Servants and Slavery

The Camp­bells main­tained their ele­gant lifestyle with the aid of ser­vants and enslaved per­sons. Both groups worked side-by-side in clean­ing, cook­ing, car­ing for chil­dren, serv­ing din­ners, doing laun­dry, gar­den­ing, chauf­feur­ing, and any oth­er task requested.

Eliza Rone's 1861 Freedom Bond signed by her former owner Robert Campbell.

Eliza Rone’s 1861 Free­dom Bond signed by her for­mer own­er Robert Campbell.

Pri­or to Robert’s mar­riage to Vir­ginia, he does not seem to have owned any slaves. Vir­ginia had inher­it­ed three enslaved chil­dren from her late father, and all three came to St. Louis in 1841. None of those three lived at the Camp­bell House, as they appear to have been sold or freed before 1854. One woman and some­times one child  is list­ed as enslaved in cen­sus­es tak­en between 1854 and 1857, but this is typ­i­cal­ly the extent of infor­ma­tion avail­able about them.

More is known about the one enslaved per­son to live at the Camp­bell house. Eliza Rone was born around 1830. How and when she came to the Camp­bells is unknown, although she may be the Eliza ref­er­enced in sev­er­al let­ters as being close to Hazlett Camp­bell (1853–1856). Eliza had two chil­dren, the eldest of whom was named Aleck. In 1857, Robert eman­ci­pat­ed Eliza and her chil­dren, appar­ent­ly spurred to do so because Vir­ginia had grown dis­il­lu­sioned with the insti­tu­tion. Eliza and her hus­band John remained in St. Louis until 1870, when they moved to Kansas City. The Rones and the Camp­bells remained in touch until Eliza’s death in 1923.

Camp­bell ser­vants were paid. Typ­i­cal­ly of the time, most were women and many were Irish by birth or her­itage. The Camp­bells also employed at least two Ger­man women. Lit­tle is known about most of them out­side of their names and ori­gin. A hand­ful of ser­vants, like­ly the head cook or house­maid, lived in quar­ters on the sec­ond floor; the remain­der lived in a detached servant’s hall (this struc­ture no longer exists). While the Camp­bells employed men as groundskeep­ers or coach­men, there is no evi­dence they ever had a butler.

Mary Boerste, pictured here in front of the garden gazebo at the Campbell House, worked for the Campbell sons as a housekeeper for more than thirty years. All that remains of her at CHM today are these treasured photographs.

Mary Boer­ste, pic­tured here in front of the gar­den gaze­bo at the Camp­bell House, worked for the Camp­bell sons as a house­keep­er for more than thir­ty years. All that remains of her at CHM today are these trea­sured photographs.

More is known about the ser­vants after Robert and Virginia’s deaths. Hugh gave his ser­vants lav­ish gifts, host­ed din­ners for them, and referred to them as “his peo­ple”. Since Hugh did not host extrav­a­gant din­ners, his staff was small­er, often con­sist­ing of no more than a per­son­al assis­tant or sec­re­tary, a cook, and a house­keep­er and oth­er duties were either catered or hired as need­ed.  Two ser­vants remained with the Camp­bells for sev­er­al decades: Mary Boer­ste was house­keep­er from the ear­ly 1900s until her death in 1936, while Gus Mey­er act­ed as dri­ver and door­man from 1901 until Hazlett died in 1938. Both were giv­en $30,000 in Hugh’s will.

When the Camp­bell House Muse­um opened in 1943, Gus Mey­er was in atten­dance to ush­er in a new era.

List of Documented Servants at the Campbell House

  • Eliza Owens, Nurse  c. 1855
  • Eliza Rhone (Rone), Enslaved ser­vant, c. 1855
  • Ellen McCabe, ser­vant c. 1860 

    The Campbell's carriage driver, John O'Neil, later became the "Keeper of the Deadhouse," the city's morgue.

    The Camp­bel­l’s car­riage dri­ver, John O’Neil, lat­er became the “Keep­er of the Dead­house,” the city’s morgue.

  • Mary A. O’Keefe, ser­vant c. 1860
  • Mary Car­cy, ser­vant c. 1860, Ire­land
  • Mar­garet Pfiefer, ser­vant c. 1860
  • Bar­bara Lei­tan, ser­vant c. 1860
  • Frank Byrne, Coach­man c. 1860
  • John O’Neal, Coach­man c. 1880
  • Alfred John­son, ser­vant c. 1880
  • Nel­lie Mean, ser­vant c. 1880
  • Ellen Ran­ney, ser­vant c. 1880
  • Cather­ine Har­vey, House­keep­er c. 1880–1900
  • Han­nah O’Rourke, Faith­ful atten­dant c. 1880 ‑1900
  • Mary Kel­ly, ser­vant c. 1882
  • James Courte­nay, ser­vant c. 1882
  • Katie Elliot, House­keep­er c. 1890
  • Matil­da “Mattie”Wood, Cook c. 1900
  • Min­nie Hugan­berg, House­maid c. 1900

    Longtime Campbell servant Gus Meyer, who lived to see the house he worked in become a museum

    Long­time Camp­bell ser­vant Gus Mey­er, who lived to see the house he worked in become a museum

  • August H. Mey­er, Per­son­al Sec­re­tary, 1901–1938
  • Emi­lie “Mil­lie” Bark­lage, Upstairs Maid c. 1902
  • Anna Maria Temme, ser­vant c. 1902–1905
  • Adele, ser­vant c. 1903
  • Car­rie, ser­vant c. 1903
  • Let­tie, ser­vant c. 1903
  • Ellen Annie Beasley, ser­vant c. 1903
  • Mary Boer­ste, House­keep­er, 1904–1938
  • Susan Hacke, House­maid c. 1910
  • Anabel Wendt Pana­gos, ser­vant c.1915
  • Martha Siebke, Cook c.1916–1924
  • Mamie Siebke, ser­vant c.1924
  • Philom­e­na “Min­nie” Klee­man, Cook c.1934–1936
  • Frank Hav­inat­ti, Main­te­nance c. 1923–1938
  • Ethel Salz­man, Cook c.1930

While most of their ser­vants were white, Alfred John­son, Matil­da Wood, Ellen Beasley were list­ed in the U.S. cen­sus as “Black”, and Eliza Rhone (or Rone) was enslaved until 1857, when Robert eman­ci­pat­ed her.