Best Friends

Things are not always as they appear. As a writer, I have struggled for the past few years with the question: did William Greenleaf Eliot realize that his book THE STORY OF ARCHER ALEXANDER FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM MARCH 30, 1863 would be used to argue the very existence of the Emancipation Monument?  The very same monument he worked so hard during his lifetime to see happen? Conceived in 1865, and erected in 1876, by the former enslaved of America “to make a monument to Massa Lincoln, the best friend the colored people ever had” with the image of Archer rising beneath Lincoln’s outstretched hand was as politically correct as Eliot’s book was for its time.  Today Eliot’s Story and his work for the monument should not be judged because he was white, any more than Archer Alexander’s image should be criticized because he was portrayed as enslaved.

In 1885, Eliiot wrote “THE following narrative was prepared without intention of publication; but I have been led to think that it may be of use, not only as a reminiscence of the “war of secession,” but as a fair presentation of slavery in the Border States for the twenty or thirty years preceding the outbreak of hostilities.” I often wonder how many of its readers will ever know how much Eliot’s work was whitewashed prior to publication. Simply because of its’ presentation of slavery in the Border States. We shouldn’t criticize Eliot as he may have actually written the true story to begin with. In examining Eliot’s Story we see that his motive was only to share Archer’s life.

I don’t believe Eliot knew Archer as well as he would have liked his readers believe. Eliot is a Unitarian minister, accustomed to having his audience sit quietly in their pews rapt with his sermons. As a friend of mine says “A good minister never let the facts get in the way of a good sermon.” When Eliot attempted to expound upon the current issue of slavery, half of the parishioners left avowing  never to return. Weighing the financial support for his church’s mission against his personal needs to speak out on the issue of slavery, Eliot instead chose to turn to the use of a ‘pen name’ in the local newspapers.

After years of research I have learned that for whatever reasons, the location of Archer’s grave, age, and owners are not correct in Eliot’s small book. In my efforts to fact check I have also discovered some very important points to Archer’s STORY. I know now that it is  even more amazing than what Eliot was able to share in his day. It is indeed a story for the ages, and as Eliot hoped, a story that “mutual forbearance may lead to increasing mutual affection and respect.”

Emancipation Monument

The image of Archer Alexander on the Emancipation Monument is hard to bear, as it portrays a partially dressed black man in what is often mistakenly perceived as submissive. Archer is actually an “emancipated slave and a free man by virtue of the proclamation of the President of the United States…for services to the United States military forces”. As Eliot says “his own hands had helped to break the chains that bound him” Eliot knew this better than anyone. As part of the Western Sanitary Commission, which would work with the hundreds of thousands of fugitive slaves that fled north to Missouri during the Civil War, Archer would be the last under Civil law. That is why the commission was the only organization in America that would take on helping the former enslaved erect this monument.  We must look at this story through the eyes of that time and must remember that U.S. Colored Troops’ Regimental leaders were ‘white men’ too.

On April 11, 1865 a man assassinated one of the greatest Presidents this country has ever known because of his proclamation on January 1st, 1863. That is what Charlotte Scott meant when she said he was the “best friends” and that is what Eliot wanted people to see when he wrote “His freedom came directly from the hand of President Lincoln” Eliot’s book shares the story of the friendship of two men, one black and one white. We must recall it is also the story of  the complications and difficulties of the “irrepressible conflict,” and how hard it was fully to maintain one’s self-respect under the necessities of deliberate and cautious action; to speak plainly without giving such degree of offence as would prevent one from speaking at all.”  Let us not judge actions in history against today’s standards, after all the Emancipation Monument is really a testimony to the life of President Abraham Lincoln, by several thousand of his ‘best friends”.



The Underground Railroad was a network of trustworthy friends who helped enslaved people make their way to freedom! Missouri was a border state with three ways to escape. In 1820 it is estimated that there were over 10,000 enslaved individuals, who all dreamed of freedom. By 1847, laws had made it extremely dangerous for any individual, black or white, to help those who chose to flee. That did not stop anyone from trying!

By 1850, Missouri had experienced two huge waves of German immigrants seeking their own freedom, from famine, tyranny and oppression, and transformed Missouri into a German state in America. Germans had come to America, with the belief that the words found in the Constitution were meant for all. They found a country bound up with the horrific institution called slavery. Some would choose to speak up, loudly, as abolitionists. Some would choose a more silent route to help the enslaved with the Underground Railroad.

Shrouded in myth and mystery, like a secret organization, there are few records to document the stories of the “conductors” and the “stations” known as the Underground Railroad. But as with any culture where history is preserved as oral history and in the form of “stories” the legends can still be found. Signposts found in quilts hung on the fence, a hymm sung at church, or a lantern on a dock, helped thousands make their way to the land of freedom. Sharing those stories can bring a greater understanding of what life was like for many – before Lincoln’s great proclamation.

Award winning author, genealogist and historian Dorris Keeven-Franke will share stories, and dispel myths when she presents The Underground Railroad in Missouri at 11 a.m.(CDT) on Thursday, February 25, 2021. An online virtual program that is free and open to everyone which can be seen by clicking here.

This program is being hosted by the Missouri Germans Consortium in honor the 200th Anniversary of Missouri.


The 13th Amendment

Congress passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. It read “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”. When Lincoln was first elected, the Southern States would secede from the Union, as the Democrats wanted their states to be able to continue the lawful practice. President Abraham Lincoln’s goal was to keep the United States of America intact, but as enslaved people escaped, the Union protected them. Rather than returning them to their owners, slavery essentially ended where the Union Army was victorious. Hundreds of thousands, both black and white gave their lives to win that war.

In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all enslaved people in States that were in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in border states that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation. In 1864, an amendment abolishing slavery passed in the Senate but died in the House as southern Democrats had rallied in the name of states’ rights. In 1864, Lincoln was reelected and it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865, as Lincoln wanted with bipartisan support. The amendment passed 119 to 56 barely above the necessary two-thirds majority. The 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, and with the passage of the amendment, an institution which had shaped America’s history ended.

Emancipation Monument

When Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865 thousands of the former enslaved rose up to erect a monument to their fallen hero. Raising funds, they dedicated a monument to Lincoln, on the 11th Anniversary of his assassination, the first such monument ever placed in Washington, D.C. as it was totally funded by black Americans. The monument features Lincoln with Archer Alexander, seen rising with his newfound freedom before him. Archer was a former slave born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1806. He had been taken to Missouri in 1829, and in 1863 became a fugitive after informing the Union Army of a plot by his Confederate master. The Western Sanitary Commission which had worked diligently with the Freedman’s Bureau and the U.S. Colored Troops during the war, would help the enslaved see their monument erected.

The 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6th, 1865. On October 20, 1940 the U.S. Post Office would commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment with a 3-cent stamp, the second to ever feature an African American.


History – We All Have It

I’ve been writing history for over 30 years. When I look back at some of my earliest work, I laugh. I’m still proud of it, yet I realize that my own research since then, has taught me a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I love sharing what I learn. Covid-19 has actually helped my creative muse, with less time spent teaching and public speaking, and more time devoted to research and writing. Research being the largest time-eater of all, but essential to good writing I feel. Not the kind of research done on Google either. Not that there is anything wrong with Google, but it can’t be the only research used. Imagine what will  be written 150 years from now, if Google is the only source used to write about today.

