Friday, July 11, 2008

An Itawamba Son and the Golden Gate Bridge

During the Great Depression many of America’s construction wonders were built. One such wonder was the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The construction of this great new bridge began on January 5, 1933 under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration - a program begun by Franklin D. Roosevelt, to create public works through Federal funds to help alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. Today it is still one of the engineering wonders of the world.

The construction project created numerous jobs during the Great Depression and many citizens of America went west to San Francisco to work with its construction. One such young man of the 1,300-person workforce was Daniel Kermit Moore of Itawamba County. He was a part of the workforce laboring under extreme danger for three years, eight months and six days before the mighty bridge claimed its first life.

Daniel Kermit Moore was born in western Itawamba County at Fawn Grove on October 2, 1912, the son of Daniel Boone Moore (1871-1957) and Alice Marlin (1874-1964). Daniel Boone Moore was the son of William Hugh Moore and Elizabeth Ann Walker. Alice Marlin was the daughter of Ralph Marlin and Lucy Brown. Young Kermit lived on his family farm and attended the local schools. When the Great Depression hit Itawamba County times were hard and work was scarce. Many young men of the area left the rural county countryside and small communities to find work and make a decent living. Some local young men found work at the huge dam being built on the Tennessee River that created Pickwick lake north of Itawamba County. Others moved north to find jobs in the industrial centers of the north, but the young adventurous Kermit Moore set his eyes and dreams westward and moved to San Francisco where he found work with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

During the construction of the great bridge eleven men died while working on the structure. The first fatality during the bridge construction was young Itawambian, Daniel Kermit Moore, who died during a construction accident on October 21, 1936.

On that eventful day, a derrick lifting steel roadway beams toppled and killed the 23-year-old Moore who was working on the structure. The derrick accident was a grim reminder of the dangers faced daily by the bridge workers.

Four months later, on February 17, 1937 another ten men lost their lives when a section of the scaffold carrying them fell through the safety net.

Daniel Kermit Moore of Itawamba County was the first of eleven men who gave their lives during the construction of one of the Wonders of the Modern World. This morning I found his modest gravesite in the old Walton Cemetery west of the Tombigbee River near his Mississippi boyhood farm. His monument stands as a small silent sentinel on the hill above a nearby valley. The quiet pastoral setting was interrupted only by the constant buzzing of tree locusts as horses in a nearby pasture lazily grazed on the emerald-green grass. It was a typically hot and humid Mississippi summer’s day. Young Daniel Kermit Moore’s unassuming granite sentinel is a silent monument not only to this young Itawamba County, Mississippi son, but to the bravery and dedication of those young bridge workers who built the majestic Golden Gate Bridge in California during America’s Great Depression.

Bridge Photograph by Jet Lowe (1984) courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number (ca43)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kermit Moore was my great uncle. He stopped for a visit with his eldest sister, Zera Moore Blackburn, and family in rural east Texas before boarding the bus to San Francisco and the job that claimed his life. My mother will be ninety next month, remembers Kermit's visit with her family clearly, and the sad day a family friend, Rob Turner also an Itawamba County native, brought the telegram with the news of Kermit's death. Thanks for the write up.