Leaving family behind 8.21.29
Took a final leave of all my fathers family and turned our faces toward the West. We found the roads very bad and of course traveled slowly. Crossed the North Mountain and at noon ate a harty meal of bread, beef and cheese at a spring on the side of Mill Mountain. Fed at Williams and started for Warm Springs about 3 o’clock. We had not proceeded more than two hundred yards before we broke a singletree and were detained until almost night to have a new one made. Then drove four miles to Stewards. Fared well on a plenty of plain substantial food.
This journal of a journey from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, was written in 1829, and includes the story of the enslaved Archer Alexander. Written by William Campbell (1805-1849), 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.
The journal’s author is twenty-four year old William Massilon Campbell, born in Lexington, Virginia, on the 19th of June 1805. The family, descendants of Duncan Campbell, had come from Ireland “between 1730 and 1740, emigrated to Pennsylvania and thence to Augusta County Virginia.” (1) His grandfather, Col. Charles Campbell, was an officer in the Revolution, a member of the General Assembly, and a Trustee of Liberty Hall. (2) Campbell graduated in 1825 with a degree in law. The family that Campbell refers to is Reverend Nathaniel Calhoun, another graduate of Liberty Hall. Members of the Presbyterian Church, the first church built in Lexington, which was situated on what is known as the Borden Grant.
Campbell’s sister Sophia Alexander Campbell (1795-1867) married Dr. Robert McClure (1762-1834) another Alumni of Liberty Hall. They and their five children, Jeanette Campbell McClure (1817-1880), Samuel Campbell McClure (1821-1888), John Missouri McClure (1822-1834), Susan McClure (1827-1833), and Sallie Campbell McClure (1829-1833) were also members of the caravan with their thirteen enslaved, which seems to have included Archer Alexander. Another enslaved female of the McClure family served as a nurse during the trip for the McClure’s youngest born in May. She herself was a young mother, most probably the mother of Wesley Alexander, who was the son of Archer Alexander.
Dr. Robert McClure’s sister, Nancy (1791-1833) was married to James Harvey Alexander (1789-1834) son of John Alexander (1764-1828) and Sarah Gibson (1768-1823) and grandson of Archibald Alexander, another recipient of land in the Borden Grant. His family were members of the Fallen Timbers Presbyterian Church, near Lexington. The Alexander’s enslaved seven people, one male under ten, one male between the age of 24 and 35, two females under ten, and five females between the ages of ten and twenty-three. One of these females is Louisa, who would later marry Archer Alexander and raise ten children in St. Charles County.
Between the two families of the McClures and Alexanders, they owned all but four of the enslaved on the journey. James Wilson, who had married Mary Borden, the evening before the departure, owned four people, a young woman between the age of 24 and 35, and her three children under ten, two boys and one girl.
Many of the enslaved were leaving family behind as well. All of the enslaved would make the journey to Missouri but one. Oral history of Keith Winstead’s ancestor, Wesley Alexander, says that he was “dropped off near Louisville, Kentucky. ” Perhaps the young mother was being pressed for the need to nurse the McClure’s baby Sallie, and her own child, Wesley was taking too much milk. The reason why may never be known.
Perhaps the Stewards were Stuarts, the family of Alexander B. Stuart who would later become guardian of the James H. Alexander children. It is incredible to believe the demands that the terrain must have made on these people. If you leave Lexington on Maury River Road, which is Highway 39, you will encounter beautiful mountain sides, with steep valleys, which the river flows through. In 1829, the caravan would have followed the rivers. This will take you through Goshen, and you will end up in the quaint Warm Springs. The springs were thought to provide cures for all kinds of ailments, but also provided relaxation for those that could afford the luxury.
(1) The Campbell Clan of Virginia by Leslie Lyle Campbell, Washington and Lee University, Special Collections of the Leyburn Library
(2) Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749 and was originally Augusta Academy, and became Liberty Hall following the Revolution. Liberty Hall is said to have admitted its first African-American student when John Chavis, a free black enrolled in 1795. Chavis accomplished much in his life including fighting in the American Revolution, studying at both Liberty Hall and the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister, and opening a school that instructed white and poor black students in North Carolina. He is believed to be the first black student to enroll in higher education in the United States.