Cattle drive down Main Street. Main Street is part of the Boone’s Lick Trail which ends in Howard County at the beginning of the Sante Fe Trail.

Back in the mid-80s I purchased an old historic home supposedly built by a German named Smith/Schmidt. Every old house lover spends hours researching their homes’ history! When investigating a building, the first thing you do is research the deeds, and create a timeline of who owned the property when. However, that is only the beginning! A list of names and dates is all that is. Who were they? What did they do? What happened there?! That is when the professional genealogist in me emerges. For me, that is when the fun begins. Its’ what we call “going down those rabbit holes” and chasing those stories. There are so many sources because we all have history. Throughout our lives we leave behind hundreds of documents and records  that tell our story. When I teach genealogy, my genealogy students get a list of over one hundred resources, like Circuit Court records, probates and wills. Not to mention all the research  that can be done at archives, libraries and in newspapers.

I recently completed extensive research on the 150 historic properties that line St. Charles Main Street, the most famous Main Street of  Missouri. The Historic Main Street Tour link https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ef8dfd89425c46349ead22cd80213320 will take you back to 1769 when settlement began. These buildings have over 250 years of history! They’ve had a lot of owners too.  Did they inherit it? Did they buy it at a Sheriff’s Sale? And the even tougher questions like where did the builder come from? What did they do? Questions that took a lot of digging! The family histories, the plat maps, the Insurance Maps, the City Directories! Plus, one looks at the stories already written and the research already done! If it were not for the writing and the preservation work of Edna McElhiney Olson I don’t know what would be left of our historic Main Street today.

St. Charles Main Street

Historic Main Street Tour is a digital tour of one of Missouri’s most historic streets. From the site of the City’s founder Louis Blanchette who settled here in 1769 to  early 20th Century homes, these are the stories of Main Street. More than an address and a date, these are the photos and the stories. Businesses and homes, schools, mills and churches, even the river landing for the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804, and the Trolly bridge that opened in 1904 for St. Charles residents to attend the World’s Fair. This is the story of Main Street where history has happened for over 250 years. I hope you enjoy the stories and encourage you to download the site on your phone and visit Main Street. If you can’t do that, then you can walk down Main Street on your desktop. St. Charles is the oldest settlement in Missouri west of the Mississippi River and north of the Missouri River.

St. Charles Main Street photo from the Buse Collection in the Missouri State Historical Society.

My thanks go to the Special Business District Commission who trusted me with this wonderful project.  My thanks to Sharlotte Worthington who is a wealth of information; Penny Pitman, who provided all of the texts and photos she used when she made the plaques that line North Main Street; Holly Haddox whose Preservation Journal was a starting point for much of the research and hundreds of photos; and Justin Watkins did deed research for both Historic St. Charles (North Main Businesses) and the South Main Preservation Society (South Main). Thanks too for all of the business owners that have been part of this, that allowed me to crawl in their attics and basements, and shared the history that they had discovered!

Dorris Keeven-Franke is an award-winning writer, public historian, educator, and professional genealogist. A lifelong resident of Missouri, she resides in Saint Charles County and writes about the history of Missouri, its’ German American immigrants and African Americans. Her forthcoming book is the biography of Archer Alexander. Her stories about St. Charles Main Street can be found on her blog St. Charles County History https://stcharlescountyhistory.org/Her email for St. Charles County history is stcharlescountyhistory@gmail.com

Portion of the original plat of St. Charles Missouri circa 1817 as surveyed by Nathan Boone.

The first Thanksgiving

That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and early colonial leaders did declare days of thanksgiving when we were supposed to give our thanks for continued life. Today we celebrate Thanksgiving because of the crisis that we call the Civil War. Lincoln had declared a Proclamation appointing the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer on October 3, 1863.

The Southern states fired on the U.S. Federal fort, Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor in April of 1861 in an attempt to destroy the United States of America and create their own country, convinced that society worked best if slavery was allowed. Southern leaders had worked to keep the laws of the United States to their benefit as they felt the government should protect their rights for the peculiar institution of slavery. Northerners elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency to stop the southern slaveholders from using the Constitution to cement their power. As soon as Lincoln was elected, southern states seceded, and southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union to set up their own country known as the Confederacy. For their part, Lincoln and the northerners set out to end the rebellion, bring the country back together and put an end to slavery.

The early years of the war did not go well for the Union. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. On the morning of November 26, 1863, services were held at many churches, with the largest and most important being one at the Presbyterian Church at the intersection of Baltimore and Middle streets in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

That south-central Pennsylvania crossroads and Adams County seat was one of the only locales outside of the nation’s capital that the 16th president visited during his tenure in office. It was also the site where he delivered his most famous address, in an effort to bring meaning to the rebellion’s bloodshed. Notably, Lincoln spent time in Gettysburg immediately before commemorating the first national Thanksgiving Day, having left the town by rail on November 19, 1863—exactly one week before the holiday was celebrated on Thursday, November 26.

In the words of local newsman Robert G. Harper, Gettysburg was a town that had grappled with the “terrible, and yet glorious reality” of the ghastly battle fought there that summer, and the “victory achieved for Liberty, Justice, the Union and good Government” that came as a result. The community’s Republican press took heart in knowing that President Lincoln issued a proclamation on July 15 (just 12 days after the battle) which thanked “the Divine Majesty for the wonderful things He has done in the nation’s behalf,” and invoked “the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” Many Gettysburgians were appreciative that Lincoln gifted them with his presence at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery dedication that November, when he “was serenaded twice…and his appearance excited bursts of enthusiasm—showing the strong hold he has upon the affections of the people,” reported the progressive Adams Sentinel.

Lincoln declared “a Proclamation appointing the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer” on October 3, an act which was “promptly responded to” by the Commonwealth’s governor, Andrew Curtin, who recommended “that the people of Pennsylvania do set apart and observe the said day accordingly.” At Gettysburg on October 6, the Sentinel opined that it was “a very beautiful document.” The following week, the paper reprinted the entirety of the president’s decree with the comment, “There is, indeed, great cause that we should be thankful, and that the people should pour out their hearts in acknowledgement of the good vouchsafed to them amid the trials of a civil war which is without a parallel in the history of the world.” (1)

(1) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/268206


A Veterans Salute

Thank you for your service Stephen Hempstead

Stephen Hempstead, a Revolutionary War veteran and sturdy Presbyterian who moved to St. Louis in 1811 to be near his son, Edward Hempstead, was one of the town’s original elected trustees. “The former Hempstead family burial ground is in the oldest section of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum. The Hempstead farm would make up the original acreage of the cemetery. Stephen Hempstead, the father of the family, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served in Nathan Hale’s regiment” according to Bellefontaine.  

Born May 6, 1754 in New London, Connecticut, he joined America’s Revolutionary Army on May 6, 1775, at the outbreak of war. He would serve until the Battle of Fort Griswold in 1781. According to family legend, he heard the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. The family would move to St. Louis, Missouri, in June 1811. The elder Hempstead was dismayed by the lack of religion in St. Louis and led the drive to establish the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, where he was one of the church’s first Elders. 

