From Virginia to Missouri

First Entry – The Journey begins 8.20.29

I started from Lexington, Virginia on a journey to the state of Missouri. My own object in going to that remote section of the Union was to seek a place where I might obtain an honest livelihood by the practice of law. I travel in company with four families containing about fifty individuals, white and black. The first family is that of Dr. McCluer, his wife (my sister) and five children from six months to thirteen years old and fourteen negro servants. Two young men, McNutt and Cummings, and myself form a part of the traveling family of Dr. McCluer. Dr. McCluer leaves a lucrative practice and proposes settling himself in St. Charles County Missouri on a fine farm which he has purchased about 36 miles from St. Louis. The second family is that of James H. Alexander, who married a sister of Dr. McCluer, with five children and seven negro slaves. Intends farming in Missouri. Third family, James Wilson, a young man who is to be married this night to a pretty young girl and start off in four days to live one thousand miles from her parents. He has four or five negroes. Fourth family, Jacob Icenhoward, an honest, poor, industrious Dutchman with several children and a very aged father in law whom he is taking at great trouble to Missouri, to keep him from becoming a county charge. He has labored his life time here and made nothing more than a subsistence and has determined to go to a country where the substantial comforts of life are more abundant.

Our caravan when assembled will consist of four wagons, two carryalls, one Barouche and several horses, cows.and fifty people. Two of Dr. McCluer’s children are in Charleston, Kenahwa, with their Uncle Calhoun. Our caravan will not start until the 25th of August. But I, with my sister and nurse will proceed forthwith in the Barouche to Charleston, Kenawha, where we will await the arrival of the caravan. This evening we left Lexington, our native town; possibly never to see it again.

I bid adieu to numerous friends and acquaintances, all of whom professes to wish me well. Many of them sincerely, some of them from the bottom of their hearts, some deceitfully and others with indifference. I parted from many whom I respected and esteem highly. I left a numerous tribe of relatives and many old friends. Many requested me to write to them and give them an account of the country and numbers intimated a hope of coming to Missouri in a few years. We came three miles to the residence of my aged father and mother with whom we stay all night, perhaps for the last time. Tomorrow morning we will start in our barouche for Warm Springs.

This journal of a journey from Lexington, in Rockbridge County in Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri was written between August through October, 1829, includes the enslaved Archer Alexander. Written by William Massilon Campbell (1805-1849) the son of Samuel LeGrand Campbell (1765-1840) , the second President of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and his wife Agnes Reid Alexander (1772-1846). It can be found in the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. A very special thanks goes to Lisa S. McCown, Senior Assistant and all of the staff there. . This journal is presented here with the spellings as presented by the writer in 1829. All photos by Dorris Keeven-Franke with a special thanks to Donna LaBrayer Sandegren.

And so begins the journal of William Massilon Campbell from Lexington, Virginia to Dardenne Township in St. Charles County Missouri. Begun in August of 1829, the group of over fifty travelers would have twenty-five enslaved individuals, including Archer Alexander, between three families, the Alexanders, McClures, and Wilsons . Enslaved there were six boys under the age of ten, three young males between ten and twenty-three, two young men between twenty-four and thirty-six, and one older man between thirty-six and fifty-four. Also there were four little girls under the age of ten, seven young women of child-bearing age between ten and twenty-three, two older women still of child bearing age between twenty-four and thirty-six, and one older woman also between the age of thirty-six and fifty-four. Among these was Archer’s newborn son Wesley, and his mother, the black nurse for the McClure’s newborn baby Sally McClure.


This portion of the life of Archer Alexander could not be told were it not for the journal of William Massilon Campbell. Our purpose here though, is to share the story of these people, both white and black, who made this trek of over 800 miles, and not only the mountains and the plains that they crossed, but the rivers they followed. In 1829, they would all walk the same pathway, climb the same hillsides, and follow the same rivers. The women and children would ride in the wagons, and the men and many of the enslaved would follow on foot. Join us as we follow their journey, and share photos taken today in July of 2019, to gain a greater understanding of their journey.

Keith Winstead

Rock Castle, the home of Samuel LeGrand Campbell and his wife Sally Alexander, the parents of William Massilon Campbell is still standing, as seen in this photo (left) with Keith Alexander, a descendant of Archer Alexander. Located on the banks of Whistle Creek, opposite the location of the Old Monmouth Presbyterian Church and the Old Monmouth Cemetery. Samuel was a Presbyterian elder, a physician and a President of Washington and Lee University.

Rockbridge County Historical Society
Lexington, Virginia

The Rockbridge County Historical Society (right) is located in the Campbell House c. 1845 and has an excellent and helpful staff. The Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church (below) is where both the Alexander and McClure family were members and were buried. This church was begun by the father of Sam Houston. The Alexander family still live nearby at Cherry Grove, (below) which was the former home of James McDowell, grandfather of Jessie Benton Fremont, and where she spent much of her time growing up.

Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church
“Cherry Grove” home of James McDowell, Grandfather of Jessie Benton Fremont
Tom Alexander, a descendant of John Alexander of Rockbridge Virginia, with Keith Winstead, a descendant of Archer Alexander. Today, Cherry Grove is owned by the Alexander family and is a large dairy farm.

Continue the journey…

5 responses to “From Virginia to Missouri”

  1. Reblogged this on St. Charles County History and commented:

    Follow the journey today from Virginia to Missouri of Archer Alexander. This portion of the life of the enslaved Archer Alexander is shared through the journal of William Campbell, written in 1829 with an account of 50 people, of which half were enslaved.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Richardson Avatar
    Mary Richardson

    Thanks so much, Dorris, for sharing about the beginning of your trip. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t join you. Did you make it to Montpelier? I look forward to hearing more about the steps that you’re retracing.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built by

%d bloggers like this: