The Other Alexandria: Memories of Long Ago: Margaret V. Campbell Council

The Other Alexandria: Memories of Long Ago: Margaret V. Campbell Council

Leroy Council of Philadelphia became aware of Alexandria, Virginia through his mother’s passionate love for the City of her birth. His mother, Margaret V. Campbell Council, was born in Alexandria on April 19, 1917.

Margaret’s mother, Ethel Slaughter, lived in the rural area of Orange County, Virginia, near the Rapidan River. She came to Alexandria to stay with relatives while she awaited the birth of her first child Margaret. After she had Margaret, she returned home to Orange, Virginia. Margaret spent her first five years in Orange County in the household of her grandparents. When she was five, she and her grandparents migrated to Alexandria so Margaret could have better education. She started Parker-Gray School in 1922. By moving to Alexandria, her life changed forever.

Her mother Ethel migrated to Baltimore and then to Philadelphia for job opportunities. Margaret grew up in Alexandria with her loving grandparents, her uncle and aunt watching over her. Margaret and her grandparents first resided at 115 South Peyton Street.

Later in life, Margaret shared stories with her children about her life on South Peyton Street. In the rear of South Peyton was a large dump, she and the neighborhood kids would put on their galoshes and get a stick to ward off the rats in the dump to search for keepsake items. She also told her children how she wrote letters for an elderly black man who owned a hotel at the corner of South Peyton Street. The man was the well-known hotel proprietor, Washington (Wash) N. Jackson, who owned one of the first black hotels in Alexandria.

Margaret had an excellent penmanship and she wrote all of Wash Jackson’s letters. Mr. Jackson always wanted his letters to begin, “I take this golden opportunity to write to you.” Margaret continued to write letters well into her adulthood using the style of writing that she learnt from Mr. Jackson.

Margaret witnessed a historical episode, one of the worst tornadoes to hit Alexandria. The tornado hit Alexandria and parts of Washington, DC in 1927. That storm destroyed Wash Jackson’s hotel near King and South Payne Street. Margaret witnessed that destruction. She and her grandparents lived at 115 South Payne Street and Washington Jackson’s hotel was near 105 South Payne Street. After the storm, her family moved to 419 South Alfred Street.

Margaret made some lifetime friends at school and had a lifetime education from her teachers. She was looking forward to graduating with her friends, but life dealt her a heavy blow. Her grandmother died in 1932 and Margaret was sent to Philadelphia to live with her mother.

Although she no longer lived in Alexandria, she communicated with friends and family who lived in Alexandria. In 1935, she and her best friend from Alexandria decided to have a double wedding. Margaret married Charles Freeman Council and her best friend, Gertrude Thomas married her fiance.

Over the years, Margaret frequently visited friends like Gertrude Thomas-Davis and Helen Anderson Miller, and her relatives in Alexandria. She had the opportunity to travel to Canada and Caribbean Islands. She spent 45-days in Germany visiting her son Leroy.

Margaret continued to share her fond memories of her beloved City, Alexandria, with her children until the day she died. She had 13 children and 10 of them were living when she died in 1991 in Philadelphia at the age of 74.

Her memories of Alexandria live on in her son, Leroy.

Char McCargo Bah is a published author, freelance writer, independent historian, genealogist and a Living Legend of Alexandria. She maintains two blogs, and