My Great Campbell Uncles, Cliff & Bill

As summarized by
Larry Pearce
from various family accounts
2/28/03

The story of our fourth generation of Campbells in America makes for some interesting reading. My case in point is the amazing World War I diary of my great uncle Raymond Norman (1892-1978), which I have transcribed and commented on for this series [see “Great Uncle Ray’s World War I Diary” in three parts]. As I have also written quite a bit already about my Grandmother Bertha Ione Campbell Gray (1893-1980) [see E-Gen: Gray], and mentioned the tragic stories of her brothers Lloyd Webster (1890-1891) and Ellis Emerson Craig (1906-1926) [see “Campbell Misfortunes”], I will concentrate here on the remaining two Campbell brothers, Clifford Anderson (1896-1988) and William Kenneth (1903-1997).

Perhaps the most interesting commonality of my great uncles Cliff and Bill is that they each married three times. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s consider the interesting memories of them as related by their own family members. The first is from a short piece entitled “Memories of Clifford Anderson Campbell,” composed by his daughter, Helen Elizabeth (1923-2007), for the Thomas Campbell reunions, as mentioned earlier. She says that her father attended Martin’s one-room school through the eighth grade, but as was the custom back then, worked with his father on the family farm until he was called away to World War I. While the Campbells had some milk cows, pigs, and horses, their primary source of income was food crops and Helen boasts, “Dad was good at mechanics and loved to work on the Model T Ford that granddad [William James] had. He kept the farm machinery well oiled and in good working order.”

This mechanical experience on the farm served him well during the war because his job was repairing downed telephone lines amid all the fighting in Europe. His brother Raymond wrote about him briefly in the war diary cited above, wondering where he was serving and if he was all right. We’re still researching Uncle Cliff’s service record, but his official title was “Electrician,” and we can imagine that it was a very dangerous job. Helen says that he “seldom related war experiences.” This is not unusual for anyone having gone through such trauma. Perhaps these life and death experiences in the war are why he was, as Helen says, “exceptionally successful in selling insurance” when the conflict was over. He graduated from the Travelers Insurance School in Hartford, CT, around 1921. He married Emma Burgowitz the following year and the couple produced Helen the year after that, Joan in 1927, and Stanley in 1931. From a rented apartment in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, they finally moved into their own home in Bellevue in 1935, a northern suburb of the steel city. Cliff told friends and family that his one big goal was to send each of his children to college, and he did. Helen and Joan attended what is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Stanley went to Grove City College, both about an hour’s drive from home.

Cliff remained faithful to his parents despite his family obligation by visiting the farm each weekend, often taking Emma and the children. That was a distance of about 15 miles one way. The Great Depression was raging, and Clifford would load the trunk of the car with boxes of food and household supplies for his parents because cash was scarce for them. Farm work, on the other hand, was never scarce, especially in those days with aging parents. There was always plenty to do, and everyone pitched in. Brother Raymond, as related in the earlier story about him, in fact, had a produce route that he serviced each Saturday through Pittsburgh. For Clifford, it was not unusual to arrive early enough on Sundays to take his parents to church at East Union Presbyterian. Cliff used to tell about how his parents would drive themselves the two miles to church in the horse and buggy before the advent of automobiles. But, Helen remembers that her father’s religion, like his parents’, was a daily commitment, not just a Sunday ritual:
When I was very little, every day we would kneel beside our chairs after breakfast as my grandparents and parents offered their prayers. I recall watching Dad put on his tie and finish dressing for the office, then he knelt beside his bed before he left for work. As an elderly man, he knelt at bedtime and prayed audibly for ten or more minutes. After he retired he read the Bible through many times.

After the children left home, Cliff and Emma sold their Bellevue home and bought a smaller place in nearby West View. It had a healthy vegetable garden and beautiful flowers in the back yard. Helen believes that her dad, as successful as he was in insurance, probably “made more money through investments than he did in his whole career with Travelers.”

Emma died of cancer in 1954 and Cliff was devastated, especially with no one else at home. A year later, however, he remarried. Helen calls that union with Catherine Shaff “a good marriage,” and says that his new companion got him through the great tragedy of his son Stanley’s death in an Air Force transport plane the following year. Cliff and Catherine were married 24 years before she too passed away. Cliff’s third wife, Eva Moudry Boyd, survived him when he died at age 92 in the tradition of the hearty, long-living Campbells.

