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horace king

Horace King

Horace King (1807-1885) was a well-known and well respected bridge builder in the states of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi during the 19th century. Horace was enslaved until 1846 by John Godwin. King partnered with and often assumed leadership on many bridge building and other construction projects with Godwin. King became one of the wealthiest free blacks in Alabama. He was given wide latitude and freedom in his travel while enslaved. He was reluctantly employed by the Confederacy during the civil war. He also served as a legislator in Alabama during Reconstruction.

In 1839, while still enslaved, King married Frances Gould Thomas a free black woman. Her status as a free woman would ensure that any of his children would also be free. Being allowed to marry a free woman while still enslaved was extremely unusual. This was probably done due to his exceptional talents and skill as a bridge builder. King became especially known for his skill in building covered bridges. This type of bridge building required a variety of skills. King was likely taught these skills by his master John Godwin. However, King quickly became more skill than his master. With the financing of private investors, King oversaw the construction of his masters toll bridges across the Chattahoochee River at West Point, Eufaula, and Florence Georgia. The cost was approximately $22,000 which would have been an enormous sum of money at the time.  The investors made money by collecting tolls on the bridges.

King purchased his freedom in 1846. In the early 1850’s the state of Alabama hired King to do carpentry and construction work for the state. One the projects included building circular staircases on the new capitol building in Montgomery, AL. He also built Moore’s bridge over the Chattahoochee River around the same time. King and his family eventually relocated to live near Moore’s Bridge. King and his family would become keepers of the bridge, and collect bridge tolls as well. The bridge was burned by the Union Army in 1864 during the Civil War. King’s first wife also died in 1864. A year later, he would marry Sara Jane Jones McManus. In 1872, King and his family moved to LaGrange, GA. There, he and his sons continued to build bridges, homes, and college buildings. Horace King dies on May 28, 1885. King left behind 3 children (another 2 had preceded him death) and his second wife. All of his children were from his first message.  His 3 children; John, Annie, and George continued to work in the family business of construction, carpentry and bridge building.

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