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

October 8, 1829 – the final entry

The final entry in the journal that shares the journey of Archer Alexander, from Rockbridge County Virginia to St. Charles Missouri, to St. Louis, Missouri to the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C’s Lincoln Park…


The final entry of William M. Campbell’s journal* simply reads…

Reached home*


When Archer arrived in Dardenne Prairie in Saint Charles County on October 8th in 1829, he was 23 years old. Born in 1806, his parents Aleck and Chloe were the property of the Alexander family. He was owned by James Alexander of Rockbridge County, near Lexington, in Virginia. His wife Louisa, born as property of the McCluer family, was part of the dowry of James’ wife Nancy. Together Archer and Louisa would have ten children, Ralph, Nellie, Wesley, Eliza, Mary Ann, Archer, Jim, Aleck, Lucinda, and John. By 1835 their owners James and his wife Nancy had succumbed to the cholera epidemic. James Alexander’s final Will expressly demands that absolutely none of his slaves are to be sold, but to be rented out for the support and to pay for the education of his four small…

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German America Day 2020

Join me as we celebrate German American Day – St. Louis Style

German American Committee



OCTOBER 6, 2020




Dorris Keeven-Franke,

President German-American Committee

and Missouri Germans Consortium, Executive Director

In St. Louis, Missouri, one of the largest strongholds of German-American heritage, the German-American Committee of St. Louis, was officially founded. We work to preserve, educate and promote the German-American heritage of St. Louis.

Germans have been part of America’s history since 1683, when a group of immigrants, thirteen families, from Krelfeld landed at Philadelphia, and founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. In 1688, they filed the first petition ever written, to abolish slavery, in the colonies. In 1883, German Americans in Philadelphia, began to celebrate this heritage with Deutsch-Amerikanischer Tag or German American Day. This spread throughout the United States, and every German-American community would also use this day to honor this heritage. This tradition has even survived the anti-German sentiment of…

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1 & 2 October 1829 – Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh entry

Some stories are harder to tell than others, which makes them more important. And in some stories, it is hard to hear the voices of the enslaved people, who we know were there.


The Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements by David Cole 2007

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…

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30 September 1829 – Thirty-fifth entry

I travel in company with four families containing about 50 individuals, white and black… this is their story…


Forty one days ago, on August 20, 1829 William Campbell first wrote: I started from Lexington, Virginia on a journey to the state of Missouri. My own object in going to that remote section of the Union was to seek a place where I might obtain an honest livelihood by the practice of law. I travel in company with four families containing about 50 individuals, white and black.

Next day rode over miles of very bad roads between Muddy Fork and Little Wabash, said to overflow in winter. Passed through Maysville, the county town of Clay county. It consists of a small wooden court house and jail, two houses and three cabins. Crossed one prairie 10 miles wide, through which passed a small stream called Elm River. The rising and setting of the sun on the prairie is a glorious sight. Encamped in a prairie near a skirt of wood.

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29 September 1829 – Thirty-fourth entry

Archer encounters the magnificent site of the FREE state of Illinois…


While the Illinois state constitution did not have a clause forbidding an amendment to allow slavery, religions leaders like John Mason Peck, and voters had rejected a proposal for a new constitutional convention that could have made slavery legal, five years before, in 1824. Despite these laws toleratingde factoslavery, in a series of legal decisions the Illinois Supreme Courtdeveloped a jurisprudence to gradually emancipate the enslaved people of Illinois. The justices decided that in order for a contract of servitude to be valid, both parties must be in agreement and sign it, and it was registered within 30 days of entering the state. In one of the predecessors of the Dred Scottdecision, Moore v. People, 55 U.S. 13 (1852), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a conviction for harboring a fugitive slave from Missouri, as had the Illinois Supreme Court a few years earlier.

Crossing the River

Slave catchers…

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28th September 1829 – Thirty-third entry

Follow the Journey…The journey of Archer Alexander and twenty-five enslaved from Rockbridge County Virginia…to Saint Charles County Missouri…continues….