Stephen Hempstead was buried on the family farm on October 9, 1831. During the 1840s St. Louis businessmen would create the first Rural Cemetery modeled after Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Green-Wood Cemetery in New York, New York. The group would incorporate in 1849, and hold its’ dedication of the cemetery on May 1st, 1850. A portion of the former Hempstead farm was purchased to begin Bellefontaine Cemetery, which included the family cemetery, making Stephen Hempstead the earliest of the cemetery’s burials.

Hempstead family graveyard in Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum in St. Louis, MO

See Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum https://bellefontainecemetery.org/


Elijah Lovejoy

Slavery must cease to exist. There can be no doubt on this subject

Elijah Lovejoy

Elijah Parish Lovejoy, born the son of Reverend Daniel and Elizabeth (Pattee) Lovejoy, first came to St. Louis in 1827. He had graduated from what was then Waterville College and began publishing the newspaper the St. Louis Times in 1830. In 1832, he would return east and attend Princeton Theological Seminary, after hearing the Presbyterian minister Rev. David Nelson. He sold his earlier newspaper, and became publisher of the St. Louis Observer, a religious paper published weekly, where he often wrote about his views on slavery and the abolition of the practice. When he was asked to stop publishing on the subject of slavery, he refused citing his “freedom of the press”. In hopes of more personal safety, his friends convinced him to move his press to Alton, Illinois, where he began the Alton Observer. On August 21, 1837, a mob broke into the printing plant and destroyed his third press. A new press was ordered.

On October 3, 1837, Elijah Lovejoy was visiting his mother-in-law, the widow Sally Millington French, at her home after he’d given a talk at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Charles Missouri about two blocks away. Lovejoy was the first pastor at the College Avenue Presbyterian Church. When Lovejoy had left the church in St. Charles a few minutes before, he had been passed a cryptic note by his friend, a fellow Presbyterian named William Campbell, warning Lovejoy that his life was in danger and that he should leave St. Charles immediately. Campbell, an attorney and also a newspaper editor, was also the owner of the slave Archer Alexander. Campbell’s note was absolutely correct and the note came none too soon.

301 South Main Street

Lovejoy, with his wife Celia and their baby had just arrived at her mother’s upstairs apartment when a large group of angry men arrived at the door demanding that Lovejoy come with them. The widow, Sally Millington French, was the sister of Dr. Seth Millington who had been born in 1780 and had come west from New York to St. Louis by 1810.  When Millington died in 1834, his estate would include nine slaves and this building at 301 South Main Street. The men who had forced their way into the upstairs apartment demanded that Lovejoy leave St. Charles.

Lovejoy’s wife began screaming for help. Suddenly, Celia fainted and the men decided to make a brief retreat. Knowing the men would return soon, Lovejoy made his escape to his nearby friend George Sibley’s home to borrow a horse. Sibley, and his wife Mary Easton Sibley had founded a private girls academy in St. Charles named Linden Wood.  Later that night, after dark, Lovejoy and his family would swiftly slip away to their home in Alton. It would be only a few weeks later that an angry mob would revisit Lovejoy at Gilman’s Warehouse in Alton. 

On November 7, 1837, Elijah Lovejoy’s newest press was delivered to the warehouse. Elijah had gone home to check on his family. By early evening, rioters had gathered at the riverfront warehouse demanding the new press, threatening to blow it up. The mob scaled the building and was about to set fire to the warehouse when Lovejoy was shot five times and killed while defending his press and his right to publish his thoughts on the abolition of slavery. The mob overran the warehouse and threw his press into the Mississippi River.

William Wells Brown

A slave named William Wells Brown who had been leased to Lovejoy later wrote “Mr. Lovejoy was a very good man…decidedly the best master that I had ever had.” He recalled that his duties included “waiting on the hands and working the press.” Being leased to a newspaper publisher and editor carried a hidden benefit for a slave such as Brown. Another, the formerly enslaved John Richard Anderson would witness the entire event, as he was working as a typesetter for Lovejoy. Anderson was a former slave of the Bates family, who after being emancipated would learn how to read and write and become a Baptist minister, like his close friend John Berry Meachum. Both Anderson and Meachum are buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum.


Stand Up for our Ancestors

The Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. was funded entirely by the formerly enslaved that had gained their status under President Abraham Lincoln. When Charlotte Scott heard of Lincoln’s death, she took her first $5 she had earned in freedom and gave it to her former master, William P. Rucker, and begged him to see a memorial to the “best friend the colored people had.” With the assistance of the Western Sanitary Commission, a war relief organization of St. Louis, funds were donated for the monument by thousands of slaves, the Freedmen’s Bureau and the U.S. Colored Troops.

On the monument Lincoln is seen with his Emancipation Proclamation of January 1st, 1863 asking the formerly enslaved Archer Alexander, who has already broken his own shackles, to rise and stand beside him. Alexander was born in Virginia, brought to Missouri in 1829, and is a hero buried in an unmarked grave in St. Louis. He is the ancestor of Muhammad Ali. This memorial, shares in the context of history the appreciation felt by the formerly enslaved; and is the first and only monument in our Nation’s capital funded entirely by African Americans. A petition has been started through CHANGE.ORG, in response to Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Bill HR7466 To require the Secretary of the Interior to remove the Emancipation Monument from Lincoln Park in the District of Columbia.  It is time we stop those who do not know our history, from removing it. Please sign our petition today! https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC

For more information see https://www.ArcherAlexander.blog


Lets not Forget

Everyone, of any culture, loves an old photo of their ancestors. Young or old, black or white, we all love them. We can stare at them trying to discern every last detail, and share them with anyone who will look at them too. We imagine their life and judge their success by the clothes they are wearing. We may even have stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Family historians display these finds, adding birth dates and death dates, and  tales of who they were and what they did in their lifetimes.

They also love to photograph and share the finds of where that treasured ancestor is buried. That final monument, large or small, flat or tall, that captures an ancestors’ life in stone. Two dates with a dash in between, in a cemetery. Cemeteries are filled with the monuments of our ancestors. A sacred plot where we are all equal. Our descendants will work with whatever funds available to elevate us with works of art in granite or marble. This is where our family comes to pay their respects and share the stories. Sometimes, sadly cemeteries become forgotten and their stories are lost. It is said that as long as a name is said that person is not forgotten.

Monuments in our cities and parks are the same. While not marking the gravesite, they are a memorial to that person, their life and their deeds. They are proudly dedicated with words that share the story. Like that old photograph, they capture the life and the history. Sometimes the story gets forgotten, lost to the ravages of time. Because time marches on, and people change. What made that life special though does not change, but the times in which we live do. Many of us love to take that old photograph, or look at that monument, and recall how the world has changed since that moment. Winston Churchill said, “the further one can look back, then the further we can see forward.” If we destroy those opportunities to look back, I wonder how we can we ever know how much we have moved forward. Someday, we will want our grandchildren to look back on us with respect for our deeds. Let us teach them today, with good examples, of how to listen to the stories of the past with respect and not judgement. Someday we will all be stories of the past, that old photograph or that monument, that should never be forgotten.


Save the Emancipation Memorial in DC

When President Lincoln was assassinated because he had freed the slaves, Archer Alexander was definitely already worthy of the honor, to be portrayed by the great man’s side. Archer Alexander’s warning to the Union troops, about the efforts to sabotage a Union Army railroad bridge, saved hundreds of lives. He had worked to break his own chains of bondage and is rising to meet President Lincoln who is acknowledging this hero.

