OUR VIEW: Hopeful for honoring of Horace King
Published 8:00 am Friday, September 4, 2020
The City of LaGrange, in partnership with Visit LaGrange and The Thread, discussed preliminary plans to improve Mulberry Street Cemetery at the city council retreat on Aug. 25.
At the center of the plans is a shared goal to honor Horace King, the prolific 19th-century African American bridge builder.
King was born a slave in South Carolina in 1807. An architect, engineer, master carpenter and bridge builder, he designed buildings and bridges across the Southeast. He served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives during Reconstruction and in 1874 moved to LaGrange.
All four of King’s sons worked under him, learning engineering and architecture skills. The Kings left their mark on the landscape of LaGrange. Visit LaGrange President Kathy Tilley said during the discussion that every building on the east side of Lafayette Square was built by King or his son, George King. George and another son of Horace, John King, built the Calumet Mill, which sat at the site now occupied by St. Peter’s Catholic Church and for which the Calumet Park neighborhood is named. They also did work for LaGrange College.
King and three of his sons are buried in LaGrange.
The Thread plans to build a bridge across a creek that will connect the cemetery to The Thread. King was famed for his covered bridges. The city hopes to build a covered bridge in the style of Horace King.
A winding path down the hill would lead visitors to the King grave. The gravesite itself would be enhanced with a seating area.
The idea was well received by council members, and we think it’s a great idea.
King lived a remarkable life, accomplishing amazing things after receiving his freedom. He and his family are central to African American heritage in Troup County.
This idea would be a fitting tribute to King.
Additionally, as Tilley explained, it would be an interesting addition to the cemetery, which also contains civil war graves and unmarked graves of people who were likely slaves.
Council members spoke about this unique variety of graves and its potential as a historic attraction on LaGrange.
The combination of slaves, union and confederate troops and an accomplished Black bridge builder reflects the complexities of Southern history.
Once the cost and funding sources are worked out, we hope the council will continue to support the project. This cemetery has the potential to be a premier historic site.