Historic Markers Across Georgia

Horace King / Master Builder (1807-1887)

Marker ID:  
Location: is along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, Columbus, GA
County: Muscogee
Coordinates: N 32° 27.812    W 084° 59.818
  32.46353333    -84.99696666
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None


Horace King
Master Builder

Born a slave in Chesterfield District, S.C., Horace King came to Columbus in 1832 with his master, John Godwin, to construct the first bridge between Columbus and Girard, Alabama. After the completion of their covered bridge (called “Dillingham Bridge”), the two men worked together successfully on other building projects. King’s ability and loyalty led Godwin in 1846 to petition the Alabama General Assembly for his black friend’s freedom. Even after his freedom was granted, King continued to work in partnership with the man with whom he had to come to this region of the country. Upon Godwin’s death in 1859, King erected a marble monument over his grave in what is now Phenix City bearing the inscription, “This stone was placed here by Horace King in lasting remembrance of the love and gratitude he felt for his lost friend and former master.”

Although he refused to campaign for the office, King was elected to the Alabama Legislature in 1868 as a representative from Russell County and served with distinction for two terms. A contemporary writer referred to him as “the noblest work of God, an honest man.”

King’s achievements as a master builder are legendary, and include the spectacular circular stairway in the present Alabama State Capitol. However, he is best remembered as the builder of covered wooden bridges, six of which were located in Columbus: two at Fourteenth Street and three which spanned the river here at Dillingham Street. The brick wall visible above is a remnant of the foundation of one of these bridges. He also built the Mobile and Girard Railroad Bridge (1870), visible immediately downstream from this spot, and the Muscogee Railroad Bridge (1855), which crosses the river near the end of Sixteenth Street.

The first bridge that brought Godwin and King to this area was built on this site using Town Lattice trusses and was completed in 1833 at a cost of $14,000. In March 1841, as a result of the “Harrison Freshet,” the bridge floated down river for eight miles and was deposited intact in a cotton field on the Woolfolk Plantation. King was in charge of the crew that constructed the replacement bridge at a cost of $15,100. This bridge remained in use until it was burned by Confederate defenders on April 16, 1865 to prevent its capture by the Union forces approaching from the west. King was in charge again when the bridge was rebuilt a second time in 1867.

About 1872, King moved to LaGrange, Georgia, where he lived until his death on May 28, 1887. During his years in that city, he restored the LaGrange Female College, which had burned a few years earlier, and rebuilt several college and church buildings and other covered bridges. His remarkable career is widely recorded. On July 29, 1989 King was among the first inductees into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in Tuscaloosa.

October 11, 1993