Charlotte Scott had a dream to honor President Abraham Lincoln “the best friend the colored people ever had”. This great monument was entirely funded by thousands of formerly enslaved people, freedmen, and soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. This was the beginning of the end of slavery. We believe it should remain as a testimony to how far America has come, and to honor the sacrifices of those that gave to see this monument made. This memorial to Lincoln should matter to all Americans, as we cannot erase its history. Let those that feel pain, learn the truth of its great history, and only use this monument to teach and inspire future generations, as its’ original creators in 1865 intended.  

It is said that those that do not know their history, are doomed to repeat it. Let us all rise up, by learning the truth of our history. Our ancestors, fought side by side to put an end to slavery. There are those of us that are willing to stand side by side, to once again raise our voices and take a risk for something we all believe in. Its’ time to remember our true history. To save this monument will further acknowledge and lead to a better understanding of President Abraham Lincoln and Archer Alexander. 

PLEASE CONSIDER SIGNING OUR PETITION https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC


The Eyes of That Time

What is history? Can it be a monument? Our mothers collect lockets of hair, baby teeth, report cards and hand drawn valentines. A family historian collects old photos and obituaries of as many generations they can.  A company compiles an Annual Report of its greatest achievements for its stockholders. A city will name its’ streets after its’ most famous residents and create museums that share its history. Even our Presidents give us their annual Report to the Nation. We do these things in order to have tangible evidence and records of an event or a person in history, at a certain moment in time. And they help us to listen, recall, and think. They  help us to know, understand and share the story of how far we have come.

In 1865, our nation was ending a most horrible period in its great history. The horrible but “peculiar” institution we know as slavery had ended. Hundreds of thousands of families had lost their husband, father, brother or son, in order for this to happen. They had been led through the crisis by a simple man who lived by creed “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Then he was brutally assassinated. Our country’s former enslaved people wanted to erect a monument to this great man. A woman named Charlotte Rucker took the first money she ever made as a free person, to her former owner, and asked for his help. She wanted to see a monument of that man President Abraham Lincoln.

Emancipation Memorial

The same people who had helped the slaves before, would help them once again. It would take years, but in 1876, with the help of the Western Sanitary Commission, that monument would become a reality. That simple bronze monument, with two figures, a tall white man, and a black man rising on one knee, alongside him. The first ever to include a black person in our Nation’s Capital. It would share that man, with the Emancipation Proclamation at his elbow, leaning benevolently over a slave who had broken his own shackles, suggesting that the slave rise! The time had come for the former slave Archer Alexander to stand and take his place alongside him. That is the story of the Emancipation Memorial with Lincoln and Archer, in Lincoln Park, in Washington, D.C. Another was placed as a tribute and a thank you to the people of Boston, who had been so generous during the Civil War by the sculptor, a former resident named Thomas Ball.  


Black Lives Matter

In January, of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.” Under Lincoln’s direction, hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers gave their lives to make that statement permanent. How can we forget that? Today we say the same thing when we say Black Lives Matter yet we seek to destroy those statues and images that portray those very first steps taken. How can we know how far we have come, or judge how far we have to go, if we don’t have reminders of these facts, staring us in the face as we pass by them every day? If we destroy these monuments, how can we help our children understand our enslaved ancestors lives, or what our ancestors who fought for their emancipation sacrifices were for? The Union won, and our Country was preserved. Let our Country not be torn apart once again. Emancipation means free, not equal. That is our battle that continues today. Please don’t let us confuse the two issues in our haste. We should not eradicate those battle scars that occurred in 1865, but treasure them, as they are there to serve to remind all of us, how far we have come since then, and how far we have yet to go. Let us stop and listen to their story.

President Lincoln was assassinated because he put an end to slavery. When the formerly enslaved Charlotte Scott heard the news of President Lincoln’s death, she took the first five dollars in money she had earned as a free woman, and gave them to her former master Mr. William P. Rucker a Union refugee from Virginia, who lived in Marietta Ohio then.  She asked him “to make a monument to Massa Lincoln, the best friend the colored people ever had”. Rucker would take those funds to Gen. T.H.C. Smith, and he would make sure that they were given to Mr. James Yeatman, of who he asked “Would it not be well to.take up this suggestion and make it known to the freedmen?” And with that it would soon come under the help of the Western Sanitary Commission, with William G. Eliot at the helm. He would share it with many of the benefactors of the Freedmens Bureau, active during the Civil War.

By 1866, former U.S. Colored Troops, members of the Freedmans Bureau and others formerly enslaved, had helped raise $12,150, and then to $16,242.  (Today that would be equal to over $130,000). But times were changing and their movement was being checked, this was Reconstruction. A photograph had been provided to Thomas Ball a sculptor from Boston Massachusetts who had studied abroad and moved his studio to Italy. He and Eliot were friends and in 1870, they would meet in Ball’s studio. Eliot would explain how things were proceeding for the monument in the U.S., and about the funds raised by the Western Sanitary Commission and that the funds were coming from the formerly enslaved for this, and it was to be their monument. Ball agreed that the amount of funds already collected were sufficient to cast it at the Royal Foundry in Munich. The Western Sanitary Commission also asked Ball to make changes as well. The original plan had called for a passive black man kneeling in a soldier’s cap, before Lincoln. The cap was removed and the slave was to be seen rising, breaking his own chains and taking an active part in gaining his freedom. The slave that is immortalized and represents all of slavery, is none other than that of Archer Alexander, an American hero in his own right.

Today that monument, known as the Emancipation Memorial sits in Washington, D.C. in Lincoln Park. An exact replica also sits in Boston, Massachusetts as a tribute to the people of Boston. See Emancipation Memorial for its history, and the attempts to remove it from the City’s collective memory because there are those who find it offensive as a reminder of a time when a slave was submissive. Take a closer look please, as Archer’s shackles have been broken and he is rising to stand next to Lincoln.


Emancipation Memorial

An Open Letter to Tory Bullock and the City of Boston,

It is said “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Just as our country is torn today with images that I hope will be considered unbearable in 150 years, the statue of President Abraham Lincoln in Boston’s Park Square is a history lesson that should not be forgotten either. Unfortunately, its’ true story is not what some people, who feel that the statue represents submissiveness, is all about. The statue, identical to one in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., shares the story of America’s emancipator President Abraham Lincoln, and an American hero, Archer Alexander.

*Winston Churchill

On February 28, 1863, a fifty-seven-year-old enslaved man, born in Virginia and taken to Missouri when he was twenty-three, overheard his owner Richard Pitman plotting to destroy the nearby railroad bridge. A vital link for the Union Army, Archer risked his life to run 5 miles in the dark of night to warn the troops stationed at the bridge. With a slave patrol in hot pursuit wanting to lynch him, he fled to St. Louis and was taken in by William Greenleaf Eliot. Eliot was a Unitarian minister who was born near Boston, and founder of Washington University, who was also head of the Western Sanitary Commission, and a friend of Lincoln’s. In 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated, a former slave named Charlotte Rucker, wanted to see a memorial to “the best friend the colored people ever had.” And Eliot wanted to see Archer Alexander portray the slave, breaking his own chains and rising before Lincoln.

