Tag Archives: James Alexander Campbell

There’s More to the Story: Halloween at CHM

The Campbell monument at Bellefontaine Cemetery here in St. Louis. All 15 members of the immediate Campbell family are buried here (legend has it that two of their dogs are buried with them as well).

The Campbell monument at Bellefontaine Cemetery here in STL. All 15 members of the immediate Campbell family are buried here (legend has it that two of their dogs are buried with them too).

October is an interesting time of year for us here at CHM.

On one hand, it’s a blast. We get to put up black bunting around the House, carve pumpkins, we’ve been on TV and in print a few times, and we even get to dress up for our Halloween Night twilight tours. On the other hand, a certain seriousness accompanies the season, especially when it comes to talking about some of the darker chapters of the Campbell family’s time in St. Louis. Though the Campbells certainly lived pretty well and had some beautiful things, this time of year brings into sharp focus the fact that having wealth didn’t necessarily make you immune to  tragedy. Ten of Robert and Virginia’s 13 children died before their eighth birthdays, eight boys and two girls. To put this in perspective,the mortality rate for white children in St. Louis in the 1850s was around 21%. The Campbells were pushing 76%.

Of the three sons to survive into adulthood, one died tragically at the age of 30 (James) and the other two lived increasingly reclusive and peculiar lives (Hugh and Hazlett). Hazlett suffered from debilitating mental illness as he grew older and by the time both sons died in the 1930s, neither had married or had children of their own – the Campbell family line ended with no heirs, despite Robert and Virginia’s best efforts.

These are all sad stories, no doubt. But they’re stories that need telling. There was more to the Campbells’ lives than fancy parties and beautiful furnishings (though there certainly were and still are a bunch of those things in this house). Join us the rest of this month here on the blog and then in person on Halloween night as we unpack the darker chapters of death, disease and despair that were a big part of 19th century life at the Campbell House.

psychic party graphic

Psychic Party at the Campbell House! Click to enlarge.

Upcoming October Events:

Halloween Twilight Tours
Friday, October 31 at 6:30 sold out!, 7:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Advance reservations required, click here to buy tickets online.

Campbell House Psychic Party
Hosted by Mr. Tim Rohan, Vice President of the CHM Board of Directors
Yep, this is EXACTLY as cool as it sounds. Join us for a gourmet selection of wine, beer, an open bar and gourmet hors-doeurves. One of three psychics will provide you with your own private reading. Click here for more information on purchasing tickets.

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Magical Mystery Tour, CHM style

Campbell House has its fair share of mysteries, ranging from odd architectural quirks of the building to questions about the intricacies of the Campbell family’s history.  But there are a couple recurring modern mysteries that rear their puzzling heads every few months here at the Museum.  Not that we’re complaining, in fact we look forward to them!  But that hasn’t stopped us from trying to get to the bottom of who’s behind them!

The Half-Dollar Donor

Every couple of months, we’ll go to open our big beautiful double front doors and find a silver surprise hanging out on the front steps.  Sometimes there’s just one, sometimes as many as three or four, but the gift is always the same: a Kennedy 50 cent piece.  The years on the coins range from 1971 all the way up to 1995 and, to date, this mystery person has left more than thirty of them!  A couple of weeks ago, two of the coins mysteriously appeared in the middle of the afternoon, between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.  Thanks to some nifty features of our security system, we could look back at video of our front steps during the time period and we found… absolutely nothing.  So the mystery continues…


Part of our mysterious collection of Kennedy half-dollars… they’re too cool to deposit!

Birthday Card Bewilderment

We’re always a little extra excited to get the mail when a Campbell birthday is coming up and we watch our calendar pretty closely as a result.  We obviously aren’t alone in our birthday vigilance, because on the birthdays of Robert and Virginia Campbell and their sons Hugh, Hazlett, and James (there were TEN MORE children, but unfortunately none survived past their 8th birthdays) a mysterious birthday card arrives without fail, marked with a return address of  “Somewhere in Time”.  Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated James’ (the baby of the family) 154th birthday and, like clockwork, we got a charming card in the mail.  What’s extra neat is that this mystery birthday card-sender takes care to get the cards in the mail so that they arrive right on the birthday itself- that’s dedication, folks.  Here are just a few of the cards and some of our particular favorites.

So there you have it.  Campbell House has oodles of mysteries, old and new.  Swing by and see us sometime, we’d be happy to give you the Magical Mystery Tour: CHM style.

Sorry, we couldn’t resist.

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This week in history: April 5-10 part 2

We have already posted Robert Campbell’s 1832 will.  Nearly 60 years later – 59 years minus 1 day to be exact, Robert’s son Hugh did the same thing.  Like his father’s 1832 will, this was not Hugh’s final will – he would write a later one to include bequests to faithful servants Gus Meyer and Mary Boerste.  The museum does not have a complete copy of this will, so only the first page has been transcribed; it is posted here.  However, this 1891 will did include a very large bequest to Yale University on the condition that they build the “James Alexander Campbell Memorial Building” and hang the portrait of James, Hugh’s youngest surviving brother, in the building.  Although Yale did use and recognize Hugh’s eventual bequest after his death in 1931, the James Alexander Campbell building as Hugh had envisioned it was never built.

After Hugh’s death in 1931, several parties tried to break his last will.  The lawyer who had prepared this will in Paris in 1891 testified in the case and described Hugh: “Physically he was sturdy, hearty, apparently well built, young and vigorous.  Intellectually he appeared well poised, entirely conversant with what he wanted in the way of testamentary disposition, was specific . . . as to what he desired to do for each.  he also manifested entire familiarity with the nature and extent of his property, real and personal.  In temperament, he seemed to me cheerful, hearty, and genial.”  We hope you enjoy learning about the thoughts of Robert’s hearty, cheerful, and poised son Hugh.

Hugh Campbell
Last Will and Testament
On French Stamped Paper
Executed this April 9th, 1891

In the name of God, Amen. I Hugh Campbell of the City of St. Louis, State of Missouri, and United States of America, temporarily sojourning in Paris, France, being of sound and disposing mind and memory do hereby make, publish anddeclare this and for my last Will and Testament, here, by revoking and annulling all wills and codicils by me at any time heretofore made.

Clause First-    I direct my executors herein after appointed as soon as may be after my decease to pay all my just debts and my funeral expenses.

Clause Second-    I give and bequeath to my friend Miss Lillie B. Randell should she survive me or if not to her sister  Mrs. Laetitia W. Garrison, both now or lately residing at Number Four (4) Great Stanhope Street, Mayfair, London all and several the shawls, laces, plate and other articles of whatever nature which may at the time of my death be contained in those certain cedar chests deposited by me and now on deposit in the Safe Deposit Company located in the building on the North West corner of Sixth and Locust Streets and between Sixth and Seventh Streets in the City of St. Louis, Missouri, also all precious stones, jewels and jewelry deposited by me and now on deposit in a box on the Safe Deposit Company located on the north side of…..[End page 1, for complete document, see originals]

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