We started with our whole party to Missouri….
crossed the river in the horse boat. Our party now consists of fifty five persons, 20 horses, 10 dogs and 4 cows. One of our carriage horses had become very lame in Charleston and we had to leave it with Mr. Calhoun. We got another who did most wretchedly. We got another which performed very well. We encamped that night near the Kanawha River, fourteen miles below Charleston. Our tent was carelessly prepared and we suffered much from the cold.*
This is an important entry that shares so much, yet so much is not being said. William Campbell, the author of this journal is the son of Samuel and Sally (Alexander) Campbell and would later become editor for two pro-slavery newspapers in St. Charles, and in St. Louis, Missouri. For that reason, these accounts of the journey, are most likely intended for publication and are very impersonal. Campbell is referring to his brother-in-law, Reverend Nathaniel Calhoun (1793-?), who had married the author’s sister Nancy Ann (1798-1860) on the 25th of August 1823, in Lexington, Virginia. They have stopped to pick up two of Dr. Robert McCluer and his wife Sophia’s (1795-1867) children. Sophia, is another sister of the author. With them now is twelve-year old Jane, eight-year old Samuel, seven-year old John, two-year old Susan, and a newborn baby girl named Sallie. With the McCluer family are fourteen enslaved individuals. One of them is a nurse of their youngest child, who has a newborn baby herself. This is most probably Wesley Alexander, a son of Archer. The caravan is made up of three closely knit families of the Campbells, McClures and Alexanders. These families have been intermarrying “cousins” for generations in Virginia, and because of this, many of their enslaved are related as well, and many of which have been inherited through their mother’s family, the Alexanders.
Five people have just joined the caravan, two of which are children of Robert and Sophia McCluer, but we are unsure of who the other three are.
Charleston is on the Midland Trail of West Virginia, which today follows the route of the historic Kanawha Turnpike. This was an early road linking canals in the James River in Virginia with the navigable portion of the Kanawha River in West Virginia. The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged terrain of the Mountain State. Today use Route 60 to follow the route of this journal.
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. There are 55 people in this caravan, 25 of which are enslaved. Among the enslaved is Archer Alexander, born in 1806 who will leave behind his mother, never to see her again. The journal is in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor and author is Dorris Keeven-Franke.