Biography - Hon. Alfred C. Campbell

HON. ALFRED C. CAMPBELL, a distinguished veteran officer of two wars, was formerly one of the leading farmers of this county, and, as the proprietor of a large and finely improved farm, is still identified with its agricultural affairs although practically living in retirement in his pleasant home at Moweaqua. He is a son of one of the early pioneer families of Central Illinois, is noted in its history as the third child born of white parents in Sangamon County and is thought to be the oldest white man living who is a native of that county.

Our subject was born July 22, 1819, and comes of good Revolutionary stock and Scotch ancestry. The first of the Campbell family to come to this country from his native heaths in Scotland was the great-grandfather of subject, who came here in Colonial times and settled in South Carolina. His son Jeremiah was the next in line. He was born in Scotland and emigrated to South Carolina, and went from there to Tennessee in the early years of its settlement, before it became a State and when the Cherokee Indians held full sway there. He I located at Hampton, Carter County and spent the remainder of his life there. He did valiant service in the Revolutionary War as a soldier under the gallant Gen. Francis Marion. His wife was a Miss Marr.

The father of subject, John Campbell, was born Nov. 24, 1790, in Carter County, Tenn. He was of a thoughtful and studious turn of mind, and made the best of his opportunities to obtain an education. In 1817 he came to Illinois, which was then a territory, and first located in Madison County. He was there married to Levina Parkinson, and in 1819 he started with a team for the unsettled wilderness of Sangamon County. He was one of the first to locate there, and though the land was not then in market he made a claim on Lick Creek, and after building a log cabin for the shelter of his family, he entered actively upon pioneer work that lay before him, of evolving a farm from the wild country in which he had settled. He was of an energetic disposition, very capable, and by hard and unremitting labor acquired and improved a large tract of land, and became one of the most substantial men of his township. A man of his calibre was naturally called to positions of trust in the administration of public affairs, and among other offices he held that of Justice of the Peace many years. Possessed of considerable learning himself, he had a just value of a good education, and did all he could to advance the educational interests of his township by building a hewed log house on his own land for school purposes, the school being taught on the subscription plan. Politically he was a stanch Democrat. He died in 1874, thus closing a long and well-spent life, and leaving behind him the legacy of an untarnished name that is held in reverence by all who knew him.

When Mr. Campbell became a pioneer of Sangamon County, there were but few white settlers in Illinois, the Indians still retaining their old hunting grounds to a great extent. Kaskaskia was the capital of the State. Springfield had not been founded, and St. Louis, which was but a village at that time was the nearest market for the settlers to sell their products and obtain supplies. The people were home-livers, having to subsist on what they could raise and on the game such as deer, wild turkeys, etc., which were abundant. The wives and daughters of the pioneers had to card, spin and weave the wool and flax raised by the men, to make cloth for wearing material and other purposes. The father of subject lived to see a great change wrought, not only in the face of the country, but in the mode of living and the customs of the people.

The maternal grandfather of subject was William Parkinson a native of Tennessee. His father, Peter Parkinson, was born in England, came to America in Colonial times, and spent his last years in Carter County, Tenn. William Parkinson was reared in Tennessee, and came from there to this State in territorial days. He was a pioneer of Madison County, whence he went after a few years to Lafayette County, Wis., of which he was one of the first settlers, and there he died in the course of time. His wife was a Miss Russell. The mother of subject was a worthy type of the pioneer women of Illinois who did so much to help their fathers, husbands and sons in reclaiming this State from the wilderness. She carefully reared a family of six children to the habits of industry and right living, of whom our subject is the eldest. The names of the others are William, Jeremiah, Joseph W., Peter C., and Caroline.

