On this date, this is the journal entry of William M. Campbell. This is also the story of Archer Alexander, an enslaved man born in Lexington, Virginia, taken to Missouri in 1829, who is with President Lincoln on the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. today. Our story began on August 20th in Rockbridge County Virginia with four families, the McCluer, Alexander, Wilson and Icenhauer, and their enslaved. They were well-educated, whose fathers had fought for America’s Independence. These were families that had small farms and large plantations, worked by their enslaved, just as many generations had before them. Missouri was a young state with lots of inexpensive land that would allow these families to continue the only way of life they had known since 1619. Fifty people, both black and white would make this journey together…
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. (William Campbell)
20 August 2020 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. Rock Castle, the home of Samuel LeGrand Campbell and his wife Sally Alexander, the parents of William Massilon Campbell is still standing, as seen in this photo (below) with Keith Alexander, a descendant of Archer Alexander. Located on the banks of Whistle Creek, opposite the location of the Old Monmouth Presbyterian Church and the Old Monmouth Cemetery. Samuel was a Presbyterian elder, a physician and a President of today’s Washington and Lee University.
The journal’s author is twenty-four year old William Massilon Campbell, born in Lexington, Virginia. His family were descendants of Duncan Campbell who 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. 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. 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 whose 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. 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.
There are 38 entries in Campbell’s journal, that you can read and follow the story of Archer Alexander in 1829. The next journal entry is dated 22 August 1829.To read it click here https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/entry-3-from-virginia-to-missouri/ Campbell’s journal is located in the Archives at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and is being shared here so that we may hear all the voices, including those whose voices were not shared originally. Please keep in mind the context of the time in which this journal was written. Feel free to share your comments directly on this blog or on Archer Alexander’s Facebook page. You may sign up for alerts of the blog posts on your left.
(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.