This is the journal of William Campbell, leading four families from Rockbridge County, Virginia to Saint Charles County Missouri. There are now 55 people in this caravan, 25 of which are enslaved people, and among them is Archer, the property of James Alexander.
We started with our whole party to Missouri and crossed the river in the horse boat. Our party now consists of fifty five persons, 20 horses, 10 dogs and 4 cows. One of our carriage horses had become very lame in Charleston and we had to leave it with Mr. Calhoun. We got another who did most wretchedly. We got another which performed very well. We encamped that night near the Kanawha River, fourteen miles below Charleston. Our tent was carelessly prepared and we suffered much from the cold.
This is a very important entry in William Campbell’s journal that shares so much, yet so much has not been written in. Campbell is the son of Samuel and Sally (Alexander) Campbell who would later become editor for two newspapers; one in St. Charles, and in St. Louis, Missouri. For that reason, these accounts of the journey, are most likely intended for publication and are very impersonal.
The first settlement of the Charleston area, at the junction of the Elk and Kanawha rivers in southern West Virginia (then Virginia), took place in 1787, and by 1810 the population had increased to 100 persons. The area’s first Presbyterian minister, Reverend Henry Ruffner, began his work in 1815, and his son furthered his efforts to the extent that David Ruffner [see September 5th, 1829] has been called “The Father of Presbyterianism in the Kanawha Valley.” On March 14, 1819, the Presbyterian Church was formally organized with about 18 members. The name given to this organization was “Kanawha Presbyterian Church.” [from http://www.kanawha-church.org/about-us/history-of-kanawha-church/) Campbell’s brother-in-law Reverend Nathaniel Calhoun assumed the pastorate in 1826.
What the reader does not know is that Campbell was referring to is his own brother-in-law, the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Nathaniel Calhoun (1793-?), who had married Campbell’s sister Nancy Ann (1798-1860) on the 25th of August 1823, in Lexington, Virginia. They have stopped to pick up two of the children of his sister Sophia, and her husband Dr. Robert McCluer’s.
The children of the McCluer family is now twelve-year old Jane, eight-year old Samuel, seven-year old John, two-year old Susan, and a newborn daughter, only five months old named Sallie. With the McCluer family are fourteen enslaved people, with one of them a nursemaid for their youngest child, named Louisa. Another member of the caravan is the enslaved Archer Alexander, who is Louisa’s husband and father of her young newborn, Wesley. The caravan is made up of four families: McCluer, Wilson, Icenhower and Alexander. The Alexander, Campbell and McCluer families are close knit and have been intermarrying “cousins” for generations in Virginia, and because of this, many of their enslaved are related as well.
Charleston is on the Midland Trail of West Virginia, which today follows the route of the historic Kanawha Turnpike. This was an early road linking canals in the James River in Virginia with the navigable portion of the Kanawha River in West Virginia. The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged terrain of the Mountain State. Today use Route 60 to follow the route of this journal.
William Campbell’s journal is in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. The next entry is dated September 8th. To read September 8th entry https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/8-september-1829/