The final resting place of Archer Alexander, who was famously immortalized in the Emancipation Memorial, in Washington, D.C. in 1876 has been found. The location was unknown, and searched for by his descendant Keith Winstead for years. The funding for that memorial began when a woman in Virginia named Charlotte Scott, donated the first $5 she earned as a free woman for a monument honoring Lincoln’s proclamation. That started a fundraising effort among newly freed people that raised $16,242 — enough to build a memorial. The statue, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial”, now sits in Washington‘s Lincoln Park and depicts Lincoln standing above a former slave holding broken chains.
Archer “Archey” Alexander succumbed to asthma on December 8, 1880 and was buried in the Common Field burying ground at St. Peter’s U.C.C. Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, (2101 Lucas & Hunt Road) without any stone to mark his grave site. Though “his last words were a prayer of thanksgiving that he died in freedom” he would never see the beautiful monument that bears his image.
Born in Virginia, Archer Alexander is thought to be a slave of the Alexander family. In the early 1830s the Alexander family moves to St. Charles County Missouri, and Archer is sold to Richard Pitman, son of David Pitman. Sold because he was considered “too uppity” as punishment. Archer meets Louisa, who is the nearby property of James Naylor.
In February of 1863, Archer becomes one of America’s heroes, when he informs the Union Troops in St. Charles County, known as Krekel’s “Deutsch” that the railroad bridge has been tampered with! Knowing that he was in mortal danger, Archer manages to flee to St. Louis.
There Archer meets William Greenleaf Eliot. He is a radical abolitionist who hires Alexander to be his gardener and when he learns Alexander’s story, obtains an order of protection for the fugitive slave, and then attempts to purchase his freedom. After the war finally ended, Eliza began to yearn for her former belongings. She went to her former master to retrieve them, and suddenly took ill. She died within two days. Her belongings were sent to St. Louis to Archer. Archer eventually remarries, to Julia, who also knew how to speak German. She died September 13, 1879 and is also buried at St. Peter’s U.C.C. Cemetery in another unmarked grave in the Common Grounds.
William Greenleaf Eliot shares the story of Archey’s life in 1885 in The Story of Archer Alexander from Slavery to Freedom – March 30, 1863.(1) In that Eliot writes: His funeral, at which I officiated, took place from the African Methodist Church on Lucas Avenue, and was largely attended. He was decently buried in the Centenary Burial-Ground near Clayton Court-House, followed to his last resting place by many friends. A part of the expense of his long sickness funeral charges, were defrayed from the funds of the Western Sanitary Commission. (pages 87-88).
When historians Dorris Keeven-Franke and Jim Guenzel began looking into the passage further, they checked Centenary but were unable to find him in the records. They began checking all possibilities still to no avail. Dead ends frustrated the pair, until a clue on Ancestry pointed them in the direction of St. Peters U.C.C.. The index had revealed an Alexander on the right date, but the first name was illegible. When the same records turned up a death date and burial for Archey’s second wife Julia, they felt sure it was the right place. With the assistance of a first hand look at the original Cemetery records, they were able to indeed confirm, they had the correct location.