The Valley of Heart's Delight

Pen Pictures- page 525-526

WILLIAM CAMPBELL, deceased. The subject of this sketch was one of  California's earliest settlers, and no history of Santa Clara County and of its pioneers would be complete without more than a passing mention of him. He was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, November 12, 1793, and was the son of David Campbell. Reared on the frontier, his educational advantages were exceedingly limited, but the experience of a life which covered the history of three wars, in two of which he was an active participant; a life beginning in the commonwealth of Kentucky and ending in the Golden State, --- this rich experience, combined with a keen observation and a retentive memory, more than compensated him for the lack of youthful opportunities. He was reared where they made men, physically and mentally. During the War of 1812 he served in a regiment of Kentucky volunteers, commanded by Colonel Caldwell. Little is known of his record as a soldier, but tradition has it that none were ever more ready for duty, none possessed more of the spirit of adventure, none bore the hardships of the march or of camp life more cheerfully than he.

On the twenty-fouth of September, 1816, Mr. Campbell wedded, in his native State, Miss Sarah McNary. She was not spared to him long, her death occurring November 16, 1821. Mrs. Ann L. Lovell, residing in Moreland District, in this county, is her daughter. For his second wife Mr. Campbell married Miss Agnes Hancock, September 24, 1822. She was a native of Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Mr. Campbell led the quiet life of a farmer of moderate means for nearly a quarter of a century after this marriage, in Kentucky and Missouri. Still the spirit of adventure was at times upon him, and finally, under its influence, he determined to remove to California. With his wife and children he made the long Journey, being almost three years in advance of the men of 1849. He settled in what is now Santa Clara County, and took an active part in the conquest of the country, participating in all the conflicts that took place in Santa Clara Valley. Naturally, he became one of the leaders in the work of developing the resources of this wonderful new country. Assisted by his two sons, David and Benjamin, he erected the first saw-mill within the limits of the county, for cutting the mighty redwood trees. He was a natural mechanic, being able to handle any kind of a tool, in working wood and iron. In 1847 Mr. Campbell, wishing to expedite the work of threshing grain, built for his own use a threshing-machine, probably unlike any other that was ever constructed. It not only threshed, but it separated the grain from the straw and chaff, having a capacity of ten to twelve bushels an hour. If not the first separator ever operated in the State, certainly it was the first one ever built in the State.

The foresight and prophetic predictions of the subject of this sketches to the future of this State will be remembered by numbers of the early settlers, many of whom paid but little heed to him at the time. Coming two years before the discovery of gold, he lived to see the wilderness changed to a garden, the deserts to an empire, and all the other great changes which time and civilization have wrought in the State of California. Mr. Campbell was a typical pioneer, possessed of a remarkably vigorous constitution, and a brave, undaunted spirit. He did fully a man's part in subduing the wilderness.

He was greatly bereaved by the death of his wife, which occurred November 30, of the year that he removed to California. She was the mother of seven  children, of whom only three are now living. Their names are: David,
[Ed note- Narrative of Crossing the Plains by David Campbell] a resident of Tulare County; Benjamin, whose history follows this sketch; and William G., whose home is in San Francisco. The names of those deceased are; Elizabeth, who died in Missouri, in infancy; Mrs. Sarah Findley, who died in Kern County, this State, June 28, 1869, in her forty-sixth year; Mrs. Susan A. Hargis, who died at Santa Clara, December 9, 1869, at the age of twenty-six years; and John F., who died in Mendocino County, October 9, 1879, in his fortieth year.

Fully ripe, like the grain for the reaper, William Campbell passed peacefully to the better life December 2, 1886. For years before his death he made his home with his son Benjamin, but he died while on a visit to his son David, in Tulare
County. He was a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he passed from this earth in the faith and hope of the Christian.

SOURCE:  Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H.S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. page 525-526 Transcribed by Roena Wilson


Biographical Sketch of William Campbell (1793-1885) of Santa Clara, California

by Phil Norfleet


SANTA CLARA COUNTY-The Valley of Heart's Delight