In 1876, on the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, President U.S. Grant and Frederick Douglass dedicated Washington, D.C.’s Emancipation Memorial, which was totally funded by the former enslaved of America, with its’ fundraising coordinated through the Western Sanitary Commission. Boston’s copy was placed there as a tribute to the people of Boston by its sculptor, Thomas Ball, who was from Boston. That is what people of America saw when they visited your statue in 1876.

See my blog Archer Alexander for more



Archer Alexander was born into slavery in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1806. His owner John Alexander was a respected Elder of the Presbyterian Church when he died in 1828, and passed his property on to his son James H. Alexander. In 1829, James Alexander would make his way to Missouri, with several other slave-owning families, where he settled in St. Charles County, Missouri.  James Alexander and his wife would die from the cholera epidemic sweeping the state in the 1830s leaving behind four young orphans. Executor in charge of the slaves and estate, William Campbell would take the children back to Virginia while leaving Archer in charge of the other slaves.  While Campbell was gone the slaves would erect Captain Campbell’s huge stone house under the direction of two stonemasons, on the Boone’s Lick Road  (today’s State Highway N) near the Dardenne Presbyterian Church.

In the 1840s, when the Alexander family slaves were sold off at an estate sale, Archer and his wife and his children would become separated. Louisa became the property of merchant James Naylor, and Archer would become the property of his neighbor Richard Pitman, both of whom lived near Campbell. There, Archer and his wife Louisa (whose value was $200), raised at least seven children:  daughters Eliza ($325) and Mary Ann ($300), sons Archey ($225), Jim ($200), Alexander ($175),  and the youngest daughter Lucinda ($150). Years later, Archer would tell his biographer, William Greenleaf Eliot, that a couple of his children had been sent away. Oral family history leads us to believe that one of these children was the baby Wesley Alexander, a great-great-grandfather of Keith Winstead.

In February 1863, Archer would learn that the local men had sawn some of the timbers of the nearby Peruque Creek Railroad bridge. Knowing that the bridge would collapse with the next train’s crossing and the risks he was taking, Archer made his way five miles north to where the bridge was being guarded by the Union Troops known as ‘Krekel’s Dutch’.  This ended Archer’s life in St. Charles County as suspicion fell upon him immediately. With the aid of local Germans who facilitated his escape to St. Louis, Archer used the “Underground Railroad”. He was taken into the home of a Unitarian minister and founder of today’s Washington University, William Greenleaf Eliot. The fugitive slave law provided for the emancipation of any enslaved persons whose owner was found guilty of treasonous activities. The two became close friends.

In 1876, Eliot and the Western Sanitary Commission would see that Archer portrayed the slave rising in front of President Abraham Lincoln on the Emancipation Memorial. The monument that was created entirely by funds of the colored people formerly enslaved, is in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. Its’ dedication’s speakers were President U.S. Grant and the great orator, Frederick Douglass. When Archer died in 1880, he would be buried in an unmarked grave in the St. Peters United Church of Christ cemetery in Normandy, in St. Louis County with his second wife Julia. Then in 1885, William G. Eliot would write a slave narrative The Story of Archer Alexander from Slavery to Freedom, March 30, 1863, sharing the story of his friend. However, in order to see the book published, certain details such as names and dates were changed.

In 2018 a descendant of Archer Alexander, Keith Winstead, contacted professional Genealogist and author, Dorris Keeven-Franke, looking for help. Research has led to discoveries not previously known, which Keeven-Franke will be sharing in her next book ‘Archer Alexander, the Untold Story’. At 11 am CST, on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, Winstead and Keeven-Franke will be sharing how they discovered these new details in Never say Never, on Bernice Alexander Bennett’s program https://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernicebennett/2020/05/13/never-say-never-with-dorris-keeven-franke-and-keith-winstead.  Please share this with your friends and join us with your questions.


Emancipation Memorial

“And upon this act I invoke the considerate judgement of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.” – Proclamation of Freedom, Jan. 1, 1863, were the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation. Today marks the 144th Anniversary of the dedication of the Emancipation Memorial[1] a bronze group which “represents President Lincoln in the act of emancipating a negro slave who kneels at his feet to receive the benediction, but whose hand has grasped the chain as if in the act of breaking it, indicated the historical fact that the slaves took active part in their own deliverance”[2] The enslaved is represented by Archer Alexander, who was born enslaved by the Alexander family in Virginia in 1806, taken to Missouri in 1829, where he later lived as a slave of Richard Pitman in Saint Charles County until February 28, 1863. He lived the final years of his life in St. Louis, with William Greenleaf Eliot where he lies buried in an unmarked grave in St. Peters United Church of Christ Cemetery.[3]  

Soon after Lincoln’s assassination, an African American woman named Charlotte Scott took to her former owner, Mr. William P. Rucker, the first five dollars earned after emancipation. She wanted to see it used “to make a monument to Massa Lincoln the best friend the colored people ever had.[4]  Mr. Rucker, a Union refugee from Virginia who was living in Ohio then, gave the fund to General T.H.C. Smith, a close friend of Eliot and James E. Yeatman[5], head of the Western Sanitary Commission. Smith told Yeatman “Such a monument would have a history more grand and touching than any of which we have account” ”[6]. The Western Sanitary Commission invited all freedmen to send contributions, and $16,242.00 was soon raised. But then “came a revulsion of feeling, from various causes, after the accession of President Johnson, which checked the movement[7] and the movement for the memorial was almost lost.  

Archer Alexander had overheard his owner, Richard H. Pitman plotting to undermine the nearby railroad bridge by sawing its’ supports. Archer would bravely run that night over five miles to warn Krekel’s Deutsch, Union home guards stationed there. He informed them that James Campbell had guns stored in his icehouse. Suspicion fell immediately on Archer, who had to flee or risk lynching, who left behind his wife Louisa and their youngest children. Using the network known as the ‘Underground Railroad’ he made his way to St. Louis and was taken in by the Eliot family. William Greenleaf Eliot (1811-1887), was from Boston, Massachusetts, and his wife the former Abigail Adams Cranch was a niece of former President John Adams.  A Unitarian minister, and the founder of Washington University, Eliot was the founder of the Western Sanitary Commission. Eliot would work to establish Archer’s freedom, based on the law that anyone found treasonous to the U.S. and its’ military, their property was automatically confiscated and then freed.

In 1870, when Eliot retired, he visited his old friend and renowned sculptor Thomas Ball also from Massachusetts, about the creating the Freedman’s memorial and monument to Lincoln. The sculptor had moved to Florence, Italy and established his studio there after the Civil War. Ball would agree that the contributions raised so far by Yeatman and Eliot and the Western Sanitary Commission would be ample and sufficient to commission the monument, and that he would superintend the cost of producing it in bronze and at its’ colossal size at the foundry in Munich in 1875. Congress accepted the statue as a gift from the “colored citizens of the United States[8] and appropriated $3,000 for a pedestal upon which it would rest. Dedicated on the 11th Anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, it reads “This monument was erected by the Western Sanitary Commission of Saint Louis Mo: With funds contributed solely by emancipated citizens of the United States declared free by his proclamation January 1 A.D. 1863. The first contribution of five dollars was made by Charlotte Scott. A freedwoman of Virginia being her first earnings in freedom and consecrated by her suggestion and request on the day she heard of President Lincoln’s death to build a monument to his memory.”[9]

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places “The campaign for the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln, as it was to be known, was not the only effort of the time to build a monument to Lincoln; however, as the only one soliciting contributions exclusively from those who had most directly benefited from Lincoln’s act of emancipation it had a special appeal … The funds were collected solely from freed slaves (primarily from African American Union veterans)[10] and was dedicated by President U.S. Grant with world renown orator Frederick Douglass also present and speaking that day. Douglass’ words “We have done a good work for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us; we have been fastening ourselves to a name and fame imperishable and immortal; we have also been defending ourselves from a blighting scandal. When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation  of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”[11] Douglas, also said the statue “shows the Negro on his knees, when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom.” However, even Douglas’ would never see that comment printed in any newspaper.

