Passed by Greenupsburg, KY, a handsome little village on a bottom of the Ohio River. The beautiful new steamboat Virginia cam sailing majestically down the Ohio River. My brother, [Charles Fenelon Campbell] took passage on her for Ripley, Ohio. We left the Ohio River, crossed Little Sandy at a forge. Crossed the Tiger [Tygert] Mountains, went up Tiger [Tygert] Creek and its branch White Oak. 18 miles to Pettits.*
Charles Fenelon Campbell is not mentioned as part of the 55 travelers in this caravan originally. William Campbell has for some reason chosen to not mention his brother when describing the group of people accompanying him. His older brother had just celebrated his 26th birthday a week before while they waited for their wagons back in Charleston. Charles is headed to Ripley, Ohio, where many abolitionist families have settled.
Ripley, Ohio was a popular stop the Underground Railroad, known for anti-slavery stance, it was a destination for freedom for thousands of African-Americans. Just seven years before Charles arrival, Presbyterian minister Reverand John Rankin, had settled there. His writings have been said to influence Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Another one of its famous residents was perhaps a cousin, Alexander Campbell (1779-1857) a member of the Ohio House of Representatives (1807-09, 1819, 1832-33);speaker of the Ohio State House of Representatives (1808-09); U.S. Senator from Ohio, (1809-13); member of the Ohio state senate (1822-24); and a candidate for Governor of Ohio in 1826.
This moment would have been young Archer Alexander’s first opportunity at “freedom”. He and those twenty-four other enslaved from Lexington, Virginia must have laid awake “considerin” the possibilities that night. The caravan would move on quickly… and encounter a horrible scene.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center tells the story in nearby Cincinnatti.. See freedomcenter.org . You can also visit Ripley, Ohio and tour several historic homes, see the website http://undergroundrailroadconductor.com/Ripley.htm for more information.
*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. In 1863, Archer would make a bid for freedom, and using the Underground Railroad, reach the home of William Greenleaf Eliot, and his wife Abigail Adams Eliot. This journal is located 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.