February is the anniversary of 2 occasions in the history of the Campbell family — one happy and one sad. After a VERY long and somewhat bumpy courtship, complete with parental refusals, declarations of love, a broken engagement, and finally approval from the family, Robert Campbell married Virginia Jane Kyle. The two were married at her mother’s house in Raleigh on February 25, 1841 — 139 years ago TODAY! Happy anniversary Robert and Virginia!!
The second occasion is much more somber. On February 15, 1844, just 10 days short of their 3rd anniversary, Robert and Virginia’s 4 month old son Hugh died of pneumonia. His death would be the first of many, as the Campbells would lose 10 children before the age of 8. Very few letters exist recalling the parents grief, and almost all are from Robert. The museum currently has no letters from Virginia talking about the children’s death. But this week we get some insight into how others tried to console her. Today, on the anniversary of one of the happiest days in the Campbell’s lives, we post a letter from Mary Campbell, Virginia’s cousin and sister-in-law, offering her condolences on the loss of Virginia’s “angel babe” Hugh. The two occasions truly represent the Campbell’s lives — Robert and Virginia faced tragedy with an immense amount of strength and continually found joy and love in their friends, family, and one another.
We hope that both this letter and the occasion of Robert and Virginia’s 139th anniversary encourages you to keep the ones you love close.
Mrs. Robert Campbell
Mr. Wm. Campbell
Philadelphia February 26th / 44
My dear Virginia
Roberts letter telling us of the loss the Almighty — has so unexpectedly called on you both to bear, reached us last night — I need not saw how surprised + grieved we were — but I must say dear Virginia, that although this is a trial + a severe one to a parents heart yet it is the brightest form in which such an affliction could come with you — your angel babe could surely be given back again with less reluctance than if dear little Jamie had been called in his place — + then if the first had gone forth to take away your husband instead, what grief what sorrow would have been yours + ours — It is not that I wish to make light of your bereavement [?] that I thus write but that I wish you to view this your first sorrow in its proper light — although bowed down with anguish yet strive to rain your [?]_____ in thankfulness to God that your sorrow is not greater than you can bear — you have a child in Heaven already an angel in the presence of its God this is a blessed thought + one that I trust you soon will be able to dwell on with satisfaction — Think of all the sufferings & sorrows your child has been spared, even if his had been the happiest life + surely you will not mourn that he has been taken from the troubles to come — I trust the Lord will bless this affliction to you both + enable you to say “not my will but thine O Lord be done -
[Pg. Break] The scarlet fever has been raging with great violence in our city this winter — many parents here are not like you mourning the loss of one but of all their children — again + again [?]_____ my knowledge but not [?]______ our friends — have whole families been swept away within a few days — + the disease is so terrible, so much suffering + not the comfort of sympathizing friends near them — all fearing the disease as the plague
How much do we wish that we were only with you now to endeavor to cheer & comfort you — I hope we will soon be able to leave I have appointed the 1st of April but nothing is decided on yet — Mr. Campbell will not talk about it — I think he intends going out with us — business need not prevent him so Archie & Mr. Martin say — Virginia dear I hope you will not think of going to housekeeping before we get there — I think it would be much better if you now delayed it for some time — if you have no house to tie you down you could go around with me to visit my mother + sisters, the traveling would do you a great deal of good, for I have been often told that you have not been at all well since the birth of your dear child — + then Virginia you could return with us in summer + make us a nice little visit while Robert is staying guard — think of all these things + do not [?]________ yourselves with a house unless cousin Lucy should go out with us — I have written her urging her to do so, but have not yet received a reply — I know she will now feel very anxious to be with you + we will be delighted to have her company.
I received a letter from Harriet a week or so ago the first for years — she writes cheerfully — tells me a great deal about her children + husband — all perfect in her eyes
[Pg. Break] I was quite distressed to learn from her letter + since from a letter of my brother Roberts to Margaret; that our sister Ellen’s health is very bad — neither she or James have written me for a long time — I try to hope she is not seriously ill but still I am very anxious about her & will be until I hear something more — Her disease is a [?]_____ affection of the bowels + they say she is reduced to a mere skeleton — I surely think if her disease was at all of a dangerous character that James would have written — the poor thing has also been ill again + poor James is still shaking with [?]____ (anger? agua?)
William Campbell leaves in a few days for St. Louis — he is thought very highly of by our friends here — We have seen but little of him at the house — he was sick when we first came + has since ben buys — + perhaps he did not feel very easy visiting us on Mother’s account — he has visited all his relations + they are quite charmed with him -
I am glad to hear Mr. John Kerr’s health is improving — + as for Mrs. Augustus, her prompt conduct has excited the admiration + respect of all — Give her my best love — Is Judge Easter still living? I am told he cannot live long — I am truly sorry for his poor wife.
Give my love to dear Robert — I know he is grieving his loss like a man & a Christian, for a true Christian he is at heart — & let me hope dear Virginia that you are also striving for a spirit of humble submission — yours is the more severe trial I well know — the child you suffered for cannot easily be given up — but the hand that mite will sustain + comfort if you only trust in Him — May He bless + comfort + be your ever present help in time of need — is the earnest prayer of your sincerely [?]__________ cousin
[Pg. Break — top of front cover] I intended sending this by mail but Mr. James Campbell has called to tell me William leaves in the morning, so I’ll send it by him as I have now nothing else to send — I had a beautiful cap + frock all ready for dear little Hugh but he is now clothed in more shining garments than the world affords _ his uncle’s gift is needless — I will return them to Levy’s — for I cannot bear to see any other child wear them -
William will be up to see me this afternoon or evening — he returned from a short visit to New York yesterday — I trust he will reach home without any other accident — according to him — I am sure he is sincerely grieved at your loss for he feels deeply all your kindness to him — _ is warmly attached to every thing
[Section break — bottom front cover] related to Robert — Mrs. Tucker was here this morning — she wish her love [?]_______ express her regret at your sorrow — Mrs. McCauley left this morning for Brooklyn she came on to spend our week & here she has been since — both Jos. + herself have had the most terrible attacks of [?]_______ — they are now perfectly restored but Mr. McCauley is quite unwell — suffering from an affection of the heart — that I fear will prove serious — he looks very badly — Mrs. M expects to be comforted in April — I trust the little creature will be spared to her for she has been severely tried — three taken away — the other Tagerts are all well + I am sure would send kind messages had I seen them — May God help you + your dear husband — as ever Mary Campbell.
[Pg. Break — side 1st page] The Mrs. Jennings have just called to see me — they had not heard from St. Louis recently _ of course knew not of your loss until I told them — they both expressed great regret — their families were all well — the family speaks of Mr. Kerr with quiet [?]____ _+ pleasure + she has really cause to be provided of such a child — I sincerely hope she will prosper in all her undertakings
[Pg. Break — side 2nd page] Mrs. Tevis returned to St. Louis some time ago — I saw but little of her while here for neither of us fared each other at home when we called — + the weather was bad + are always too much engaged to make many visits — I do not suppose to be giving any parties while she was here — + I did not feel called on the make a [?]______ own for her — she [?]______ to be a very nice woman -