The final entry of William M. Campbell’s journal* simply reads…
When Archer arrived in Dardenne Prairie in Saint Charles County on October 8th in 1829, he was 23 years old. Born in 1806, his parents Aleck and Chloe were the property of the Alexander family. He was owned by James Alexander of Rockbridge County, near Lexington, in Virginia. His wife Louisa, born as property of the McCluer family, was part of the dowry of James’ wife Nancy. Together Archer and Louisa would have ten children, Ralph, Nellie, Wesley, Eliza, Mary Ann, Archer, Jim, Aleck, Lucinda, and John. By 1835 their owners James and his wife Nancy had succumbed to the cholera epidemic. James Alexander’s final Will expressly demands that absolutely none of his slaves are to be sold, but to be rented out for the support and to pay for the education of his four small remaining children that were now orphans. The Alexander children, John, William, Agnes and Sarah would return to Rockbridge County Virginia, where they were raised by their relatives Alexander B. and Elizabeth (Alexander) Stuart. The orphans’ property, including Archer and Louisa, would be under the control of the Estate’s Executor and Administrator, William Campbell, the author of this journal. James’ youngest son William would return to Missouri when he was grown, sell all of his property including his slaves, and become a law partner with his cousin William Campbell.
The Alexander, Campbell and McCluer family were all cousins and had purchased their property in Dardenne Prairie, along the Boone’s Lick road prior to their arrival in 1829. At first log cabins would serve as shelter for both the black and white families. But as the families prospered, and their land ownership grew, so did their residence. In 1835, work continued on a house, that William Campbell would be the first to reside in. Under the direction of two stonemasons, Archer and the blacks would erect a beautiful home reminiscent of the family residence in Ireland. After the stone house was completed in 1836, the log buildings would become the dwellings of Archer and the other enslaved people.
Archer, who had worked in the brickyards of St. Louis prior to his owner James Alexander’s death, had been brought by William Campbell to Dardenne Prairie to be in charge of the other enslaved property. An excellent carpenter, Archer’s skills would be useful in building not only this house, but several other local residences, including that of his future owners, the Pitman family. Campbell, who was editor of a St. Charles County newspaper, and had been elected to serve in Missouri’s House of Representatives, turned to Archer because he had proved himself trustworthy in the position of manager. This relationship also helped establish Archer Alexander among the other owners in the neighborhood, including the Bates and Naylor families, as someone they could depend upon.
THE CIVIL WAR
By 1863, this area was a mixture of not only Confederate sympathizers from the south, but German immigrants who had begun arriving in the 1830s. Germans were pro Union, and strong abolitionists, and sympathetic to the plight of Archer and other blacks. In February, Archer had overheard some of the area’s Confederate men discussing how they had undermined the local railroad bridge. The men who were southern sympathizers, had stored guns and ammunition in the Campbell icehouse for an attack when the bridge, which was a vital link for the Union Army, collapsed. Archer would risk his life to warn the Union troops stationed at the bridge five miles away. Almost immediately suspicion fell upon Archer as being the informer, and a lynch mob set out after him.
Archer, availed himself of the area’s established underground railroad to make his way to St. Louis, where he would be taken in by a Unitarian minister who was also a member of the Western Sanitary Commission, William Greenleaf Eliot. Eliot would secure an Order of Protection from the local Provost Marshall. Archer’s bravery would secure him a place in Eliot’s home, and on the Emancipation Monument with President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C.. Archer would die December 8, 1880 and was buried near his second wife Julia, in the St. Peter’s German Evangelical Cemetery, in a common lot grave. Eliot would write the story of Archer’s life From Slavery to Freedom, in 1885, using pseudonyms for many of the characters.
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families, the Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhauer families with their 25 slaves, from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. 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 is Dorris Keeven-Franke. This is the final entry in William Campbell’s journal and is written on Thursday, October 8, 1829. If you wish to read the entire journal from the beginning, it begins with the post 20 August 1829 https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/20-august-1829-first-entry/
Learn the Hidden History of the Emancipation Monument from historians, researchers and authors. Marcia E. Cole tells the story of the former slave, Charlotte Scott, who conceived the idea of a memorial to President Lincoln paid for solely by former slaves and Black soldiers. Candace O’Connor explains the important work of the often overlooked Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot and the Western Sanitary Commission. Dorris Keeven-Franke shares details of the real-life Archer Alexander portrayed rising in the monument alongside President Lincoln. Carl Adams tells a little known story revealing Lincoln’s early thoughts and actions on slavery. And Jonathan White explores the powerful oratory delivered at the monument’s dedication by Frederick Douglass and a recently discovered Douglass letter shedding light on his views on the monument. The Emancipation Monument, also known as Freedom’s Memorial or the Lincoln Statue was dedicated in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1876. It was paid for solely by donations from emancipated citizens and Black Union soldiers. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced legislation requiring the National Park Service to remove the statue from its place in Lincoln Park and place it indoors in a museum. This educational video introduces the remarkable people who were part of this monument’s creation and hopes to convince viewers of the need to keep the Emancipation Monument standing, as it has for 144 years, as a testament to those who turned five dollars and a dream into a reality.
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