Richmond's Jackson Ward

Edinboro Archer (ca. 1849–1907)

Edinboro Archer served on the common council, one of two boards of the Richmond City Council, from 1882 until 1888. Born enslaved, he learned carpentry and eventually became a wheelwright. He settled in Jackson Ward, the famous political district in Richmond created by conservative whites in 1871 to concentrate the African American population in one location. This gerrymandering mitigated blacks' political strength by reducing the overall impact of their votes in city elections. Between 1871 and 1898 thirty-three African Americans represented Jackson Ward in the city government. In 1882 Archer won the first of three elections to the council. During his tenure he served on important committees and fought to gain needed improvements for Jackson Ward, such as a city park. After leaving office, Archer continued as a wheelwright and then worked at Evergreen Cemetery. He died in 1907. MORE...

 

Archer was probably born in Amelia County, about July 1849. He was the son of a slave woman named Ammy who was owned by Robert P. Archer, a wealthy planter. Edinboro Archer may have grown up on his owner's Powhatan County plantation, where he learned carpentry. By 1869 Archer had moved to Richmond, where he obtained work as a carpenter. He ran a wine and liquor store for a year before settling into his profession as a wheelwright.

About the time he moved to Richmond, Archer married a woman named Amanda, whose last name is not recorded. Between 1869 and 1887 they had seven sons and two daughters. By 1880 they had moved to 1006 North Eighth Street in Richmond, where Archer lived the rest of his life. Other members of his family also lived in Richmond, and his mother, a sister, and two brothers shared his home. Another sister, Kate, married Albert V. Norrell, a Richmond educator after whom a school was later named.

Archer was one of four dozen members expelled from the First African Baptist Church in 1880 after an unsuccessful protest over the pastorate of the Reverend James H. Holmes and his deacons. Such was his standing in the community that Archer was chosen as one of four delegates from his new church, the Fifth Street Baptist, to a council of black Baptist churches called to investigate First African in 1881.

In 1882 Archer was elected to one of the Richmond City Council's two boards, the common council, from the largely black Jackson Ward. The ward had been created by an 1871 gerrymander that put most African Americans into one district. While this redistricting lessened their overall political power, it guaranteed the election of a few black councilmen. Between 1871 and 1898 thirty-three African Americans were elected either to the common council or to the board of aldermen. Archer served for six years. The first year he was appointed to the committees on elections and lunatics. In 1884 he was put on the committee on the first market and the retrenchment and reform committee, one of only five blacks ever to serve on the latter, an important body. In his final two years he was appointed to four committees: elections, police, first market, and lunatics. He was also one of six blacks admitted to the Knights of Labor reform caucus on the council in 1886. Archer fought to gain needed improvements for Jackson Ward, such as a city park. His efforts on behalf of his constituents were not always successful, and Archer found himself the victim a white reporter who used dialect to ridicule Archer's speech opposing a one-third pay increase for Dr. Thomas E. Stratton, president of the city's Board of Health.

After leaving the council, Archer continued to work as a wheelwright for Reliance Wagon Works and was promoted to foreman about 1894. By 1903 he held a similar position for Pioneer Transfer Company, but a year later his occupation was listed as carpenter. In 1906 Archer was employed by Evergreen Cemetery, and when he died on December 3, 1907, he was its superintendent. He was probably buried either there or at Union Sycamore Cemetery in Barton Heights, Richmond, in which he owned lot 207.

Time Line

  • ca. July 1849 - Edinboro Archer is born in Amelia County. He is the son of an enslaved woman named Ammy, who is owned by Robert P. Archer.
  • 1869 - By this year Edinboro Archer is living in Richmond, where he has obtained work as a carpenter.
  • ca. 1869 - Edinboro Archer marries a woman named Amanda, whose last name is not recorded. They will have seven sons and two daughters.
  • 1880 - By this year Edinboro Archer has moved to 1006 North Eighth Street in Richmond, where he will live the rest of his life, sharing his home with his mother, a sister, and two brothers.
  • 1880 - Edinboro Archer, along with four dozen other members of the First African Baptist Church, is expelled after an unsuccessful protest over the pastorate of the Reverend James H. Holmes and his deacons.
  • 1881 - Edinboro Archer is chosen as one of four delegates from his new church, the Fifth Street Baptist, to a council of black Baptist churches called to investigate the First African Baptist Church after an unsuccessful protest over the pastorate of the Reverend James H. Homes and his deacons.
  • 1882 - Edinboro Archer is elected to one of the Richmond City Council’s two boards, the common council, from the largely black Jackson Ward. He will serve for six years.
  • 1882 - Edinboro Archer is appointed to the committees on elections and lunatics of the common council of Richmond City.
  • 1884 - Edinboro Archer is appointed to two committees of the common council of Richmond City: the committee on the first market and the retrenchment and reform committee, being one of only five blacks ever to serve on the latter.
  • 1886–1888 - Edinboro Archer is appointed to four committees of the common council of Richmond City: elections, police, first market, and lunatics.
  • 1886 - Edinboro Archer is one of six blacks admitted to the Knights of Labor reform caucus on the council of Richmond City.
  • ca. 1894 - Edinboro Archer is promoted to foreman at Reliance Wagon Works.
  • 1903 - By this year Edinboro Archer works as a foreman for Pioneer Transfer Company, but in 1904 his occupation will be listed as carpenter.
  • 1906 - Edinboro Archer is employed by Evergreen Cemetery.
  • December 3, 1907 - Edinboro Archer dies in Richmond and is probably buried either at Evergreen Cemetery, where he was superintendent, or at Union Sycamore Cemetery in Barton Heights, Richmond, in which he owned lot 207.

References

Further Reading
Chesson, Michael B. "Richmond's Black Councilmen, 1871–1896." Southern Black Leaders in the Reconstruction Era, edited by Howard N. Rabinowitz, 201. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1982.
Chesson, Michael B. "Archer, Edinboro." Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone, et al., 187–188. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
Rachleff, Peter J. Black Labor in the South: Richmond, Virginia, 1865–1890. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1984.
Tyler-McGraw, Marie. At the Falls: Richmond, Virginia, and Its People. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Chesson, M. B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Edinboro Archer (ca. 1849–1907). (2015, January 15). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Archer_Edinboro_ca_1849-1907.

  • MLA Citation:

    Chesson, Michael B. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Edinboro Archer (ca. 1849–1907)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: August 22, 2014 | Last modified: January 15, 2015