Archer and Eliot became close friends. They did not attend the dedication. When Eliot shared a photograph of the Emancipation Memorial with Archer he would exclaim “I’se free!”[12]. The dedication April 14th, 1876, marked the 11th Anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Located in Lincoln Park it was placed[13] in direct view of the U.S. Capitol during America’s period of Reconstruction, and was the only Washington, D.C. monument featuring an African American which was funded entirely by America’s former enslaved themselves. Their friendship was cemented when in their final years Archer would share details of his life with Eliot, an abolitionist. After Archer’s death December 8, 1880, Eliot would write The Story of Archer Alexander From Slavery to Freedom March 30, 1863.  Published in 1885 in Boston, it was still an era rife with emotion, and changing the identity of some of the characters would be necessary in order to see the publication happen.

James Yeatman, William Greenleaf Eliot and his wife Abby Adams Cranch are all interred at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum in St. Louis, Missouri.


[1] The Monument with the words the Emancipation Memorial on its’ front base is referred to as “Freedom’s Memorial” by William Greenleaf Eliot, but is referred to as the Freedman’s Memorial on the National Register of Historic Places.  

[2] Eliot, William G., The Story of Archer Alexander From Slavery to Freedom March 30, 1863, St. Louis, MO, Cupples, Upham and Company Boston, 1883. Available online https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/eliot/eliot.html

[3] Burial Records of St. Peters United Church of Christ and St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Burial Certificates. For more see https://dorriskeevenfranke.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/march-30-1863/

[4] Ibid

[5] James A. Yeatman (1818-1901) was a founder of Bellefontaine Cemetery, Washington University and the Western Sanitary Commission. A key figure in Winston Churchill’s The Crisis, he came from a Tennessee family of slave owners. For more see Daniel Gonzales, St. Louis Magazine A forgotten St. Louis community with a big story to tell: James Yeatman and the development of Glencoe, September 28, 2017. https://www.stlmag.com/history/a-forgotten-st-louis-community-with-a-big-story-to-tell-james-yeatman-and-the-development-of-glencoe/

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

6 National Park Service (2010-07-09). “National Register Information System”National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service

[10] National Park Service (2010-07-09). “National Register Information System”National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service

[11] URL captured 14 April 2019 https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/4402  River Campus Libraries ORATION IN MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, delivered at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument in Memory of Abraham Lincoln, in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., April 14, 1876
Inaugural Ceremonies of the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln, Washington City, April 14, 1876,  St. Louis, 1876, pp. 16-26

[12]  Eliot, William G., The Story of Archer Alexander From Slavery to Freedom March 30, 1863, St. Louis, MO, Cupples, Upham and Company Boston, 1885. Available online https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/eliot/eliot.html

[13] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/WMA_button2b.png/17px-WMA_button2b.png38°53′23.3″N76°59′24.9″W


Tomorrow’s history is Today

My love of history began literally at the knee of my great-grandfather when I was seven-years old. Many years later, I discovered the copy of the “tree” we were working on in his personal papers, in my childish script. How lucky is that? Both my grandfather and father have passed, and I have acquired the role of ‘family historian’!

My fascination with history has only grown stronger, and besides writing several books on local history, I have spent years doing genealogy professionally. Besides tracing heirs for attorneys, I have worked on locating the descendants of the 500 members of the Giessen Emigration Society that arrived in 1834 in St. Charles County. Locating the descendants of those buried at Sage Chapel Cemetery helped me prepare its nomination and subsequent listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently working on my latest book Archer Alexander, The Untold Story (working title) I work with his descendants, including the family of Muhammad Ali of which Archer is an ancestor, who live all across the United States.

Descendants of members of the Giessen Emigration Society at the Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. Photo by Folker Winklemann

For many years as an educator, with programs about how to research your home’s history, and how to compile your family history (for the City of St. Charles Adult Education) I shared the tactics I have developed. As an archivist at St. Charles County Historical Society, and now at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum, I feel that there is a wealth of information on our ancestors that is untapped by many working on their family history, their property’s history, or those researching local history.

L-R John Griesenauer, Mary Stephenson and Booker Edwards. Photograph by Dorris Keeven-Franke

Now, we are all together, living in an historic time period that will be written for centuries I am sure. And while classes at the City of St. Charles are suspended, online education is being considered. Would you be interested? I am also considering how to share online classes on how to do an Oral History and Property Research? Please give me feedback on how we can each preserve our own history? We are all in this together, and I hope all of my friends are safe staying ‘at home’ during this historic time.

Dorris Keeven-Franke and Cecilia Nadal. St. Louis Magazine photograph.

March 30, 1863

I thought I was familiar with the story of Archer Alexander, the slave that portrays the gratitude the African Americans felt for President Abraham Lincoln. On the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. erected in 1876, Alexander is the image of the enslaved.  After writing about the history of St. Charles County in Missouri for well over thirty years, I had encountered him several times, and had included his story in museum exhibits, shared his story on O’Fallon Missouri’s public media channel in a documentary on him, and written several blogs about him.  I thought I knew his story.

In 1885, William Greenleaf Eliot, the grandfather of poet T.S. Eliot had published THE STORY OF ARCHER ALEXANDER FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM March 30, 1863, which is what Dr. Henry Louis Gates would call a “slave narrative”.  Eliot, the founder of Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, and a young minister who had brought the Unitarian Church to St. Louis in 1834, simply refers to himself as “A member of the Western Sanitary Commission in St. Louis, MO”. The small narrative of the life of Archer was published in Boston by Cupples, Upham and Company with the help of his closest friends, James Yeatman and Jesse Benton Fremont. Fremont, who was the daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, a Senator for the State of Missouri for its’ first 30 years. I wondered why the date of March 30, 1863.

Frontspiece of The Story of Archer Alexander from Slavery to Freedom March 30, 1863

It would not be until a year long journey of discovery that I would understand.  In October of 2018, fellow Bellefontaine Cemetery researcher Jim Guenzel, shared Charlotte Carroll’s article in Sports Illustrated that revealed the recent DNA discovery that Muhammed Ali was the great-great-great grandson of Alexander. After I shared that exciting news on several social media platforms, I received a cryptic text asking me “do you know where Archer Alexander is buried?” by Ali’s third cousin Keith Winstead. I thought I did.  After all, Eliot’s book told us – or so we thought.

