This is Archer Alexander’s journey from Virginia to Missouri in 1829, as told by William Campbell*…
Made an early start; left the river. Crossed the Cole Mountains a small bridge, roads tolerable and encampted at two fine springs near Mud River, a branch of Guyandotte. One route lay through Tay’s Valley, a fine country. A great profusion of Peaches were found all along the road from Greenbrier Virginia to Greenup Kentucky. We fared well on peach pies, etc.*
Editor’s Note: Cole Mountains is Coal Mountains, Tay’s Valley is Teay’s Valley
In 1829, the joy of an abundant peach crop can really help one on a long journey. Dinner would depend on what game was shot that day. These travelers, both black and white are experiencing the same pleasures, and difficulties. While traveling. The enslaved would break camp in the morning, packing the tents, boxing up the pots and pans, and filling the canteens. Until the next stop, when they set up the tents, cooked the dinner, fed the cattle and horses, and took care of the children. With their household good being shipped ahead on the river, the wagons would have been just a little lighter. Roads were just a wide clearing in the woods, and bridges simple. Following rivers and streams was very important as you had to water your stock and refill your canteens. Every day was the same, but the scenery changed. Other travelers may pass you, or you them, if you were lucky. Not many places to “pass” in the woods.
As each day is the same, so is life and the division of labor. The twenty-five enslaved people who belonged to the McCluer, Alexander, and Wilson families would have cooked the meals, fed the animals, cared for the children and the livestock. We will not hear Archer’s voice, but the story is the same.
*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. 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.
Archer was born enslaved by the Alexander family in Rockbridge County Virginia in 1806. In 1829, the Alexander family moved from Virginia to Dardenne Prairie in Saint Charles County, in Missouri. He lived there enslaved for over thirty years, working first in the brickyards of St. Louis, and then as a carpenter. By 1844, he had been sold to David Pitman, while his wife Louisa lived a few miles away. In the winter of 1863, Archer would risk his life to inform the Union Army that his owner had sabotaged the nearby railroad bridge. With his owner and a lynch mob in pursuit, he used a well known route of the Underground Railroad, to make his way to St. Louis. There he was taken in by William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister, founder of Washington University, and a member of the Western Sanitary Commission. When Eliot’s close friend James Yeatman shared Charlotte Scott’s dream for a memorial to Lincoln in 1865, it would be another American hero Archer Alexander seen rising from his broken shackles alongside Lincoln on the Emancipation Monument in 1876. Today, the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Park is in danger of being removed. This Federal Monument, was paid for entirely by the former enslaved people, as a memorial to President Lincoln. To sign the petition to keep it in place see https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC
The next entry in Campbell’s journey is September 9th… To read the entry https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/09/9-september-1829/