24 August 1829 – Fifth entry

Staid in Lewisburg until evening. It was a quarterly court and a day of great resort in Lewisburg. Started in the evening and came to Pierce’s [Pierie’s] ten miles over the Muddy Creek Mountain. Fared well.

Prior to the Civil War, most Courthouses were the necessary site for the important slave auction. Usually the earliest settlement in the area, the roads leading to the County Seats were also the best maintained. Drawing from Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia

William Massilon Campbell graduated in 1825 from Washington College, later Washington and Lee University. His father Samuel LeGrand Campbell was a President of the esteemed college.As a lawyer, he had a keen interest in the affairs of each County Seat, and would spend several hours visiting and attending the court’s proceedings. This allowed time for those walking, and the slower wagons to catch up. A day of rest was great, however everyone would have still been busy, making any needed repairs to the wagon, laundry, and all of the daily chores that still was needed.

As the roads developed, locations that were good watering holes, became popular stops, which would grow to include other businesses. When a settlement grew, a mill was started, churches were built, and soon a school became the sign of a more perfect settlement. Before long this would develop into a sizable community, and quite often the County Seat Once a Courthouse was built, the local Chancery or County Court would meet routinely twice a month. On other days, the building would not be sitting empty but put to great use for the County Court, or maybe even a City Council meeting. This was also the scene of slave sales, as the deed, or sales receipt, could be filed immediately inside. Many slave traders made sure their property would witness these sales, in order to intimidate into submissiveness. Travel along the trail was slow and tedious.

Written in 1829, 191 years ago, this is the journal of William M. Campbell. This is also the story of Archer Alexander, an enslaved man born in Lexington, Virginia, who was taken to Missouri in 1829 and 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…

There are 38 entries in Campbell’s journal, which begins on August 20, 1829 that you can read and follow the story of Archer Alexander. The next journal entry is dated 25 August 1829. To read the next entry click on https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/25-august-1829/ 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.

Today

Bath County Circuit Courthouse (2019 Photograph by Dorris Keeven- Franke)
Lewisburg Courthouse where Campbell spent the day.
West Virginia (2019 Photograph by Dorris Keeven-Franke)

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