Eliot states “His funeral, at which I officiated, took place from the African Methodist Church on Lucas Avenue, and was largely attended. He was decently buried in the Centenary Burial Ground near Clayton Court House, followed to his last resting-place by many friends. A part of the expenses of his long sickness, and all the funeral charges, were defrayed from the funds of the Western Sanitary Commission.” However, Archer, is actually buried with his second wife Julia, in St. Peters Cemetery in Normandy, on Lucas and Hunt Road, listed as Archey Allexander, Age 74 on 12/8/1880 in the Public lot #1. This new evidence would lead us to question why. Why had changes to the story been made?

New discoveries

Archey, was born in 1806, in Lexington, Virginia, and brought to Missouri by James H. Alexander in a caravan led by William Massilon Campbell in 1829. By 1843, he had become the property of a Union man Richard H. Pitman, in Dardenne Township of St. Charles County. Eliot writes “In the month of February 1863, he learned that a party of men had sawed the timbers of a bridge in that neighborhood, over which some companies of Union troops were to pass, with view to their destruction. At night he walked five miles to the house of a well-known Union man, through whom the intelligence and warning were conveyed to the Union troops, who repaired the bridge before crossing it.

Pitman was apparently aware that it was his slave that had pointed the finger. Archey would flee for his life, to avoid a lynching, leaving his wife Louisa and their youngest children behind. Using the ‘underground railroad’ he made his way to a ‘station’ a German butcher, near Beaumont Street ran. There he would be rescued by the wife of Eliot, Abigail Adams Cranch, a niece of the former President John Adams and namesake of his wife, who Archey deemed an “angel”.

Eliot would immediately seek an order of protection for the slave, and contact Pitman asking him to name a price so that he could purchase Archey. Eliot would use his close family friend Barton Bates, the oldest son of Edward Bates who was Lincoln’s attorney general, also a friend and related by marriage to Pitman as intermediary for the transaction. After Pitman returned an answer to Eliot at his home, by sending slave catchers to attack and kidnap Archey, who nearly succeeded in selling him “south”, Eliot took matters into his own hands. On the date of March 30, 1863 William Greenleaf Eliot would pen his own letter to Pitman, informing him that his efforts were unsuccessful and that he would do everything he could to see Archer Alexander free!

For more of this story…. https://wordpress.com/home/archeralexander.wordpress.com



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.

St. Peters U.C.C. Cemetery, Lucas and Hunt Road, St. Louis, Misssouri

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…

William Greenleaf Eliot was a Unitarian Minister who founded Washington University of St. Louis Missouri and was an organizer of the Western Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.

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.

Archer Alexander

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.

PHD29102 Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap, 1851-52 (oil on canvas) by Bingham, George Caleb (1811-79); Washington University, St. Louis, USA; (add.info.: Daniel (1734-1820) and his wife Rebecca travelling westwards to Kentucky;); American, out of copyright

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.

The Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC was dedicated in 1876 and paid for by the formerly enslaved population of America. Archer Alexander portrays the slave breaking his chains and rising to meet his freedom..

Ask the question

When researching a building’s history, there are so many things that can tell the story. Yes, the first step is to find who legally owned the LAND that it was built on, and that gives us a framework of just that, who owned it. That is done through the deeds at the Recorder of “Deeds” office at the Courthouse. Then you can cite book and page about the ownership. However there is so much more! Taxes are not the only thing relative either. After the Civil War, if you owned a building on St. Charles’ Main Street and you were pro Southern, your taxes would have most likely risen..but not if a Union man.

SO MANY WAYS to find the buildings real story…there are maps, plats, Birdseye views, Sanborn Insurance maps, City Directories, newspapers, photographs, local history and even family histories! Sometimes people are credited with something when they are not even alive! Plus property is sometimes inherited, but the transfer of deeds doesn’t happen for years and years afterwards. Plus sometimes, the family says someone NEVER lived somewhere, but his brother lived in the house on the property. This kind of information comes from a family history.

CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES? Photographs are great, but a date – ANY DATE – can be written on a photograph. Even if time stamped that can be manipulated through the camera itself. After a deed research is conducted, the lives of the people who owned it needs to be studied. A building is architecture, it is bricks and stone. It is the lives of the people who actually lived in it that tell its story. What did they do? Where they a City leader or a crook? Where did they come from? If the story is that they started a school for the blacks, how can that be documented? 

And history is continuous. Fifty years ago, historians only had the story told over the clothesline to go on.The documents to go on could only be found right there, and we didn’t have the internet to help us find things tucked away in other archives, or historical societies. Families move away, and old family stories and photographs go with them. You have to be a bit of a history detective, not just the deed research and the family genealogist, too. 

You must keep an open mind, and realize that is the way we learn new things and grow! That is how history progresses! Ask questions…don’t just take everything at face value…even if it is on a deed. Remember to read the whole story…you might learn that when that deed was written that it was the meeting house for the Colored Odd Fellows Lodge too. Ask, is this possible and why did they do this? 

And most of all.. look at it through the eyes a that time, don’t be judgmental. We have all made mistakes…we’re human. That’s how we learn from our mistakes. Thats history. The real story comes from when we put the people’s lives into the context of the times in which they were born. Slavery was evil. Slavery was wrong. And there were thousands of Union soldiers who gave their lives to end that wrong. To understand the stories, one has to look at the times in which someone was living. Not just within a building at an address, but to consider their dreams, their failures and the time in which they lived.

Think…Question…dig deep…look for the whole story.


Archer Alexander

The Story of Archer Alexander from Slavery to Freedom March 30, 1863 by William G. Eliot, a member of the Western Sanitary Commission St. Louis was published by Cupples, Upham and Company, Old Corner Bookstore in 1885 in Boston Massachusetts.

Eliot shares the life of a former slave from Virginia, brought to Missouri, whose brave act of reporting treasonous activities of his master to the Union Army, gained him his freedom. Eliot shares the story as he recalls it, as seventy-four year old Archey shared it in his last days, just before his death, five years earlier. Eliot wants the reader to understand the man he describes as “the last fugitive slave taken in Missouri under the old laws of slavery. His freedom came directly from the hand of President Lincoln, by provost-marshals authority, and his own hands had helped to break the Chains that bound him. His oldest son had given his life to the cause.”

This description fits the same man, Archer Alexander, that William G. Eliot worked to see immortalized on the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.. The monument that was dedicated by President U.S. Grant, with Frederick Douglas, on April 14, 1876, just four years prior to Archer Alexanders death in St. Louis on December 8, 1880.

The Story, as Eliot shares it is “a fair presentation of slavery in the Border States for the twenty or thirty years preceding the outbreak of hostilities. I am confirmed in this view by the fact, that on submitting the manuscript to a leading publishing house…it was objected to.” For that reason, historians today, believe that Eliot had to alter several names of individuals involved. When descendants of Archer Alexander enlisted the help of a professional historian and genealogist, they were able to discover the true resting place for their ancestor. This led to more research into Eliot’s book, helping them to understand Eliot’s motivation. Written just 20 years after the events, with many of the figures prominent still, it would not suitable in any publishing house at that time. However, Eliot, was determined to see his beloved friend Archey receive the acknowledgement he deserved. He proceeded to simply change a few key names in order to assure that “The Story” of this former slave could be told. The events that took place were real, and can still be documented in historical records today. They are as important and relevant today, as they were when Eliot originally wrote them, and they need to be shared. This is the story of a true American hero that deserves to be heard.

