Keep the Emancipation Memorial Statue

Monuments teach us great moments in our Nation’s history if we stop to learn their story. Please sign the petition.

What is a monument? Merriam-Webster Dictionary: saysa lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great (2) a distinguished person (b) a memorial stone or a building erected in remembrance of a person or event. Public monuments everywhere are being removed because some find them offensive. Do they know the history of these monuments? And before the desire to remove the Emancipation/Freedom monument in one of our Nation’s most historic cities succeeds, I would like to share with you a petition to KEEP THE EMANCIPATION MEMORIAL STATUE by the great-great-great grandson of the enslaved man rising on the monument. His name is Keith Winstead.

The EMANCIPATION monument in Boston was placed there in 1879, as a tribute to the citizens of that City.  A replica of the Freedom (Emancipation) Memorial in Washington, D.C., is located in Lincoln Park. The first monument was dedicated in 1876…

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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  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

[3] Burial Records of St. Peters United Church of Christ and St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Burial Certificates. For more see

[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.

[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  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


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….

Research the history of a place…

When one buys an old building, or home, they buy history! No matter if it is in a big city or a town, or out in the country, if its old – it has history! I’ve been working on a project writing the history of 150 buildings on Saint Charles Main Street and even though I’ve been writing and researching for over 30 years – every building’s story teaches me more! Research of a place, whether it be a building, a cemetery, a school, a church or where a historic event occurred, it has a story! Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned over the years on how to learn the history of your place!

Begin by building your timeline with Deed and list of Owners

You can start with the legal history of the property. Its like the skeleton, and I’m not talking about ghosts! Its’ the framework of who was the legal owner and when. But not all owners lived on a property, and not all owners are a single person, but sometimes a society or group of trustees, a school board, or even a “benevolent” association. To begin with you have to know the first owner, and each subsequent owner of the property and the dates that they owned it. Most begin as U.S. Land, but could be early Spanish land grants as well. Someone purchased it from either of those and then sold it. Those sales, are Deeds that are recorded at the County Recorder of Deeds. Now if you are lucky enough to have one of those good old fashioned abstracts around, that the deed company provided when the property changed hands, this is great. What you want to create is the same thing, the transfer each time the property changed hands, who it was sold to, what was on the property, and when exactly this happened. This creates a timeline of the property. When buying a property the title company is doing this research but its expensive, and well-worth it. This can take quite a bit of time in the County Recorder of Deeds office. In St. Charles County (MO) one can research the deeds online in St. Charles County at at almost any time of day! This is a great advancement through technology. You will want to read the actual deed and make a copy to refer to. These old deeds can tell you a lot whether it was Main Street or a cemetery!

Its’ the people who tell the “STORIES”!

Now its’ time to be part genealogist and part “history detective”! Once you have developed your timeline of who owned the property and those dates you will want to know more about the people!! That is the flesh and blood of the story. The lives of the people who lived or died on your property. The stories are not always limited to the “property owner” though! Innkeepers, churches, slave owners, schools, cemeteries are all examples to stories linked to a place and not the owner. Deeds, tax documents and estate probates can tell you more sometimes about the buildings. Plat maps share where schools and graveyards, mills and orchards, creeks and churches are. Sanborn Insurance maps were used by local insurance salesmen to document the buildings make up, roof, doors and windows for the big insurance brokers in the east. Circuit Court records are full of disputes over properties where the mortgages weren’t paid, or siblings fought over who should get what. Newspapers will share the stories of fires, murders, and lynchings! And the stories don’t stop there.

So many sources

There are so many sources for this information!!! You can spend forever developing the story of your property just researching the lives of all the people who lived there. You may even want to consider Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places if it qualifies, and it hasn’t already been done. Check first to see if its listed and if its eligible at where there is a great group of people ready to answer questions! Below is a list of a few online links that you many find helpful….

Further steps in developing your place’s history …

  • Death and Taxes are the two things you can’t escape. Those records in St. Charles County (MO) can be found at where all the public records for property can be found. If its in St. Charles County they’ve got it. You will find the Deeds literally in the Recorder of Deeds office in the new St. Charles County Administration building on Second Street in St. Charles. This date is not to be taken as absolute though.
  • Newspaper articles can be found at either for a cost or many can be found in the archives of the State Historical Society of Missouri where they have microfilmed thousands of newspapers. To find out what newspapers they have see or check out some of the great collections of newspapers at the St. Charles City-County Public Library at the Kathryn Linnemann branch through which is also free. What are you looking for? If the owner died a tragic death you will find it in his obituary, or if the house suffered damage in the cyclone of 1876, or maybe he did something famous that put him in the newspaper.
  • If you proficient in genealogy and have an account try searching the families that lived there in the Public Family Trees. If you find your people, contact the owners of that tree. They will love knowing and having pictures of their ancestors house! You will want to connect with earlier families that lived in your house because only they can give you pictures of the Christmas tree in front of the mantle or Grandpa on the front porch. They are a resource like no other! Also consider as a FREE website with the Church of Latter Day Saints behind it. This is a huge database that you can create a free tree and log into thousands of digitized records. There is more to Genealogy than just these sites though!

Suggested research sources…

  • Sanborn Insurance Maps that show what your house looked like in certain years. University of Missouri has been Missouri’s resource and has them available online…
  • Tax books! Nothing tells a story better than when the value of a property. No one escapes the tax man! The Assessor decides how much the value should be. Just like today, financial crisis and wars do affect these things. The Collector tells you if the taxes. were being paid, by whom and by when!

Check back to this site and learn more research methods that I will be posting periodically….

Entry 12 – 7 September 1829

We started with our whole party to Missouri….

crossed the river in the horse boat. Our party now consists of fifty five persons, 20 horses, 10 dogs and 4 cows. One of our carriage horses had become very lame in Charleston and we had to leave it with Mr. Calhoun. We got another who did most wretchedly. We got another which performed very well. We encamped that night near the Kanawha River, fourteen miles below Charleston. Our tent was carelessly prepared and we suffered much from the cold.*

This is an important entry that shares so much, yet so much is not being said. William Campbell, the author of this journal is the son of Samuel and Sally (Alexander) Campbell and would later become editor for two pro-slavery newspapers in St. Charles, and in St. Louis, Missouri. For that reason, these accounts of the journey, are most likely…

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