In February 1926, two popular young men, James and Rolla Cusker, perished while driving home after a basketball game. With no ferry service during the winter, travelers crossed the Missouri River on the ice. The boys had used this method earlier, and retraced their tracks on their way home that evening. They followed the ruts they had made on the frozen river, but the river had warmed and they drove into an air hole in the ice. Unfortunately, their bodies were not found for several days.
R.J. Moore, a former Mayor of the City of Wolf Point (1922-1924) and W.L. “Bill” Young, a Roosevelt County Commissioner journeyed to Helena in October of 1926 to meet with the State Highway Commission. It became more apparent after the death of the two Cusker boys earlier in the year that a bridge across the Missouri River was needed to provide year-round, safe travel. The two Wolf Point men went armed with endorsements from Roosevelt and McCone counties as well as petitions from Wolf Point, Glendive, Scobey, and Miles City. They asked that the commission include a north-south route in the new federal highway system and that this route include a bridge across the Missouri River at Wolf Point. A few days later, the Highway Commission adopted a resolution supporting a bridge at Wolf Point along with a road continuing south to Circle.
The new Missouri River Bridge was completed and open to traffic and plans for a huge dedication ceremony was planned for July 9, 1930. Many northeast Montana communities, as well as state dignitaries, were invited to attend the July 9th event. It is estimated that approximately 15,000 people were on hand for the celebration. A well-known young lady from Wolf Point, Vera Smith, was chosen to christen the bridge. Her words were:
“Today, we weld this important link, joining in closer friendship, the north and the south countries. In memory of the pioneers of past generations who visioned the spanning of the Missouri, to the present generation whose initiative and untiring efforts have made this long cherished dream a reality, and to those of future generations to whom this achievement will serve as an incentive to greater development, we formally open and dedicated this Wolf Point Bridge.”
This bridge plaque cast by Anaconda Copper Mining Company was furnished free of charge and was placed on the Bridge and reads as follows:
WOLF POINT BRIDGE
MADE POSSIBLE THRU THE UNITED EFFORTS
OF THE FEDERAL AND STATE HIGHWAY DEP’TS
ROOSEVELT AND MCCONE COUNTIES AND
PUBLIC SPIRITED CITIZENS AND
LEADERSHIP OF W.L. YOUNG
THE EMBODIMENT OF VISION, FAITH,
COURAGE, DEVOTION, SKILL AND TOIL
DEDICATED TO PUBLIC SERVICE
JULY 9TH, 1930
Due to a variety of safety & monetary issues, the old bridge was set for demolition and plans to build a new bridge across the Missouri River were set in motion. In lieu of demolition, the MT Department of Transportation offered the historic bridge to the Montana Historical Society as part of its “Adopt a Bridge” program. A local group, the Wolf Point Historical Society had campaigned to retain the bridge for historic preservation purposes. On April 23, 1998, the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees moved to accept ownership of the Wolf Point Bridge at the Missouri River near Wolf Point, Montana.
The historical society will retain this structure as it does other historic buildings and features, to interpret the history of Montana. In this instance the history of an important aspect of public transportation in Eastern Montana will be protected and historical events at the bridge site will be interpreted. These include events important to the history of the Indian people, Lewis and Clark, early settlement and the use of and crossing of the Missouri River. It is hoped that the natural attributes of the site may also be highlighted in cooperation with other agencies. In addition to representing heritage values, the bridge will be put to as many practical purposes as possible. Pedestrian use for recreation purposes is a major interest of the society’s. Local non-governmental support will be relied upon for ideas, general preservation activities and care. Certainly, the Society wished to lend the bridge to as many local celebrations, pageants, promotions and other celebrations as it possibly can.
Plans to build a new open road bridge moved forward and the location of the bridge is next to the old bridge. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the site of the new Wolf Point Bridge on Wednesday, February 19th, 1997 at noon. The open design of the bridge is a welcome feature to local residents.