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Missouri’s Emancipation

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

One hundred and fifty four years ago today, Missouri freed their enslaved. The State’s constitution allowed slavery with the Missouri Compromise, as it gained statehood on August 10, 1821. Many would later reflect as this was the beginning of the “War between the States” otherwise known today as the Civil War.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln would issue his famous Emancipation Proclamation, and the former enslaved would literally dance in the street. However, Lincoln’s Proclamation did not free those within the State of Missouri. And that would take a Constitutional Convention, of the elected officials of the State of Missouri, with a Representative from each county. That Convention convened on January 6, 1865 in St. Louis. On the opening day, the first order of business would be to elect a President to preside over this history making event, as the Convention had been called in order to deal with the issue of “Emancipation” for those enslaved.

They elected a German born immigrant, who had arrived in Missouri on November 1, 1832. His father had brought the family to America, because he had been told by his friend Gottfried Duden, about this wonderful place that was full of opportunity for a better life. Arnold’s mother died on the journey west to Missouri. Arnold would attend school in St. Charles, become an attorney, begin a German newspaper, found the town of O’Fallon, Missouri (named for his friend John O’Fallon, William Clark’s nephew, both of who were slave owners) and become a highly respected member of the Statehouse.

By the 10th of January, a new Ordinance had been written and laid upon the table to be read before the proceedings the next day. On January 11, the Convention dispensed with the rule that the new Ordinance had to be read and voted on three separated days, and allowed for all three to happen at the same instant. The first reading was held, and the vote was 60-4. With three members not present. There was some discussion, and a few words were substituted but the essence of the motion remained the same. The second reading was held, and a highly respected Unitarian minister, William Greenleaf Eliot offered a prayer for the proceedings. Drake asked that the 44th Rule be suspended and that the Constitutional Amendment be adopted. And for the third and final reading, William G. Owens from Franklin County, called for the vote, and the issue was so adopted. From that moment forward, all of those who had been born enslaved, brought to Missouri to continue their enslavement, and any in the future, would be forever free!

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Archer Alexander’s Grave is Located

The final resting place of Archer Alexander, who was famously immortalized in the Emancipation Memorial, in Washington, D.C. in 1876 has been found. The location was unknown, and searched for by his descendant Keith Winstead for years. The funding for that memorial began when a woman in Virginia named Charlotte Scott, donated the first $5 she earned as a free woman for a monument honoring Lincoln’s proclamation. That started a fundraising effort among newly freed people that raised $16,242 — enough to build a memorial. The statue, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial”, now sits in Washington‘s Lincoln Park and depicts Lincoln standing above a former slave holding broken chains. That freed man is Archer “Archey” Alexander, who succumbed to asthma on December 7, 1880 and was buried on December 8th, in the Common Field burying ground at St. Peter’s U.C.C. Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, (2101 Lucas & Hunt Road) without any stone to mark his grave site. Though “his last words were a prayer of thanksgiving that he died in freedom” he would never see the beautiful monument that bears his image.

Born in Virginia, Archer Alexander is thought to be the son of Sally, a slave of David Farrell and Aleck Alecksander a slave of the Alexander family. In the early 1830s the Alexander family moves to St. Charles County Missouri, and Archer is sold first to Louis Yosti, then to Richard Pitman, son of David Pitman. Sold because he was considered “too uppity” as punishment. Archer meets Louisa, who is the nearby property of James Naylor. And although they marry, they remain separate property and have several children, all of which are property of Naylor, a German who manages a stagecoach stop further west on the Boone’s Lick Road. 

In February of 1863, Archer becomes one of America’s heroes, when he informs the Union Troops in St. Charles County, known as Krekel’s “Deutsch” that the railroad bridge has been tampered with! After overhearing his owner in conversation plotting the intrigue with his thneighbors the Campbells and McClure’s and knowing the bridge will collapse as soon as the next train passes, Archer takes bold action, and runs 5 miles north in the darkness, to warn those guarding the Peruque Creek bridge, just west of O’Fallon. Archer Alexander is the first to be suspected of having alerted and of somehow betraying this information when the bridge failed to collapse. Knowing that he was in mortal danger, Archer manages to flee to St. Louis.

