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This highway bridge carrying US-10 over the Muskegon River in Evart, Michigan, was named in honor of Joseph W. Guyton, an Evart native who was the first American soldier killed on German soil during World War I. The bridge was constructed in 1934 and was dedicated in Guyton's honor on Memorial Day, 1935.

Joseph W. Guyton Memorial Bridge, postcard view, ca. 1940

Joseph W. Guyton Memorial Bridge, postcard view, ca. 1940

Joseph William Guyton, an Evart-area native, enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1917. He arrived in France in March 1918 to become part of the U.S. Army's 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. The 32nd became known famously as the "Red Arrow Division" for its distinctive arrow shoulder insignia after it became the first allied division to successfully breach Germany's Hindenburg defensive line. Guyton was killed by machine-gun fire on the Alsace front on May 24, 1918. He was originally buried in France, but after the war his family had his remains returned home and he was interred with full honors at Evart's Forest Hill Cemetery in 1921.

Sadly, Guyton's wife died in the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic only three months after her husband was killed in combat, leaving their only child, Olive, an orphan. Olive Guyton died of pneumonia at the age of eleven, just two years after her father's remains were brought home to Evart.

In 1934, the State of Michigan announced that it would name a new highway bridge at Evart in honor of Joseph W. Guyton. The dedication of the bridge took place on Memorial Day, 1935. The Osceola County Herald issue of June 6, 1935, described the dedication ceremonies as follows, in part:

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A crowd estimated at 6,000 people attended the Osceola county observance of Memorial day at Evart Thursday when the Joseph W. Guyton Memorial bridge over the Muskegon river was dedicated, followed by appropriate services in the Evart cemetery.

The program at the bridge included a dedicatory prayer, which was followed by the introduction of Murray D. Van Wagoner, state highway commissioner, by Judson E. Richardson. Following "America" the tablet bearing the names of the 34 Osceola World war dead was unveiled. Evart Boy and Girl Scouts then scattered flowers on the water in memory of navy dead. Taps and salute closed this ceremony.

[end quote]

Guyton's sacrifice is also recognized locally at the Joseph W. Guyton Memorial Park in downtown Evart.

"New Bridge at Evart a Memorial to Guyton," Detroit Free Press, October 28, 1934, p.12.

"Continue Plans for County Memorial Day: Guyton Memorial Bridge to be Dedicated," Osceola County Herald, May 16, 1935, p.1.

"Memorial Bridge to be Dedicated May 30," Osceola County Herald, May 30, 1935, p.8.

"Guyton Memorial Bridge Dedicated," Osceola County Herald, June 6, 1935, p.4.

Link, Mardi. "Memory Lane #2: Farmer, Plumber, Well Driller Namesake for Muskegon Bridge," Traverse City Record-Eagle, November 5, 2018 [accessed 30 July 2020: ]

Lamphere, Chris. "The Sad, Inspiring Story of Evart Native Joseph W. Guyton," Cadillac News, May 24, 2019.

Gansser, Emil B. History of the 126th Infantry In the War With Germany. Grand Rapids, Mich.: 126th Infantry Association, 1920. 

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Deborah Larsen