Campbells in North America
by Mary Turner
University of Arizona at Flagstaff
February 28, 1996
The ways that led from Scotland to North America were many and diverse, often circuitous and usually hazardous to some degree. Those Campbells and other Highlanders who came to the new world in the 17th and 18th centuries were, perhaps, more ready to adapt to a raw frontier and to cope with life in an absolute wilderness than most travelers from Edinburgh or London.
The Gaels who came from the lochs and glens of Argyll and Perthshire had already survived hardship and want, like as not, and they often came in groups when they could, families, kinsfolk and neighbors. Whether they came early or late it was very much a new world, with many adjustments to be made. Their shared memories of the scenes left behind must have been of great comfort. The legends they held in common and their mutual language were a strong support. Many a genealogical report begins with, "Three brothers left Argyll ..." or, "There were the four brothers who sailed from Glasgow in the company of local families bound for ...".
The stories of these Campbell immigrants are as varied as the individuals. The reasons they came and the routes they took make fascinating reading. Many went to Ireland first - particularly those who fought in the ill fated Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. Ireland was close; safety was near, and time was of the essence. But escape was of primary importance for those in political difficulties, so what then? America was farther and so safer and there was land for the winning.
While in the late 18th and early 19th centuries there would be some `clearances' or forced evictions of tenants from Breadalbane lands in Perthshire, there were very few in Argyll. The concept that most Campbells left Scotland due to clearances is a slight on their initiative and on the humanity of the Dukes of Argyll. Without a doubt most Campbells who left from Argyll left of their own free will and most often in search of land to own.
Some had no choice but to come, being deported or indentured for being on the wrong side in politics or the law. But most came with the glow of promise, with the hope of better times and of land enough for all. Land was the greatest motivating factor for Highland people who were used to a predominantly cattle economy and wealth being counted on the hoof. From the younger sons of landowning families to the tacksmen and tenants and their servants, North America meant that all had the chance to become landowners.
Some of the earliest Campbells in North America were likely privateers, traders and indentured servants working out their time until they were free to settle their own place. Then in the first part of the 18th century a large organized group from Argyll crossed the Atlantic to settle in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina. Their descendants spread down to Scotch Neck, the 96 District and over the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky and Tennessee.
Later in the 18th century Captain Lachlan Campbell from Islay led several shiploads of people to New York State where some later gained their promised land in the Argyle Colony and others moved to New Jersey and further west. Those who came by Virginia and Philadelphia had descendants who crossed the hills into Pennsylvania and Ohio. Others still came to Boston and became New Englanders.
In the French Indian Wars the Black Watch regiment, a number of whose officers and men were Campbells, landed in New York in 1756 among the first British regular soldiers sent to defend the colonies from the French. Some Campbells and others elected to stay when the regiment eventually left North America.
Campbells fought on both sides in the Revolutionary War. Many of the Highland families in the Carolinas, remembering the 1745, were Loyalists and so obliged to leave for Canada.
Early in the 19th century there were sailings from the west coast of Scotland to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. In the later years of the 19th century more Campbells were attracted to the newly opened lands of eastern Canada in Ontario. And then in later generations some of the younger members of these families would move west to the high plains and Rocky Mountains of both the United States and Canada.
When the rich lands of the Pacific coast territories were opened for settlement, Campbells left the rocky fields of the Appalachians, from New England to Kentucky, to cross the plains and mountains of the west. A Campbell from the South founded Campbell California.
Campbells fought on both sides in the Civil War, the War Between the States. By then there was a Campbell Judge on the Supreme Court whose actions in the infamous Dred Scott case helped to precipitate the war.
Campbells became Northerners and Southerners, Yankees and Rebels, Westerners and 49ers. Some Campbells today are the descendants of African Americans on Campbell plantations who took the surname for their own, whether by descent or adoption. Others are part Native American, yet all are as much Campbells as anyone.
SOME PROMINENT CAMPBELLS OF NORTH AMERICA
Campbells have played many roles in the development of the two great nations of North America, Canada and the United States. Much of their influence remains to be documented yet here are a few, selected almost at random, whose lives have counted strongly in thought, health, education, the army, exploration, industry, agriculture and government.
