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'Old Slave Road' in Wildwood Marks Black History

First in a series: Did you know a portion of Wildwood is connected to significant Black American history? The road's name lies in its roots. Residents of Spicewood Farms now are petitioning to update the road's name to honor the memory of form

Monday, Jan. 21, reflects the federal holiday that observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day—a time traditionally focused on encouraging Americans to stand for doing what's inherently right even when it's the unpopular position or decision. The holiday also highlights U.S. history related to Black Americans.

Local Black history was just spotlighted earlier this month in Wildwood when city officials hosted a public meeting on Jan. 12 to tour a burial site located on a private residence on Old Slave Road (real street name), off the west side of Wild Horse Creek Road and south of Centaur Road.

The burial site is unmarked and has no headstones. Owners of residences along Old Slave Road last fall petitioned Wildwood city staffers to change the private road's name, due to a stated desire to honor the memory of former slaves who once lived there as slaves and later as free men and women.

Members of the city's Administration/Public Works Committee received the request about changing the name of this roadway at an Oct. 30 meeting. They sought further information, input and action by the Historic Preservation Commission regarding this matter.

A public hearing about the name change request, and historical significance of the area in and around Old Slave Road, was held Nov. 27. A public meeting and tour of the burial site along the road then was scheduled by Wildwood's Historic Preservation Commission for Jan. 12. The matter was postponed from the commission's Jan. 7 meeting, and readdressed at the Jan. 16 meeting.

Summary of Historical Connections

A very notable slave, Elijah Madison, lived in this area of Wildwood. Helen Madison, his 91-year-old granddaughter, visited the burial site on private property and a second, nearby cemetery this month during the tour. She still lives and works in St. Louis County. It was the first time she had seen the graves of her grandfather and great-grandfather.

A document provided by Spicewood Farms' resident Karen Fox stated neighbors are considering street names that contain the name Madison, to honor Elijah Madison, as well as the many known and unknown former slaves who lived in the area and were possibly buried at the cemetery.

According to Missouri History Museum information in St. Louis, Madison was born into slavery in 1841 on a plantation near the present-day site of Dr. Edmund Babler State Park. Historical records indicate Madison probably earned his freedom at the height of the Civil War when federal recruiters announced the U.S. Army would accept any able-bodied man of African descent into its ranks, the museum stated in a blog.

The blog also stated:  "After the war, Madison continued serving in the army until his discharge as a corporal in 1866. He returned to the St. Louis area to farm on land near the plantation where he had formerly been a slave. In 1868, he married Elizabeth West, and the couple raised 15 children. In his later years, Madison moved to Elmwood Park, MO, where he became a minister. He died in 1922."

The Antioch Baptist Church on Wild Horse Creek Road holds the original records documenting the baptism of many of the slaves in the area, including Madison.

"There was so much oral history about this area, the city (Wildwood) hired an archaeologist to research it," Fox told Patch.

Among Elijah and Elizabeth West's descendants reportedly were doctors, lawyers, teachers, seamstresses, realtors, singers, military soldiers, engineers, coal miners, Pullman porters, mail carriers, musicians and entrepreneurs.

Editor's Note: Eureka-Wildwood Patch hopes to explore and share more about this part of pre-Wildwood history in future articles.

Julie Brown Patton January 21, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Thanks, Kim; we hope to get into all that in future coverage. Do you happen to know good resources (local books, documents, records) to recommend?
Robin L. Rambaud January 24, 2013 at 10:01 PM
The article is not clear about the proposed new name for this road. does anyone know? Also, it seems that every pre-civil-war house or other building that I've been inside in this area has some hidden room or other feature that supposedly ties it to the underground railroad. However, scholarly exhibits about slavery such as those great ones over the past few years at MO History Museum and the permanent Dred Scott exhibit at the Old Courthouse as well as online references seem to show that there wasn't any underground railroad history on this side of the mississippi. It would be great to see verifiable factual information to the contrary but I think it might be an uphill battle,
Shirlin Madison Cooper January 29, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Looking forward to more family history details to come. This just goes to show how important family and their history (whatever the age) can and do play in our everyday lives, Aunt Helen is a wonderful example of great black historical knowledge.
Karen February 25, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Elijah Madison Lane or Madison Valley Lane. Honoring Elijah Madison, a former slave, veteran, and citizen who once lived here. Names we've submitted to the city include Elijah Madison Lane or Madison Valley Lane. For more information about Elijah Madison, visit www.mohistory.org.
Jenifer Oberer November 05, 2013 at 10:04 AM
Allenton, MO will be one of your biggest areas if you truely want to do archelogical digs and such. At the age of 13-18 I was told stories by the older people in the town (80-90) that Alenton set the stage for a lot of the history. As you cross over that old stone bridge to enter Allenton, the Auction Blocks sat right there. I was told that it created easier access for those getting of the train. I know of at least one house appoximately 1/2 block from there that had shackels on the wall in the basement. Underneath Ramada Inn (or what used to be Ramada Inn) there is a old stone building that used to sit on that lot, and it was one of the old Underground Railroad accesses. I was told that there used to be a farm house there before Ramada or Six Flags was ever built, and that that farmer helped the slaves escape. On the way down to the bottoms, there is a colored cemetary. If you ask around about it, I'm sure some people can tell you exactly where it's at. I believe my sister and her friends went down there once. The graves are overgrown, forgotten, and unkept. I have also heard that Allenton had a very large African American population. The older people used to discribe the funerals they had as a long line of African American singing hymnals and walking behind a horse and cart carrying the casket. They were walking to the cemetary. Hope this helps. Allenton should never have been blighted but preserved for its amazing history. GL

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