Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Thousand Faces of Frank Campbell

In the mid-nineteenth century, a family by the name of Campbell emigrated from Scotland. Like other pioneers they brought a Bible, a rifle, maybe some seeds but not much else. Most of their possessions, if they had any, were left in Scotland. This family settled in New Florence, Pennsylvania, in the Allegheny mountains.

Like so many other families the oldest son, Frank Campbell, moved on west to East Tennessee where he taught school in the mountains. He later attended Maryville College near Knoxville. Founded by a Presbyterian minister, Issac L. Anderson, Maryville, is the twelfth oldest institution in the South. (Today, it has about 1200 students and its mascot is the “Scots.”)

Frank Campbell received a call the ministry and moved to Cincinnati where he attended Lane Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1912 and by then had married Gertrude Doling, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. He and his wife served in a “number of missionary Presbyterian churches in Tennessee and Illinois.”

The Reverend Frank Campbell was also a stand-up vaudeville comedian. He loved impersonations and “The 1000 Faces of Frank Campbell” became a regular feature in the small towns where he was pastor. The advertising read “Frank Campbell, Preacher, Lecturer and Entertainer. A man with a Message. Born in Pennsylvania, reared in east Tennessee and worked his way through College and the Seminary. Combines native ability with scholastic attainments and pleasing personality.”

Perhaps his most successful ministry was at the First United Presbyterian Church in Rochelle, Illinois, where he was pastor for 19 years. The church grew, he raised money and paid off the debt, refurbished the building and stayed until 1943. His wife was also highly regarded both in the church and the community.

Those were difficult years for this family of five. They lived in the manse at 420 North Sixth Street but it was not a great house. They had little money to spend. However, the family had a large garden and “some days all the food they had was spinach and root vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes and radishes.” But, it was a happy home and Mrs. Campbell was an excellent mother. The Reverend Frank Campbell would move on to other churches until he finally retired in 1969. I do not know when he died or where he is buried.

The two boys, John and Jim, once built a vegetable wagon and tried to peddle spinach to their neighbors with little success. Dr. Jim would later refuse to eat spinach, claiming he could get more “iron from sucking on a nail than eating spinach.” Many years later, this same Dr. James Campbell would live in Lake Forest, Illinois and drive a Mercedes, but he never forgot those difficult years in Rochelle. He also had his father’s gift for acting and humor.

Here is why I like this story. This family had almost nothing. In today’s society they would be below the poverty line and eligible for food stamps. But, all the children became highly educated and successful and they did it through had work and sacrifice.

The oldest son, John D. Campbell, attended Knox College and then Harvard where he earned a Ph.D in psychology. He served in WWII and wrote a book entitled “The Men of Company K” about his war experiences. (I recently bought a copy on e-bay and if you want to know what war is really like read this book.) Eleanor went to Monmouth College and then the University of Illinois where she earned a master’s degree in education. “Her husband, Dr. Frank Scharletzki, became the head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Maryland. “It was both remarkable and a tribute to the Campbell family that all the children were able not only to receive a college education, but to go on to graduate school as well.” Dr. James A. Campbell became a distinguished physician, educator and the modern day builder of Rush University Medical Center.

This story and all the family information comes from a wonderful book written by Malachi J. Flanagan, M.D. called “To The Glory of God and the Service of Man”. It is the story of James Allan Campbell and the history of Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Flanagan practiced at Rush his entire career but sadly passed away in September, 2009.

I have read the book twice and recently gave a copy to Dr. Jacob Rotmensch who is Mary’s cancer doctor. If you like Chicago history, especially its history of medical care, you will like this book. The book store at Rush told me it was out of print but I did find copies on the Internet.

The family story of the Reverend Frank Campbell is illustrative of the people Senator Jim Webb wrote about in his book “Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.” He called these people “poor but proud and stubborn as hell.” Wesley Pruden of The Washington Times calls it their “Mountain Pride.” These independent pioneers who traveled through Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri were “poor but proud and stubborn as hell.” My family on both sides made that same journey finally settling along Panther creek, east of Springfield, Missouri, where I was born and where we lived in a log cabin.

I don’t mean this to be a political statement because I know we all have different philosophies but are we losing that “Mountain Pride” that makes us independent and hard working? Jack Cafferty of CNN reports that almost half of Americans get some kind of government aid. Cafferty says: “With fewer than half of Americans paying federal taxes - and just about half get government aid - this country is headed down the drain and fast.” (I have waited until after the election to post this article, lest it be wrongly interrupted.)

Maybe we need a good dose of Mountain Pride - “poor but proud and stubborn as hell” much like the Campbell family.                   

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

The Scottish American History Club is part of the Arts and Culture Division of the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society/Chicago Scots.


  1. Roderick F. MollisonNovember 29, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    As usual a great little article by Mr. Rethford, not only because it underscores the determination and survival instincts of the Scottish people, but it also raises a point that is very much in the public mind as the end of the year approaches and the “fiscal cliff”.

