The Fever

It started in New Orleans and crept upriver to St. Louis. Then spilled out along the Missouri River until it flowed up the Dardenne. In 1833, Cholera fever took Nancy Alexander, who left behind four small children, two girls and two boys, between the ages of five and eleven. The following spring her big brother Robert McCluer, who had been the first doctor on the Dardenne Creek prairie, would also pass away from the fever. He had come from Lexington, Virginia with his brother-law William Campbell in 1829, along with the Alexanders, Wilsons and Icenhowers. McCluer’s widow, Sophie, who was Campbell’s sister would write their mother…

My dear mother, My circumstances are at present so distressing that I hardly know how to write you. God, in His providence, has seen fit to take from me my dear husband and my poor little Mo. They both died of fever, the Doctor lay seven days, and Mo, twenty-four days. The Doctor died last Monday morning at two o’clock, Mo this morning at daylight. This has been sad beyond all description…” They would each be buried in the Dardenne Presbyterian Church burying ground, land that had been given to the church by Andrew and Margaret Zumwalt back in 1829.

The following year, Sophie’s brother-in-law James Alexander would join his wife and her brother, and leave behind four orphaned children, John, William, Agnes Jane and Sarah Elizabeth. His will would state “that my farm be rented out by my executors, and that my negroes be hired out from year to year to such persons as my executors shall think prudent to entrust them to the care of, and that the profits of my farm, and the hire of the slaves be used by my Executors in the support and education of my children, and it is my desire that the slaves be not removed out of this state on any consideration unless they desire it themselves.”

Archer had been enslaved property of the Alexander family his entire life. His wife Louisa, had been given to Nancy when her father John McCluer had passed. They would not be removed from Missouri. The four orphaned Alexander children would be taken back to Lexington, Virginia in Rockbridge County. From that point forward the enslaved people would be leased out, year to year, January 1 till December 31st, as property of the estate. The funds from their labor would be sent to the children’s guardian, James Alexander’s brother-in-law in Lexington, Virginia; for the care, clothing and schoolbooks of those children.

Archer Alexander is the former enslaved man, that has broken his own shackles and is seen rising with President Abraham Lincoln, on the Emancipation Monument, in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. The monument was paid for and dedicated in 1876 by former enslaved people and U.S. Colored Troops.

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