Tag Archives: Bessie Campbell

This week in history: April 11-April 17

What do you do with the niece who is quick­ly becom­ing the black sheep of your fam­i­ly??  That’s the ques­tion Hugh Camp­bell asks his broth­er Robert 168 years ago this week!  Hugh writes Robert from Philadel­phia about their niece Bessie Camp­bell.  Bessie is the daugh­ter of Hugh and Robert’s broth­er Andrew; Andrew sent her to Amer­i­ca to “be edu­cat­ed”, or find an Amer­i­can hus­band.  But Bessie turned out to be such a hell-rais­er that Hugh and Mary decid­ed they could­n’t take her any­more.  On April 14, 1842, Hugh is obvi­ous­ly at the end of his rope with Bessie, because he writes “while there is noth­ing too much in her nat­ur­al dis­po­si­tion, to admit of peace or hap­pi­ness in my dwelling.  It can­not remain so.  She must go — where I have not deter­mined, but she and I must part.”  Hugh says he does­n’t want to send her to St. Louis,  because he would­n’t send Vir­ginia a com­pan­ion that did­n’t suit Mary, aka he would­n’t inflict Bessie on his worst ene­my, much less Robert and Vir­ginia.  He also says that Andrew does­n’t want her sent back to Ire­land.  Read all about the Camp­bell trou­ble-mak­er, Bessie, in this fas­ci­nat­ing letter!

Philadel­phia April 14th 1842
Dear Robert
This morn­ing I received and opened the enclosed let­ter addressed to you by Ann.  It is writ­ten in her usu­al pleas­ing style and con­tains noth­ing that requires com­ment.  She is a good sis­ter — a sis­ter that both of us should be proud of.

There is anoth­er sub­ject, to which I wish to ask not only your close atten­tion but your delib­er­ate advice and opin­ion.  Bessie is a source of great unhap­pi­ness to me because in the first place her con­duct in the fam­i­ly reminds me strong­ly of that of our sis­ter Margery and in the sec­ond, because dis­cord has arisen in my lit­tle fam­i­ly cir­cle, in con­se­quence of her tat­tling.  It is use­less to give you details.  Enough for both you and me to know that while there is noth­ing too much in her nat­ur­al dis­po­si­tion, to admit of peace or hap­pi­ness in my dwelling.  It can­not remain so.  She must go — where I have not deter­mined, but she and I must part.

Andrew’s let­ter beg­ging me not to send her home has pre­vent­ed me from arrang­ing the mat­ter long ago.  My only inten­tion was to afford her a good edu­ca­tion with the view of send­ing him back to dis­sem­i­nate it, amongst her sis­ters.  This I told her father and moth­er before they sent her and have reit­er­at­ed the same in every let­ter since her arrival.  [End of pg. 1]

[Pg. 2] What course am I now to pur­sue?  Andrew says that send­ing her home will be inju­ri­ous to her stand.  I can­not afford the expense of going there in these times — but if you think it right and if I should have to live on bread and water I will pay my last dol­lar to send her with the first safe company.

In a mat­ter of this kind, I can­not ask you to take charge of her, nor to give a com­pan­ion to Vir­ginia who is not suit­ed to Mary.  All I want is to know what you con­sid­er the best course in my present unfor­tu­nate dilem­ma.  I can­not express the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion felt at this moment — the deep and painful source of regret and dis­ap­point­ment.  Her edu­ca­tion and sup­port for the last six years has cost me over $10,000.  This would not be worth a thought and could be more than repaid by grat­i­tude, truth, ami­ca­bil­i­ty or in fact any thing to cause me to feel pride in her con­duct or attach­ment to her char­ac­ter.  I am only sor­ry that the expen­di­ture was made on her, instead of her fathers fam­i­ly — all of whom it would have edu­cat­ed well and usefully.

I find I have giv­en you rather a long lec­ture on this unhap­py sub­ject — my heart is full of it at present and I can­not say less.  You must have been part­ly pre­pared for it from what I said when you were last in the city.  Your reply will guide me in my course of con­duct towards Bessie.  Take a day or two to think of it and then write me ful­ly in reply.  God grant I may do right n the mat­ter.  It is some­what more seri­ous (or like­ly to be) in its con­se­quences than most of the affairs I have ever been con­cerned in [End of pg. 2]

[Pg. 3] I hwrote your firm yes­ter­day and have nei­ther desire nor spir­its to talk on busi­ness at present.  In remit­tances I am sure you will have done your best.  We will try to sus­tain you.
For some dayspast I have been engaged as an apprais­er of the assets of the Girard Bk.  My col­leages (appoint­ed by the court of Com­mon Pleas) were Wm. Pat­ton Jr. and a broth­er of Judge jones.  The duty has been labo­ri­ous and unpleas­ant.  Per­haps it may add to the lessons you already have had on cor­po­ra­tion delin­quen­cies, to know the result of our labours report­ed and filed this day.