Born in the early years of the settlement of this State, our subject grew up amid pioneer surroundings, and was educated in the primitive schools of the olden times, which were taught in log houses that were furnished with rude slab benches, and greased paper pasted over the opening made by the removal of a log from the side of the building served instead of glass to light the interior. He was studious, and under such able masters as Daniel McCaskill, John Calhoun, who afterwards became famous in the Kansas border troubles, and Rowan Morris, he obtained a good practical education, including a good knowledge of mathematics and surveying. Thus well-equipped mentally, he utilized his education by teaching several terms after he attained manhood. He selected farming as his principal life-work, however, and was engaged at that in Sangamon County until he came to this county in 1851, when he chose a desirable location on section 4, township 13 (now Flat Branch Township), range 2. He developed a fine farm of four hundred and ten acres and also gave his attention to the mercantile business, opening a store on his homestead, which he conducted there until the village of Moweaqua was founded in 1856. He then removed his business thither, and carried it on here until 1859. Returning then to his farm, he made it his place of residence the ensuing five years, though much of that time was spent in fighting for his country on Southern battlefields. Since the war he has lived practically retired at Moweaqua, though superintending his farming interests, as he still retains four hundred acres of fine farm land in Moweaqua and Flat Branch Townships.

As before mentioned, Capt. Campbell has displayed his loyalty to the Government and his patriotism by service in two wars. After war was declared with Mexico he enlisted June 10, 1846, in Company D, Fourth Illinois Infantry, commanded by Col. E. D. Baker. He was elected Lieutenant of his regiment, and went with it from Alton to Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, whence, after a few weeks' drilling in army tactics, it was dispatched to Mexico by way of New Orleans. Ascending the Rio Grande River to Camargo, from that point the regiment marched back to Metamoras, and from there to Victoria, where on, subject and his command were placed under Gen. Scott, and bore active part in the bombardment of Vera Cruz and the battle of Cerro Gordo. At Tampico, the captain dying, our subject was left in command of the company, and acted in that capacity until the expiration of the term of enlistment, and returning then to Illinois, arrived about a year from the time of leaving the State.

Capt. Campbell's experience in the war with Mexico made his services valuable in the great Civil War that followed in the United States several years later, when he volunteered in October, 1861, and went to the front as Captain of Company E, Thirty-second Illinois Infantry, commanded by Col. John A. Logan. For three years he was with the Army of the Tennessee, and during the latter part of the war his regiment was a part of the Seventeenth corps. The Captain saw much hard campaigning aud fighting in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. He faced the enemy in the battles of Ft. Donelson and Shiloh, was active in the sieges of Corinth and Coldwater, and fought in the engagement around Vicksburg, Jackson and Kenesaw Mountain, and was with Sherman on his famous "March from Atlanta to the Sea," taking part in the various battles and skirmishes on the way. He was mustered out of the service in February, 1865, a war worn veteran, whose record as a soldier was bright and reflected credit on the military of his native State.

Capt. Campbell cast his first Presidential vote for Martin Van Buren in 1840, and for more than half a century has been a Democrat of the deepest dye. His party honored him by electing him to the legislature in 1880 to represent the Thirty-third Senatorial District, including the counties of Shelby, Effingham and Cumberland. A flattering majority of his fellow-citizens' votes sent him to the General Assembly, and he fulfilled his duties while there with characteristic fidelity and public spirit. He was at one time Justice of the Peace, being an incumbent of that office two terms. In his social relations he is connected with the Masonic fraternity, and is now the oldest charter member of Moweaqua Lodge, No. 180.

May 3, 1838, Capt. Campbell was married to Polly, daughter of Peyton Foster, and a native of Kentucky. Their happy wedded life of nearly twenty years' duration was brought to an end by the death of the faithful wife January 9, 1858. She was the mother of these six children: John P., a resident of Spokane Falls, Wash.; Elizira E., wife of James W. Clark, of Moweaqua; Sarah C., wife of Edward Segar, of Decatur; Leonard W., a resident of Dallas, Tex.; Alfred C., now deceased, who married aud left five children; and George W., deceased. Our subject was again married June 17, 1859 to his present estimable wife, formerly Miss Jennie Hurt, a native of Montgomery County, Ohio, and in her he has a true companion and devoted helpmate.

Extracted 17 Aug 2020 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 692-694.

Templates in Time