Guide to the John Campbell personal papers, 1820-1906 MS 329
Little is known of John Campbell. He was an Irish immigrant who left Ireland probably sometime in the late 1920's, spent some years exploring the Caribbean and South America, and eventually settled in the United States in the 1930's. He lived in New York, but eventually and permanently moved to Texas, first in Austin then Seguin. In Seguin he began farming and prospered. He was too old to fight in the American Civil War, probably being born around 1809-1810, and was officially exempted from military duties. When he died is not known. Neither he nor any of the Campbells was educated to a high level and, given this, the volume of correspondence is perhaps surprising. John Campbell's urgings to his family to follow him to the United States and prosperity did not go unheeded. He received numerous letters from his ecclesiastical brother in New York and Canada; his relative James came to Texas; and, another branch of the family settled in San Antonio. It is not known how many other Campbells emigrated from Ireland to America.
The John Campbell papers comprise two Hollinger boxes of documents and one of letters.
The box containing letters is divided into four categories: (1) letters from Anson Jones to John Campbell, 1845-1850; (2) letters either to or from James Campbell, 1833-1863; (3) a folder containing letters exchanged within the Campbell family, 1832-1906; and (4) three folders containing letters either to or from John Campbell, written to or received from correspondents outside the family circle, 1832-1906.
The small, six item, collection of letters from Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas, to John Campbell all relate to personal business arrangements which existed between the two men. Public affairs, either of Texas or of the United States, are nowhere mentioned except implicitly in that some of the construction work in which Campbell was involved was to be carried out on public buildings in Washington-on-the Brazos. The final letter of 8 July 1850 particularly reveals the personal nature of this correspondence.
The thirty (30) item James Campbell sub-collection, spanning the years 1833-1863, is of note on two accounts. First, many items in this group are written to John Campbell from his brother or nephew (the precise nature of this relationship remains unknown) James Campbell in Ireland, during the period from the 1830's to the 1850's. A recurring theme of this correspondence is the possibility of James following in his relative's wake and immigrating to America. Eventually he did, and a second reason to note this group of letters is for the ones from the American Civil War. It is not known when James Campbell arrived in the United States but it is certain that he did so in time to participate in the war of 1861-65. James Campbell fought as a Confederate soldier in Company D of the 4th Texas Regiment in John Bell Hood's famous brigade. His numerous letters to his wife in Seguin from the battle lines make illuminating reading. The final letter to Mrs. Martha Campbell is dated 28 May 1863 although it is not known whether or not James Campbell survived the conflict.
The third sub-division of the John Campbell collection, letters exchanged within the family group, comprises some sixty-six (66) items.
Most, but by no means all, of these letters are addressed to John Campbell of Seguin, Texas, and they come, most notably from, a brother, Rev. J. N(eal) Campbell in New York and later Canada; Campbell's relatives in Ireland, including Joseph, Daniel, Patrick (nephews) and Mable (niece) Friel; Thomas Campbell, John's father; John Campbell's brother or nephew (it may be that John had both a nephew and a brother each named James); and, a letter from John Campbell's wife Conzuela (?), There are many other pieces in this folder from many disparate branches of the Campbell clan. Usually they relate to mundane affairs of health or the weather, crop prices or the frequency of correspondence, but often the subject of immigration is broached, usually as John Campbell exhorts his family to come to Texas.
This sub-collection covers the long period from 1832-1906, although John Campbell was almost certainly dead by this latter date, given his probable birth-date of 1809 or 1810.
Finally the three folders of John Campbell correspondence, (1) 1832-1855; (2) 1856-1879; (3) 1880-1906, comprise altogether some 108 pieces. There are letters either to or from Campbell from outside the family and they cover a wide range of topics usually relating to Campbell's farming business in Seguin, Texas. Some are personal missives from friends and acquaintances, some are official letters or circulars about the payment of taxes and land assessment; there is even a begging letter from an old family friend in Ireland who had heard of Campbell's good fortune in Texas. For the greater part, however, these letters pertain to business and financial aspects of John Campbell's life after settling in Texas as a farmer, such as the buying and selling of land, livestock, provisions, lending and borrowing money, legal problems of wills and deeds, and keeping farm accounts.
The Documents are divided chronologically into three periods: (1) up to 1846; (2) 1847-1865; (3) 1866-1910. There are also three additional, separate folders containing some records of the Campbell farm accounts (7 items); a folder of empty envelopes (dating across the period and may match some of the correspondence) and postal cards (53 items); and a small folder of Confederate money bills (12 items). The document collection consists of bills, agreements, promissory notes, receipts, official forms and notices, tax dockets, and various types of accounts and financial records. Also included is a book of songs dated 1836.
No access restrictions; this material is open for research.
Permission to publish from the John Campbell Personal Papers must be obtained from Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
John Campbell Personal Papers, c. 1810-c.1910, MS 329, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
The John Campbell papers were purchased from Mrs. Breustedt on February 25, 1958.
Portions of this collection are available online at:
Detailed Description of the Collection