The caravan completed its’ crossing of the state of Indiana and is starting across Illinois. America was on the move. They have come over 600 miles from Rockbridge County in Virginia on their own journey. These things are not on the mind of these fifty weary travelers, headed for Saint Charles County in Missouri, of which the enslaved Archer Alexander is a member. In 1876, the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. was the vision of thousands of the formerly enslaved people that President Lincoln had helped free. The monument with Archer Alexander (1806-1880) portrays a slave who has worked to free himself, has broken and thrown off his shackles and is seen rising with the vision of the future on his face. The face of freedom.


Next day came through Vincennes, a beautifully situated town, on the bank of the Wabash, with a number of fine brick houses and…

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27 September 1829 – Thirty-second entry

This is September 27, 1829 and the journey of Archer Alexander to Missouri.


On the 27th of September the caravan is crossing Indiana. This is the journal of William Campbell, moving four families from Rockbridge County Virginia to Saint Charles County Missouri. The caravan is made up of just four families. Between the Alexander, McCluer and Wilson families, they own twenty-five people, half of the caravan. Archer Alexander is a part of this. Its’ 1829, and America is on the move.

Next day had incessant hard rain nearly all day. We pushed on to get over the Little White River. Got very wet. Crossed the river easily. A fine stream nearly the same size as Big White River. Roads very muddy after the rain. The country between the forks of the White is level, a part of it is good land but part is barren. Encamped at [Andrew] Purcells, road and country level; many movers.*

Even before the U.S. and President Thomas…

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5 September 1829 – Eleventh Entry

Archer Alexander’s journey continues…


The Journey continues… This is the journal of William Campbell, leading four families, Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhower from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to Dardenne Prairie, in Saint Charles County Missouri. It includes at least 25 enslaved people, including the enslaved Archer Alexander, who today is found on Washington, D.C.’s Emancipation Monument. The journal is located in the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. They had departed Lexington on August 20, 1829… Campbell has spent the past five days in Charleston, (West) Virginia waiting on the wagons that are loaded with household goods to catch up to him in Charleston..

5 September – Our wagons arrived and we put 5,000 pounds out of them into a keel boat to go by water and they lay one day at Daniel Ruffner’s. Encamped on a short turnpike at Hamiltons. Staid…

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24 August 1829 – Fifth entry

On ArcherAlexander.blog you can follow Archer Alexander’s journey from Virginia to Missouri


Staid in Lewisburg until evening. It was a quarterly court and a day of great resort in Lewisburg. Started in the evening and came to Pierce’s [Pierie’s] ten miles over the Muddy Creek Mountain. Fared well.

Prior to the Civil War, most Courthouses were the necessary site for the important slave auction. Usually the earliest settlement in the area, the roads leading to the County Seats were also the best maintained. Drawing from Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia

William Massilon Campbell graduated in 1825 from Washington College, later Washington and Lee University. His father Samuel LeGrand Campbell was a President of the esteemed college.As a lawyer, he had a keen interest in the affairs of each County Seat, and would spend several hours visiting and attending the court’s proceedings. This allowed time for…

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Stop removing our history

A member of Congress wants to remove the Emancipation Monument that was paid for by thousands of the formerly enslaved of America.


Stop Congress from removing the Emancipation Monument from our Nation’s Capitol. Add your name to the Petition today. This is the only memorial entirely paid for by thousands of formerly enslaved and U.S. Colored Troops in our Nation’s capitol. https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC

Emancipation Monument or Freedom’s Memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located in Lincoln Park, the first public park in Washington, D.C.

Freedom’s Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Monument in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. has a plaque that reads “in grateful memory of Abraham Lincoln 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 1st A.D. 1863. The first contributionof five dollars was made by Charlotte Scott, a freed woman of Virginia being her first earnings in freedom and consecrated by her…

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