This is the story of two men named James Alexander, one white, one black. On October 8, 1829, a caravan of four families from Virginia arrived in Dardenne, Missouri, bringing with them their enslaved. James Alexander, son of John, was one of them. Of those fifty people in the caravan, twenty-six of them were enslaved. Among them was 23-year-old Archer Alexander, and his wife Louisa, and two of their children. A cholera epidemic would soon be raging across the countryside, indiscriminate of color or culture, and Archer’s owner James Alexander died in 1835. His will strictly stated that his property, both his slaves and his land, was NOT to be sold, appointing his friend William Campbell as executor. The revenue was to be used entirely for the care of his four orphaned children, John, William, Agnes Jane, and Sarah Elizabeth.
By that time, Archer’s son, also named James had been born. His life would be very different. His parents were leased to area families, and sometimes he and his siblings were sent away. By 1844, they were assessed as the property that would be disbursed among the four heirs, and fourteen-year-old James was valued at $200. At some point he was sold to a farmer in Callaway County, where he would meet Harriet. By 1857, James and Harriet would “jump the broom” and they would be married. They would have at least nine children together, William, David, John, Bell, George, Ellen, Mary, Kate and little Frederick. The oldest would all be born in Callaway County, but George, Ellen, Mary, Kate, and Frederick would all be born in St. Charles County.
In 1863, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would free those still enslaved in all states, except those border states that had not seceded, like Missouri. It did allow for U.S. Troops to be formed here and to fight in the Civil War. If a black man like James wanted to join, he had some choices to make. If a slave was allowed to join, the owner could claim that they had given permission, and the owner received $300 from the U.S. government for that slave. James’ owner allowed him to join the 18th Regiment of the Union’s U.S. Colored Troops in September of 1864. Many owners would forbid their slaves to leave, but the men would runoff. The owner would try to claim that they had allowed, but the slave would insist, and the owner would be turned down. Then those that simply ran off, and joined the Union troops, using another name. In January of 1865, James received word from home and took off for Missouri without permission. He was marked as a deserter, taking with him, one rifle valued at $22.65. January 11, 1865, Missouri’s Constitutional Convention had declared all of Missouri’s slaves to be emancipated.
James and Harriet would make their home in the town of St. Charles following the war. His mother, Louisa, had died at her owner Jim Naylor’s home in Dardenne. But by 1880, Harriet and James had moved to Wentzville and live on Railroad (today’s Allen) Street. The family were members of the Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their younger children would attend the black school nearby. By 1890, James would claim and receive U.S. Union Veterans benefit, for an injured leg that had left him disabled and unable to work. Harriet would die in 1902. James would remarry twice more, first to a Clara, who had also been born enslaved and who died in 1916 and would be buried at Grant Chapel A.M.E. Cemetery behind the Church. James would marry once more, to Caroline, a widow of Henry Callaway, both of who had been born enslaved and who would die of old age in 1920. On the 21st of March 1929, Archer Alexander’s son James Alexander would pass away, and after a funeral at the Pitman funeral home, also be buried at the Grant Chapel A.M.E. in Wentzville. James Alexander’s father, Archer Alexander is the face of freedom, on the Emancipation Monument in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. This monument was dedicated and paid for by the U.S. Colored Troops and the former enslaved in 1876 and still stands today. If you are a descendant of Archer’s son James please contact us at https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/contact/
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