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Thomas Campbell Notes


These are some diary notes, of a Thomas B. Campbell, who lived in Austin Township in the 1860's. He is mentioned in the history of Austin township, (that is posted) as a supervisor.

This came from a book that was in our grandmother's possession, and that my sister Mari Boepple, has current possession of. This is a family register, with notes about the weather, and crops, and deaths of local residents of Scott co. Illinois. Some notes, are those of Thomas's father. The events noted here, were prior to Thomas's second marriage to Mary Ellen Wilkerson, of Woodford county, Illinois, in 1857. They married and apparently, then, settled in Macon county, Illinois. They were not listed in the census for 1860, in Woodford county, but are in Macon county, by the 1870 census. Their daughter Martha A. Campbell, was born in Macon county, in 1868. She died in Nov. of 1881. 3 other children were born in Macon county, one of which was our great grandmother, Jessie Campbell. Submitted by: Sue Wilson



In looking over the preceding pages, I have often found matter for serious reflection. It brings vividly my recollection scenes of childhood long since forgotten. After a perusal of these pages my whole life passes in panoramic view before me and oh! how short and improfitable it has been. In the hope that in after years some of my children may feel an interest and be profited by a sketch of my past history, I am promped to pass some of my leisure moments in recording some of the incidents of my life. Writing only with expectation of my nearest and dearest friends to criticise I shall not guard particularly against errors in Orthography or Grammer but all matters of fact shall be given as true to the best of my recollection.

I was born according to the record of my father Nov 29th 1827 in Henry county, Tennessee and according to his record I removed with him and his family consisting of my mother, Mary, my oldest sister and one brother James to Morgan co., Ill. Oct 1839. I am now forty-seven years old yet, I remember some incidents of our journey such as seeing my mother ride an old sorrel mare carrying James in her arms, hearing the baby cry for grapes as we passed then on wild vines at the road side. I remember our arrival at old uncle Scott Riggs and of father telling me that we had got to Illinois. These items appear as trifles but they serve to show how the human mind is capable of retaining early impressions being only three years old. Uncle Scott as I was learned to call Scott Riggs my fathers uncle had a daughter a little older than myself by the name of Louise. I remember meeting her when I was helped out of the wagon, she had deep blue eyes which attracted my attention, as I understood her name to be Blueisa. I think she is the first person in the world to impress my mind with the idea of personal beauty, she was my ideal of beauty as long as she lived. We atteneded the same district school, went to the same church, atteneded the same parties and were intimately acquainted as was possible for persons to be so situated yet I never intimated to her that I felt more than a common friendship for her and I entertained anything more for me until after we were both married and after her death. I have mentioned this form the fact that I have very often dreamed of seeing her and have often spoken of it before my family as something singular. Here too is a moral but I leave the reader to find it.

In 1833 father bought and moved onto the farm now occupied by brother Newton. He paid about $8.00 per acre. There were about 100 acres in cultivation, the only dwelling a log cabin 16 x 18 with clapboard roof and stick chimney, the only barn a log stable and log crib with driveway between there was not a gate on the premises. Eight or ten pairs of draw bars afforded passway to the different fields and lots. The fences were poor and the corners grown up with briars, elders, sumach, parsnips, thistles and every conceivable thing that ever infested a fence row in the latitude. The fields were set with cotton wood growth, elder brushes, black berry briars, Bull nettles, sand-burrs, cockle burrs and Morning Glories with any amount of what we called Climbling vines.

In looking back to the circumanstances then surrounding my father with all the obstacles in his way and a debt of $300 still hanging over the farm I can see plainly the necessity of the economy he practiced. Mother spun the wool that made all our winter wear for every day and Sunday too, and sometimes even helped shear the sheep, a race of long legged bare bellied coarse wooled animals that we would think disgraceful to own.

We wore red flannel or lindsey shirts and jeans pants and coats or hunting shirts colored with walnut bark in winter. Father generally sowed a patch of flax which after the necessary manipulations was broke with a hand brake by him after which mother and we children sketched and hackled then she spun the tow for shirts and the flax for pants for summer reserving the smoothest part of the web for Sunday suits. Mother and the girls wore red flannel dresses the greatest part of the year having calico for Sundays and such times as required a little style.

After a time as circumstances improved checked flannel took the place of red flannel for the women and blue jeans the place of walnut color for the men and boys and those touched a little with pride would have a suit of blue mixed for a Sunday suit. I never wore anything but homespun until I was nineteen years old and never wore a pair of fine boots until I was of age. Father always made the shoes for the family, both boys and girls until he got out of debt, about the time I turned sixteen. He got my brothers and myself each a pair of boots for winter.

