service for the Confederacy. Authorities
in both Georgia and Alabama demanded that he leave his business to aid in the
construction of defensive works. He also
worked for a time in a navy manufacturing outfit and constructed an iron rolling
mill in Columbus.
Disaster struck on July 13, 1864,
when federal troops raided the Kings’
Carroll County property and seized
Moore’s Bridge. The next day the Confederates recaptured and destroyed the
structure. Having read a newspaper
account of the events, King returned
home to care for his family. Fortunately,
none of them were harmed, although
Frances died of natural causes several
On June 6, 1865, King remarried.
The end of the war brought new pro-
fessional opportunities as well. Because
he had been a freedman and a success-
ful businessman before the war, he en-
joyed a status that other, more recent-
ly freed slaves did not. King continued
to expand the scope of his work, build-
ing railroad bridges, factories, and ware-
houses. By 1867 he was operating as an
independent contractor, producing his
own lumber and even devising a new
type of saw blade with replaceable teeth.
despite increasing competition from national construction firms. In his later
years, Horace tried his hand at architecture, designing and building businesses
and schools in and around LaGrange.
He died on May 28, 1885.
Several of Horace King’s major spans
survived for decades, but few of his
structures are extant today. The 412 ft
long Red Oak Creek Covered Bridge,
in Meriwether County, Georgia, is traditionally attributed to him, although
it may have been built by his sons. Also
still standing are a bridge house in Albany, Georgia, that was once part of King’s
1858 Flint River crossing and a large
warehouse he built in Columbus, Georgia, in 1865. More important than any
of these remaining structures, however,
is the remarkable story of the
man himself, who rose from
slavery to become an accomplished engineer whose name
will long be remembered.
—JEFF L. BROWN
Jeff Brown is a contributing editor to Civil Engineering.
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SEPTEMBER 2012 Civil Engineering