Biography of the Hon. James Campbell
Clarion County, PA Biographies





CAMPBELL, HON. JAMES. In the year 1774 Robert Campbell, a Scotch Irish man, together with his wife and family, emigrated from the State of Delaware and settled in what at that time was the “Backwoods,” Kishacoquillas Valley,. Cumberland (now Muffin) county, Pa. The valley at that time was covered with a dense growth of tall timber, consisting of oak, chestnut, walnut, and hickory. Here he made himself a home, put up buildings, began farming, and raised his family. On the ioth day of July, 1824, he died, at the age of almost ninety four years, leaving four sons and two daughters surviving him.

Of these, the eldest son, John Campbell, inherited the mansion farm. He was seven years of age when his father came to the valley. At the age of forty years he married Rachel, the eldest daughter of John Oliver, one of the early settlers on the Juniata River, near McVeytown. She was frilly seventeen years younger than her husband.

They commenced house keeping in a double log story and a half house, located near the mansion house. In this they lived until the decease of their father, and in it their three sons and two daughters were born.

James Campbell, the youngest of the sons, and the youngest but one of the family, was born on the 25th day of July, 1813, and named after an uncle James Campbell, who was drowned in the Chemung River, while traveling in New York State many years before.

From a puny, sickly child, he gradually developed into a healthy, stirring boy. As he increased in years he grew strong, and like other farmers’ boys in those days he was put to work, and educated to steady, every day labor; learned the shorter catechism; attired in home made clothes and home spun linen he attended school in the winter and the Presbyterian Church on Sundays.

From his father, who was a well informed man, he acquired a taste for reading, especially historical works. Being dissatisfied with farming, he resolved that he would earn a livelihood in some other manner; the result of which was, that at the age of eighteen years, he started to school at Germantown, Pa., with the intention of acquiring a classical education. The academy was under the care of George Junkin, D. D. In the spring of 1832 Dr. Junkin was made president of La Fayette College at Easton, Pa., and nearly all the pupils went with him to Easton and started the new college with about one hundred students.

While here the subject of this sketch read Latin, and began the study of Greek. In the fall of 1832 the bilious fever broke out in the college; he, with others, had an attack of the disease, and as soon as able he returned to his home. In the latter part of the year 1832 he went to Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Pa., where he graduated in the class of 1837; then returned to Muffin county and began the study of law at Lewistown, Pa., under E. L. Benedict, and was there admitted to the bar in the spring of 1840. In the same year he came to the new town of Clarion, which had just been made the county seat.

On the first Monday of November, 1840, he, with twenty-five others, was admitted to the bar at the first court held in the county.

At first the prospect was not flattering to a young lawyer, as the principal business was controlled by the older lawyers of Kittanning, Butler, and Franklin. Nevertheless, Mr. Campbell was counsel for one of the parties to the first suit tried in the courts of the county, and by patience and perseverance established a reasonably paying practice, which continued to grow to such an extent that a partner was necessary to assist in the business.

He was a member of the committee who built the First Presbyterian Church of Clarion we would infer a working member, as we have heard that he rolled stone, shoveled sand, and as a lawyer, kept off creditors until money could be raised to pay for the church. In 1847 he married Nancy J. Hallack, daughter of Rev. J. K. Hallack, and raised a family of five children, all of whom, except the youngest, are married and have families.

In the fall of 1861, without solicitation on his part, he was made an independent candidate for president judge of the Eighteenth Judicial District, composed of the counties of Mercer, Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, and Forest, and was elected by a handsome majority. This was a large and laborious district, Venango county at that time being the center of oil development, that occasioned a vast increase of population and much litigation. Judge Campbell held as high as thirty two weeks' court in a year, traveling hundreds of miles by stage coach, between the various county seats in his district.

In 1866 the counties of Mercer and Venango were created into a separate judicial district, Judge Campbell remaining in the original district. At the close of his term, in 1871, he returned to the practice of law, and continued therein until the spring of 1886, when he retired from the practice to give his whole attention to his private business. Including the ten years on the bench, he was at bar forty six years. As a lawyer he stood at the head of his profession. As a judge he acquired a wide spread reputation. By those who knew him, he is esteemed for his ability as a lawyer, his honesty as a judge, and for his sterling integrity of character. He has prospered with the growth of the town and county. He has ever identified himself with the best interests of the community in which he lives. At the age of seventy three years, he is an active business man, retains all his early love for reading, enjoys the society of business men, and is hale and hearty, with a constitution but little impaired by a long and arduous business life. He is one of not more than five who remain of the first settlers of the town in 1840.

At the organization of the Clarion State Normal School, Judge Campbell was elected president of the Board of Trustees, and has ever been one of the most active and laborious members of the board. His contributions to, and labors in behalf of this institution of learning are a fitting climax to a life of usefulness and beneficence in a community where he cast his lot so many years ago.


From:
History of Clarion County, Pennsylvania
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of some of its prominent pioneers.
EDITED BY: A. J. Davis
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
1887


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