I commenced plowing at eight years old and spent every summer in assisting with the crops until the corn was all in the crib then put in the balance of the winter at school until time to cut corn stalks in the spring which was always done with the hoe. All our time of mornings and evenings was occupied in feeding and preparing fuel. Saturday was occupied in hauling up wood to last through the next week and preparing enough to last over Sunday.

At home we had no time for recreation or amusement so I drew upon the hours that should have been spent profitably at school for recreation, so far as the strict rules and vigilance of the teacher would permit. I often with some other boy have chosen up ready for play the moment school would be out putting my dinner in my pocket to be eaten on the sly after books were called, thus I continued until I was sixteen.

We had had no school for one winter. A Connecticut Yankee by the name of Dayton came to the neighborhood wanting a school. He first went over the neighborhood insiring the parents with the notion of his superior abilities as a teacher and working them up to the point that would induce them to give him higher wages than were ever paid for a teacher at Old Union before. The requisite number of scholars were subderibed, the day set to commence the scholars had all been impressed by the parents as they had previously been by the teacher of the superior abilities of W. P. Dayton.

The morning dawned for the opening of the school We were all early there, the teacher loss no time to follow up the advantages gained by impressions already made. The point to be gained seemed to be to give each scholar the impression that he not only had the smartest man for a teacher in the country but that he or she was the smartest boy or girl to be found. I will remember the surprise I experieced as he felt my head and pronounced my mental abilities equal if not superior to that of any boy he had ever net, he examined my old books which consisted of Elementary speller, Eclictic Fourth Reader, Malubren's Geography and Adam's Arithmetic, he quickly decided that I needed Smiths Arithmetic, Smiths Grammer, and Olneys Geography saying that I ought to master the whole thing in the course of the winter and by the next winter be qualified to teach as well as he could.

This was the first time in my life that any one ever intimated to me that it would be possible for me to do anything but labor for a living. I applied myself diligently often studying until ten and eleven o'clock at night and rising at 4, go at it again. In the course of three months I had been through the arithmetic, Geography, and was acknowledged the foremost scholar in school. At the suggestion of Mr. Dayton father began to consider the question of giving me a course in college but decided to send me another winter to my old teacher. This term was expended in reviewing the previous winter which took up but little of my time Dayton could take me no farther.

I had discovered during the first term that his education was limited and superficial but he certainly had the best faculty of inciting his pupils to study and creating a rivalry amongst them of any teacher I ever knew. And he was no less an adept in humbugging the parents he would set a day once a fortnight for public exammantions and invite the patrons of the school to witness the wonderful advancement of their children, for such occasions he never failed to have us thourghly prepared. Each scholar knew before hand the questions he would be required to answer. Every thing was hurried through the exercises being interspersed with declamation dialogues and affording no time for critisism. I was very fond of declaiming and here imbibed the idea of someday becoming a public speaker.

In March of 1846 I entered the preparatory department of Illinois College and was placed under George Harlan a member of the senior Class and was informed that according to the regulations I must overtake the class that started the previous Sept or be incorporated with the class that would start at the next term, thus virtually loosing six months in the latter case, or gaining six in the former. I studied very hard, slept generally not more than four or five hours. Spent one hour each day on the play ground.

I boarded myself. My meals usually consisted of a slice of bread and butter and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Bread and butter and molasses for dinner and supper. Vacation came in harvest, tho weak and enervated by confinement and study I did my part on the farm through harvest and returned to college in Sept.

I started in with zeal and determination. I succeeded very well the first half year with my studies but my pet object of becoming a speaker became less flattering continually towards the close of the term my health began to fail. I was afflicted with pain in the breast and a severe cough. By advice of the doctors I gave up the idea of going through college. I desired to turn what knowlege I had gained of Latin to some practical use and determined to study medicine, but being opposed in this by my father and having no means of my own to prosecute the study I gave it up and spent my time on the farm and in teaching school until I was of age.

I was married Nov 30th 1848 to Martha Ann Renfro and went onto a small farm of my fathers two miles south of Exctes Scott co. Ills. We lived there until the fall of 1850 when we disposed of our crop and surplus property and started on the 3 day of Oct for the state of Iowa. Brother James accompanying us, we moved in a two horse wagon my borther having a horse along also Hosia Driesvoic took a part of a load for up and traveled in company with us.

We has pleasant weather excepting our rainy day. We camped out during the trip and generally enjoyed ourselves well. We arrived at our destination in Mahaska co, Iowa on the 11th day of Oct 1850 and pitched our tent in the woods on the left bank of the Ballenger Branch in the South west corner of Prairie township. We occupied our tent for a week while we put up a log cabin which we covered with claspboards and daubed the cracks with mud.

Our second Sunday we spent in our own house built upon our own land and felt and independence that I scarce have ever felt since. In reviewing my past life I fail to call to mind a single instance in which I have felt more satisfaction then I enoyed here in my humble cabin with my wife and brother.

