profits, and we need a bridge.
Original MoPac Train Depot in Warrensburg, MO Built ca 1864

So, in his forthright manner. Mayor Clark called upon each vendor and curtly told them in effect that on the first of each month, the Marshal would call upon them, and that their fine would be an amount he fixed, based upon the licenses in similar towns. In case this was not done, despite the arrangements they might have with the county authorities, he would find ways to close them. Much of this may have been bluff, but it worked and in this way in due course, a fund was accumulated in the town treasury, and with it, the bridge was built.
The "Whiskey Bridge" could have looked similar to this footbridge except the real bridge was of a "high arch" design.
Pertle Springs, MO - Warrensburg, MO

The Mayor got the bridge, but repercussions were not wanting. Of course, the proponents of the local option law protested vigorously and in the next election the Mayor was defeated. But the bridge was built.

So ardent was the feeling in regard to the bridge that a number of Clark's opposition would never cross on the 'Whiskey' bridge.
Whiskey Bridge Location Today
College Street at Railroad St., Warrensburg.

 1884 Murder Victim found under the footbridge

Whiskey/whisky nmemonics:
Here's a quick way to remember how some of the world's biggest producers spell their products:
Countries that have E's in their names (UnitEd StatEs and IrEland) tend to spell it whiskEy (plural whiskeys)
Countries without E's in their names (Canada, Scotland, and Japan) spell it whisky (plural whiskies)

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