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Archer Alexander

This is the story of a St. Charles County slave that risked his life to “do the right thing” and has been famously immortalized in the Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial and sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial”, a monument in Washington, D.C..

Born in Virginia, in 1816, Archer Alexander was a mulatto son of Salley, a slave on Reid’s farm. When he was six years old, he leaves the Reid farm and moves to the Smith farm Archer Alexanderwith his mother. The next year, Mr. Smith died, and his widow marries David Farrell, and Salley becomes the property of Ferrell in Widow Smith’s dowry. Salley also gets married, as is slave custom, by jumping the broom, with Aleck Alexander. With that, Archer is indentured to the Alexander family. A few years later, in 1828 or 9, the Alexander family moves to Missouri, but soon returns to Virginia, and he is sold to the Ferrell family. Buying and selling of property continues, and Archer first is sold to Louis Yosti, then to Richard Pitman, son of David Pitman, in St. Charles County.

He had been sold because when he was young, he was considered “too uppity” and was sold as punishment. This separates him from his own family forever. When asked at the end of his life if he still remembered his mother, Archer replied, “Yes, sir, I remembers her like yesterday. Seems like I never forgets her, nohow. ‘Specially when trouble comes, and I’ve had a heap of thatHere, at the Pitman farm  Archer meets Louisa, and they raise 10 children.

In February of 1863, Archer becomes one of America’s heroes, when he informs the Union Troops in St. Charles County that the Railroad bridge has been tampered with and undermined so that it will collapse as soon as a train passes. With this bold action, Alexander ran under the cover of darkness, five miles to inform the Union troops. Krekel’s “Dutch”- so called because they were German emigrants – oversaw guarding the Peruque Creek bridge, just west of O’Fallon. Archer Alexander is suspected of having alerted and of somehow betraying this information when the bridge did not collapse! Knowing that he was in mortal danger, Archer manages to escape and 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 you dies for it”. Archer Alexander.

Slave-catchers captured Archer and took him to a boarding house to spend the night before being taken to a new master in the South, as punishment for his actions. Instead of settling for a continued life of slavery, Alexander miraculously climbed out of a high eliottpwindow and avoids a ravenous dog long enough to slip away from his pursuers. His desire for freedom allows him to reach St. Louis and secure his freedom.

Archer’s son Thomas had 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 which 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.”

In St. Louis, Archer meets Abigail Adams Eliot in a butcher shop. She’s the wife of a Unitarian minister named William Greenleaf Eliot. Eliot hires Archer to be his gardener. When he discovers Alexander’s story, the minister obtained an order of protection for Archer and attempts to purchase his freedom. Eliot helps Archer write a letter so that Archer can buy his freedom, because in 1847, Missouri’s laws had made it illegal to teach a slave to read or write. Eliot goes to Judge Barton Bates and offers him $600 for Archer Alexander.

Soon, however, slave catchers again attempted to abduct Alexander from the Eliot property- where he is under an order of protection. Three men, slave catchers came to the property and 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. TheOld-City-Jail 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” stood until January 11,1865, when Missouri’s Constitutional Convention under the leadership of Arnold Krekel, signed it.

When he’d recuperated sufficiently to travel, Alexander went by steamboat to Alton, Illinois, a free state. There he worked as a farmhand, saved his wages and waited. Six months later, Alexander 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 hoped 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 read Alexander the letter.  He worried that Louisa, having sought to leave, might now be endangered. 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 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 remarried to a slave who also knew how to speak German.

President Abraham Lincoln and a freed African-American slave are depicted in a statue thcommemorating the Emancipation Proclamation in Washington D.C., with the photo of the slave based on Archer Alexander.  About 1870, Eliot arranged for Alexander to be photographed. Eliot mailed the images to Italy, where artist Thomas Ball was sculpting a monument to Lincoln and emancipation. The funding for the memorial started when a woman in Virginia, 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 now sits in Washington‘s Lincoln Park and depicts Lincoln standing above a kneeling freed man holding broken chains.

Originally the slave was to be wearing a Union Cap and thanking Lincoln. The statue has been criticized as paternalistic, reflecting views of its time. Still, it remains significant as one of the first monuments to Lincoln funded entirely by formerly enslaved people. The freed man has the face of Archer Alexander. Neither Eliot nor Alexander attended the monument’s dedication in April 1876, and Alexander never saw the memorial for himself. Alexander died December 7, 1880 and, according to Eliot’s account, “his last words were a prayer of thanksgiving that he died in freedom.”
Watch O’Fallon Matters story on Archer Alexander https://youtu.be/4FfKhZRj7E0

The author used Crossroads by Steve Ehlmann, The Story of Archer Alexander by William G. Eliot, and The Rattling of the Chains by Errol D. Alexander for this article.

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Franklin School

In 1846, when the first public school Board was created, and German born Arnold Krekel was a director, public education was only for white students. As plans for public schools took shape, there was a count of school age children made, which unfortunately did not include colored children. It was illegal to educate blacks under Missouri Law in 1847. It wasn’t until after Missouri’s Emancipation of its slaves on January 11, 1865 that things changed. In 1866, Jacob Weston was hired by the public school board and paid $20.00, in part payment, to teach the colored children in St. Charles. William Royce, began to collect subscriptions to build a public colored school, for the 167 colored children. The school board announced that school would start in December 1867. The African Church at Second and Pike Streets served as a school house and received $5 a month rent for that. By 1870, plans were being made to purchase the church.

