Tag Archives: Alabama

Horace King-The Master Bridge Builder

Horace King, 1807-1885, was considered the preeminent bridge builder in the South. It is believed he built over 100 bridges, most of them being in Alabama and Georgia. King was born into slavery in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. His enslaver, John Godwin, earned a bid to build a bridge over the Chattahoochee River. King moved with Godwin to Girard, Alabama, to begin the project.

In 1846, Godwin decided to no longer hold King in bondage. I have also read that King purchased his freedom. At this point, King’s services were in high demand to build bridges. He moved freely throughout the South. He is credited with building bridges at many points over the Chattahoochee River and other rivers. Outside of bridges, he built homes and warehouses. He also built the freestanding spiral staircase in the Alabama State Capitol.

Spiral staircase at Alabama State Capitol. (Photo credit- Library of Congress, HABS)

In 1839, he married free woman, Frances Gould Thomas. They had four boys and one girl. For whatever reason, the grave markers for the four boys have the birthdate of 1844. Based on census records, which can be incorrect, I believe Washington King was born in 1840, Marshall in 1842, John in 1846, and George in 1850. All of the children were involved in the construction company that they called the King Brothers Bridge Company.

The long approach of the Red Oak Covered Bridge is located outside of Woodbury, Georgia in the community of Imlac. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The graves of Horace and Marshall King in the Mulberry Street Cemetery complex is located in LaGrange, Georgia. The city of LaGrange has been restoring this part of town and recently added a covered bridge to honor King.
Johnson Mill Bridge in Harris County, Georgia (courtesy Digital Library of Georgia

St. Andrews Church-Prairieville, Alabama

Hale County

This Carpenter Gothic church is located in Prairieville, Alabama. The congregation of St. Andrews Episcopal Church was founded in 1834. Enslaved laborers built this incredible church in 1856. These builders were loaned to the church by members who were slaveholders.

The cemetery contains a significant amount of ironwork and fencing. Many posts featured common symbols found in a cemetery. The upside-down torch represents a life that has ended or snuffed out. The arrows represent mortality. If you look closely at the road, you will see three leaves, and that represents the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Nettles Death Masks-Carlton, Alabama

Clarke County

Outside of Carlton, Alabama, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church’s cemetery contains death masks created by Isaac Nettles. Nettles created these masks by making molds of the subjects’ faces while they were still alive, which is different from the traditional death mask made after someone passes. The three-person marker represents Isaac and Cora’s three daughters and rests atop Cora’s grave. There are two other markers made by Nettles. These are deteriorating quickly. In 2020, Hurricane Sally caused significant damage to the masks. These are incredible pieces of folk art. At one point, there were four death masks. One was made for Isaac’s mother Selena/Celina. It was damaged by Hurricane Frederick in 1979. The markers were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.