More Memories of “Will” & Rachel Campbell

Compiled by
Larry Pearce, Great-grandson
3/1/03 rev. 4/11/11

One of the most famous lines remembered from my Great-grandpap William James Campbell, according to my mother, his granddaughter, Ruth, was, “I’ll keep going as long as I see the other fellow going.” And he did. He lived to be 95. Mother always said that her grandfather was born on the farm and died on the farm [another memorable Campbell quote; see GRAY and “My Mother Ruth” in four parts]. The first born and only son, arriving prematurely just before the American Civil War to second generation Scotch-Irish Thomas Anderson Campbell (1837-1925) and Jane Ross Campbell (1837-1896), [See additional information in stories about the Andersons and Rosses.] We haven’t confirmed this, but we believe the farm William was born on was that of Jane Ross’ parents and became known as the Starz farm after it transferred ownership. Tradition has it that the Ross’ “had some money,” and it is a fact that a number of Ross houses and mansions are referred to in Smith and Swetnam’s A Guidebook to Historic Western Pennsylvania. William never had much money, however he was always remembered by many as short in stature but tall in character. He helped his father on the farm and eventually took over as his parents’ caretakers as they aged, especially after his six surviving sisters left for “the city.” Never straying very far from the farm, he married Rachel Hoffman in 1889, the year of the great Johnstown Flood. She, according to family tradition, was the daughter of two German immigrants, George (1828-1907) and Annie K. Brown Hoffman (1827-1990). George was a prominent local farmer, which wasn’t unusual, but the irony is that Annie’s sister, it is believed, was the younger sister or daughter of Elizabeth K. Brown (1824-1916), who married Dauling Norris (1829-1858), and they produced my Great-great grandmother Annie Sims Norris (1850-1922), which would have made my grandparents, Paul Gray and Bertha Ione Campbell Gray second cousins [see “E-Gen: Gray”]. This also was not very unusual in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when transportation was limit to horse and buggy and the only social functions were church meetings and going to market. This article is actually the result of recent additional interviews with surviving Campbells and Grays and the discovery of material that hadn’t been included in earlier stories, but we think it worthy to be remembered by future generations.

If what is now known as the Starz farm was once the Ross farm, probably the Campbell farm was once connected. A trip to the courthouse would give us that information. My mother remembers that Thomas A. Campbell lived in a room at son William’s, “just across the porch” after Jane died and Thomas could no longer stay by himself. My late Aunt Edna Ione Gray (1920-1997) wrote that the room was large and may have been the original log house built in the early 1800’s. It had a fireplace, large bed, rocking chair, dresser, and several trunks. Mother would have been 8-years old when Thomas died in 1925 at the age of 88. She doesn’t remember his famous missing trigger finger that kept him out of the Civil War, however. Edna was only 5-years old at Thomas’ passing, but says, “I remember his ‘ever presence’ in my grandparent’s home, his feeble attempts to be helpful with the routine chores on the 95 acre farm.” She reiterates that their home was always referred to as “The Farm.”

As a side note, according to Edna’s writings, Jane Ross Campbell was buried at the family churchyard, East Union Presbyterian, when she died in 1896 but was disinterred and placed along side Thomas at the larger Mount Royal Cemetery when he died in 1925. We don’t know why Thomas selected the new burial plot except that it was closer to the original Campbell family homestead in what is now Fox Chapel.

Edna recalled a special time in 1931 when she, age 11, and my mother, age 13, were “special guests” for their grandfather Williams’ 72nd birthday. The girls left school on a February Friday afternoon on a bus that took them to the Robert Aber farm along Saxonburg Boulevard from where they walked up over Starz Hill to their grandfather’s farm. She says, “Grandma baked the birthday cake with white icing and a lage ‘72’ in pink icing on top for the occasion.”

