from the journal of William Campbell of Lexington, Virginia…with the slave Archer Alexander… writes…
Entered Bourbon County. A fine rich county with elegant brick houses. Went through Millersburg, a small town with four churches and Paris the County town. In and about Paris are a number of extensive hemp and cotton factories. Traveled 23 miles and encamped on the land of James McDowell.*
After a long hard week of rain, the caravan is slowly making its way across Kentucky. They are on the road to Lexington where they will stay with relatives. They encamped at the home of James McDowell**, a native of Rockbridge County, where the caravan originates from. James, is the son of Samuel McDowell and Mary McClung, of Rockbridge County, Virginia. He served as a Private in the Continental Army during the Revolution. He would marry into another Scotch Irish family, Mary Paxton Lyle, 23 September in 1783, and the young couple moved to Kentucky in 1793 about three miles east of Lexington. When the War of 1812 broke out he organized and commanded a Company, that grew into a Regiment, and then into a Battalion. His voice gained him the name of “Old Thunder” as everyone could hear him lead the charge.
Other McDowell “kin” back in Rockbridge were the family of Elizabeth Preston McDowell, who had married Thomas Hart Benton, who would be one of Missouri’s first Senator’s from 1821 until 1851. Their daughter Jessie would marry John C. Fremont.
The area presently bounded by Kentucky state lines was a part of the U.S. State of Virginia, known as Kentucky County when the British colonies separated themselves in the American Revolutionary War. In 1780, the Virginia legislature divided the previous Kentucky County into three smaller units: Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln. In 1791, this area was separated into the State of Kentucky; it became effective on June 1, 1792. From that time, the original three counties were divided several times. A portion of Fayette County was split off as Bourbon County in 1785; a portion of Bourbon was split off as Mason County in 1788; in 1806 the present Lewis County was split off from Mason.
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.
**James McDowell Born 29 APR 1760, Rockbridge County, Virginia Died 31 DEC 1843 • Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Kentucky, United States
The next entry in Campbell’s journal is September 19, 1829.https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/19/19-september-1829/
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