“No sea swells like the bosom of a man set free: A wilderness is rich with liberty.”Wordsworth



House Bill 1851

The Missouri Humanities Council is asking everyone to show your support for Missouri’s German heritage! Tell Governor Nixon to sign HB 1851!

Use the link below to contact the Constituent Services division of the Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Contact Governor Jay Nixon

Below is House Bill No. 1851

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as follows:

Section A. Chapter 226, RSMo. is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 226.1150, to read as follows:

2261150. The counties located along the Missouri River that were greatly influenced by early German settlers including Chariton, Saline, Cooper, Howard, Boone, Moniteau, Cole, Callaway, Osage, Gasconade, Montgomery, Warren, Franklin, St. Charles, and St. Louis, and the city of St. Louis, shall be designated the “German Heritage Corridor of Missouri”. The department of transportation may place suitable markings and informational signs in the designated areas Costs for such designation shall be paid by private donations.

Introduced by Representative Alferman

Muhammad Ali’s Ancestor was once in St. Louis Slave Pen

These sites need to be marked….

Archer alexander

In March of 1863, a fugitive slave named Archer Alexander, perhaps the last fugitive slave in St. Louis, had fled a lynch mob in Saint Charles County after exposing his owner’s sabotage of the local railroad bridge. Local Confederates had sawn the timbers, and were waiting for the next train to pass on this vital link for the Union Army. Using the underground railroad, he fled to St. Louis and had been taken in by St. Louis’ Unitarian minister, William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington University. Eliot had attempted to purchase Alexander from his owner Richard Pitman, in order to emancipate him, using Judge Barton Bates as an intermediary. Pitman’s reply was to send two slave catchers to Eliot’s home, and in front of Eliot’s children and their nanny, viciously beat Alexander senseless and take him to the slave pen where he was to be sold. Eliot would let the…

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Missouri’s Emancipation Day

Missouri Germans Consortium

AN ORDINANCE ABOLISHING SLAVERY IN MISSOURI Be it ordained by People of the State of Missouri, in Convention assembled That hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.

January 11, 1865

On January 11, 1865 Missouri freed their enslaved. The State’s constitution allowed slavery with the Missouri Compromise, as it gained statehood on August 10, 1821. Many would later reflect as this was the beginning of the “War between the States” otherwise known today as the Civil War. German born Arnold Krekel was President of the Constitutional Congress that would end slavery in the State of Missouri forever.

On Monday, January 11, 2021 join historian Dorris Keeven-Franke as she shares Missouri’s Emancipation Day. This virtual presentation at 1:00 pm…

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The Emancipation Monument

Its’ time to learn the true history of the Emancipation Monument. Recently the Boston Arts Commission has removed their copy of the Washington DC monument. Those that want to see the National Monument removed as well need to learn the truth. The ancestors of today’s African Americans paid for and erected this memorial to the President of the United States that gave his life to see them emancipated. To say that is offensive demonstrates a lack of understanding of the full purpose of this monument. Thousands of Union troops, both black and white, gave their lives to see slavery ended, under the leadership of Lincoln.

I warmly congratulate you upon the highly interesting object which has caused you to assemble in such numbers and spirit as you have today. This occasion is in some respects remarkable…Wise and thoughtful men of our race, who shall come after us…will make a note of this occasion, they will think of it. And speak of it. With a sense of manly pride and complacency…Few facts could better illustrate the vast and wonderful change which has taken place in our condition as a people than the fact of our assembling here for the purpose we have today. An act which is to go into history.” Frederick Douglass at the dedication of “Freedom’s Memorial” also known as the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. on the eleventh anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

When the formerly enslaved Charlotte Scott heard the news of President Lincoln’s death, she was horrified and took the first five dollars in money she had earned as a free woman, and gave them to her former master Mr. William P. Rucker.  She asked him “to make a monument to Massa Lincoln, the best friend the colored people ever had”. Rucker would take those funds to Gen. T.H.C. Smith, and he would make sure that they were given to Mr. James Yeatman, Head of the Western Sanitary Commission, of whom he asked “Would it not be well to take up this suggestion and make it known to the freedmen?”

And with that the Western Sanitary Commission, a non-governmental non-profit, organized at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, solely to assist the Union Army, would work to see Charlotte Scott’s dream happen. Organized for the Union troops, both black and white, the WSC worked with the Union Army’s U.S. Colored Troops, contraband camps, fugitive slaves and the Freedmans Bureau. Yeatman would put the Commission’s William G. Eliot at the helm of the project. Fundraising efforts were known throughout the country and all of the funds came from everyone from formerly enslaved individuals to the Union Army’s United States Colored Troops. The entire project was “with funds contributed solely by emancipated citizens declared free by his proclamation”. “These funds were given in grateful memory of Abraham Lincoln.” This President had worked to keep our country united and see that its’ Declaration of Independence which had proclaimed “all men are created equal” and endowed with “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” was upheld and that all slaves were declared free and slavery was ended. This man had given his life because of his work to emancipate all blacks.

By 1866 Gen. J. W. Davidson’s troops had helped raise $12,150, of the $16,242.  (Today that would be equal to over $385,000). In 1869, Eliot would visit his friend Thomas Ball’s studio and share how the funds were coming entirely from the formerly enslaved for this memorial and that it was to be “their monument.” Ball quickly agreed that the amount of funds already collected were sufficient. The WSC asked Ball to make changes  because it was felt that the monument was “too passive”. The original plan had called for a black man kneeling wearing a soldier’s cap before Lincoln. The cap was removed and the slave was to be seen rising, having broken his own chains and taking an active part in gaining his freedom. That slave that is immortalized and represents those formerly enslaved is Archer Alexander. William Greenleaf Eliot, was a Unitarian minister who had founded Washington University in St. Louis was his benefactor. In 1863, Eliot had seen that Archer received his freedom, calling him “the last fugitive slave.” “In the Capitol grounds at Washington, DC there is a bronze group known as Freedoms Memorial. It represents President Lincoln in the act of emancipating a negro slave, who kneels at his feet to receive his benediction, but whose hand has grasped the chain as if in the act of breaking it, indicating the historical fact that the slaves took active part in their own deliverance.” William Greenleaf Eliot, From Slavery to Freedom – Archer Alexander.

The Emancipation Monument "Freedom's Memorial" was paid for entirely by funds from the formerly enslaved. It sits in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. today. It was dedicated by Frederick Douglass on April 14, 1876.
The Emancipation Monument “Freedom’s Memorial” was paid for entirely by funds from the formerly enslaved. It sits in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. today. It was dedicated by Frederick Douglass on April 14, 1876 as a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln.

Archer alexander

I warmly congratulate you upon the highly interesting object which has caused you to assemble in such numbers and spirit as you have today. This occasion is in some respects remarkable…Wise and thoughtful men of our race, who shall come after us…will make a note of this occasion, they will think of it. And speak of it. With a sense of manly pride and complacency…Few facts could better illustrate the vast and wonderful change which has taken place in our condition as a people than the fact of our assembling here for the purpose we have today. An act which is to go into history.” Frederick Douglass at the dedication of “Freedom’s Memorial” also known as the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. on the eleventh anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

When the formerly enslaved Charlotte Scott heard the news of President Lincoln’s death, she was horrified…

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