John Campbell in 17th century Boston founded one of the first newspapers there. Over an hundred years later Andrew Campbell, born in Trenton New Jersey in 1821, designed and manufactured printing presses used for small town newspapers across the country. Bartley Campbell, born in Pittsburg, established the Pittsburg "Leader" newspaper and the New Orleans "Southern Monthly Magazine". He turned to writing and producing plays, becoming one of those who gained the American theater respect in European eyes.
Alexander Campbell, minister, philosopher and educator, traveled widely lecturing and founded Bethany College in West Virginia. He inspired the founding of the Church of Christ. Another Campbell founded Campbell College in the Carolinas. Ralph D. Campbell, born in Ontario in 1918 was a Rhodes Scholar for 1949-51 and was appointed President of the University of Manitoba in 1978.
Francis Joseph Campbell from Winchester in Tennessee went blind at an early age and founded the Royal Normal College and Academy of Music for the Blind in London and was knighted by King Edward VII.
Robert Campbell, born in Ireland in 1804, was about 20 when he left home for Saint Louis Missouri. Advised to live in the mountains to cure his lung trouble, he became a mountain man and one of the leaders of the western fur trade. His closest friends were the famous mountain men Jim Bridger and Bill Sublette and in the battle of Pierre's Hole he saved Sublette's life when attacked by Blackfoot warriors. After ten years in the Rockies, Robert became a prosperous businessman and banker. He was appointed Indian Commissioner by two presidents.
James Campbell who was born in Pennsylvania in 1812 was admitted to the bar in 1833 and became Postmaster General. He strove to achieve far greater efficiency in the service and to negotiate better postal rates from railroads and steamship companies for carrying the mails.
John Archibald Campbell from North Carolina was the son of an immigrant Campbell who had fought in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. He became a lawyer and was eventually appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. As a Southerner he had freed his slaves before his appointment to the Court, yet his unfortunate holding with the majority that an African American was not a citizen of the United States helped to make war inevitable. Campbell was strongly opposed to secession and yet, once the fighting began he became Assistant Secretary for War in the Southern Confederacy. Early in his career he had been for government control of business, but after the conflict he changed his mind in support of reconstruction for the South.
After a prominent career in the Civil War, one Campbell General became first Governor of the territory of Wyoming. While he was obliged to spend time in Switzerland for his health, his term in office left him a much respected man in the west and Campbell County in Wyoming was named for him.
Henry Fraser Campbell, a physician from Augusta Georgia, became well known for his original studies on the autonomic nervous system. His findings led him to pioneer in preventive medicine and his work still forms the basis of much medical treatment.
In the late 19th and early 20th century two Campbells deeply influenced North American agriculture: One in Montana owned the largest wheat farm in the world and was a global consultant in dry wheat farming. Another on his ranch on the Kansas-Oklahoma line first proved and publicized the value of whiteface or Hereford cattle for ranching in the west, now the foremost breed in the ranching industry.
Today Campbells hold high office in both Canada and the United States:
Kim Campbell was, for a short time, the first woman Prime Mimister of Canada (1993)
The Hon. Alexander Bradshaw Campbell had been Premier of the Canadian Province of Prince Edward Island since 1966 and was named to his fourth term in 1978.
Carroll Ashmore Campbell Jr., has been Governor of South Carolina and is a former Congressman and State Senator. Campbell served on numerous House Committees and has fought for access for handicapped people and been honorary chairman of the Arthritis Foundation.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell is a chief of the Northern Cheyenne and a Congressman from Colorado, the only Native American in Congress in 1992. In that year he made a courageous statement by participating in the Rosebowl parade beside the Spanish Duke Christobal Colon despite protests from those opposing any celebration of Columbus and 1492. Campbell is also a highly sophisticated artist and jeweller.
Perhaps the most spiritually influential Campbell in North America in the 20th century has been mythologist Joseph Campbell. His books and television appearances stimulated an awareness of fresh possibilities in understanding the human dilemma through a fuller grasp of the underlying common threads of development in all human societies.