Tag Archives: Bessie Campbell

This week in history: April 11-April 17

What do you do with the niece who is quickly becoming the black sheep of your family??  That’s the question Hugh Campbell asks his brother Robert 168 years ago this week!  Hugh writes Robert from Philadelphia about their niece Bessie Campbell.  Bessie is the daughter of Hugh and Robert’s brother Andrew; Andrew sent her to America to “be educated”, or find an American husband.  But Bessie turned out to be such a hell-raiser that Hugh and Mary decided they couldn’t take her anymore.  On April 14, 1842, Hugh is obviously at the end of his rope with Bessie, because he writes “while there is nothing too much in her natural disposition, to admit of peace or happiness in my dwelling.  It cannot remain so.  She must go – where I have not determined, but she and I must part.”  Hugh says he doesn’t want to send her to St. Louis,  because he wouldn’t send Virginia a companion that didn’t suit Mary, aka he wouldn’t inflict Bessie on his worst enemy, much less Robert and Virginia.  He also says that Andrew doesn’t want her sent back to Ireland.  Read all about the Campbell trouble-maker, Bessie, in this fascinating letter!

Philadelphia April 14th 1842
Dear Robert
This morning I received and opened the enclosed letter addressed to you by Ann.  It is written in her usual pleasing style and contains nothing that requires comment.  She is a good sister – a sister that both of us should be proud of.

There is another subject, to which I wish to ask not only your close attention but your deliberate advice and opinion.  Bessie is a source of great unhappiness to me because in the first place her conduct in the family reminds me strongly of that of our sister Margery and in the second, because discord has arisen in my little family circle, in consequence of her tattling.  It is useless to give you details.  Enough for both you and me to know that while there is nothing too much in her natural disposition, to admit of peace or happiness in my dwelling.  It cannot remain so.  She must go – where I have not determined, but she and I must part.

Andrew’s letter begging me not to send her home has prevented me from arranging the matter long ago.  My only intention was to afford her a good education with the view of sending him back to disseminate it, amongst her sisters.  This I told her father and mother before they sent her and have reiterated the same in every letter since her arrival.  [End of pg. 1]

[Pg. 2] What course am I now to pursue?  Andrew says that sending her home will be injurious to her stand.  I cannot afford the expense of going there in these times – but if you think it right and if I should have to live on bread and water I will pay my last dollar to send her with the first safe company.

In a matter of this kind, I cannot ask you to take charge of her, nor to give a companion to Virginia who is not suited to Mary.  All I want is to know what you consider the best course in my present unfortunate dilemma.  I cannot express the mortification felt at this moment – the deep and painful source of regret and disappointment.  Her education and support for the last six years has cost me over $10,000.  This would not be worth a thought and could be more than repaid by gratitude, truth, amicability or in fact any thing to cause me to feel pride in her conduct or attachment to her character.  I am only sorry that the expenditure was made on her, instead of her fathers family – all of whom it would have educated well and usefully.

I find I have given you rather a long lecture on this unhappy subject – my heart is full of it at present and I cannot say less.  You must have been partly prepared for it from what I said when you were last in the city.  Your reply will guide me in my course of conduct towards Bessie.  Take a day or two to think of it and then write me fully in reply.  God grant I may do right n the matter.  It is somewhat more serious (or likely to be) in its consequences than most of the affairs I have ever been concerned in [End of pg. 2]

[Pg. 3] I hwrote your firm yesterday and have neither desire nor spirits to talk on business at present.  In remittances I am sure you will have done your best.  We will try to sustain you.
For some dayspast I have been engaged as an appraiser of the assets of the Girard Bk.  My colleages (appointed by the court of Common Pleas) were Wm. Patton Jr. and a brother of Judge jones.  The duty has been laborious and unpleasant.  Perhaps it may add to the lessons you already have had on corporation delinquencies, to know the result of our labours reported and filed this day.

The bill discounted of four classes amount to about $1,600,000 we valued at about $352,000.  The other assets consist of stocks, loans, steamboats, mortgages, etc. and cost the bank perhaps nearly $3,000,000.  We valued these at a little over $400,000.  The entire assets of a bank of $5,000,000 capital are appraised by us at $756,000 while their liabilities (as I was informed) are nearly $700,000 leaving but a small margin for the stockholders of only say $56,000!!!!!!
Our valucations is certainly a low one – and by energetic acton on the part of the assignees, in the depreciated state of the circulation they may settle the matter so as to divide something handsome on the stock.
My kindest regards to Virginia.  Tell her that we often talk of her and that she is kindly and affectionately remembered.
Very truly yours,
Hugh Campbell
P.S. The mail of this evening has brought a letter from your firm with $100 [?]____ note and $50 Bk of Metropolis.  Please say to J and A Kerr that the remaining $100 (being G Collins chick) is also safe to hand.  We will take up the remaining acceptance tomorrow.

