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Campbell Family

Robert Camp­bell was born on Feb­ru­ary 12, 1804, in his family’s home, Augh­a­lane. The house

Robert Campbell (1804-1879) © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Robert Camp­bell (1804–1879)
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

was built by his father, Hugh Camp­bell (not to be con­fused with Robert’s son and brother, who were also named Hugh Camp­bell), in 1786 in County Tyrone, North­ern Ire­land. Augh­a­lane is today pre­served by the Ulster Amer­i­can Folk Park, and has been moved to Castle­town, North­ern Ireland.

As the youngest son of the sec­ond wife, Robert stood to inherit lit­tle, and at the age of 18 in 1822, he fol­lowed his older brother Hugh to the United States. Despite hav­ing no for­mal edu­ca­tion, Robert demon­strated a keen sense of busi­ness, and soon landed a posi­tion in the west­ern trade hub of St. Louis. Trade in beaver furs, as well as ship­ping traf­fic, fueled the grow­ing metrop­o­lis. When Robert con­tracted con­sump­tion (tuber­cu­lo­sis), doc­tors rec­om­mended he join the fur trade and breath the clean air of the Rocky Mountains.

Robert Campbell Buckskin Coat © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Robert Camp­bell Buck­skin Coat
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

From 1824–1835, Robert roamed the moun­tains and made acquain­tances with men like Jede­diah Smith, William Sub­lette, William Ash­ley, and the Cree Indian Chief Son­nant. He also took part in the famous Bat­tle of Pierre’s Hole. Robert steadily climbed the ranks of the fur trade com­pa­nies, even­tu­ally becom­ing co-owner of a trade com­pany with Sub­lette. Both men real­ized the fur trade was dying, and from 1835 onwards, the two focused upon dry goods, bank­ing, real estate, and river trading.

That same year, Robert met Vir­ginia Kyle (b. 1822) while both were sojourn­ing in Philadel­phia. The daugh­ter of Hazlett Kyle of North Car­olina (d. 1833) and Lucy Ann Win­ston (1800–1888), Vir­ginia was attend­ing school when they met. Despite the vast dif­fer­ence in age (Vir­ginia was 13 and Robert was 31), the two fell in love and began a six-year long-distance courtship before they mar­ried in 1841. The Camp­bells set­tled in St. Louis on 5th Street and started a fam­ily. Of their thir­teen chil­dren, only three sur­vived their par­ents as dis­eases like cholera, diph­the­ria, and measles struck again and again.

In 1854, the Camp­bells moved out of the crowded city to the exclu­sive, elite neigh­bor­hood of

Virginia Kyle Campbell (1822-1882) © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Vir­ginia Kyle Camp­bell (1822–1882)
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

Lucas Place, tak­ing up res­i­dence at what is today the Camp­bell House Museum. While there, Robert and Vir­ginia con­tin­ued to climb the social lad­der. Robert became one of the wealth­i­est men in Mis­souri, extend­ing his real estate empire as far as El Paso and Kansas City, serv­ing as pres­i­dent of two banks, and man­ag­ing the finest hotel in the city, the South­ern. Vir­ginia gained a well-earned rep­u­ta­tion as a grace­ful host­ess, mak­ing Camp­bell din­ner par­ties one of the most sought-after social engage­ments. Such weight was attached to the Camp­bell name that fig­ures such as Pres­i­dent Ulysses Grant, James Eads, Henry Shaw, and Gen­eral William Sher­man all made appearances.

Robert passed away in 1879, fol­lowed by Vir­ginia in 1882, leav­ing the house to their sons Hugh (1847–1931), Hazlett (1858–1938), and James (1860–1890). The three lived off their parent’s for­tune for their entire lives, and none mar­ried. James attended Yale and Har­vard and lived with Hugh in Paris for sev­eral years before dying at the age of 30 of influenza. Hugh returned to the Camp­bell House, where he became known for his gen­eros­ity and charity.

Hugh Campbell (1847-1931) © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Hugh Camp­bell (1847–1931)
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

His most con­sis­tent giv­ing was to Father Dunne’s News­boys Home, to which he pro­vided lav­ish Thanks­giv­ing din­ners. Rel­a­tively lit­tle is known about Hazlett, who seems to have suf­fered a men­tal dis­ease of some sort. He became reclu­sive, and even­tu­ally required daily vis­its by doc­tors fol­low­ing a stroke. Hugh stopped enter­tain­ing in the early 1900s, and soon only ser­vants and a few local chil­dren ever entered the house.

When Hugh died in 1931, Hazlett was declared of “unsound mind,” throw­ing into ques­tion the fate of the Camp­bell estate. While a lengthy court bat­tle broke out among the Camp­bells var­i­ous rela­tions fol­low­ing Hazlett’s death in 1938, some St. Louisans were more con­cerned about the house and its con­tents. Through their efforts, the Camp­bell House Museum was formed, and soon man­aged to pur­chase most of the Campbell’s orig­i­nal effects. The Museum opened in 1943.