The bill dis­count­ed of four class­es amount to about $1,600,000 we val­ued at about $352,000.  The oth­er assets con­sist of stocks, loans, steam­boats, mort­gages, etc. and cost the bank per­haps near­ly $3,000,000.  We val­ued these at a lit­tle over $400,000.  The entire assets of a bank of $5,000,000 cap­i­tal are appraised by us at $756,000 while their lia­bil­i­ties (as I was informed) are near­ly $700,000 leav­ing but a small mar­gin for the stock­hold­ers of only say $56,000!!!!!!
Our val­u­ca­tions is cer­tain­ly a low one — and by ener­getic acton on the part of the assignees, in the depre­ci­at­ed state of the cir­cu­la­tion they may set­tle the mat­ter so as to divide some­thing hand­some on the stock.
My kind­est regards to Vir­ginia.  Tell her that we often talk of her and that she is kind­ly and affec­tion­ate­ly remembered.
Very tru­ly yours,
Hugh Campbell
P.S. The mail of this evening has brought a let­ter from your firm with $100 [?]____ note and $50 Bk of Metrop­o­lis.  Please say to J and A Kerr that the remain­ing $100 (being G Collins chick) is also safe to hand.  We will take up the remain­ing accep­tance tomorrow.

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis


Hugh Camp­bell -

Bessie even­tu­al­ly WOULD go back to Ire­land and be a com­pan­ion for her aunt Ann Camp­bell.  Lat­er, she mar­ried John Robin­son; the two nev­er had children.

Oth­er Bessie letters:




This week in history: February 28-March 5

This week we post a let­ter from Robert’s sis­ter Ann Camp­bell.  Ann is in Ire­land and has appar­ent­ly not been feel­ing well.  The let­ter almost makes it sound like she may be on her deathbed, but she would in fact live till 1876.  Ann tells Robert how much she thinks of him and how often he and his fam­i­ly are in her prayers.  Ann Camp­bell lived in Augh­a­lane House, which is now part of the Ulster Amer­i­can Folk Park.  Enjoy get­ting all the news from Ireland.

Augh­a­lane March 5th 1856

My Beloved Broth­er Robert
Your affec­tion­ate let­ter did me so much good, it was more to me  than all the med­i­cine in Europe, it real­ly did exhil­a­rate me and  made me so hap­py that I am sure your kind heart would rejoice to  see me.

It is a year since I wrote you and fin­ished my farewell let­ter  that I began the pre­vi­ous Jan­u­ary.  The doc­tors ordered me as  soon as sum­mer would com­mence to go to the shore but on the first week in July I was faint­ing from extreme weak­ness.  I had to  leave the house to get two floors that were bad­ly laid made  right, as I could not endure the noise of the ham­mers; so I went  to Jane McHar­lands’ [McFar­lands?] with Annie’s atten­tion and kind­ness (for her  dis­po­si­tion is like yours) thank God I felt stronger although I  was with her but ten days on 16th Aug I went to Hugh McCul­lough  Margt was also very atten­tive and I was enabled through divine  assis­tance to pro­ceed to [?]_______.  I returned home on 16th  Sept and the day pre­vi­ous to my return

[Pg. Break] I walked six miles with­out much fatigue.  Thank God I have been pret­ty well through the win­ter.  I was not in bed an  hour out of my usu­al time since I came from [?]______ ______ I  had the house [?]________ in March last and paint­ed in Sep­tem­ber  both doors and win­dows are paint­ed white: I thought all my dear  rel­a­tives would have been here before this; that we might meet  again under the roof in which we first breathed and may God grant with bless­ing I may not be dis­ap­point­ed yet I think He will  real­ize this favor to me and should I not be here the thought  that my dear broth­er would [?]_____ on my grave would be a  con­so­la­tion to me now for to what pur­pose was all the expense the pre­pare the house the fine apart­ments that were always neat were enough for me but the hope of see­ing you all did stim­u­late me to every­thing I did and made any lit­tle care I had only delight;  write me on receipt of this and say you will with the Almighty’s  help be here next sum­mer; it might renew sis­ter Vir­gini­a’s health that God may long spare her to you and give her per­ma­nent health is my fer­vent prayer.  I hope the sweet boy Hugh [Hugh Camp­bell, lived to 81] is well and also lit­tle Hazlett [spelled Haslett,  the first Hazlett Kyle Camp­bell, died at the age of 3] and the  oth­er lit­tle fel­low.  I trust he will be as healthy as the oth­er  two are and God grant they may be as great a com­fort to you

[Pg. Break] and their dear moth­er as you have been to me.  I hope I nev­er do go to bed with­out wish­ing a bless­ing on you and yours and I trust I nev­er will and that the hours of prayer will grant any requests for you and your family.