At that same time, the Franklin School building was purchased from St. Louis University. For $3,500 the school board purchased everything, even the benches, in the school house that had been serving as a Catholic school for the St. Charles Borremeo parish since 1855 when it had been built. The colored school population was divided between the African Church and the Blue Ville School at Gallaher and Olive. In 1871, The colored Methodist Church was then purchased for $1250. In 1897, all colored children were being sent to what was Lincoln School at Second and Pike.

It wasn’t until 1901, that H.H. Peck spoke up about giving the African-American children, of which there were 80 at this time, a full day’s education. He also wanted another teacher since there were so many students, but that was denied. Instead on October 7, 1902 the school district opened the Franklin School to relieve the overcrowding at

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Franklin School’s new addition in 1910

Lincoln School. It wasn’t until 1910 that the first mention of graduation exercises. In 1914, Lincoln was the white school and Franklin was all black, and an addition was built to accommodate all the former black Lincoln School students. The addition was made at a cost of $2,674. In 1921, the State Superintendent of Schools suggested that two years of high school be added. Improvements of more rooms at a cost of $11, 418.00 was done at this time as well. And in 1922, the first diploma was awarded to Clarence Thomas Shelton.

In 1925, the front of the school was modernized to today’s appearance. A lot was purchased for $7,500 to provide a playground for the students. In 1931, a third year was added to the high school, and in 1932 a fourth year was added. By this time, bus transportation covering 60-80 miles a day in its route, to bring African-American students from Jonesburg, Warrenton, Wright City, Wentzville and O’Fallon. It was great event when in June of 1933, Franklin School proudly graduated ten students from its four-year high school. In 1938, a gymnasium was built on the south side of the school building, where the former George Hellrich home had been, at the cost of $17,980.00. Another house on Hellrich’s property served as the Home Economics building.

Integration came to Missouri’s schools in 1954, and the lower grades were the first to be racially integrated. An era came to an end on a Thursday evening in June, the 2nd, in 1955 with the last graduation of Franklin High School. Hundreds of students from African-American communities in Warren, Lincoln, and St. Charles Counties had gained IMG-6933(1)that important High School education in this building. Portions of its halls had served students since 1855, with a majority of its life as an all-black school. Student Mary Stephenson’s family had moved to O’Fallon from a farm in St. Paul, to attend school. She would pass school buildings that were a block from her home, to ride an early morning bus, to receive a high school education. Dedicated teachers, used all the materials they could find, and taught several different subjects. They insisted upon learning and the importance of education. This was a place that instilled pride in hundreds of former students that passed through its hallways. This sense of pride can still be seen today in the homes of these families. Their pride in their education still echoes in the hallways, and in their discussions with the school board. For more information about the plans for the former Franklin School, which is being sold, please contact the City of St. Charles School District.

Information for this post came from the National Register Listing for the Frenchtown District and One Hundred years of Negro Education in St. Charles, Missouri by Stephen Blackhurst, Jr..

Missouri’s Slaves Emancipated

On January 11, 1865, Arnold Krekel signed the Missouri Constitutional Conventions Proclamation ending slavery here in Missouri.  Krekel, was born in Germany in 1815, served as President of Missouri’s Constitutional Convention when slavery was abolished in Missouri on January 11, 1865. He emigrated with his family to Dutzow, Missouri in November of 1832. The young man moved to searchSt. Charles and attended the  St. Charles College where he studied law. He worked as a surveyor and became a Justice of the Peace as well. In 1844 he graduated the bar and opened his law office. Krekel became the St. Charles County and city attorney from 1846 to 1850. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1852. In 1855, he purchased 320 acres of land, and platted the town of O’Fallon. There his brother Nicholas Krekel, built the first house, and established the town’s Post Office. They established O’Fallon as a town on the Wabash Railroad, with Nicholas the agent.

Krekel Addition

 

Arnold Krekel was editor of the St. Charles German newspaper, Der Demokrat from 1850 until 1864, and when the Civil War began, Krekel served in the Union Army, as Lt. Colonel of a regiment of Missouri volunteers. When the Civil War began, Missouri’s plans for gradual emancipation infuriated the Radical Republicans, who wanted slavery abolished immediately. They took their grievances to Lincoln, who refused to take sides in Missouri’s politics, which infuriated them even more. Provisional Governor Gamble offered to resign, but the First Constitutional Convention would not accept it. Gamble died in office on 31 January 1864. Missouri’s radicals arranged for elections and for a new Constitutional Convention in November 1864, where they elected Thomas C. Fletcher Missouri governor.

Constitutional Convention of 1865

Arnold Krekel, a Democrat, was elected President of the new Constitutional Convention that met in the Mercantile Library in St. Louis on January 6, 1865. On January 11, 1865 the convention, by a 60 to 4 vote, abolished slavery in the state with no compensation for slave owners. A month later the convention also adopted the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery throughout the U.S..

On March 6, 1865, Krekel was nominated by President Lincoln to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, and confirmed on March 9, 1865. Krekel later taught law at the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia from 1872 to 1875, and continued to as a Judge for the Court until his retirement on June 9, 1888.

 

EmancipationProc