Memories of my Campbell Grandparents: Part II

Helen Elizabeth Campbell Hollinger Johnson (1923-2008)
With edits by
Larry Pearce

The Campbell farm was sold after my grandfather William James Campbell’s death in 1954. It was purchased by a University of Pittsburgh professor and his mother, but later sold to [Mr. and Mrs.] Thomas and Marie Seubert. They remodeled the farm home completely and replaced the siding with a natural wood shiplap-type of finish. It is now very modern and palatial, known as the “Greentree Farm.” The road, still named “Campbell Road,” is now paved.

From the log cabin of one room, in the early to mid-19th Century, the farmhouse evolved through the years into a nine-room home: four rooms downstairs and five bedrooms and hallway upstairs. I guess as the family increased so did the house, until it ended up a spacious home.

The farmhouse, as I remember it, was the nine-room house with white siding and brown trim around the windows. To the west of the log cabin room was a hall and staircase, then the parlor. To the north of the original room was a small porch, about six by ten feet, off of which were doors to the dining room and the kitchen and the log cabin room. At the east end of the porch was a screened area with a screen door that opened to the yard. It was in this area in the summer that the laundry was done. Otherwise, it was done in the kitchen. The dining/family room was in the northwest corner of the downstairs by the kitchen.

The upstairs had a hallway into which the stairs opened. Three doors and a window, which looked out over the front door, opened from this hall. One door went to the master bedroom, one to Aunt Bertha’s bedroom and one to Uncle Ellis’s room. Through Ellis’s room you could enter a smaller bedroom occupied by Aunt Mary (Grandma Rachel’s sister) when she spent summers with Grandma.

Through Aunt Bertha’s girlhood bedroom you could enter a smaller bedroom said to have been Uncle Ray and (my father) Clifford’s boyhood bedroom. It was furnished with an iron bed painted white and a trunk.

One of the things I will always remember about the W.J. Campbell home and family was having breakfast when I was still a very young child. While Granddad went out to do his morning chores at the barn, feed the cattle, the hogs and cats, milk the two cows, and so forth, Grandma was preparing a big breakfast on her big iron coal/wood burning cook stove. This meal took considerable time, and she had no microwave to help her. One thing that she did have was a plate warmer above the stove around the chimney pipe.

The menu usually consisted of prunes for fruit (the fresh plums and apples could be dried and stored for winter), oatmeal, eggs, sausage, homemade bread, fried potatoes, and gravy. I think of all that heavy, cholesterol-filled food, but neither of my grandparents was overweight. They worked it all off after breakfast and were ready for another hearty meal by noon, followed by another one after the evening milking was completed. The evening meal often featured cornmeal mush or buckwheat pancakes, of which the ingredients had been mixed and “set” in a crock on the cellar stairs for the yeast to work during the night. These pancakes were real special.

This is my fondest memory of my grandparents, however: After all had eaten of the bountiful breakfast, we would kneel beside our chairs and Granddad would lead us in prayer, followed by the family praying the Lord’s Prayer together. After the “Amen,” each went about their special task for the day, the men to the fields, the women to making beds, emptying chamber pots, cleaning oil lamp chimneys, refilling lamps with oil, cleaning up the breakfast dishes, preparing dinner and doing whatever day’s work was planned. Laundry, gardening, ironing, housecleaning; none of these tasks was aided by the modern conveniences of electricity. No wonder Grandmother was so thin. She hardly weighed 100 pounds when she died.

Spring cleaning meant that one room at a time was completely emptied of furniture and carpet. This was the one reason my mother came to help Grandma then. The wallpaper over the entire room, ceiling and walls, was rubbed with a kneaded, dough-like material, either pink or green, depending on the brand, but definitely BLACK (due to the coal furnace smoke) even before the room was completely done. The carpet was hung out on the clothesline and beaten to extract the dust that had accumulated during the year. The March wind helped carry the dirt away. By evening the woodwork and windows had been washed, curtains cleaned and re-hung, carpet replaced over the scrubbed floor, and the furniture cleaned and polished and put in place. The room was always so fresh and bright as the spring sunshine beamed in.

Ahh . . . the wonderful memories. On June 11, 1996, Merle and Betty Gray, along with my cousin Florence “Flo” Bostwick and her friend Shirley Davidson, visited the Campbell homestead. The entire farm is now beautifully landscaped and modern. Most of the original buildings have been removed. Mrs. Seubert, by then a widow, invited the party in to see how the old cabin and house had been remodeled. She even allowed them to take pictures. Many of these may be seem in the Appendix portion of the Thomas Campbell genealogy book published in 1996 for a reunion of the Campbell cousins. The house has been very much up-dated. Besides new siding, there are lovely, big picture windows, modern bath facilities and built-in kitchen, and wood paneled walls in the den, which is located in the log cabin room. It resembles what I think an English manor house might look like. Grandmother would not even recognize it today as it does not resemble the farmhouse she once lived in.

Merle and Betty took me to visit the farm in 1997, but Mrs. Seubert was not at home, so we viewed the lovely swimming pool, complete with a modern kitchen and barbeque, and horse barn. The old, original barn has been replaced with a new barn but it resembles in every way the one I knew, except that there is no horse trough. It is beautifully landscaped and the horse stable contains an elegantly furnished office where, I’m guessing, the records of the fine riding horses are kept. Mrs. Seubert is a renowned “horse woman.” We saw two or three beautiful riding horses in the stable.

The house is located on a mound at the lower side of the rolling hills that form the rest of the 100 acres, more or less, of the original Campbell farm. A paved road now wraps its way around two-thirds of the mound. While Grandma lived, the embankment along the original road was covered with pink moss roses and several lilac bushes. Grandma told me a story of her only red peony bush, which she cherished. Apparently, when my Daddy, Clifford, was about three years old he had a little wooden wagon. One day, when the peonies were just about to bloom, he brought her some little “apples” he had picked, in his little wagon.

William and Rachel now rest I the cemetery at East Union United Presbyterian Church beside the big gray granite tombstone marked “Campbell,” One smaller stone reads: William James Campbell 1859-1954. The other stone reads: Rachel Hoffman Campbell 1866-1946.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey into the pioneer life of my grandparents from 1923, when I was born, through 1954, when Granddad died.


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