I was look­ing over a let­ter of yours the oth­er day dat­ed 11th May 1833 and the affec­tion and love in it caused tears of grat­i­tude  that you are still unchanged for the same kind­ness that breathed  through it per­vades your last; Oh! that I may be grate­ful to the  great first cause for tis’ pater­nal care to an aged orphan in  giv­ing such broth­ers as He has giv­en me.  In the let­ter I am  speak­ing of Broth­er Hugh in a post­script [?]____ the decease of  your father in law on 5th of same month and adds I have sel­dom  met with a more ami­able lady than his wid­ow; nor more inter­est­ing chil­dren than his daugh­ters; I am sure if there had been ten  daugh­ters there could be none more ami­able than sis­ter Vir­ginia  thank God she  is yours.  I trust her health is restored.

Andrew and his numer­ous fam­i­ly are well; both he and sis­ter Bet­ty are youth­ful look­ing for their age, his sons assist on the farm; they are like their moth­er’s broth­ers, gen­teel look­ing and tall  of their age; Bessie lives with me since I was ill she nev­er  looked bet­ter in her life than she does at present; Vir­ginia is  grow­ing tall and is an ami­able child.

[Pg. Break] Annie has a fam­i­ly of five sons and one daugh­ter all  health a love­ly baby died from her in Autumn; her hus­band is a  decent per­son and doing well the for­mer has fours on and the  lat­ter two daugh­ters and one son; both their hus­bands have a fine share of busi­ness at [?]_____ ______.  Mar­garet is also doing  well and has three sons and one daugh­ter; she is much beloved by  her neigh­bors.  Mary wrote of your kind­ness in reliev­ing her from her dif­fi­cul­ties; poor dear she was a stranger and in debt; the  Lord reward you for what you have done for her and though last  not least dear Char­lotte.  She wrote me late­ly and John nev­er  wrote a let­ter home but he was so good as to men­tion me; he was  always a favorite with his moth­er and I’ve thought there was  some­thing very noble in John even when a lit­tle boy.  Give my  kind love to Mr. Camp­bell [?]_____ & Char­lotte; I am so hap­py to  hear that she has a fine lit­tle child.  I hope it will live for a bless­ing to them, Joseph and Mrs. Camp­bell are well, she does  not vis­it much in Win­ter as she is sus­cep­ti­ble of cold but her  health is good.  I do not know when I shall write my good  Char­lotte, for I have not [?]_____ to do any­thing as before I was sick but she is devare she has my prayers, for her wel­fare.  May every hap­pi­ness be sis­ter Vir­gini­a’s and yours here and  here­after is the prayer of your grate­ful sister
Ann Campbell

Merry Christmas from Campbell House!

Mer­ry Christ­mas to all from Camp­bell House Muse­um!  This week we post a let­ter that Anne Camp­bell wrote to her broth­er Hugh on Christ­mas Eve in 1842.  Hugh sent it to Robert some months lat­er with an addi­tion­al let­ter.  Anne is deeply wor­ried about her niece Bessie, who had caused so much trou­ble in Amer­i­ca that Hugh had sent her back to Ire­land.  Appar­ent­ly she is caus­ing trou­ble there too, because her father Andrew start­ed drink­ing again after Bessie came home.  Read all about the trou­ble­mak­er of the fam­i­ly in Anne’s letter!


Augh­a­lane Dec 24, 1842
My ever Dear Brother,
I recv’d sis­ter Vir­gini­a’s very kind let­ter in this time as I may say I had no tid­ings ready at that time, at least none that would be agree­able to you.