“Under the best of circumstances, the best condition of slavery was worse than the worst condition of freedom—I doubt if a man or woman could be found who would exchange freedom, such as it is, for the old relation under the best master that ever lived” He thinks to himself, “Go for your freedom, ef [sic] you dies for it”. Archer Alexander. His desire for freedom allows him to reach St. Louis. There Archer meets Abigail Adams Eliot, a niece of Abigail Adams, who is the wife of a Unitarian minister named William Greenleaf Eliot. He is a radical abolitionist who hires Alexander to be his gardener and when he learns Alexander’s story, obtains an order of protection for the fugitive slave, and then attempts to purchase his freedom.

Soon, however, slave catchers make several attempts to abduct Alexander from the Eliot property- where he is under an order of protection. Three men, slave catchers threatened Alexander’s life with pistols and daggers, cruelly beat him with clubs, knocked him down, stamped upon and handcuffed him, dragged him to a wagon and carried him to jail. Eliot arranges to have Archer’s captors arrested on a military arrest warrant because what they had done was illegal, as Alexander was still under the Order of Protection. The slave-catchers, upon learning of their impending arrests, hastily flee St. Louis without Alexander. Eliot has negotiated for Alexander’s release and Alexander is freed once again when Captain Dwight issues orders for the Jail to do so.

Eliot is able then to obtain a full order of protection. But the political situation remains volatile. Though President Lincoln had issued the ¬Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, it did not apply to slave-holding border states. In Missouri, the “peculiar institution” of slavery would 44964288_10213562349596476_1947459586436890624_ncontinue to apply until January 11,1865, when Missouri’s Constitutional Convention under the leadership of German born Arnold Krekel, signed Missouri’s Emancipation Proclamation. Archer’s son Thomas had also escaped and joined the U.S. Colored Troops, recruited under German immigrant George Senden, on Main Street in St. Charles. He would later die “in action” during the Civil War. Disease took a huge toll on soldiers, especially the Colored Troops because of the conditions that they lived under. Archer was grieved but proud saying “I couldn’t do it myself,” “but I thank the Lord my boy did it.”

Alexander is hidden in Alton, Illinois, a free state, where he works as a farmhand, saves his wages and six months later, returned to Eliot and deposited $120 in the ¬Provident Savings Bank. It was a large sum as over the same period, a Union private would only have earned $78 at best. He then sent word to Louisa, whose freedom he hopes to purchase. He wrote a letter to her owner. “My dear husband,” Louisa wrote back. “I received your letter yesterday, and lost no time in asking Mr. Jim if he would sell me, and what he would take for me. He flew at me, and said I would never get free only at the point of the [bayonet], and there was no use in my ever speaking to him any more about it. I don’t see how I can ever get away except you get soldiers to take me from the house, as he is watching me night and day.”

Eliot and Alexander worry that having now sought to leave, Louisa might be in even greater danger. “Her life wasn’t safe if they got mad at her.” But Alexander had a back-up plan: Wary of writing again, Alexander arranges for his wife and as many children as possible to escape. William Eliot, sensing slavery’s imminent demise, cautioned Archer that the few months of freedom might not be worth the risks of flight. On a moonlit night, Louisa and Nellie, the couple’s young daughter, climbed into an ¬ox-drawn cart and hid beneath the corn shucks. A horseman soon rode by. He grilled the farmer: “Have you seen Louisa and Nellie?” “Yes, I saw them at the crossing, as I came along, standing, and looking scared-like, as if they were waiting for somebody,” the farmer coolly replied. “But I have not seen them since.” Mother and daughter arrived at Eliot’s before dawn. Alexander paid the German farmer $20. Soon they were reunited with two more additional daughters.