As we learned in “My Mother Ruth,” referred to earlier, his granddaughter believed that William was born prematurely. Edna confirms this, remembering a time during the summer of 1931 when she was visiting her cousin, Ella Mae Gray, in Bairdford and they walked to Snitzer’s Corner where her grandfather had to go each day to get the mail. There he was, on horseback, and he told them that he was only two weeks old, in March of 1859, when his parents, Thomas and Jane, took him to what was to be the Campbell farm. It had belonged to another Scothc-Irish family named McIntyre, and had only a rough log cabin. He needed a lot of help and prayers to survive in that back woods, pre-Civil War environment. But survive he did and now his and wife Rachel’s descendants are many. In Rachel’s old age, my mother was summoned to take care of her and help her grandfather with the many chores around the farm. Ruth and Grandfather William milked their several cows twice a day, and Ruth separated the cream from the milk and stored both in the icy spring water that flowed through the basement of the old farmhouse. Any leftovers or sour milk went in the hog trough. Mother helped her grandmother churn the butter, but Rachel did most of the cooking and baking. The cook stove in the kitchen burned corncobs. In the summer, much of this hot work was done outside in the wood stove on the cement porch.

Ruth remembered the old coal furnace in the basement that gave such wonderful heat on those cold winter nights. She says that to fire the beast her grandfather would have to go outside with his lantern or flashlight and lift the heavy cellar doors to gain access. The lantern and flashlight were also necessary for those trips to the outhouse as well.
Aunt Edna, in what she called “A Memoir in Honor of William Kenneth Campbell on the Occasion of his 90th Birthday,” describes the celebration of Christmas on her grandparents William and Rachel’s farm in wonderful detail [Her Uncle Bill was their fifth of six children; see “Memories of Clifford and William Campbell”]:
Christmas on the farm during the 1920’s and early 1930’s was the highlight of the year for the Gray kids. The traditional observance of the Savior’s birth was lovingly planned by the grownups, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents. The Christmas tree, a hemlock cut form the woods below the farm house, stood majestically in the parlor, complete with popcorn garlands and wax candles in clip-on holders. Grandma’s kitchen was a haven of delicious aromas, roasting turkey in her wood-coal stove, candied sweet potatoes, heaps of fluffy mashed potatoes, mince and pumpkin pies, and much, much more. The children’s impatience for dinner was graciously tolerated until the 5 o’clock signal, “Dinner is served.” Already twilight at 5:00, the oil lamps were carefully trimmed and lit for the dinner hour. More than 20 adults and little folks were seated first, with Grandma and the mothers hovering about to serve the wee ones and keep serving dishes moving along the table.

Another memory my late Aunt Edna left in writing concerns her mother and was entitled “Piano: A Birthday Gift.” She recalls, “As the only daughter in a music-loving family, Bertha was encouraged at an early age to develop her talent.” Edna says that her mother began at age 8 on an old reed organ. Grandma Bertha’s teacher, Miss Annie Cook, had to pump the pedals since she could not reach them. I remember Grandma saying that she only had a few lessons, but apparently on her 13th birthday, in 1906, she was presented with a beautiful Kohler-Campbell upright piano. This piano stayed in the family for three generations, going from the William and Rachel Campbells to the Bertha and Paul Grays and eventually to my house. My sister Ellen and I took formal lessons in our youth. Unfortunately, it was sold when we moved in 1960, but my father replaced it when I continued to study. Eventually I obtained a music degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and have taught privately and in the public schools as well as serving various churches in a variety of music positions for over 50 years. I don’t think any of this would have been possible without the inspiration, encouragement, and actual keyboard provided by a long line of Campbells, Grays, and Pearces.

This concludes our trip down memory lane, a journey that has taken us back 85 years. It seems each time our family meets we come away with additional recollections, so you can rest assured that this article will be added to in the future. If you’re part of our Campbell Clan. perhaps you have something to add. Write to me at LRYPEARCE@GMAIL.COM and we’ll include your thoughts for posterity.

Last revised 3/25/22

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