Martin County, Ind. bridge has both historical and racial meanings to the Black history of Indiana, people forgot

Braydyn The Bear Lents
Photo of Martin County Bridge #47, July 5, 2021Photo byNathan Holth/Historical

If you drive through the outskirts of Martin County, Ind., after driving through road 150 on Indiana’s History Pathways Road past the Martin County Fairgrounds, you may have seen a bridge connected by metal plates and a large aging metal board steering cars through the tracks.

According to Historic Bridges dot com, the bridge stretches 80 feet, has almost 16 feet of roadway length, and has one main span.

The bridge hovers over the Deep Cut Lake Road and the small Beaver River.

This structure has historical meanings to those in the Martin County community. The piece symbolizes racism, and hatred, but also leaves many locals wondering about history while they try to enjoy the peaceful pastures of small-town America.

This bridge's name is Martin County Bridge #47, known by many elderly residents throughout the area as “The N-word Road Bridge.” It is called the N-word Road Bridge for a widely racist and historical reason.

The bridge embodies the work and dedication of some of the first black workers to build infostructure across the city of Loogootee and through Shoals and French Lick.

Historical site in Loogootee, Ind., Carnahan Manufacturing Company photographed between 1920-1930.Photo byDaviess County Historical Society & Museum

Building the bridge and road 150 that stretched across the Martin County region led many workers to seek refuge in a post-slavery/pre-Jim Crow era, especially those in the south seeking a new life.

Historical records say that as the bridge was built in 1910, in the sight of an abandoned railway yard in the town of Loogootee, up to 10 black workers would spend years building the structure.

Being black in the deep belly for racism in southern Indiana, during lunch breaks the white workers would work, eat, and chat on the top of the bridge, while the black workers spent their days sweating and eating at the bottom of the bridge near Beaver Creek.

The dirt road replaced the railway station, whereas the bridge symbolized to many of these black workers, many from the south, as a symbol of one-day black men could have a sign of freedom one day.

Away from racist hate during the construction of the bridge, the white male workers would criticize and say racist taunts to the workers as they were not allowed to step near the white side of the road construction.

In other words, the white men built the road whereas the black workers added the bolts to the Martin County Bridge #47.
Black workers building a wooden form plank underneath the ground in Loogootee, Ind. in 1923.Photo byGranville C. Thompson Photography Collection/Purdue Libraries & School of Information Studies

Today, the road’s history has been left forgotten as many records say the road was built in 1899 and not 1910.

In total there are six historical bridges, all constructed by black workers from the 1910s to the 1930s that still remain in the Martin County region, but this bridge, in particular, is one of the most forgotten about and the most historically recognizable bridge in the Martin County region for both positive and negative connotations.

The bridge was last inspected in 1974 and has been up to date ever since, and the bridge was named a historical site by the state of Indiana due to the other six bridges built around the city.

Even today the bridge brings pain, memories, laughs, and racist taunts from locals who drive across the bridge young and old.

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Student at Indiana University Bloomington, journalism major, Class of 2024, sports media minor, staff writer/journalist for Hoosiers Network, freelancer "It's called the American Dream cause you have to be asleep to believe it." -- George Carlin

Bloomington, IN

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