Born in Virginia

Archer Alexander was born in about 1806, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of a female slave first owned by the Alexander family. Archer’s owner land was along the South River near Irish Crossing, in the Shenandoah Valley.

Archibald Alexander had come from Manor Cunningham, in the Taghoyne Parish near Donegal in Ireland; to Augusta County, Virginia, and served as Captain during the Sandy Creek Expedition against the native American Indians in 1756. Afterward, he was the Administrator for the Benjamin Borden Grant from the British Crown. Archibald Alexander is buried at Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, near Lexington. Archer’s mother was then inherited by Archibald’s son John Alexander, who was about sixteen when his father died.

Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church
Photo by Dorris Keeven-Franke

John Alexander would sell Archer’s father when Archer was about sixteen years old, because he was considered “too uppity, and had somehow acquired the skill of being able to read, and talked about being free.” The neighbors had encouraged John Alexander to do “what was right so as not to lead to trouble.” After his father was sold south, Archer would never see his father again. John Alexander would die soon afterward, leaving his enslaved property to his son James Harvey Alexander.

The family’s financial problems soon led James to decide to join his cousin William Massilon Campbell moving to Missouri in 1829, with more cousins, the McClure family. On August 20, 1829 they would begin their journey from Virginia to Missouri leaving behind Archer’s mother, who would pass away six months later.

Lloyd’s official map of the state of Virginia from actual surveys by order of the Executive 1828 & 1859.,0.025,1.068,0.495,0
Library of Congress

The caravan of 55 people included over 25 slaves, one of them, was Archer’s wife Louisa, a wet nurse for the newborn fifth child of the Alexander family. Louisa and Archer’s own newborn child Wesley, was left behind at a McCluer relatives home, along the journey near Louisville, Kentucky. (That son Wesley Alexander is the ancestor of Muhammad Ali). The group settled in Dardenne Township of St. Charles County in Missouri in October of 1829. There they would immediately become members of the Dardenne Presbyterian Church begun in 1819 by John Naylor. James Alexander had married Nancy McCluer in 1820 and they brought seven slaves with them to Missouri. They had five children when they left Virginia, but only four when they arrived, John, William Archibald, Agnes and Sarah. Archer’s wife Louisa, was previously a slave of the McCluer family, who had been inherited by James Alexander’s wife, Nancy when her father John McCluer died in 1822. Archer Alexander would marry Louisa, and is said to have had ten children together.

*Sources: 1) Cemetery records of St. Peters United Church of Christ, 2101 Lucas and Hunt Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63121 2)St. Louis Recorder of Deeds, Birth and Death Records, St. Louis, MO

Source – St. Louis Recorder of Deeds, St. Louis Missouri

From Virginia to Missouri – August 20, 1829 – the first entry

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