Bridges and Friendship

When Av drives around parts of the state we’re not super-familiar with, he brings a topographic map because it shows a lot of backroads that other atlases don’t. It also shows the locations of covered bridges, and when we were looking at the area around Auburn to Phenix City, it showed that there was one called the Salem Shotwell covered bridge in Salem, Alabama. We decided we would drive out to see it.

On the way, in Opelika, we saw a sign for a covered bridge that wasn’t on the map, so we turned into the Opelika Municipal Park, and there it was!

It turns out that the bridge fell into a creek in 2005 during a storm, and just last year, the city of Opelika was able to unveil the bridge rebuilt at the city park. It looks a little different, and is shorter than the original, but they were able to use the old bridge’s materials to make this one.

In Phenix City, there’s a sign for the Horace King Friendship Bridge:

Horace King was a famous bridge builder who built/supervised the first public bridge between Alabama and Georgia. At first (this was in the 1800s) he worked as a slave for John Godwin, who was a contractor, and together they built bridges all over, from the Oconee in Georgia, to the Tombigbee in Mississippi at Columbus.

John Godwin had Horace freed so they would no longer be master and slave. I’ve read some things that Horace King was able to purchase his freedom and others that John Godwin released him so that his creditors couldn’t take him as debt payment, but whatever the arrangement was, the two were such close friends that Horace and John stayed in the bridge-building business together and even lived close-by to one another.

(and Horace wasn’t just a genius at bridge building, either – he designed those gorgeous double floating staircases at the capitol building in Montgomery, a factory and mill in Georgia…he went on to be an Alabama state representative during Reconstruction too…)

When John Godwin died in 1859, Horace King purchased a monument to be put at his place in the cemetery in Phenix City:

It reads: John Godwin, born October 17, 1798, died February 26, 1859. This stone was placed here by Horace King in lasting remembrance and the love and gratitude he felt for his lost friend and former master

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