After the war finally ended, Eliza began to yearn for her former belongings. She went to her former master to retrieve them, and suddenly took ill. She died within two days. Her belongings were sent to St. Louis to Archer. Archer eventually remarries, to Julia, who also knew how to speak German. She died September 13, 1879 and is also buried at St. Peter’s U.C.C. Cemetery in another unmarked grave in the Common Grounds.

Freedom of the Press

“as long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, and to publish, whatever I please on any subject, being amenable to the laws of my country for the same.” Elijah Parish Lovejoy

I plant myself down on my unquestionable rights, and the question to be decided is, whether I am to be protected in the exercise and enjoyment of those rights,–that is the question, sir,– whether my property shall be protected; whether I shall be suffered to go home to my family at night without being assailed and threatened with tar and feathers, and assassination; whether my afflicted wife, whose life has been in jeopardy fromElijah P Lovejoy continued alarm and excitement, shall, night after night, be driven from a sickbed into the garret to escape the brickbats and violence of the mobs,–that, sir, is the question.[Here the speaker burst into tears.] Forgive me, sir, that I have thus betrayed my weakness. It was allusion to my family that overcame my feelings; not, sir, I assure you, from any fears on my part. I have no personal fears. Not that I feel able to contest the matter with the whole community: I know perfectly well I am not. I know, sir, you can tar and feather me, hang me, or put me in the Mississippi, without the least difficulty. But what then? Where shall I go? I have been made to feel that if I am not safe in Alton I shall not be safe anywhere. I recently visited St. Charles [301 South Main Street, St. Charles, MO] to bring home my family. I was torn from their frantic embrace by a mob. I have been beset day and night in Alton. And now, if I leave here and go elsewhere, violence may overtake me in my retreat, and I have no more claim upon the protection of any other community than I have upon this; and I have concluded, after consultation with my friends and earnestly seeking counsel of God, to remain at Alton, and here insist on protection in the exercise of my rights. If the civil authorities refuse to protect me, I must look to God; and if I die, I am determined to make my grave in Alton.”

Five days later, Nov. 7, 1837, a citizen mob took him at his word, beset him at his printing-office, and murdered him.

From the pages of William Greenleaf Eliot’s book “The Story of Archer Alexander“, where he writes “I am indebted for nearly all the details to several recent articles in the “Globe Democrat” of St. Louis, and in the “St. Louis Republican,” the latter of which are from the pen of Mr. Thomas Dimmock, one of the ablest editors of that well-known and influential journal.” who wrote “Mr. Lovejoy first came to St. Louis in 1827, being at the time twenty-five years of age. “Having a decided taste and talent for journalism, he naturally drifted into it, and in 1828 became editor of the long since forgotten ‘Times,’ then advocating the claims of Henry Clay. His editorial work made him quite popular with the Whig party, and might have opened the way to political advancement; but in the winter of 1831-32, during a religious revival, his views of life underwent a radical change, and he united with the Second Presbyterian Church, then in charge of Rev. W. S. Potts. Believing he had a call to the sacred office, he entered the Princeton Theological School in the spring of 1832, where he remained until April, 1833, when he received his ministerial credentials. In the autumn of the same year he returned to St. Louis, then a city of seven thousand inhabitants, and, yielding to the solicitations of many friends, established a weekly religious newspaper, called the ‘Observer,’ the friends furnishing the necessary funds, and the entire management being intrusted to him. The first number appeared Nov. 29, 1833. In the spring of 1834 he publicly announced his anti-slavery principles, and thus began the bitter warfare, which finally cost hirn his life. He was not, however, what was then popularly known as an abolitionist. He favored gradual emancipation, with the consent, compensation, and assistance of the slave-owners; and this should be considered in our estimate of the character and conduct of the man, and of those who hounded him to death.”

Post by Dorris Keeven-Franke November 16, 2018