Entry 29 – Date September 24, 1829

From Virginia to Missouri, the road wasn’t easy for anyone.

Next day passed through a barren corner of Harrison Co. It is destitute of both wood and water. Poor soil covered with low brush. The roads alternately good and bad.Crossed Blue River at Fredericksburg. Next day passed through a poor country, and a small town called Pool [Paoli] The county seat of Washington [Orange] County. Roads very steep and hilly. Encamped at Pistareens.

*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 NOW 53 PEOPLE IN THIS CARAVAN, 25 OF WHICH ARE ENSLAVED, AMONG THEM IS ARCHER ALEXANDER, BORN IN 1806, IN ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, VIRGINIA 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 IS DORRIS KEEVEN-FRANKE.

They would take seven weeks to travel through seven states, leaving Virginia in August and arriving in Missouri in October. Men, women, children, babies and their enslaved would make the trek. No two days would be the same. They would rest on Sundays. The roads were good in some places, and horrible in others. Pistareens must be an innkeeper that has disappeared with the sands of time.

Slavery was allowed when the land that would become Indiana was annexed to the United States in 1783. What became the Northwest Territory was annexed to the United States had been controlled by the French for the previous 20 years. In 1787 Congress organized the territory with the Northwest Ordinance which prohibited slavery by stating “that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory”. It would later be decided that anyone who purchased a slave outside of the territory could enter and reside there with their slaves.

Many who were from Virginia, like the Campbells, McCluers and Alexanders, living in the territory interpreted the Ordinance as allowing them to have slaves. The Ordinance stated that the Virginians “shall have their possessions and titles confirmed to them, and be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties.” Many decided to keep slaves. Fear of French rebellion kept the courts from acting against slavery, as did the violent actions of those who would kidnap escaped slaves. A court ruling of 1807 stated that preexisting slavery could still exist under the Northwest Ordinance, validated the practice for many.

Many of the territory’s early settlers came from the southern states, those who were anti-slavery settled in Ohio where a strong anti-slavery movement was already underway. The immigrants in favor of slavery generally moved to Indiana. When they relocated to the Indiana Territory, they brought what few slaves they owned with them. An 1810 census recorded 393 free blacks and 237 slaves in the Indiana Territory. After the Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark and his soldiers, all Virginians, had been given land grants in southern Indiana. Those who settled in Indiana brought their Southern ideals with them, as many of the territory’s early settlers had come from the southern states.

In 1809, Dennis Pennington, one of the most outspoken anti-slavery men and a friend of  Henry Clay, was elected to the legislature and became speaker in the assembly. His prominence allowed him to dominate the legislature. Before the constitutional convention in 1816, Pennington was quoted as saying “Let us be on our guard when our convention men are chosen that they be men opposed to slavery.” At the constitutional convention, the anti-slavery party was able to take control, electing Jennings as the president of the convention. It was by their actions that slavery was banned by the first Constitution. But even with statehood, there was still slavery in Indiana. Despite slavery and indentures becoming illegal in 1816 due to the state constitution, the 1820 federal census listed 190 slaves in Indiana. Many slaveholders felt that the 1816 constitution did not cover preexisting slavery; others just did not care if it was illegal.   

In 1829, as William Campbell and the 25 enslaved with him slowly traveled across the state, this “peculiar institution” was still accepted by many of the residents. This would have been 23 year-old Archer Alexanders first encounter with freedom!

The road through Indiana
Library of Congress

Today

To Continue the Journey

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