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King, Horace (1807-1885)

Horace King, born a slave on September 8, 1807 in Chesterfield District, South Carolina, was a successful bridge architect and builder in West Georgia, Northern Alabama and northeast Georgia in the period between the 1830s and 1870s.   King worked for his master, John Godwin who owned a successful construction business.  Although King was a slave, Godwin treated him as a valued employee and eventually gave him considerable influence over his business.  Horace King supervised many of Godwins business activities including the management of construction sites. In 1832, for example, King led a construction crew in building Moore’s Bridge, the first bridge crossing the lower Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia.  Later in the decade, Godwin and King constructed some of the largest bridges in Georgia, Alabama, and Northeastern Mississippi.  By the 1840s King designed and supervised construction of major bridges at Wetumpka, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi without Godwins supervision.  Godwin issued five year warranties on his bridges because of his confidence in King’s high quality work.

In 1839, Horace King married Frances Thomas, a free African American woman.  The couple had had four boys and one girl. The King children eventually joined their father at working on various construction projects.  In addition to building bridges, King constructed homes and government buildings for Godwins construction company.  In 1841, King supervised the construction of the Russell County Courthouse in Alabama.  Despite the success of the company in attracting work, Godwin nonetheless fell into debt.  King was emancipated by Godwin on February 3, 1846 to avoid his seizure by creditors.  King continued to work for Godwins construction company and when his former owner died in 1859, King assumed controlled of Godwin’s business.  

During the Civil War, King continued to work on construction projects usually for the Confederacy including a building for the Confederate navy near Columbus, Georgia.  Confederate officials also

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