Centennial History of Missouri, (the Center State), One Hundred Years in the Union, 1820-1921, Vol. IV
Biographical, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921. [Picture]. Hon. Robert Alexander Campbell. In a beautiful home at bowling Green, Missouri, resides the Hon. Robert Alexander Campbell, lawyer and lawmaker, jurist, lieutenant governor, railroad builder and prominent business man, to whom have come "the best accompaniments of age - honor, riches, troops of friends." He is now nearing the eighty-ninth milestone on life's journey and for some years has enjoyed that well earned rest which is the fitting crown of a life of great activity and usefulness. There are many incidents in the record of Governor Campbell which will cause his memory to be revered for generations to come, but one of his most notable and brilliant acts was in restoring, through the opinion of the United States supreme court, the franchise to hundreds of previously disfranchised Missouri citizens. It seems most fitting that in the evening of his life, when crowned with years and honors, he should return to the attractive little city in which he first opened his eyes to the light of day. He was born in Bowling Green on the 2d of September, 1832, his parents being the Rev. James W. and Sophia (Henry) Campbell. He is directly descended, as his name indicates, from Scotch ancestors, although the family was founded in America while this country was still numbered among the colonial possessions of Great Britain. One of his ancestors, Alexander Campbell, with the outbreak of the war for independence, joined the Continental army and became colonel of a Virginia regiment, with which he took part in various hotly contested engagements which had decisive bearing upon the final victory that crowned the American arms. He led his troops in the battles of Kings Mountain , Guilford Courthouse and Cowpens and was always among the leaders in courage and daring. He did not live to enjoy the fruits of victory, for ere the war closed he had been called to his final rest. In 1785 his widow removed with her family to Kentucky, where she passed away many years later but had lived to see her children become prominent and respected citizens of that state. One of the sons, Alexander Campbell, became a physician and surgeon, practicing successfully in Harrison county, Kentucky, during the closing years of the eighteenth century. He also won distinction in other connections, for in 1800 he was a member of the Kentucky house of representatives, and following his removal to Ripley, Ohio, in 1803, he was elected to the state legislature in 1806. He became successor of Senator Tiffin in the United States senate, sitting in the upper house of the national assembly until March 4, 1813, thus leaving the impress of his individuality and ability upon the history of the country during its formative period. The daughters of the family became wives of young men of the pioneer period in Harrison county, among whom was an ancestor of Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, at one time vice president of the United States. No record of Robert Campbell, the second son of the family, is obtainable. William Campbell, the third son, became the founder of the Missouri branch of which Robert A. Campbell of this review is a representative. In Kentucky, William Campbell wedded Jane Gouge, a native of Virginia, and she, too, was of Scotch lineage. Several years after his mother's death, William Campbell came to Missouri with his family and his slaves, settling near Bowling Green. He was a planter throughout his entire life and passed away in 1846, while his wife survived him for but a brief period. They reared a large family and many of their descendants are still numbered among the residents of this state. Several of their sons figured prominently in connection with the official life of Missouri, and in professional activities as well. One of the grandsons of William Campbell was John F. Swift, son of Nathan and Sallie (Campbell) Swift, who in 1852 went to California in company with his uncle, James W. Campbell, and Governor Campbell, making the trip across the country with mule teams. There he won success and prominence in business affairs and as a member of the bar and became one of the recognized political leaders of that state. Supporting republican principles, he served as a member of the California legislature and at one time was candidate for governor. President Benjamin Harrison named him a member of the commission of three, his colleagues being Denby and Angell, to consider the question of Chinese Exclusion, their labors resulting in the negotiation of a treaty of exclusion of Chinese emigrants. Mr. Swift was afterward appointed by President Harrison ambassador to Japan and died while filling that office. Aside from his prominence as a member of the bar and as a statesman, he was termed by Bret Harte "the greatest genius of the three humorous writers - Twain, Miller and Swift." He was the author of two most interesting volumes - "Robert Greathouse," the plot of which was laid in the mining districts of California, and a second work entitled "Going to Jericho." Rev. James W. Campbell, who for sixty-five years devoted his life to the work of the ministry and who was the second son of William Campbell, was born near Cynthiana, Kentucky, January 13, 1801. He had reached the age of seventeen years when the family home was established in Missouri. He shared with the other sons of the family in performing the arduous tasks relative to pioneer settlement in any community and whenever leisure permitted he embraced his opportunity to promote his education by study in or out of school. He thus qualified himself for teaching, which he followed for a brief period and then took up the work of the ministry, having united with the Presbyterian church at Antioch in 1822, while the following year he became connected with the McGee Presbytery at New Lebanon, Cooper county, Missouri. He was licensed to preach in the Bethel church of Boone county in 1824 and two years later was ordained in the full work of the ministry at Judge Perry Ericson's near Glasgow, Missouri. His influence as a potent factor in the moral progress of the state is immeasurable and there are today still many whose lives