William Campbell’s journal of his move to Missouri, written in 1829, tells us the story of fifty people both black and white. They left Rockbridge County, Virginia on August 20th, and travelled across today’s West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, for a trip of over seven-hundred miles. They are still one-hundred miles from their destination on this day.
With Campbell are the Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhauer families, their children, and their enslaved… including Archer Alexander. Many of them had left their families behind. William Campbell’s family had served in the Revolutionary War fifty years earlier. His grandfather Charles Campbell, grandson of Robert, who with his brothers Dougal and John, all sons of of Duncan, removed from Scotland (where Duncan Campbell died) to Ireland in 1700, and all later removed to Pennsylvania in 1730, then to Virginia Commonwealth in 1740. All Presbyterian ministers, Charles Campbell’s son Samuel L. Campbell, M.D. who is William Campbell’s father, was a trustee and President of Washington College, (now Washington and Lee University) who married Sally Reid Alexander, whose father was also a slave owner in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Her father, was the Rev. William Parks Alexander, a Presbyterian Minister that also served in the Revolutionary War. Sally had also been born in Rockbridge County, and was the granddaughter of Archibald Alexander. The Alexander’s family’s slave called Aleck, was said to have come from Africa, or so the family story said. His son was called Archey, for Archer, by the Alexander family.
1st of October 1829 – Entered Marion County. Land fine, roads excellent. Came through Salem the county town of Marion. It consists of a court house, two taverns, a grocery and horse mill. Saw a glorious sight, the Militia officers of Marion training. This day saw five deer running on the prairie.*
2nd of October 1829 Encamped three miles in Grand Prairie, at a skirt of wood projecting into the prairie.*
The enslaved person called Archey, was named for William Campbell’s maternal grandfather, Archibald Alexander, who was also an ancestor of the Alexander and McCluer families also in the caravan. All Presbyterian elders, and farmers in Virginia, they had served in the Revolutionary War and all owned slaves. Archer, who was born in 1806, also had a son named Archer Alexander who may have born as early as 1828. Archer’s father Aleck, was said to have been born in Africa, and brought to America. He had heard the Declaration of Independence read many times, by his owner’s sons and grandsons who had fought in the War with Great Britain. He knew the words well, as he had often witnessed little boys pretending at soldier, who marched and drilled as their ancestors had before them. Aleck would share often, how all men are created equal, which created a stir within the neighborhood. When Archer was still young, his father Aleck had been sold, for being too “uppity” a term used to describe trouble makers. This must have made quite an impact on the young man. His grandparents were never known. He was left behind with only his mother. When the caravan departed on August 20, his last memory was of her standing on her porch. Archer would never see his mother again.
This has been the road to Missouri for Archer Alexander as well as William Campbell. But the road to his desired freedom for Archer, would not be opened for another thirty years, on the Dardenne Prairie. This caravan is over 100 miles from there. They will pass through the city of St. Louis, founded in 1764, and then the city of St. Charles, Missouri, founded in 1769. They will begin the final leg of their journey on what was known as the Boone’s Lick Road and reach home on October 8, 1829.
Missouri had petitioned for Statehood in 1820, by Representative James Tallmadge, who proposed as a condition of Missouri’s statehood that no further slaves could be imported into the state and all children born after Missouri’s admission to the Union shall be born free. This condition, known as the Tallmadge amendment, set out a plan for gradual emancipation in Missouri. This began a debate that would only end with the Union’s win of the Civil War. The great orator, and Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, would propose a “Compromise” which would defeat that petition and allow Missouri to enter as a slave state instead in 1821.
Today the Boone’s Lick Road still exists, is known as Missouri’s first “road” and really begins in St. Charles. St. Louis, was a great city which had grown to several thousands by 1829, and there were several ways of reaching St. Charles, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Designated the site for the first Capitol in 1821, until the City of Jefferson and a Capitol building could be completed in 1826, it was a frontier outpost, and part of the way America was moving westward. While only a few thousand souls in 1829, who resided on the hillsides formerly called Les Petite Cotes (the Little Hills) by the French-Canadians like Louis Blanchett(e) who had founded the settlement.
The trailblazer Daniel Boone had brought his family and slaves to St. Charles in September of 1799, where they settled west of St. Charles along the Missouri River. Daniel’s son Nathan would build his first home and eventually his father would come to live with him. Nathan was also a surveyor like his father, who would own property and survey St. Charles. He and his brother Daniel Morgan, had formed regiments for the Territorial Governor General Benjamin Howard before the beginning of the War of 1812 from men in St. Charles County whose father’s and grandfather’s had fought in the first War with Great Britain. After the war, by 1815, they had gone into business with James Morrison who had arrived from the east in 1804. Morrison would supply General Montgomery Pike’s expedition in 1806, and would co-partner with the Boone sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan, in a salt foundry in Howard County. The road between Morrison’s mercantile on Main Street in St. Charles to the Salt Lick became known as the road to the Boone’s Lick. Salt was a extremely necessary and valuable commodity on the frontier in the 1820s, and the region that developed around it was referred to by the settlers as the Boone’s Lick Road.
If you wish to read the entire journal from the beginning, it begins with the post 20 August 1829 https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/20-august-1829-first-entry/
*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 is Dorris Keeven-Franke.