    So far the Americans who have received the most direct and indirect aid from the governments have been the large corporations and banks. Rather than allowing economic outcomes to play out their usual course in the bankruptcy courts we were told they “were too large to fail”. Another way of saying that despite foolish and unwise investments, the investment banks were in a position to hold the taxpayers hostage. And immediately upon receipt of the bailout money the banks paid themselves obscene salaries and bonuses, to celebrate their failures and incompetence we can suppose. The people of the State of Wyoming receive per capita, the most government aid and assistance, but I recall CNN running a story of a certain Wyoming business owner, waving an American flag like a marine on Iwo Jima, complaining there were “too many takers, not enough givers”. Huffington Post wryly noted that same business owner had been the recipient of several non-bid government contracts for his wealth and enterprise. In the State of Illinois we are privileged to see government officials who retire with pensions two and three times their base salary, in jobs they did not work. And so it continues as it did once before.

    The sad history of Scotland, from the sixteenth century on, was one of overwhelming poverty, largely self inflicted by the Scottish nobility, in their rush to join their wealthy English counterparts. It ended when oil was discovered in the North Sea, but many of us might remember that it was poverty and sheep that forced our ancestors to immigrate. The passage to North America was not cheap nor was it free; many were not able to raise the necessary money to travel and stayed in cities like Glasgow where poverty and misery were taken as a natural form of living and existence. The survivors on both sides of the Atlantic had to be tough to survive, and many did not; a grim reminder of the price of failure to those who did survive. As the song “Flowers of Scotland” puts it so well, the past belongs to the past or so we dare hope. But when you live in a country that distributes 93 percent of its annual economic wealth to one percent of the population and seven percent to the rest of us, we have likely not seen the last of poverty and hard times.

  2. "Proud and stubborn as hell" - nothing much changes, we're still the same :-) Jo

  3. Last week I found your blog while surfing the net in regard to a book of poetry coauthored by FAC.

    'Grandpa Frank' married my Grandmother when I was nine (9) and was the only grandfather I knew. He was an interesting ‘old goat’ and a wealth of information. His extensive knowledge of literature allowed him to mesmerize ‘all us kids’, especially with his delightful oration of ‘Little Orphan Annie’ during Halloween. This talent began to evolve during his Maryville College days – when he earned tuition money by giving readings. He graduated from MC 1909.

    My brother and I would travel with Grandpa Frank and Reverend Brown in his old two door Ford Comet. In the spring he hauled us to a local farm to fill the trunk with a mixture of straw, hay, and cow manure to make ‘manure water’ for his prize winning Dahlia’s. In the fall of the year we would travel to another farm to pick apples, returning home to make cider using an ancient cider press. We would pick up almost any apple with ‘meat remaining’ - ignoring bruises and bugs – he said the protein added some kick. It was later discovered some of the cider would accidently ‘turn’ (hard cider) which was never shared with the kids.

    Dr. Jim, John, and Eleanor would visit Grandpa Frank and my Grandmother in Rossville IL from time to time but – and as a kid I did everything I could to stay out of the way. I know he was very proud of all three of his children – and said with a sly smile that ‘they was brung up poor but rite’… using some East Tennessee slang when he wanted to make a point. He was a proud man – independent, well read, well spoken, hardworking and well liked. He also authored three books, ‘Woodland Echoes’, Evolution, Genesis and Man, and Sermons of a Country Preacher. I don’t think any of these were best sellers

    Each fall he and my Grandmother packed the Comet to the brim and drove to Florida driving 45 miles an hour in the right hand lane. Living in a small trailer they maintained a small garden and ate a lot of fish, Grandpa Frank ‘passed’ in 1974 – and was buried with his wife in Mt. Vernon IL. My brother and sister learned a number of life’s lessons from him – and through his efforts I attended Maryville College and even graduated . I also listened to his stories on ‘keeping bee’s’ – which lead me to keep bees for ~ 20 years. (MC continues to be an outstanding small college BTW)

    One last note – I don’t think Grandpa Frank would mind if ‘people’ received support from the government – and ‘didn’t pay tax’. AND –on government aid - W/O being to political – please understand the percentage of people receiving aid is much greater than 50%… considering the farmers that are paid to not plant, for reduced crop production, for businee this and that - yadda yadda yadda…

    BoyHood’s Dream

    ‘Tis a sweet, wild world in his childish eyes,
    For he sees not the sighs, nor tears,
    But all of his Life is a song to him,
    As he thinks of future years

    He sees in his dreams the fairy dance,
    All glittering in silver sheen;
    He joins in their song so light and free
    And falls in love with their queen.

    ‘Tis a sweet, wild world, and a sweet wild life,
    My boy, you are passing through’
    So Drink it deep and linger long
    For dreams sometimes come true
    FAC 1909
    Ed Bush
    Bristol, TN