William Emory was an 1831 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. When the Mexican War broke out, he was assigned as chief engineer officer to General Stephen Kearny, whose army traversed largely unknown territories in the West. The U.S. War Department would later print 10,000 copies of Emory's Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, which made a significant contribution to understanding the geography and topography of the Southwest.
The Whipple Bowstring Truss Bridge was built from a design patented in 1841 by Squire Whipple. Whipple was the first person to understand the stresses in truss members and he developed the first theoretical formula to calculate stresses in the articulated truss. His bowstring truss was the first to use cast iron for compression and wrought iron for tension membranes.
Nicholas Montgomery Powers built the bridge. It was first constructed behind the village, then taken apart and reassembled over the stream. Some residents questioned the idea of re-constructing it, but Powers was so confident of the bridge's durability that he sat on the roof when the final trestles supporting it were removed. From his perch he reportedly said: "If the bridge goes down, I never want to see the sun rise again!"