After laying in our winter provision and deed for our three horses I engaged to teach school at the Miller school house and unpretending building 14x16 built of round logs clapboard roof and stone chimney with joist so low as to forbid the fue use of gad. I received pay for my services in fence rails at $1.12 per hundred. My brother hauled rails or made rails as the weather favored until my terms of school expired when I assisted him until we had forty acres inclosed by plowing time.

We exchanged our horses for oxen and with them broke out our 40 that we had fenced and broke about the same amount for the neighbors besides we had put in a few acres of wheat and oats and ten acres of corn on land that we had rented. We also raised a good crop of ear corn on our own land, not with standing it was a very wet season, we raised an abundance for our winters substance.

During the whole summer the streams were so full that the water mills could not grind and the only steam mill in reach was at Oskabovisa on the opposite side of the river(skunk), but their was neither bridge nor boat on which to cross. The whole settlement was most of the time out of bread stuff. Often I have got up a morning and ground corn on a coffee mill to make bread for breakfast but our main dependence was Hominy, corn hulled by boiling in lye and then boiled in water until soft.

After harvest brother Jim returned to Ills often selling out his interest in the crop and team to me which put me in debt to him and left me feeling more lonely and desolate than I had ever felt in my life. My wife also partaking of the same feeling to such and extent as to amount to homesickness.

Here my first serious trouble in life overtook me. I could not have sold out at any price. In debt and what surplus produce as I had for sale it was not possible to dispose of for cash. For a year I do not think that I recieved on dollar in cash except $5.00 that father gave me while out on a visit, to pay my taxes and to buy some salt. I managed to feed out a large portion of my crop in wintering my first yoke of oxen I traded two hundred bushels of corn for an old mare so I once more was the owner of a horse to ride in gettting up my team which would often stray miles from home.

Our first child born in Iowa (having lost two in infancy in Ills) was Olive L was about eight months old when she and I both took the measles from which I came near dying and was so delayed with my spring work that I very nearly missed a crop. I had promised my wife a visit to Ills. After harvest.

I was too poor to think of such a trip only that my wife had become so homesick that it was indispensible to her happiness that we should go, I traded one yoke of my oxen for a pair of 3 year old steers and got ten dollars to boot with which to defray our expenses on a trip of over 200 miles and return.

We started on the 23 day of August 1852. The day that Ollie was a year old. Brother Jim having returned to Iowa to see to my affairs during out absence furnished me a horse to mate the one I had which I drove to a covered market wagon kindly furnished me by a neighbor by the name of Seary.

I took a chill the day before we started but so anxious was I to see my old neighborhood, friends and relatives, that I lost all Purdence if I even had any, and started on the journey. We had fortunably for us distant relatives friends and acquaintances living at intervals all along the route so that we could put up with some of our acquaintance every night except one on the whole trip.

I had the agree regularly every day and grew worse from day to day until the last day in getting to fathers I lay in the bottom of the wagon most of the way. I took to the bed next morning and father summoned De Lairs who decided that I had Tyfoid fever. I lingered near deaths door for weeks and finally in Oct. made my way back to our cabin in Iowa. My health continued poor through the winter and had not brother Jim stayed with me and helped me through the winter I think that should never have seen the spring.

Early in the spring of 1853 I was surprised by the arrival of Tho Hayby and Tho C Beach only a day or two apart, both old acquaintances and friends from Scott co. Ills. Looking for homes in Iowa. We did all we could to induce them to settle near us. Beach finally bought near us and returned to Ills. For his wife Hayby rented land and raised a crop with me boarding with us. Bro Jim also boarded with us so we felt more at home than ever since our first winter in Iowa. Beach returned in May having married my cousin Martha Campbell daughter of Uncle Joseph Campbell. We enjoyed ourselves finely during the summer in interchanging visits and helping each other with our crops until after harvest. Hayby went to Ills for a wife and brother Jim went along to bring a cow apiece that father gave us in company with a drive that Hayby was bringing back with him. We had begun to make some calculations for future operations as there was by this time some market for our produce tho at low prices. Before my brothers return my wife was taken seriously sick and died Oct 17th 1853 after suffering for a number of days with inflammation of the bowels. No pen can describe my feelings at this time left as I was with one child a little over two years old having buried an infant which lived but a short time only a few days previous to my wife's death. After some deliberation I concluded to sell my personal property and pay up my debts so after making a sale at which I realized but little more that enough to pay my debts I took Ollie in a one horse buggy and took her to my fathers in Scott co., Ills. And after my return to Iowa engaged to teach school during the winter at the Miller school house. In the spring of 1854 Jim Company with A. P Kitchm started on horseback for Scott co. Ills where I taught school during the summer and the next winter.

Thomas B. Campbell


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