Woodson Research Center, Rice University

Guide to the John Campbell personal papers, 1820-1906 MS 329

Title: John Campbell personal papers
Dates: 1820-1906
Identification: MS 329
Quantity: 1.25 Linear Feet(3 boxes)
Language: English
Repository: Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Biographical Note

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.

Scope and Contents

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.


Access Restrictions

No access restrictions; this material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via woodson@rice.edu or call 713-348-2586.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish from the John Campbell Personal Papers must be obtained from Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Index Terms

letters (correspondence)
tax records
financial records
promissory notes
receipts (financial records)
Ireland -- Economic conditions
Ireland -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
Texas -- Seguin
Cattle -- Texas
Farms -- Texas
Texas -- History
Ranches -- Texas
Campbell, John
Campbell family
Texas. President (1844-1847: Jones)
Jones, Anson
Confederate States of America. Army. Texas Brigade
Confederate States of America. Army. Texas Infantry Regiment, 4th

Related Archival Materials note

Flyleaf, Volume VIII, nos. 3 and 4, June 1958 and Volume IX, no. 4, June 1959 (copies in control folder).

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

John Campbell Personal Papers, c. 1810-c.1910, MS 329, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

Acquisition Information

The John Campbell papers were purchased from Mrs. Breustedt on February 25, 1958.

Detailed Description of the Collection

1 Series I: Letters
1 Anson Jones to John Campbell, 1845-1850
1 Asking Campbell to go to Austin to examine the public buildings, then to submit a report in person, ALS, 5 June 1845
1 Saying the articles ordered by Campbell from Houston will be forwarded to Austin and that Jones wishes to be ready to open (Congressional session ?) in Austin by 1 November 1845, ALS, 28 September 1845
1 More instructions regarding some construction work in Austin, being performed by Campbell, ALS, 10 October 1845
1 Asking Campbell to pay Baylor University $25 on behalf of a judge, and saying it would be credited against a note held in John Campbell's name, ALS, 31 August 1849
1 Saying that he can find work picking cotton for Campbell's Mexican boy if Campbell has no further use for him, ALS, 12 September 1849
1 A general letter telling of Jones' planned trip north; his anticipation of future building (implying Campbell's involvement in this) in Washington-on-the-Brazos; the birth of his son; his illness and his crops, ALS, 8 July 1850
2 James Campbell letters, 1833-1863
3 Campbell family correspondence, 1832-1906
4 John Campbell letters: folder 1, 1832-1855
5 John Campbell letters: folder 2, 1856-1879
6 John Campbell letters: folder 3, 1880-1906

2-3 Series II: Documents and Miscellaneous
Box Folder
2 1 Documents, c. 1820-1846
2 Documents 1847-1865
3 Documents 1847-1865
4 Documents 1866-c. 1910
5 Documents 1866-c. 1910
Box Folder
3 1 John Campbell Ranch/Farm Record Books (7 items) 1837-1898
2 Empty Envelopes (may match some of the correspondence) and postal cards, c. 1880
3 Confederate money, c. 1862
4 render="italic">Southern and Western Songster: A Choice Collection of the Most Fashionable Songs..., Grigg & Elliott, Philadelphia, 1836