William Sloan Campbell

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1819 - 1889




William Sloan Campbell was born in Blount county, Tenn., January 18, 1819. When he was eight or nine years old his father removed to Monroe county, Tenn., where William S. was brought up, laboring on the farm in summer, and in school during the fall and winter. He began teaching school when eighteen years of age.

In the fall of 1835, near Madisonville, Tenn., at a camp-meeting, he professed faith in Christ, and at once united with the church, becoming a member of the Union Hall congregation. His conversion occurred near the same time as that of Allison Templeton, of precious memory to many souls.

He was early possessed of a desire for an education. His father, having a large and helpless family to support, felt that he had no means to spare to aid his son in that work, but, being willing that his son should try, gave him up to "paddle his own canoe," and he went to Madisonville and entered as a student in Bolivar Academy, then under the care of the Rev. Mr. Eagleton, of the Presbyterian church. In consequence of overtaxed energies health in some measure failed, and, his finances being short, he did not continue in school as long as he otherwise would have done, and he returned to teaching.

October 1, 1839, he was united in marriage to Miss Lorina T. Hendrix, daughter of Nathan Hendrix, who resided at Hendrix's Ford, on the Tellico river. After his marriage he taught school for some time in the Presbyterian church near Tellico Plains, of which the Rev. Hilliary Patrick was then pastor, and of whom he received private instruction, devoting all his spare hours to study.

In September, 1841, he and his young wife started for Iowa Territory. His ambition and determination as a young husband and father any who knew him can easily tell. His journal, kept during their travels and for the years of their sojourn in Iowa, is full of interest. When they came in sight of Burlington, Iowa, he speaks of seeing the "promised land."

He resided for a time in Henry county. Here his young and (as we may believe from his frequent statements in his journal) beautiful wife sickened and died, leaving him with two helpless children, one only a few months old. He who would read the soul of this bereaved husband must read, as the writer has done, his journal during this and many succeeding months.

Although the writer had known Dr. Campbell all his (the writer's) life, he had never supposed him a poet; but as he read over some entries in his journal he must confess a weakness near akin to tears. His wife had "gone before" November 23, 1842, and he spent most of the winter of 1832-3- away from his children, and much of it alone in a frontiersman's cabin, and as I read "Alas, I Have no Home," "The Dead," "A Lock of Hair," and other productions I could but feel that the touch of sorrow had been his, and his was a heart of tenderest love.

During the spring and summer of 1843 he was in very poor health; yet he who reads his accounts of his readings and studies can not well resist the conclusion that he was a great worker.

His book were few. His journal shows he supplied the lack--he borrowed. What he borrowed he read; what he read he evidently retained much of. Whole pages are devoted to a summary of his reading.

From the 7th of August to the 13th of September, 1843, he read through the entire Bible, beside much other reading. During this month of September he first states about reading the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith and the Bible together. What his conclusion was his after life must tell.

His careful manner of stating the contents of books read will commend itself to any student.

He had long labored under the conviction that he was called of God to the work of the gospel ministry; and he writes of himself, "that he resisted that conviction by every art his mind could devise." But alone upon his claim, with affliction upon his body, and an untold load of sorrow upon his heart, he turns toward God, and determines to do duty cost what it will.

In less than a year after his wife's death (April, 1844) we find him at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, placing himself under the care of Rushville Presbytery, which then embraced north-western Illinois and Iowa.

He now did what "the wisdom of this world" calls "foolish." He sells his claim in this beautiful land so that he may be able to make further preparation for his chosen work. And in June, 1844, two months after he was received as a candidate, he enters school at Cherry Grove Seminary, Knox county, Illinois, where he continued until March 11, 1846.

Young man, if you are seeking to become a minister of the gospel of Christ, and are hesitating about making needed sacrifice for the sake of obtaining an education, look at this brother's determination and ready giving up of worldly goods, that he might be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed," and hesitate no longer. Remember, too, that this step was taken while two small, motherless children were looking to him for support.

He was ordained to the whole work of the gospel ministry March 17, 1846. The Rev. Peter Downey preached the sermon and the Rev. Cyrus Haynes gave the charge.

July 7th, 1846, he was united in marriage to Miss Virginia W. Kirkpatrick, who survives him. They have had fifteen children, fourteen of whom are still living, and thirteen of whom were present at the home in Eldorado township, McDonough county, Ill., on the day of his death, June 6th, 1889. The remaining child was detained by severe affliction from being at the bedside of her dying father.

He preached for Walnut Grove (now Good Hope) and Table Grove (now Sugar Creek) congregations from the fall of 1846 to the fall of 1850.

During these first years of his ministry he felt keenly the trial that comes from lack of proper remuneration for labor, yet is anxious to press on.

When, in October, 1850, he returns from presbytery without any arrangement for preaching, he is sad indeed, and he writes, "I never intended to engage in any thing else; this, O God, thou knowest." And again, "Open some other door before me where I can support my family, and yet be useful in thy name." And still he writes, "My heart longs for the time to come when I can be wholly devoted to the work of saving souls." "Open the door before me, O God! that it may be all my business to cry, 'Behold the Lamb.'" "Shall I be always thus fettered and bound down to worldly toil and care for the support of my family?" "May thy glory be my beacon light, and the cross of Jesus Christ my polar star."

He begins preaching at Brooklin in 1851, and attending camp-meetings, and his soul seems fired with zeal at the prospect of work.

