Thomas Campbell

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1786 - 1850



The subject of this notice was born in York District, South Carolina, October 31, 1786. While young he immigrated to Caldwell county, Kentucky. His parents were strict Presbyterians. He was married to Miss Elizabeth Robison March 22, 1810. He was first aroused to a sense of his lost condition under the preaching of Revs. Finis Ewing and William Barnett about the year 1815. He sought and found peace with God at his own home. His daughter, Mrs. Eliza J. Hughes, of Nilwood, Illinois, from whom we have received much that is herein written, says she has heard her father express himself about this event often, and he said: "It seemed as if all nature was changed to loveliness and praise: even the trees looked more beautiful than ever before." He soon felt it his duty to preach the gospel; and although he was married, and had a rising family, he placed himself under the care of the Anderson Presbytery, and was licensed by that Presbytery with Woods M. Hamilton and Gilbert Dodds.

He moved to Illinois in 1820 and settled temporarily in Pope county, having rented out his farm in Kentucky. He remained there only a year or two, and went back to Kentucky, where he stayed but a short time. Then he sold out and removed in 1823 to Sangamon county, Illinois, where he spent the remainder of his life. His home was on what was called "Little Spring Creek." He bought an improvement and entered the land a the first land sales ever opened in Springfield.

We find he presented a letter of dismission and recommendation from Anderson Presbytery to Illinois Presbytery as a licentiate October 5, 1824, and was received. This session of Presbytery was held at old Hopewell church, in White county. He was ordained to the whole work of the ministry at Bear Creek church, Montgomery county, in April, 1825. Rev. D. W. McLin preached the ordination sermon, presiding and giving the charge also.

Like most of the ministers of his day, his opportunities were limited to procure an education, and, the country being new, he had to make his own living on his farm. But he was very industrious and studious, and passed a creditable examination on the English sciences required by the Book of Discipline. In looking over the records of his Presbytery we find him usually present at her meetings, and always taking an active part in her proceedings. He studied the Scriptures. They were emphatically the source from whence he derived most of his information. He was provided, however, with the commentaries both of Clark and Henry. He preached without manuscript: did not use even notes, and always held up Jesus and his cross in every sermon. He was greatly useful, and much beloved by those who knew him. He traveled far and near across the wild prairies to carry the news of salvation to the people, who always heard him gladly. His own house in Sangamon county was a preaching place and a place for Sunday-school. A Sunday-school was organized in his house, with David S. Taylor as superintendent. He and his wife first united with a little society four miles from his home at the house of Abraham Duff, where Mr. Campbell preached for several years. He aided in building up a number of congregations in that and adjoining counties. Of course, when Sangamon Presbytery was stricken off from Illinois Presbytery he was included in the membership of Sangamon.

Mr. Campbell was the father of thirteen children, five of whom are gone to their final home. He was very strict in the observance of the Sabbath; was a strong temperance man--joined the "American Temperance Society" long before the "Washingtonians" or any other temperance society was known. Says our informant: "He believed in the life and power of religion, preached repentance to sinners and perseverance to Christians, preached in the power and demonstration of the Spirit, and usually got hold of the feelings of the people." The same party relates this incident: "Once, when he was preaching at a camp-meeting at Rock Creek, while speaking of the sinner's lost condition, he related a circumstance that happened when he was living in Pope county of a little girl who was lost and never found. A stranger in the audience was so wrought upon that he cried out with alarm at the top of his voice."

His death was very sudden and unexpected. It occurred on the 11th of May, 1850. His disease was something like cholera, although there was not thought to be any in the country that year. He felt a little unwell in the morning, but ate his breakfast as usual and went out in the field to plant corn. His son saw him fall on his face. He was carried or hauled to the house, a doctor sent for, but before his arrival he was dying, and soon after expired. There was no minister near enough to attend the funeral, but a large concourse of citizens and neighbors followed him to the grave. At the time of his death he was a member of Harris Presbytery, (which only existed a year or two, being a part of Sangamon Presbytery, it was re-attached,) which, at its session in October following, adopted an appropriate minute respecting the death of Mr. Campbell. He was buried in what is called the "Morgan grave yard." Some years later his companion, a very worthy Christian woman, was laid by his side. His grave has a neat but plain tomb-stone, with his name, birth, death and calling, and then this sentence: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The death of Mr. Campbell occurred before our acquaintance in the State, but we have found plentiful evidences of his activity and great usefulness all over the interior counties.
[Source: Logan, J. B. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Illinois, Containing Sketches of the First Ministers, Churches, Presbyteries and Synods; also a History of Missions, Publication and Education. Alton, Ill.: Perrin & Smith, 1878, pages 209-211]

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Updated February 23, 2016