have been quickened and directed by his teachings, so that his good work goes on in the activities of others. He was twenty-six years of age when he married and left home, taking up his abode on a tract of timberland on Calumet creek, where he developed a small farm. In 1836 he removed to Bowling Green and at different periods was associated with Harvey T. McCune, G. B. Crane, William Watts and J. G. Campbell in the conduct of mercantile pursuits, whereby he supplemented the somewhat limited salary which he received as a minister of the gospel. However, his kindliness and generosity led him to go security for many supposed friends who did not meet their financial ogligations and brought upon him great financial hardships. In order to retrieve his fortunes he crossed the plains in 1852 with his son and nephew, but the death of his brother and partner in business forced him to return to Missouri in 1853. He sold his land in order to meet the indebtedness which he had incurred and then rented a farm near Spencerburg. He afterward carried on farming at various places in Pike county, owning at different times several farms, until in 1871 he went to live with his son-in-law, William Picken. Following the death of his daughter, Mrs. Picken, a year later, he took up his abode in the home of his son, Ben M. Campbell, in Louisiana, Missouri, and there passed away in 1889. The Rev. Pearson, an old-time friend and associate in church work, said in the course of the funeral services of Rev. Campbell: "As a minister he was owned as one of the first in ability in the state, of all denominations. such was his ability in the pulpit that he was called 'the old man eloquent.' His preaching was not inferior to that of Ewing, King, Sloan, or the Morrows of our own church, or of Drs. Nelson, Ely and Gallagher of the old school and new school Presbyterian church. As a theologian he was clear and logical and ememinently biblical. Few men had clearer ideas or deeper convictions of the Bible system of salvation, or were better able to detect errors and to contend for the ' the faith once delivered to the saints.' His first circuit extended from St. Charles through Lincoln, Pike Ralls, Marion, Audrain, Boone and Montgomery counties. For several years he averaged a sermon a day, and for this service he received comparatively nothing. He either organized or assisted in organizing all of the congregations in Salt River presbytery. For forty years or more he regularly supplied Antioch, Ashley, Buffalo and Frankford with a sermon once a month. On the plains and while in California he continued to preach as the opportunity came, and in the boarding houses or the camps of the miners he told the old, old story of His love." It was in early manhood that Rev. Campbell wedded Sophia Henry, daughter of Malcolm Henry, who removed from York county, South Carolina, to Missouri. The children of Rev. and Mrs. Campbell were: William H., who wedded Mary Taylor and after fifty years spent in Bowling Green as merchant, postmaster and justice of the peace died in 1893; James, who died in childhood; Robert A.; Mary Jane, who became the wife of William C. Pickens and is now deceased; Margaret, who married George Estes and both have departed this life; James H. who died in childhood; John Tyler, who joined the Union army in the Civil war as a lieutenant and was soon after promoted to captain of a company of the Thirty-second Missouri Volunteers of General Blair's brigade; Richard B., who followed merchandising in Clarksville and afterward removed to St. Louis, where he was a partner in the firm of Bodd, Brown & company until his death; and Ben M., who after living for many years on the home farm removed to Louisiana, Missouri, in 1888 and there served as secretary of the board of education. The son, John Tyler, following the Civil war, married and settled in Versailles, Missouri. He was later city attorney of Kansas City and several years afterward removed to California, where he became a leader in democratic circles and was elected to the legislature, becoming speaker of the house about the same time that his brother Robert was serving in a like capacity in Missouri. He was later appointed by President Cleveland to the consulship at Auckland, New Zealand, and afterward at Foochow, China. Robert Alexander Campbell was reared in Bowling Green and began his education as a public school pupil there. He afterward attended the Spring River Academy of Missouri and for three years studied in the Illinois College at Jacksonville, Illinois, leaving that institution in his senior year in 1852. In 1908, however, the trustees of the college voted unanimously to graduate him and conferred upon him the Bachelor of Arts degree,, while in 1914 they further honored him by conferring upon him the Master of Arts degree. After leaving college he taught school for one term and then went with his father to California, where for two years he engaged in ranching and mining. In the fall of 1854 he again became a resident of Missouri and secured a clerkship in the store of I. N. Bryson & Company of Louisiana. A year was thus passed and he then entered the office of Hon. James O. Broadhead of Bowling Green as a law student and was admitted to the bar in 1860 before Judge Carty Wells. Within a brief period, however, the Civil war was inaugurated and in the opening year he joined the forces under General J. B. Henderson. In 1862 he was mustered out but reenlisted in the Forty-ninth Missouri Infantry, was commissioned major and served intermittently until the end of hostilities. When not in the field with his command he performed the duties of secretary of the convention of 1861 on "The Relation of the State of Missouri to the Union." With the close of the war Mr. Campbell took up the practice of law in Bowling Green and in Louisiana, thus continuing until 1869. A recognition of what railroad building was accomplishing in the way of Missouri's development led him to become an active factor in the establishment of transportation facilities of that character. He became the president of the Louisiana and Missouri River Railway Company and remained as chief executive of the corporation until the road was leased to the Chicago & Alton system. He was afterward associated with others in the building of