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis


Hugh Campbell –

Bessie eventually WOULD go back to Ireland and be a companion for her aunt Ann Campbell.  Later, she married John Robinson; the two never had children.

Other Bessie letters:




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This week in history: February 28-March 5

This week we post a letter from Robert’s sister Ann Campbell.  Ann is in Ireland and has apparently not been feeling well.  The letter almost makes it sound like she may be on her deathbed, but she would in fact live till 1876.  Ann tells Robert how much she thinks of him and how often he and his family are in her prayers.  Ann Campbell lived in Aughalane House, which is now part of the Ulster American Folk Park.  Enjoy getting all the news from Ireland.

Aughalane March 5th 1856

My Beloved Brother Robert
Your affectionate letter did me so much good, it was more to me  than all the medicine in Europe, it really did exhilarate me and  made me so happy that I am sure your kind heart would rejoice to  see me.

It is a year since I wrote you and finished my farewell letter  that I began the previous January.  The doctors ordered me as  soon as summer would commence to go to the shore but on the first week in July I was fainting from extreme weakness.  I had to  leave the house to get two floors that were badly laid made  right, as I could not endure the noise of the hammers; so I went  to Jane McHarlands’ [McFarlands?] with Annie’s attention and kindness (for her  disposition is like yours) thank God I felt stronger although I  was with her but ten days on 16th Aug I went to Hugh McCullough  Margt was also very attentive and I was enabled through divine  assistance to proceed to [?]_______.  I returned home on 16th  Sept and the day previous to my return

[Pg. Break] I walked six miles without much fatigue.  Thank God I have been pretty well through the winter.  I was not in bed an  hour out of my usual time since I came from [?]______ ______ I  had the house [?]________ in March last and painted in September  both doors and windows are painted white: I thought all my dear  relatives would have been here before this; that we might meet  again under the roof in which we first breathed and may God grant with blessing I may not be disappointed yet I think He will  realize this favor to me and should I not be here the thought  that my dear brother would [?]_____ on my grave would be a  consolation to me now for to what purpose was all the expense the prepare the house the fine apartments that were always neat were enough for me but the hope of seeing you all did stimulate me to everything I did and made any little care I had only delight;  write me on receipt of this and say you will with the Almighty’s  help be here next summer; it might renew sister Virginia’s health that God may long spare her to you and give her permanent health is my fervent prayer.  I hope the sweet boy Hugh [Hugh Campbell, lived to 81] is well and also little Hazlett [spelled Haslett,  the first Hazlett Kyle Campbell, died at the age of 3] and the  other little fellow.  I trust he will be as healthy as the other  two are and God grant they may be as great a comfort to you

[Pg. Break] and their dear mother as you have been to me.  I hope I never do go to bed without wishing a blessing on you and yours and I trust I never will and that the hours of prayer will grant any requests for you and your family.

I was looking over a letter of yours the other day dated 11th May 1833 and the affection and love in it caused tears of gratitude  that you are still unchanged for the same kindness that breathed  through it pervades your last; Oh! that I may be grateful to the  great first cause for tis’ paternal care to an aged orphan in  giving such brothers as He has given me.  In the letter I am  speaking of Brother Hugh in a postscript [?]____ the decease of  your father in law on 5th of same month and adds I have seldom  met with a more amiable lady than his widow; nor more interesting children than his daughters; I am sure if there had been ten  daughters there could be none more amiable than sister Virginia  thank God she  is yours.  I trust her health is restored.

Andrew and his numerous family are well; both he and sister Betty are youthful looking for their age, his sons assist on the farm; they are like their mother’s brothers, genteel looking and tall  of their age; Bessie lives with me since I was ill she never  looked better in her life than she does at present; Virginia is  growing tall and is an amiable child.

[Pg. Break] Annie has a family of five sons and one daughter all  health a lovely baby died from her in Autumn; her husband is a  decent person and doing well the former has fours on and the  latter two daughters and one son; both their husbands have a fine share of business at [?]_____ ______.  Margaret is also doing  well and has three sons and one daughter; she is much beloved by  her neighbors.  Mary wrote of your kindness in relieving her from her difficulties; poor dear she was a stranger and in debt; the  Lord reward you for what you have done for her and though last  not least dear Charlotte.  She wrote me lately and John never  wrote a letter home but he was so good as to mention me; he was  always a favorite with his mother and I’ve thought there was  something very noble in John even when a little boy.  Give my  kind love to Mr. Campbell [?]_____ & Charlotte; I am so happy to  hear that she has a fine little child.  I hope it will live for a blessing to them, Joseph and Mrs. Campbell are well, she does  not visit much in Winter as she is susceptible of cold but her  health is good.  I do not know when I shall write my good  Charlotte, for I have not [?]_____ to do anything as before I was sick but she is devare she has my prayers, for her welfare.  May every happiness be sister Virginia’s and yours here and  hereafter is the prayer of your grateful sister
Ann Campbell

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Merry Christmas from Campbell House!

