Misconceptions about ‘Old Slave Road’
To the Editor:
This letter is in response to the West Newsmagazine article “Neighbor against neighbor” dated Feb. 20.
I am the petitioner on the name change request with the city of Wildwood and a resident on Old Slave Road. I represent the vast majority of affected property owners who support a street name change of our private road.
Recent letters to the editor suggest there might be some misinformation out there. To help non-residents understand the issue better, I will clarify a few misconceptions.
The first misconception is that the road name is “historic.” The fact is that the road name is not historic. It was named in 1979 by a modern day developer, not 1879 as was mistakenly reported in the February 20th article. (West Newsmagazine has since issued a correction on this point.) This small, but significant, fact goes to the heart of the matter.
Secondly, there is a misconception that the name “Old Slave Road” is an accurate description of the historical use of the road. This is false as well. Our road was created by a developer in 1979 and laid out to access all of the lots in a new subdivision plat. Professional archaeologists hired by the city of Wildwood have concluded that this was not an old slave road. They further reported that the roadways on this plantation were most likely in different areas entirely.
The third misconception is that we are trying to change history. To the contrary, we have worked with the city of Wildwood for six months and have spent hundreds of hours studying the history of our area. We have asked the city to recognize historic sites, such as the Coleman plantation slave cemetery, by using historic markers, similar to what other cities have done. We also want to respectfully recognize and memorialize history in the new road name that we choose.
In our road name, we want to honor Elijah Madison, a former slave, who lived and worked here during the 1800s. Elijah Madison’s life has been well documented by church records, military records, census records, newspaper articles and the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Elijah Madison represents slaves on this plantation, he represents United States Colored Infantry soldiers who fought for their freedom, and he represents veterans who returned here to farm and raise their families after the Civil War.
Lastly and most importantly, there is a misconception about naming rights. The Wildwood ordinance clearly asks for a majority of affected property owners to favor the petitioned change. In our case, a vast majority of the affected property owners favor the petitioned change.
We appreciate the public’s concern for this issue. We too want to preserve history by honoring Elijah Madison.