the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railroad, raising the funds for construction work through Pike county. He continued as president of this road until 1877, at which time it was sold to the Burlington interests. In 1874 he had removed to St. Louis, where he made his home in order to be in close touch with the railroad's headquarters, which had been moved to that city. He terminated his active connection with railway ownership and management in 1877, at which time he became secretary of the corporation having charge of the Ames estate. Nor did he confine his business activites to this, for he supervised the construction of the Lindell Hotel at the same time. The soundness of his business judgment was everywhere recognized and his keen sagacity and enterprise contributed to the success of many important interests. So varied and far-reaching have been the efforts of Mr. Campbell that it is with difficulty that one points out that which has been the most important work of his life. No history of Missouri would be complete without mention of the part which he has played in shaping the political annals of the state. In 1856 he supported Fillmore for the presidency and in 1860 cast his ballot for Bell and Everett but following the close of the Civil war became a stanch advocate of the democratic party and from that time forward had much to do with directing its policy in Missouri. Long prior to this time, however, he had become well known in a political way. In 1855 he had been made enrolling clerk of the seventeenth general assembly of Missouri and in the succeeding year was appointed journal clerk of the house of representatives, while in 1857 he was made the first committee clerk ever appointed in Missouri and became the secretary of the joint committee of the two houses on banks, banking and internal improvements and was instrumental in drawing up the charters for leading banking institutions of the state. In 1861, although competing with men of great political prominence, he was elected secretary of the convention called to consider the relations of Missouri to the Union. His attitude during that critical period in the history of the country has been previously indicated. Then came his allegiance to the democratic party and in 1864 he was a delegate to the democratic national convention which nominated General McClellan for the presidency and again attended the national convention of 1868, when he gave his support to Seymour and Blair. In 1868 he was chosen to represent Pike county in the general assembly and following his removal to St. Louis was elected to the state legislature from that district and again in 1878, serving as speaker pro tem during the thirtieth general assembly. The importance of his legislative service is indicated in the fact that he was made chairman of the committee on banks and corporations, of eleemosynary institutions and of internal improvements and was also a member of the judiciary committee. In 1880 Mr. Campbell was elected lieutenant governor of Missouri and dishcharged the duties of that position in a most creditable and satisfactory manner, his entire course reflecting honor upon the state and upon those who had thus honored him. In 1885 he was elected comptroller of St. Louis, occupying the position until 1889, when he was appointed by Governor D. R. Francis as judge of the criminal court of St. Louis. With the expiration of his service upon the criminal court bench he retired from public life but remains an interested witness of all that has to do with shaping the history of commonwealth and country. The consensus of public opinion places as one of the important acts in the career of Governor Campbell the fact that he was instrumental in securing a verdict from the United States supreme court which led to the restoration of franchise to several thousand citizens of the state. The war convention of 1865 in the Drake constitution disfranchised all southern sympathizers and passed a law requiring certain electors to take and subscribe to a "test oath" which forced everyone who desired to vote to make oath that they never had active, sympathetic or other connection with the movement to dissolve the Union. Several suits were instituted in order to test the validity of this act, but in each instance the law was sustained. In the case of Father Cummings, however, a case conducted by Governor Campbell as another "test case," he presented phases of the question hitherto omitted, and when the case reached the United States supreme court, the law was declared unconstitutional and void, and thus several thousand were restored to their full rights of citizenship. On the 7th of November, 1866, in Bowling Green, Governor Campbell was married to Miss Margaret Blain, a daughter of William W. and Ann M. (Turner) Blain, the former at one time a planter of Albemarle county, Virginia, and later one of the pioneer residents of Missouri. Governor and Mrs. Campbell became parents of two children. Malcolm Henry, who is a Pullman conductor on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, married Miss Ella Robinson and they have two children, James W. and Ruth Gladys. Ida, the only daughter of Governor Campbell, became the wife of William T. Chamberlain and died on their farm near Bowling Green, March 30, 1910. The religious faith of the family has always been that of the Presbyterian church and its teachings have guided the activities of Governor Campbell in every relation of life. For a period of twenty-two intermittent years Governor Campbell was serving the commonwealth at the state capitol. For forty years he was a resident of St. Louis and throughout his entire life has made his home in Missouri. There seems to have been no point in the career of Governor Campbell at which he has not reached the utmost in the way of accomplishment at that point for the interests, benefit and upbuilding of the state. Constantly alert to the opportunities for improvement, he reached out along ever broadening lines for the welfare and benefit of Missouri and there is no citizen of the commonwealth who has not benefited directly or indirectly by his labors. Amid pleasant and congenial surroundings he is now spending the evening of life, his entire record having been a credit and honor to the state that has honored him.