The collection was originally called the David Campbell Papers, but was changed to reflect the presence of papers originating from other relatives. Members of the Campbell family represented in the collection:
- Campbell, David, 1779-1859
- Campbell, William Bowen, 1807-1867
- Campbell, Arthur, 1742-1811
- Campbell, John, 1789-186?
- Campbell, James, 1794-1848
Family, business, and political correspondence of David Campbell (1779-1859), governor of Virginia, 1837-1840, lieutenant colonel in the War of 1812, major general in the state militia west of Blue Ridge mountains; and of William Bowen Campbell (1807-1867), governor of Tennessee, 1847-1848, and member of U.S. Congress, 1837-1843, 1865-1866; and of their families, friends, and political associates.
David Campbell (1779-1859), a deist and devotee to the reforms of the American Revolution, left a set of remarkable papers concerned with many activities, including education, politics, wars, religion, household economy, methods of travel, slavery, secession, commission business, settlement of the old Southwest, legal practice, and general mercantile pursuits. Included also are many letters concerned with the War of 1812, in which he served as major and lieutenant colonel of infantry, with information bearing on quarrels among officers, inefficiency of military organization, courts-martial, lack of patriotism, and promotion of officers over their seniors.
From 1814 until 1837, while David Campbell was political leader of western Virginia, his papers reflect his career, throwing light on state politics, state militia, affairs of the office of clerk of court, which position he held, many intimate details of the Virginia Assembly, in which he served, 1820-1824, and accounts of various journeys made to Philadelphia when buying goods for his mercantile establishment in Abingdon. Campbell's papers for 1837-1840 contain material on the common schools, the panic of 1837, establishment of the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, and the state asylum for the deaf, dumb, and blind. After 1840 his papers refer to his activities as school commissioner, as trustee of an academy and of Emory and Henry College, Washington County, Virginia, as justice of the peace, and as a planter.
In letters to his wife, his nieces, and his nephews are many references to Thomas Mann Randolph, Winfield Scott, the bank and sub-treasury of the Jackson-Van Buren era, disapproval of emotion in religion, concern for the plight of the free Negro, and interest in historical works and literature. Included also are accounts of various Revolutionary battles in which his forebears took part, of the early history of the Abingdon vicinity, and of religious denominations.
Letters, 1785-1811, to David Campbell include those of his uncle, Arthur Campbell (1742-1811), famous Indian fighter and Revolutionary patriot, containing treatises on democratic government; comments on thought of French philosophers of the eighteenth century; reminiscences of the Revolution; and comments on European affairs, especially the rise of despotism under Napoleon. Other letters to David Campbell include many from William C. Rives during the most active period of Campbell's leadership in Virginia politics. Letters to Maria Hamilton (Campbell) Campbell (1783-1859), wife of Governor David Campbell, from her father, Judge David Campbell (1753-1832), contain information on the early settlement of eastern Tennessee, government and politics of the young state, and information on Archibald Roane, his brother-in-law and an early governor of Tennessee.
Letters of John Campbell (1789-186?), member of the executive council of the governor of Virginia, member of the state constitutional convention of Alabama, 1819, treasurer of the United States, and brother of Governor David Campbell, contain information on student life at Princeton College, Princeton, New Jersey, prominent men and events in Richmond, 1810-1817 and 1819-1829, War of 1812, John Taylor of Caroline, Virginia penitentiary, Spencer Roane, states' rights, Lafayette's visit, Jacksonian campaign of 1824-1828, Virginia constitutional convention of 1829, Richmond Theatre fire of 1811, Andrew Jackson as president, Peggy O'Neale affair, storage of specie in 1837, rise of the Whig party, Washington gossip, and Washington bureaucracy. In the letters of Arthur Campbell (1791-1868), brother of Governor David Campbell and government clerk in Washington, 1831-1851, are accounts of mercantile pursuits in Tennessee; Andrew Jackson; Thomas Ritchie; and Washington gossip.
Letters of James Campbell (1794-1848), lawyer and member of Tennessee legislature, contain accounts of his college life and studies at Greenville, Tennessee, law practice in Tennessee, settlement of Alabama, Tennessee legislation, literary and historical works, the theater in Nashville, and dramatic literature of his day.
Letters and papers of Governor William Bowen Campbell, nephew of Governor David Campbell, contain accounts of his legal training in the law school of Henry St. George Tucker at Winchester, Virginia; law practice in Tennessee; services as circuit judge; activities in Creek and Seminole wars, 1836; small-scale farming operations; mercantile establishment in Carthage, Tennessee; firm of Perkins, Campbell, and Company, commission merchants in New Orleans; banking business as president of the Bank of Middle Tennessee at Lebanon; Mexican War; activities of the Whig party in Tennessee; career as governor; plans to prevent secession; bitter local fighting of the Civil War; and his career as a Unionist during and after the war, including his disappointment in methods of Reconstruction by Congress while he was a member of that body in 1865-1866.
