Marker [054-1]
1931 Free Bridge Controversy
(US 69/75, at Texas Travel Information Center 1 mi. S. of the Red River)


As a result of late 1920s legislation in Texas and Oklahoma, the two states cooperated on a project to build free highway bridges spanning the red river to accommodate rapidly increasing highway traffic. One of these bridges was near Colbert Bridge, a toll bridge descended from the mid-19th century Colbert's Ferry.

When the free bridge was ready to open in early July 1931, the red river bridge company, operators of Colbert Bridge, obtained a federal restraining order against the opening of the free bridge until contractual payments had been made to compensate the company for their anticipated loss. Texas Governor Ross Sterling complied, but Oklahoma Governor William Murray, who was not a party to the contract between the Texas Highway Commission and the Red River Bridge Company, asked Governor Sterling to join him in protesting the injunction.  Sterling refused; Murray ordered the removal of barricades erected by the Texas highway commission. For twelve hours, traffic flowed freely across the bridge. By July 17, Texas rangers guarded the southern side. Oklahoma highway crews rerouted traffic from Colbert Bridge to Preston bridge several miles away and dismantled the approach to the Colbert Bridge from Oklahoma.

As tensions came close to breaking in the summer heat, the injunction was suspended; the Texas rangers opened the bridge on July 25. The new bridge was officially opened on Labor Day, 1931. It served until 1995, when it was replaced by a new structure. A portion of the free bridge was placed in a park in Colbert, Oklahoma, about two miles north.