The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia


CAMPBELL, W. W. Hon. - Cherry Valley

When the bloody and bitter persecutions of the seventeenth century 
were dividing poor Scotia into fragments, and banishing her sons to 
other and more peaceful climes, the ancestors of the subject of our 
present sketch took a last, long, lingering look at the lovely purple 
heather of their native hills of Argyleshire, and fled for refuge into 
the north of Ireland. The Campbells of Scotland, - there a well-known 
and honored name, celebrated both in song and story, - trace back their 
genealogy for more than eight hundred years. Of that portion of the 
family which fled during the earlier part of the eighteenth century; and 
James Campbell, the great-grandfather of the subject of this present 
sketch, settled, with a number of his compagnons du voyage, at a place 
in New Hampshire which they named Londonderry. We find them, 
however, among the earlier settlers of this Empire State, for this same 
James Campbell, not satisfied with his New Hampshire home, removed 
into this state in 1741. The beautiful valley of the Mohawk was at that 
time a luxuriant wilderness, peopled only by the red man and his prey, 
save where a few German families were scattered through it. Here he 
made his home.
Colonel Samuel Campbell, the son of James, was a well-known 
patriot of the war of the Revolution. He was an active and efficient 
citizen during the French war, and during the Revolution a garrison 
reared its protecting head upon his farm. He distinguished himself in 
the bloody battle of Oriskany. His son, James S. Campbell, the father 
of the subject of our sketch, lived in more peaceful days. He married 
a daughter of Colonel ELDERKIN, of Windham, Conn., with whom he 
settled amid the lovely surroundings of Cherry Valley, in this State, 
where, on the 10th day of June, 1806, a son was born to him. This 
son, now Hon. William W. Campbell, is the subject of this present 
brief memoir. The subject of our sketch, naturally of a studious 
disposition, was early placed at the Cherry Valley academy; leaving 
which he entered Union college, Schenectady, from whence he 
graduated in 1827. After leaving college he entered the office of the 
distinguished Chancellor Kent, and upon the completion of his legal 
studies was admitted to the practice of his profession, which he 
prosecuted with vigor and success.
In the fall of 1830 a society was formed in Cherry Valley for 
literary purposes, but especially for collecting the natural and civil 
history of that section of the country. The subject of our sketch,
having been requested to collocate and embody the results of these
investigations, conceived the idea of writing a history of the town. On
examination, however, he found its Revolutionary history so intimately
connected with that of the whole valley of the Mohawk, that he abandoned
his original intention and commenced his work entitled "Annals of Tryon
County, or the Border Warfare of New York." This is one of his best
works, indicating great research, and containing much valuable
historical information. Besides this work, the subject of our sketch has also 
produced the "Life and Writings of De Witt CLINTON," "Life of Mrs. 
GRANT", a missionary to Russia, "Life of Robin Hood, of Captain 
Kidd," etc.
Besides his published works, the subject of our sketch has 
delivered a large number of orations and addresses, equally 
distinguished for ability and erudition. In 1839 he delivered an 
address before the historical society of New York city on the life 
and military services of Gen. James CLINTON. On the 4th of July, 
1840, he delivered the centennial address at the celebration of the 
citizens of Cherry Valley. The oration was very fine, and was 
enthusiastically received by an immense audience. But meanwhile 
he had no means neglected the practice of his profession. In 1841 
Governor Seward appointed him master in chancery, and in 1842 he 
was further appointed commissioner of bankruptcy for the southern 
district of New York. About this time the political interest of the 
subject of our sketch received an awakening. In 1843 he was elected by 
the American and Whig vote to a representative seat in the congress of
the United States, where he succeeded in effecting great reforms in our 
consular system. In July, 1845, he delivered an oration before the Phi 
Beta Kappa Society of his alma mater, Union college. In 1848 he, 
together with John DEAN and John L. MASON, were elected justices 
of the superior court of the State of New York by a very large majority.
Subsequently, the subject of our sketch visited the Old World; not 
the least interesting portion of which to him were the misty purple 
hillsides and placid cold-blue lakes of the land of his fathers. While 
there it was his good fortune to be present at a reception of the
present beloved sovereign of Great Britain, an occasion which brought 
together all the Scottish clans, and among the rest the one from which 
he is descended. They gave him a cordial Scottish welcome. At a 
grand dinner given by the Celtic society, upon the beautiful lawn of 
the ancient castle of the duke of Argyle, the following beautiful
incident occurred, illustrative of Scottish character:
The president of the society, alluding to the subject of our
sketch, stated that there was one among them who had long been a wanderer from the Highland flock; who, indeed, now placed his foot upon the ancestral soil for the first time. He stated that his ancestors, nearly
a century and a half since, had been driven out of Scotland by
persecution for conscience' (sic) sake, and that he was the first of his
immediate race who had returned to the land of his forefathers. 
Belonging by blood as he did to a very old branch of the powerful clan
of Argyle, the president trusted that the society would adopt the motion
he had to make, which was that the gentleman should be elected an
honorary member of the society. The motion was adopted by acclamation,
and the health of the new member drank with Highland honors. Each
chieftain, standing with his left foot upon his chair and his right
resting upon the edge of the table, carried his glass slowly round his
head with his right hand,repeating in Gaelic, after the president,
"Neish, neish, sheel orra, neishe!" (now, now, here's to him, now!); after which the old piper of the Marquis of Breadalbane, who had been an attentive listener, struck up the stirring tune of the clan's song at the gathering in 1745,- "Oh, you're long in coming, but you're welcome," etc.
In 1857 the subject of our sketch returned to Cherry Valley, where, 
immediately after and without solicitations, he was nominated and 
triumphantly elected a justice of the supreme court. The office sought 
him almost immediately upon his return to his native town. No small 
tribute this to the legal ability and erudition of the subject of our
sketch, and an unanswerable testimony to the warm admiration of his
neighbors and fellow-citizens.
The subject of our sketch is possessed of a large and commanding 
person and fine presence. He has great abilities as a public speaker, 
with a full and free flow of chaste and eloquent language. He is a 
kind neighbor, a true and unwavering friend, and above all - that 
noblest work of God - an honest man. Too old himself to buckle on 
his armor and mingle in the martial strife of the late Rebellion, he 
sent his three sons to the army, and also contributed liberally, both 
of money and effort, to help on the war.
Though somewhat advanced, as years go, the subject of our sketch 
is, by his active and untiring energy, still in the redundant prime of
life. Active in every good work, esteemed by all who know him, may he
yet add many years of usefulness to those already so honorably spent.

Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 138


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