I began as a small child with listening to my Great-Grandfather share his search for our ancestors. Always the “family historian” I began helping others, then professionally and as a consultant, and finally teaching genealogy. I retired from teaching this spring, because I had become enmeshed in the story of Archer Alexander and decided I wanted to write a book.
When Keith Winstead asked me “Do you know where Archer Alexander is buried?” and I went looking I was amazed at what I discovered. Not only was this an amazing story, but how the original book written by William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian Minister, about Archer, was told. Eliot said “it will be many years yet before the North and South will thoroughly understand each other, either as to the past history of slavery or the present relations of the negro and the white races. Meanwhile mutual forbearance may lead to increasing mutual affection and respect.” It is my hope that by going back to where Archer’s life began that we will be better able to share that story again.
It is my hope that a new telling of this old story, will help us all come to a greater understanding. Beginning July 22, you can join Archer’s family and walk in the footsteps with this American hero, from Lexington, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri. Families like the Boone family, the Alexanders, the Pitmans, and the Campbells, all owned slaves. In American history, we don’t see them in this picture. But they were there…
I’d like to share a very old story in a new way. In the early 1800s the Missouri territory was a wide-open land of freedom and opportunity for nearly everyone. Thousands were making the trek. The great Westward Expansion was on! Wagons were loaded with the women and children, while the cows were herded, and the dogs followed, the slaves walked behind.
In 1829, a young man from Rockbridge County named William Campbell kept a diary of his journey from Lexington, through Kentucky, and Illinois to settle along a branch of the Dardenne Creek in St. Charles County. With that caravan were twenty-six enslaved who took that journey, leaving their families behind. Among them was 23-year-old Archer Alexander and his wife Louise. They kept no journals. It was against the law to teach a slave how to read or write.
For six weeks though they walked the same paths and climbed the same hills. People died and children were born. It’s an old story but we will tell it in a new way.Armed with Campbell’s journal in hand, Archer Alexander descendant Keith Winstead and I will make that journey again and share that story on the Archer Alexander blog. To truly know an ancestor, we sometimes have to take a walk in their shoes. What better way to understand a story, than to take the journey for oneself? to follow see https://archeralexander.wordpress.com
Its time we acknowledge this history. Its time we tell these stories and remind everyone that the enslaved cooked the meals, fixed the broken axle on the wagon, put in the crops, and built the houses. Its time we understand that the building of America did not happen in a vacuum, that these people were here too.
I have a lot of people to acknowledge and thank for all they are doing to help me with this! I couldn’t do this alone! Keith Winstead, Leontyne Clay Peck, Donna Sandegren, Dan Fuller, Tom Allen, Jim Guenzel, Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum and Cleta Reed Flynn, Thank You for all of your support.