Of the many letters by women, those of Virginia Tabitha Jane (Campbell) Shelton, niece and adopted daughter of Governor David Campbell, contain valuable information on social events in Richmond while her uncle was governor; household economy; dress; slavery; methods of travel; literary works; conditions of Union University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Brownsville Female Academy, Brownsville, Tennessee, and West Tennessee College, Jacksonville, Tennessee, where her husband, William Shelton, taught; political campaigns; slavery; and a variety of items important in the social history of the period. Included in the collection also are the letters of Adine Turner, remarkable for their literary excellence and sparkling wit. Numerous letters from relatives in Arkansas reveal much information connected with the early history of the state. Letters of the McClung family of East Tennessee contain information on the settlement, growth, and Civil War in that area.
Also included are papers for several related families, including the Owens, Montgomerys, Kelleys, and Newnans. Papers, 1811-1831, concern the estate of Hugh Montgomery, and a Moravian tract on that land. Letters in the 1830s include several from Daniel Newnan, U.S. congressman from Georgia, dealing with Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and political corruption. Letters of the Owen family, originally of North Carolina, deal with Daniel Grant, a Methodist minister of Georgia, 17881796, his opposition to the Baptists, and the disturbance of his conscience by the question of owning slaves; the Great Revival of 1800 as described by Thomas Owen; and medical education in Philadelphia of John Owen, 1810-1812, and of his sons, Benjamin Rush Owen (1813-1849) and John Owen (1825-1889). Papers of David C. Kelley include letters concerning his education in medical school at the University of Nashville, 1850s, and his service as missionary in China, along with his wife, Amanda (Harris) Kelley, 1855; several writings by him, including "A New Philosophical Discovery"; legal papers; and family correspondence with his second wife, Mary Owen (Campbell) Kelley, 1870s and 1880s, and his son, David C. Kelley, Jr., 1890s and early twentieth century.
Genealogical material includes two notebook tablets containing copies of North Carolina and Tennessee wills, deeds, marriage records, and other documents pertaining to the Wherry, Bowen, Montgomery, Newnan, Campbell, and Kelley families. There are religious writings, poetry, leaflets, booklets, and clippings. Volumes are chiefly account books of Governor William B. Campbell. Also included are a daily journal kept by David Campbell while governor of Virginia, a volume containing copies of his wife's letters to him, 1812-1825, a short diary kept by William B. Campbell during the Mexican War, a diary of John D. Owen, and a photograph album containing pictures of members of the Campbell, Kelley, Pilcher, Owen, and Lambuth families.
Among the correspondents are Joseph Anderson, William S. Archer, Alexander Barry, Thomas Barrow, John Bell, William Blount, Willie Blount, O. H. Browning, William G. Brownlow, B. F. Butler, Joseph C. Cabell, A. Campbell, David Campbell, William B. Campbell, William P. A. Campbell, Newton Cannon, Mathew Carey, George Christian, Henry Clay, Thomas Claiborne, I. A. Coles, Edmund Cooper, J. J. Crittenden, Claude Crozet, Jefferson Davis, L. C. Draper, J. H. Eaton, Benjamin Estill, Emerson Etheridge, M. Fillmore, S. M. Fite, William H. Foote, E. H. Foster, Joseph Gales, Horatio Gates, M. P. Gentry, William A. Graham, Felix Grundy, A. Hayne, G. F. Holmes, George W. Hopkins, Andrew Jackson, Cave Johnson, Charles C. Johnston, William B. Lewis, L. McLane, Bishop James Madison, A. J. Marchbanks, P. Mayo, R. J. Meigs, William Munford, P. N. Nicholas, A. O. P. Nicholson, Thomas Parker, John M. Patton, Balie Peyton, Timothy Pickering, Franklin Pierce, J. R. Poinsett, James Knox Polk, William C. Preston, J. A. Quitman, J. G. M. Ramsey, T. J. Randolph, T. M. Randolph, William C. Rives, Thomas Ritchie, A. Roane, Wyndham Robertson, Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Ruffin, Benjamin Rush, John Rutherfoord, Winfield Scott, Alexander Smith, William B. Sprague, A. Stevenson, Jordan Stokes, W. B. Stokes, A. H. H. Stuart, Johnston Taylor, Zachary Taylor, Waddy Thompson, H. St. G. Tucker, Martin Van Buren, J. W. C. Watson, Daniel Webster, Gideon Welles, H. L. White, J. S. Yerger, and F. K. Zollicoffer.
From Guide to the Cataloged Collection in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, by Richard C. Davis and Linda Angle Miller, (Duke University, 1980).