Merry Christmas to all from Campbell House Museum!  This week we post a letter that Anne Campbell wrote to her brother Hugh on Christmas Eve in 1842.  Hugh sent it to Robert some months later with an additional letter.  Anne is deeply worried about her niece Bessie, who had caused so much trouble in America that Hugh had sent her back to Ireland.  Apparently she is causing trouble there too, because her father Andrew started drinking again after Bessie came home.  Read all about the troublemaker of the family in Anne’s letter!


Aughalane Dec 24, 1842
My ever Dear Brother,
I recv’d sister Virginia’s very kind letter in this time as I may say I had no tidings ready at that time, at least none that would be agreeable to you.

Ten days after Bessie’s return home poor Andrew was sorry (as we all were at the event) and he again began in temperance in spite of all remonstrance he continued so late in Oct. since which time he has been strictly temperate.  Time winter commenced he had a school for his family every night and is schoolmaster himself it is wonderful how the very youngest is progressing.  But to return when Andrew began to drink Bessie grew quite uneasy and no wonder (as you and I know there is no being on earth that intemperance makes so great a change on) she told me there was two things she was undecided which to do, the last objectionable of which was that she would fly from her fathers and try to get service in some gentlemans family; I knew that this would not only blight her prospect for ever but blight the prospects of her youngest sister, therefore after consulting with my mother I told her should my days terminate in the workhouse she should e welcome to every kindness and attention it was in our power to pay her; she accepted and after being nearly three weeks in her fathers she came her permanently to reside.  The task is more arduous than I expected but to save a family from desolation was my aim.  My motives may be attributed to other causes.  I expect no gratitude from anyone on this the atlantic and will think myself favored if I escape censure Mother is old and taking care of her would be enough for one advanced in life as I am yet I never could forgive myself if anything disgraceful had occurred and the Almighty that saw the purity of my intentions.  I have no doubt will support me.  Poor Bessie is to be pitied her misfortunes were some of her own choosing.  I think Mr. Boyle was the cause of all for when brother Hugh was her in 1835 and ’36 he thought better not take any of Andrews children before that time he had certainly asked one of the children to educate it, and in another letter to make a little republic of it.  I told Andrew he did not want any of his children as I was allowed, but there hopes were aroused by former invitations and this with Mr. Boyles advice made them send her and surely an educated lady in an obscure country place is a pitiable object.  The first part of my life was chiquered [?] perhaps it is better for me now that it was not continued sunshine, yet of poor Bessie return has lain heavier on my heart than almost any occurrence of my life Mothers memory is not so good as usual but her health is pretty good Andrew and his family are well the clothes Bessie wears I washed in her fathers therefore we do not require a second girl.

Excuse dear brother so much of my own and other peoples affairs.  I trust in God that you, sister Virginia and James Alexander well, that dear name, God bless him, and bless you all.  You or brother Hugh are seldom many hours out of our minds, I feel pleasure thinking of you both, and foolishly conclude if I saw you every anxiety would vanish.
I am Dearest Robert,
Your affectionate sister
Ann Campbell

Dec. 27
Jack Young’s daughter Eliza Jean went with a young man the name of Gray, last night who lives near Gortin, she will be brought to her fathers to night when the wedding day will be set the young man is wealthy.

Dec. 27,
We had a very pleasant Christmas in Andrews.  James McFarlands child (Anne) is three months old all of them we hope will be with us as usual on Saturday brothers birthday.
The name of Annes child is Alexander it is interesting like herself.

March 9, 1843
Dear Robert:
This letter from Sister Ann explains and justifies Bessie in removing from her fathers house – but it is no apology for her indolence and refusing all kinds of useful employment.  If she were only to teach her sisters wash her clothes or do anything to show filial affection gratitude or common sense, I would readily excuse her.  I fear she will be indulged in her present course by our good mother and sister.  She certainly required rigid control.  Amongst them all she is likely to escape every restraint.
In Ann’s letter to me (inclosing this) she dwells on the financial affairs at great length.  It appears that Richard Key’s has not paid in full.  Ann does not like to have Andrew as a paymaster to her.  In fact it appears he will neither pay her interest (according to our instructions) nor give himself any trouble about any debt due her.  He considers all he gets as so much land off the sea – and doubtless thinks it would be like throwing it into the sea again to repay either the principal or interest!  He is not likely to get any more from either of us.
After all perhaps it is as well that she directed the money to be collected from R. Keys.  The fact is I doubt whether he is worth anything and believe it might have been totally lost if not then collected.  It is better that poor Andrew should have it than such to be the cause.
I really do not know how to advise Ann to invest her money.  She ought to avoid intimate friends – and she ought also to have real estate security.  Whom do you think she should apply to for advice.  She has now about $100 lbs. to invest.
You should write either to Ann or Andrew and give your views on all matters about which they have written.  I will not write till after you have written.
Yours truly,
Hugh Campbell

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis

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