Joppa, Russell Fork marker dedication Saturday

Contributed/Rachel Bryson
The old iron bridges over North Fork and Russell Fork will be the site of historical marker dedications this Saturday, May 12. The bridges were built more than 100 years ago with proceeds from bond sales approved by county residents.

By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

A years-long dream will finally come to fruition for the community of Joppa and the whole of Burnet County on Saturday, May 12. The Russell Fork and North Fork bridges in Joppa will receive their well-deserved Texas Historical Registry recognition at two dedication ceremonies which will be held at the bridges' locations.

The North Fork Bridge, also known as the Joppa Bridge, was built in 1907 and is located at the intersection of County Roads 210, 272, and 200. The Russell Fork Bridge, built in 1911, is located two miles south of the Joppa church on County Road 272.

After the construction of the railroad in the area, the demand for certain goods grew, and the two bridges were built to provide inhabitants with a safe, efficient path to their destinations after inconveniences like flooded low-water crossings in inclement weather.

The bridges were also used to the advantage of commerce, economic development, and transportation to schools and churches, but these purposes were not the only ones served by the iron structures.

In her booklet “North of Joppa, Volume One,” third-generation Joppa resident Rachel Bryson says that as time passed, “the bridges and the water that ran beneath it allowed people to enjoy the tranquility, friendships, romances, and just plain fun that the bridges provided.”

Today, Burnet County's Iron Bridges are accompanied by modern bridges, but not overshadowed. Visitors and residents alike are still able to experience the attractive qualities of the historical fixtures of a county so hard-pressed to restore and keep them for years to come.

In September 2017, the Burnet County Historical Commission teamed up with the community to raise funds in order to pay for the application for Texas Historical Markers for the last two remaining iron bridges in Burnet County.

A fish fry was held at the Joppa Fellowship Hall, and members of the community showed up in support of their county's history. Bryson also contributed to the cause by offering her booklet for sale at the event.

“It was overwhelming,” said BCHC chair JoAnn Myers. “We planned for 250 plates and ran out of food in an hour. Each marker costs $1,800, plus a $100 application fee for each one. We ended up raising close to $8,000.”

The outstanding success of the fundraiser set the ball rolling for the historical registration process, and this Saturday, the community will be able to witness the outcome of their hard work and respect for historical beauty.

“We have a lot of enthusiastic residents,” Myers said. “We've got old timers, and kids and grandkids of old timers that have stories of their lives in Joppa; this is long-awaited. We are finally ready to dedicate the bridges.”

The celebration will begin at 1:30 p.m. with live music by Algerita Hill on the Joppa Bridge, and the first dedication will take place at the Russell Fork Bridge at 2 p.m. The historical marker will be unveiled by the last remaining members of the Asher family, who owned the land around the bridges when they were constructed over 100 years ago.

The dedication will then move to the North Fork bridge at Joppa, where the historical marker will be unveiled by Burnet County commissioners. Refreshments and live music at the Joppa Fellowship Hall will follow.

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