Ten days after Bessie’s return home poor Andrew was sor­ry (as we all were at the event) and he again began in tem­per­ance in spite of all remon­strance he con­tin­ued so late in Oct. since which time he has been strict­ly tem­per­ate.  Time win­ter com­menced he had a school for his fam­i­ly every night and is school­mas­ter him­self it is won­der­ful how the very youngest is pro­gress­ing.  But to return when Andrew began to drink Bessie grew quite uneasy and no won­der (as you and I know there is no being on earth that intem­per­ance makes so great a change on) she told me there was two things she was unde­cid­ed which to do, the last objec­tion­able of which was that she would fly from her fathers and try to get ser­vice in some gen­tle­mans fam­i­ly; I knew that this would not only blight her prospect for ever but blight the prospects of her youngest sis­ter, there­fore after con­sult­ing with my moth­er I told her should my days ter­mi­nate in the work­house she should e wel­come to every kind­ness and atten­tion it was in our pow­er to pay her; she accept­ed and after being near­ly three weeks in her fathers she came her per­ma­nent­ly to reside.  The task is more ardu­ous than I expect­ed but to save a fam­i­ly from des­o­la­tion was my aim.  My motives may be attrib­uted to oth­er caus­es.  I expect no grat­i­tude from any­one on this the atlantic and will think myself favored if I escape cen­sure Moth­er is old and tak­ing care of her would be enough for one advanced in life as I am yet I nev­er could for­give myself if any­thing dis­grace­ful had occurred and the Almighty that saw the puri­ty of my inten­tions.  I have no doubt will sup­port me.  Poor Bessie is to be pitied her mis­for­tunes were some of her own choos­ing.  I think Mr. Boyle was the cause of all for when broth­er Hugh was her in 1835 and ’36 he thought bet­ter not take any of Andrews chil­dren before that time he had cer­tain­ly asked one of the chil­dren to edu­cate it, and in anoth­er let­ter to make a lit­tle repub­lic of it.  I told Andrew he did not want any of his chil­dren as I was allowed, but there hopes were aroused by for­mer invi­ta­tions and this with Mr. Boyles advice made them send her and sure­ly an edu­cat­ed lady in an obscure coun­try place is a pitiable object.  The first part of my life was chi­quered [?] per­haps it is bet­ter for me now that it was not con­tin­ued sun­shine, yet of poor Bessie return has lain heav­ier on my heart than almost any occur­rence of my life Moth­ers mem­o­ry is not so good as usu­al but her health is pret­ty good Andrew and his fam­i­ly are well the clothes Bessie wears I washed in her fathers there­fore we do not require a sec­ond girl.

Excuse dear broth­er so much of my own and oth­er peo­ples affairs.  I trust in God that you, sis­ter Vir­ginia and James Alexan­der well, that dear name, God bless him, and bless you all.  You or broth­er Hugh are sel­dom many hours out of our minds, I feel plea­sure think­ing of you both, and fool­ish­ly con­clude if I saw you every anx­i­ety would vanish.
I am Dear­est Robert,
Your affec­tion­ate sister
Ann Campbell

Dec. 27
Jack Young’s daugh­ter Eliza Jean went with a young man the name of Gray, last night who lives near Gortin, she will be brought to her fathers to night when the wed­ding day will be set the young man is wealthy.

Dec. 27,
We had a very pleas­ant Christ­mas in Andrews.  James McFar­lands child (Anne) is three months old all of them we hope will be with us as usu­al on Sat­ur­day broth­ers birthday.
The name of Annes child is Alexan­der it is inter­est­ing like herself.

March 9, 1843
Dear Robert:
This let­ter from Sis­ter Ann explains and jus­ti­fies Bessie in remov­ing from her fathers house — but it is no apol­o­gy for her indo­lence and refus­ing all kinds of use­ful employ­ment.  If she were only to teach her sis­ters wash her clothes or do any­thing to show fil­ial affec­tion grat­i­tude or com­mon sense, I would read­i­ly excuse her.  I fear she will be indulged in her present course by our good moth­er and sis­ter.  She cer­tain­ly required rigid con­trol.  Amongst them all she is like­ly to escape every restraint.
In Ann’s let­ter to me (inclos­ing this) she dwells on the finan­cial affairs at great length.  It appears that Richard Key’s has not paid in full.  Ann does not like to have Andrew as a pay­mas­ter to her.  In fact it appears he will nei­ther pay her inter­est (accord­ing to our instruc­tions) nor give him­self any trou­ble about any debt due her.  He con­sid­ers all he gets as so much land off the sea — and doubt­less thinks it would be like throw­ing it into the sea again to repay either the prin­ci­pal or inter­est!  He is not like­ly to get any more from either of us.
After all per­haps it is as well that she direct­ed the mon­ey to be col­lect­ed from R. Keys.  The fact is I doubt whether he is worth any­thing and believe it might have been total­ly lost if not then col­lect­ed.  It is bet­ter that poor Andrew should have it than such to be the cause.
I real­ly do not know how to advise Ann to invest her mon­ey.  She ought to avoid inti­mate friends — and she ought also to have real estate secu­ri­ty.  Whom do you think she should apply to for advice.  She has now about $100 lbs. to invest.
You should write either to Ann or Andrew and give your views on all mat­ters about which they have writ­ten.  I will not write till after you have written.
Yours truly,
Hugh Campbell

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis