Archer Alexander was born enslaved in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1806. Inherited by James H. Alexander, and his wife Nancy (McCluer), Archer was taken to Missouri in 1829. During that trip, their son Wesley would be left behind near Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife Louisa and their family arrived in Dardenne, in St. Charles County in October, where they would live for the next thirty years.
In January of 1863, he overheard his enslaver, Richard Hickman Pitman, with other area men, plotting to sabotage the nearby Peruque Creek Railroad Bridge, a vital link for the Union Troops across the state. On that wintry February night, Archer risked his life and made his way to the Missouri Home Guards stationed at the bridge to alert them of the impending danger, saving hundreds of lives. The local Union troops were German-born immigrants under the command of Lt. Col. Arnold Krekel, who gave Archer protection. When it was discovered that Archer was the informant, he was forced to flee for his life, to avoid being lynched. He made his way by the network to freedom, to the home of William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian Minister, and a founder of Washington University in St. Louis, where he was given protection. After a military trial, his enslaver Richard H. Pitman was found disloyal, and Archer was emancipated for “his important services to the U.S. Military forces.” He was freed by the Order of Brig. Gen. Strong, which was announced on September 24, 1863.
In 1876, a monument was erected in Washington, D.C., which reads Emancipation. This memorial to President Abraham Lincoln started with the first $5 from the formerly enslaved woman Charlotte Scott earned in freedom, and funds raised by the U.S. Colored Troops, the formerly enslaved, and the freedmen of America. Dedicated by a committee of African Americans, on the 11th Anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, Archer Alexander is seen rising, as the last fugitive slave taken. He has broken his own chains, by his own bravery, and is seen rising on the monument, a testimony to all of those formerly enslaved that were free.
On December 8, 1880, Archey, as he was called by his family was buried in St. Peters U.C.C. Cemetery (Normandy, Missouri). Archer and Louise Alexander would raise a family of ten children: Ralph, Nelly, James, Archer, Aleck, Lucinda, Mary, John, Eliza, and Wesley. Archer Alexander is the great-great-great grandfather of Muhammad Ali.
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