Captain Campbell’s House


In 1815, when  treaties were signed ending the War of 1812, the population of St. Charles County exploded. Residents petitioned for roads to be established in 1816, and the Osage trace became the Boone’s Lick Road. In 1819, fifty years after Louis Blanchette established his home in the St. Charles Territory, the debate for Missouri’s Statehood began. When Missouri became a State in 1821 it set the stage for the Civil War, after sparking a national debate whether it should be “Slave or Free”.  Many of the young state’s residents were slaveowners, having brought their property with them from Virginia and Kentucky. A brilliant young Senator named Henry Clay, known for his oratory skills was Speaker of the House, would suggest a compromise. And when the war began forty years later, the population of St. Charles County was 16,523, of which 2,210 were black and still enslaved.

In August of 1829, four Scotch-Irish Presbyterian families from Rockbridge County in Virginia joined William Campbell to set out for Missouri. In October they arrived at Dardenne Prairie, where they settled along Dardenne Creek and the Boone’s Lick Road. Dr. Robert McCluer had already purchased his land and would begin immediately building his beautiful stone home  for his wife and five children from six months to thirteen years old. He owned fourteen “negro servants”. James Alexander who married Nancy McCluer a sister of Dr. McCluer, had five children and several negro slaves, nine enslaved individuals that included Archer Alexander and his wife Louisa and three small children.

In 1830, James Alexander would purchase his land, but tragedy would strike when his wife succumbed to the Cholera epidemic in 1833. She was buried at the Dardenne Presbyterian Church which had been established in 1819. In 1835, James would be taken by the epidemic sweeping the countryside as well and be buried next to his wife. As James Alexander, left strict instructions in his will that his farm and his slaves were absolutely not to be sold. Alexander’s cousin William Campbell was to be Executor of the Alexander slaves, who were to be leased, and the funds used to support the four now orphaned children. The children were returned to Virginia, to be raised by relatives.  The farm and the slaves would remain the property of the four children for many years thereafter.

Historic American Buildings Survey, Theodore LaVack, Photographer. September – 1936 – Captain Campbell House, Cottleville, St. Charles County, MO HABS MO,92-COT.V,1–1,

In 1838, a relative of William Campbell, Captain James Campbell, who had served in the War of 1812, arrived and purchased 640 acres of land that adjoined Dr. McCluer’s farm on the west and was south of the Boone’s Lick Road. On March 18, that purchase of 640 acres from Thomas W. and Ann Elizabeth Cunningham, was witnessed by William Lindsey, the Justice of the Peace in St. Charles. The Lindsey family were also members of the Presbyterian Church, which had already been established in 1818 on Second Street. The Church was known not only for its blue glass windows, but its’ beautiful stone construction, similar to Main Street’s “Stone Row” and the Lindsey home out at Elm Point. Thomas and James Lindsey had just brought their two young nephews from Scotland, Robert (1817-1902) and John (1814-1883) Pourie who were stone and brick masons to direct the project. It was the huge labor force of area slaves including Archer that built Captain Campbell’s house.

Archer had worked  for several years in the brickyards in St. Louis when he had first arrived in Missouri. He would assume leadership of the neighborhood slaves, while William Campbell was elsewhere. Afterwards he would be leased out, before eventually becoming the property of David K. Pitman, and then his son Richard H. Pitman, who lived east of Campbell on the Boone’s Lick Road, closer to Cottleville. Louisa, and her children were sold to James Naylor, who was postmaster and owned Naylor’s Store, a mile west of Campbell on the Boone’s Lick Road.

During the Civil War, Archer would learn at a meeting held at Naylor’s Store that the neighborhood’s “secesh” men had worked to undermine the North Missouri Railroad Bridge at Peruque Creek and stored guns in Captain James Campbell’s icehouse in order to overtake the Union soldiers of the 75th Enrolled Military Militia guarding it. Archer would inform a neighbor who was stationed there, and the Union troops moved in and retrieved the stash of illegal guns.  Soon suspicion fell on Archer as the informant, and he had to flee for his life to St. Louis, where he was taken in by a Unitarian minister William Greenleaf Eliot. Eliot was the founder of Washington University and a member of the Western Sanitary Commission. The two men would become friends as Eliot helped Archer achieve his freedom in 1863. When the war ended, and Lincoln was assassinated, the Commission would help the former enslaved from across America erect a memorial in Washington, D.C., and Eliot would see that Archer was the face of freedom on the Emancipation Monument dedicated in 1876.

Author Dorris Keeven-Franke and Archer Alexander descendant Keith Winstead at the Emancipation Memorial, located in Lincoln Park, in Washington, D.C. The memorial to President Abraham Lincoln was erected by former enslaved Americans in 1876.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Brassel family, the Captain James Campbell house still stands on the Boone’s Lick Road, today’s Highway N, just west of the intersection with Highway K. It is one of the few that remain of this era. Archer lived thirty years in St. Charles County, would die and be buried in St. Louis on December 8. 1880. Five years after his death, we learn the story of this brave man in Archer Alexander – From Slavery to Freedom, published in 1885. Many of the details were altered by the publishers, and today the untold story of Archer Alexander still needs to be heard. For more information about Archer Alexander https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/

Written by historian Dorris Keeven-Franke https://dorriskeevenfranke.wordpress.com/

2 comments

  1. Thank you, Dorris, for sharing the history of Archer Alexander’s life and the history of St Charles County. What happened eventually to Archer’s wife and children? Dot Mound

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