from the journal of William Campbell of Lexington, Virginia…with the slave Archer Alexander… writes…
It being Sunday we laid by to rest man and horses, Rain in the morning. Crossed the river in a skiff and took a walk in the great free State of Ohio.*
Campbell has halted the caravan in the small village of Vanceburg, Kentucky, in Lewis County. Its’ raining and the group needs rest, however Campbell also uses the day to visit “the great free State of Ohio” and attend church. He takes a quick boat ride across the river and visits the First Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. This is a large town with residents who are anti-slavery protagonists, free blacks, and on the route of the Underground Railroad. From when the town was first platted in 1803, the Presbyterians had been meeting there. In 1816, they began using the same building as the State of Ohio’s Scioto County Court, for their meetings, along with those that were Methodist, or Baptist faiths. The Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhower families in this caravan were of the Presbyterian faith. However Vanceburg is only a small trifling village in 1829, with fourteen families, and there isn’t a church there.
Archer, Louisa, and the other enslaved will be kept in, and will remain in Kentucky. For them the day of rest would still include the child care, cooking, necessary washing and mending, and any repairs needed to the wagons. The horses, cattle and oxen still need to be fed. If they were lucky, they would be allowed a little relaxation, and time to visit with each other. The horses had more rest than the enslaved did.
Another resource today is the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth, Ohio http://www.somacc.com/information/
Archer was born enslaved by the Alexander family in Rockbridge County Virginia in 1806. In 1829, the Alexander family moved from Virginia to Dardenne Prairie in Saint Charles County, in Missouri. He lived there enslaved for over thirty years, working first in the brickyards of St. Louis, and then as a carpenter. By 1844, he had been sold to David Pitman, while his wife Louisa lived a few miles away. In the winter of 1863, Archer would risk his life to inform the Union Army that his owner had sabotaged the nearby railroad bridge. With his owner and a lynch mob in pursuit, he used a well known route of the Underground Railroad, to make his way to St. Louis. There he was taken in by William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister, founder of Washington University, and a member of the Western Sanitary Commission. When Eliot’s close friend James Yeatman shared Charlotte Scott’s dream for a memorial to Lincoln in 1865, it would be another American hero Archer Alexander seen rising from his broken shackles alongside Lincoln on the Emancipation Monument in 1876. Today, the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Park is in danger of being removed. This Federal Monument, was paid for entirely by the former enslaved people, as a memorial to President Lincoln. To sign the petition to keep it in place see https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. There are 55 people in this caravan, 25 of which are enslaved. Among the enslaved is Archer Alexander.\This journal is located in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor and author is Dorris Keeven-Franke.
The next entry in Campbell’s journal is September 14, 1829. https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/14-september-1829/
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