October, 1852, Sangamon Synod appointed him missionary at Springfield, Ill., at a salary of five hundred dollars. He visits the city the following January. His heart leaps with joy at the thought of giving himself to the work. He rented his farm and made needed preparation to go to his work. Alas! disappointment came. The synod failed in its engagements, and he is left without work.

June 2, 1853, he left Vermont, Ill., with his family, for Oquawka, Ill., where he began preaching in a hall in the town, and also at South Henderson church, five miles in the country.

In May, 1853, while he was absent at the General Assembly at Memphis, Tenn., death claimed his only boy, and he himself was near death's door from cholera.

September 13, 1857, he makes the following entry in his journal: "Up to the time of the commencement of this book I have preached 1,006 times, and traveled on purposes of the church 20,750 miles. Whole number of professions where I have attended 334; at my own points of labor 139; accessions in my own field 132."

October 16, 1858, he records the fact that his people do not meet half their obligations for his support, and he cries out, "Resting on thee, O God, may I be spared the pain of hearing my children cry for bread." At the close of the year he records: "The past year was one of toil, of privation, and often of want; and still God has been good to us; we have not really suffered, though often seeming to be upon the border of it.

After nine and one half years of toil in Oquawka and South Henderson he removes to his farm in McDonough county, Illinois.

If all the members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church could read the entries in his journal when he was unpaid as per contract, and see his inmost thought recorded there, they would certainly be more careful about meeting their obligations to their preachers. Reader, he turned with a sad heart to his farm.

In 1863, he preached for a few months for the Sugar Creek congregation, situated within less than a mile of his home.

By appointment of Sangamon Synod, he began the work of traveling among the churches of the synod, and preaching upon the pastoral relation, in December, 1863. During the year he preached 138 times, and traveled almost constantly.

April 29, 1866, he began preaching at Danvers, Ill., and entertains strong hopes that this will be a permanent work; but yet says should not this be the case, "I may still be compelled to remain on the farm, silent and sad." He visits home three times during the year, and two of these times to attend the meetings of his presbytery.

June 30, 1867, he began preaching at Bardolph, Ill.

April 26, 1868, he began preaching for the Sugar Creek church, where he had preached from 1846 to 1850, and also some in 1863.

February, 1879, closed his work at Bardolph. The church had been built up, and many souls saved.

February 13, 1881, closed his work with the Sugar Creek church--thirteen years continuously, besides four and one half years previously.

Reader, bear with me as I quote again from this brother's journal. He is now more than sixty-two years of age, and after referring to some of the members of this church (Sugar Creek) he says; "Others are old and tried friends, to whom I am much attached. Here are married and settled some of my dear children, and here about my home is the labor and preparation of more than thirty years; but if it is the Lord's will, and he will guide me by his grace and providence to prospective usefulness in some other field, I will leave it all, and go wherever the good Lord, by his grace, may send me, to labor out the few remaining years of this short life."

During the last years of his labors at Sugar Creek he also preached at Industry two years, and at West Prairie one.

The close of his ministerial journal, September 4, 1882, shows that he had preached 3,089 times, and traveled, for purposes of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, 58,820.

Dr. Campbell believed in, and practiced, that the church courts should be promptly attended. He was a great friend of, and regular attendent on, the synod. When absent his journal reveals sufficient reasons.

In 1875 he was chosen moderator of the General Assembly at Jefferson, Texas.

The last ten years of his life were years of suffering. The last six or seven years he was confined, for the most part, at home. He ever trusted in his Master whom he had served through so many years.

The great desire of his heart through all the years of his ministry was to secure a place where his whole time and thought could be given to the Master's business without any thing to divert his attention for a moment from that one work--preaching Christ. While he preached much, and would never preach without thorough study of his subject, yet the one burning desire of his heart was never fully realized. With all his longings for a place where he would be engaged in nothing but saving souls through Christ, yet he records many prayers for a submissive spirit to the leadings of his heavenly Father. May we not believe that the divine Master knew best, and that now all is clear to this brother on the "other shore?"

At the age of seventy years, four months, and eighteen days he "fell asleep." The Rev. J. E. Roach, of Macomb, Ill., and the writer, conducted the funeral services at his former home. The E.A.M. of Vermont, Ill., carried his remains to their resting place in the city cemetery.

Sadly he is missed, but his works follow him, and there will be many "stars in his crown of rejoicing" in heaven.

The writer bears his testimony that during the more than four years of his ministry in the neighborhood of Dr. Campbell's home he had every found him a true and worthy friend. "Peace to his ashes."

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, June 27, 1889, page 2]

List of Deceased Ministers

Name: W. S. Campbell, D.D.
Presbytery: Rushville
Time of Death: not listed

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1890, pages 38 and 137]


Foster, Robert Samuel and William Harry Foster, eds. Our Grandfather Campbell, Rev. William Sloan Campbell, D.D.: Teacher, Surveyor, Pioneer, Farmer, Minister of the Gospel, 1819-1889. Eureka, Illinois: 1958. [4 copies in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Day Book." 1836 to 1848. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Ministerial Journal." September 28, 1841 to January 1844. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Ministerial Journal." October 1844 to March 28, 1848. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Ministerial Journal." November 3, 1849 to September 4, 1853. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Ministerial Journal." October 19, 1853 to September 13, 1857. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell, William Sloan. "Ministerial Journal." September 13, 1857 to August 27, 1882. [Original manuscript journal in archives]

Campbell Family Information

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Updated 13 June 2022