This is the journal entry of William Campbell who was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and kept a journal the fall of 1829 as he and four other families: Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhower moved to Dardenne township, in Saint Charles County Missouri. This entry shares the roads, rivers and villages they encountered. What it doesn’t share is the voices of the enslaved people, that we now know includes Archer, who is also part of this journey from Virginia to Missouri…
Proceeded on our journey; passed through Barboursville, the country town of Cabell County, Virginia. It is a small village of fifteen dwellings. Crossed Mud River and drove down Guyandotte Valley to its mouth; we passed through Guyandotte, a small handsome village. We had great difficutly and delay in crossing the mouth of Guyandotte and driving up its steep banks. The Ohio at this point is a notable stream and presents a view of several miles on the opposite side. Lawrence County Ohio extends for many miles. It appears to be a poor broken country. We proceeded down the Ohio River and encamped below the mouth of Twelve Pole, opposite to the village of Burlington, the capital of Lawrence County. It is a small village of 15 houses, handsomely situated and badly built. Between the Guyandotte and Big Sandy 12 miles in Cabell Co., Va., the Ohio bottoms are from 3/4 to 1-1/2 miles wide, a very fine body of land. The houses are indifferent. There are some Iron Works in this County. The roads were found excellent, except the mouths of the streams where the banks were very steep. We made 24 miles today.*
Finally, they have reached the Ohio River Valley and travel is getting easier! They achieved twenty four miles in one day, the farthest in one day yet. Here there are more travelers too, because there were more travelers traveling from the north side of the Ohio River and further east, from places like Pennsylvania, and they were using these roads too. The more travelers there were, that meant not only was the road better packed, and cleared, but that there would be more amenities, innkeepers, blacksmiths, and “entertainment” for the those using the road. Now that they have reached the valley, without the steep mountainsides to climb, they will make better time.
In 1829, America was on the move! And with them came their property – the enslaved people that would be working the tobacco crops, the iron smelters, or manning the kettles at the salt licks. If an owner traveled through a free state – one where slavery was against the law – that wasn’t the same as settling in that state. When one actually purchased property, and resided at a place, was much different from just passing through. At this point of the journey, Archer is seeing places firsthand across the river, in Ohio where freedom is a given for people of color. Archer’s father had been sold when he was younger, because he loved to recite the Declaration of Independence, where all men were created equal.
The Boone family had moved from Pennsylvania, into Kentucky and then into Missouri in September of 1799, at the invitation of the Spanish government. What became Missouri was part of the Louisiana Territory that the U.S. purchased in 1804, making Boone a U.S. citizen again. With the Boone family had come their enslaved property, people born in Virginia and Kentucky. They would be joined by thousands of other slave owning families, until the War of 1812, which was often called the Second War with Great Britain. From 1812 until 1815, what was to become Missouri was a territory with families that had enslaved property, that had settled here simply because they could. But settlement during that time period was slow because of the war.
When the war ended in 1815, settlement picked up tremendously because slavery was allowed. When Missouri applied for Statehood in 1820, slavery would not have been allowed. However, thanks to the fact that so many of its residents were slave owners, Henry Clay’s great compromise offered that Missouri’s entry as a slave state should be allowed after another state entered as a free state. Maine entered as a free state and Missouri as a slave state in 1821. In 1829, the Alexander and McCluer families were joining relatives that had already settled here as early as 1810.
Interesting sites with more history of the area that we recommend: https://barbourvilletourism.com/
*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. 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.
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
William Campbell’s journal continues with its next entry on September 10, 1829. https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/10th-september-1829/