The Shearwater Bridge is situated in Ocean Springs, Mississippi and spans the entrance to the "back harbor" of the Ocean Springs Inner Harbor. The small bridge is the division between General Pershing Avenue and Shearwater Drive. Although their is a harbor here today which was dredged out in the 1930s, this area is clearly portrayed on the 1850 Biloxi Bay Map created by the US Coast Survey, as a very small bayou. This has been corroborated by the author in interviews with Marguerite Seymour Norman (1908-2001) who remembers that the mouth of the small bayou, then called Mill Dam Bayou, was so small that it could be crossed at low tide by laying a large board across its mouth.
In August 1846, the time of the partition of the Widow LaFontiane Tract, Section 37, T7S-R8W, the small bayou that transected the marsh and flowed into Biloxi Bay was called Bayou Baiziene. The Widow LaFontiane Tract is composed of 237-acres bounded on the north by Government Street, east by General Pershing Avenue, south by the Bay of Biloxi, and wet by Martin Avenue.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 4, p. 548)
Mill Dam Bayou
In the 19th Century, Bayou Baiziene became know as the Mill Dam Bayou. Captain Ellis Handy (1891-1963) who in the late 1940s wrote a column "Know Your Neighbor" for The Gulf Coast Times, interviewed local historian, Joe Lewis "Dode" Schrieber (1873-1951). Mr. Schrieber related that the "Mill Dam" was created by William Gray Kendall (1812-1872), an entrepreneur from Kentucky, who erected a weir or small dam across the bayou to trap tidewater and provide a source of energy to grind corn or other grains at a mill located on that site. The grinding wheel fell into the mud and silt of the bayou when it was abandoned in the 1870s.(The Gulf Coast Times, August 26, 1949).
Naturally, the road crossing the dam was called the Mill Dam Road. It became known as, Anola, probably for W.G. Kendall's daughter, Anola Philomela Kendall (1843-1899). We know this thoroughfare today as Shearwater Drive.
1936 Shearwater Bridge
[circa 1944 aerial view of US Army Crash Boat Base and Shearwater Bridge]
In January 1936, the old bridge across the "Mill Dam" was replaced. The refurbished span opened for road traffic on January 30, 1936. Ed Voivedich in his Model T Ford was the first to cross the new span.(The Jackson County Times, January 25, 1936, p. 1 and February 1, 1936, p. 3)
Construction of the 1958 Shearwater Bridge was commenced in January 1958 by Newsom Construction Company. The18-foot tall bridge across the Ocean Springs Inner Harbor cost $17,000. The bridge was named "Shearwater" to honor the Shearwater Pottery and the George Walter Anderson family for their contribution to the development of the Ocean Springs Inner Harbor.(The Ocean Springs News, January 16, 1958, p. 1)
1958 Shearwater Bridge
[image made February 2002]
The 1958 Shearwater Bridge ceased operations in October 2003 due to concerns for public safety. It had been closed for repairs in October 2001. In late May 2003, construction began on a new span across the small craft harbor at Ocean Springs. The bridge erection was supervised by Batson & Brown Inc. for $360,000. Subcontractor, the Tony Parnell Construction Company, built the structure.(The Mississippi Press, May 30, 2002, p. A-1, The Sun Herald, September 16, 2003, p. A3)
2003 Shearwater Bridge under construction
[image made June 2003]
The new Shearwater Bridge was dedicated on April 20, 2004. A bottle of champagne was broken on structure by Marjorie A. Ashley, the daughter of Peter Anderson (1903-1984), potter James Anderson, the son of Peter Anderson, and his spouse, Margaret Hollingsworth Anderson.(The Ocean Springs Record, April 22, 2004, p. A1)
The plaque placed on the structure reads as follows:
OPENED OCTOBER 8, 2003
This bridge was built through the efforts of: The City of Ocean Springs Mayor & Board of Aldermen
The Jackson County Board of Supervisors
The Historic Ocean Springs Association (HOSA)
The Taxpayers of the City of Ocean Springs & Jackson County
As part of the US Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, work was commenced in March 2009 to protect the elevated road bed on both sides of the span from erosion.(The Ocean Springs Record, March 26, 2009, p. 15)
Charles E. Schmidt, Ocean Springs French Beachhead, (Lewis Printing Services: Pascagoula, Mississippi-1972), p.
The Bay Press, “HOSA to sponsor additional costs of Shearwater Bridge”, April 2, 2002, p. 1.
The Jackson County Times, “Rebuild bridge on the ‘Mill Dam’”, January 18, 1936, p. 3.
The Jackson County Times, “Mill Dam Bridge nears completion”, January 25, 1936, p. 1.
The Jackson County Times, “The Column”, February 1, 1936.
The Mississippi Press, “Shearwater bridge design offered”, January 16, 2002.
The Mississippi Press, “New Shearwater Bridge Under Construction”, May 30, 2003.
The Ocean Springs News, “Let Contract on Shearwater Dr. Bridge Work”, January 16, 1958.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Majority wins debate over bridge on Shearwater”, November 1, 2001.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Objections stall harbor bridge”, February 20, 2002.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridge replacement hampered by delays", July 11, 2002, p. A1.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Harbor Bridge held up”, January 23, 2003, P.A-1.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridge hurdles gone”, May 15, 2003, P.A-1.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridges may be open in 90 days”, June 26, 2003.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridges may be fixed in 60 days", July 24, 2003, p. A1.
The Ocean Springs Record, “City pays bill despite bridge flaws, July 24, 2003, p. A1.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Shearwater Dedication”, April 22, 2004.
The Ocean Springs Record, “Shearwater Bridge improved as part of Corps' Coastal Improvement Program", March 26, 2009.
The Sun Herald, “Shearwater Bridge plans get new flair”, January 16, 2002.
The Sun Herald, “Bridge redo delayed", March 3, 2003, p. A2.
The Sun Herald, “Ocean Springs gets permit for Shearwater Bridge”, May 3, 2003.
The Sun Herald, “Shearwater Bridge to open in two weeks", September 16, 2003, p. A3.