My Great Uncle William Kenneth “Bill” Campbell was born in 1903 and named for his father William and the legendary Scottish king Kenneth. He too worked on the family farm along side his father and brothers, but he was too young to be called to World War I. His farm experience, like his brother’s, also paid off later, allowing him to be successful at selling farm machinery and other commodities including lumber. According to a memoir by my Aunt Edna Gray written for the occasion of Bill’s 90th birthday in 1993, he was, “without a doubt, the ‘adored favorite’ of the Gray kids, the sons and daughters of [his] beloved and only sister, Bertha Ione.” He called them “Bertha’s Gang.” Edna remembers him as a “young bachelor” who sold Cocoa Malt and Cut-Rite Wax Paper. She says that his travels took him to many cities in several states. Letters to his “Mother Dear” came from Dubois, PA, Elmira, NY, and Cincinnati, OH, to name a few. That must have seemed like another world to simple folks who seldom left the farm. Edna tells of how special the Easter holiday would be:
Your annual Easter visit brought special joy and “great expectations” – the usual array of Easter chocolate fantasies, rabbits, chicks, and eggs, all nestled in Easter grass. Very soon, identical treats for all were beautifully arranged on Mother’s dining buffet, each child knowing his exact section on the grassy bed. The buffet mirror reflected a dual display, which added to our delight. Truly, we all agreed, every kid should have an “Uncle Bill,” who according to our blessed mother, “just loved kids.”

Unfortunately, Bill never had any children to his first wife Evelyn “Dolly” Olsen, whom he married in 1932, although my mother seems to remember that they may have experienced either a miscarriage or stillborn. With age being a factor, Bill had no children to his other two wives either, but, that only meant that he could devote more attention to his nieces and nephews.

Bill and Evelyn lived in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, during the deadly St. Patrick’s Day flood of 1936. Fortunately, they resided in a new section of town called Westmont, far above the flood plain. Around that time, as Edna remembered, she and several of her sisters and brothers traveled to Johnstown to stay with them and were given the grand tour of that historic city. I imagine they all had a ride on the famous inclined plane, the steepest one in the world that can accommodate cars. My wife and I belonged to the same First Presbyterian Church that Bill and Evelyn did and some of the older folks there still remember them. My Grandfather Paul told me one time that he once, in his younger days, rode his Harley-Davidson from Valencia to Johnstown to see his brother-in-law. Today, with good roads and at high speeds that is a two-hour journey, so the trip surely took longer then. The two men must have had some high regard for each other.
Bill’s sales business moved him to York, PA, shortly before World War II. He was in his late 30’s then, too old to be drafted for service. He spent the remainder of his life there. Edna remembers their corner lot and what the couple called their “dream home,” complete with large garden, bountiful orchard, and famous berry patch. In her memoir she tells Uncle Bill, “Your red raspberries are certainly ‘red ribbon’ yield.” I can remember, growing up, that many family members looked forward to visiting them. I was busy raising my own young family, so we never made it to York, though my parents and brothers did. After the death of Evelyn in 1969, he married Alma Large in 1970, and upon her death in 1987 he married Aunt Marie when he was 84. Though she had an assertive personality, she kept in touch with everyone and was a comfort to him. Uncle Bill passed away just three months before his 94th birthday in 1997, the third one in his immediate family to live beyond the ninth decade. Aunt Marie died last year and joined him at the Mount Rose Cemetery in York.

Like his brothers Raymond and Clifford, Uncle Bill had invested in the stock market and was quite successful, despite the Depression and the war years. And, according to my mother, all three brothers were very generous to all their survivors, including nieces and nephews. But, the real treasure was distributed in their regard and affection for their family over their entire lifetimes, which totaled 271 years. I’m certain that this caring was returned to them and their wives in full measure. That seems to also be a Campbell tradition that probably goes back to Ulster and before that to the famous Scottish clans. As we remember my great uncles Cliff and Bill, surely the remarkable thing about their lives was how far they came. Oh, Cliff had fought in Europe during WWI and Bill had traveled across American and spent most of his life in Eastern Pennsylvania, but I don’t mean “far” only in terms of geography. After all, their homes and their hearts were never that far from their Fox Chapel and West Deer Township roots. Nor do I necessarily mean financially “far,” despite their childhoods of poverty. As I’ve said several times before in this series, they didn’t even know they were poor, and it was that great poverty that taught them hard work and devotion to their families. Rather, when all is factored in, their childhoods of poverty. their limited education, their travels, their willingness to invest in their work and their families, and certainly their common faith in The Higher Power, Clifford Anderson and William Kenneth “Bill” Campbell are some of our greatest role models. We must never forget their lives and their contributions, and we must pass their example on to future generations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *