MONMOUTH, Ill. — In my five years of writing this column, I have chronicled the lives of Monmouth manufacturers, bankers, lawyers, judges, professors, writers and musicians, but never a pastor. Presumably, that’s because ministers tend to live quiet lives, tending to their flocks, which makes for rather boring reading, but this week will be an exception.
For many years, I have been familiar with the name W. T. Campbell, the longtime pastor of Second United Presbyterian Church in the 1880s and ’90s, but I never took the time to examine his biography. The man led a fascinating and meaningful life.
Born in 1836 at Antrim, Ohio, William Taggart Campbell was the youngest of seven children. At the age of 18, his family moved to DeWitt, Iowa, where he worked on his father’s farm and in 1858 married Rachel Bratton. They had two daughters, one of whom would die at age 4. When the Civil War broke out, Campbell enlisted in the 26th Regiment of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
Campbell was forced to leave the Army after contracting typhoid fever, so he served his country instead as postmaster of DeWitt. Following the war, he moved to Monmouth with his wife and daughter, enrolling in Monmouth College at the age of 30. Concurrent with his college studies, he studied at the United Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Monmouth, so that when he graduated in 1870, he was immediately licensed and ordained to preach in the Monmouth Presbytery, accepting a pulpit at Little York.
In 1875, Campbell was called to the pastorate of Second United Presbyterian Church in Monmouth — the “college church,” which had been founded 13 years earlier with President David Wallace as co-pastor. He would remain in that pulpit for the next quarter century.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Campbell devoted himself to the education of young people. He served as president of the Monmouth school board and for 30 years was corresponding secretary of the United Presbyterian Board of Education. He was also a tireless promoter of Monmouth College, serving on its board of trustees from 1875–1901.
But Campbell also had secular interests. After the failure of Monmouth’s First National Bank in 1884, he chaired a committee to establish the Warren County National Bank, pledging $2,000 for stock — an enormous sum in those days. Although the bank was granted federal approval, disagreement over who should become president caused Campbell and fellow minister D. M. Ure to withdraw from the venture, and it eventually folded.
In 1905, Campbell would again become active in a financial venture by joining a group of Monmouth residents in purchasing stock in the Iron Springs Consolidated Mining Co. in Utah. Convinced by Monmouth College alumnus J. E. Stewart that the gold mine was a potential bonanza, he and his wife journeyed to Utah to inspect the mine and was impressed by the operation. Two years later, however, the company declared bankruptcy, apparently due to mismanagement.
Campbell’s home life was no less active than his public life. His surviving daughter, Louie, graduated from Monmouth College in 1885 and married another Monmouth graduate, the Rev. A. W. Jamieson. Campbell’s wife, Rachel, was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and other local religious organizations. After her death from typhoid fever in 1887, Campbell became close friends with a friend of Rachel’s who was also active in the WCTU, and two years later the couple wed.
Like the Rev. Campbell, Jennie Logue had been born in Ohio, where she started teaching school at the age of 14. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, she graduated from Oxford Female Seminary in 1860. After serving as principal of her alma mater, she joined the Monmouth College faculty in 1874 as lady principal and soon became the Harding Professor of English.
Following their marriage in 1889, Jennie retired from teaching but became active in the community as president of the school board and a sought-after public speaker. She returned to the Monmouth College classroom in 1896.
In 1900, W. T. Campbell surprised his congregation by announcing his retirement, but was prevailed upon to remain another year. The couple built a retirement home at 915 E. 2nd Ave.
Meanwhile, turmoil was brewing at Monmouth College, as a financial crisis loomed and President S. J. Lyons lost the confidence of many of the trustees, faculty and students when he sought a program of retrenchment that would include replacing some of the older faculty. In January 1901, Jennie shocked the college community by submitting a letter of resignation “in order to free the senate from any embarrassment in dealing with the Department of English.” Later that year, W. T. resigned from the college senate, along with all the senate members and President Lyons.
Soon after, the Campbells left for a job at a mission church in Kansas City. In 1903, they returned briefly to Monmouth, but soon left for another needy church in Pueblo, Colo. The following year, the Presbyterian Church convinced him that he was needed become the traveling representative of its Board of Education, and the couple returned to Monmouth, where they built a new home on South Ninth Street.
Campbell’s extensive travels raising funds for the Board of Education made him a well-known national figure in the church, which in 1907 bestowed upon him its highest honor by unanimously electing him as moderator at that year’s meeting of the General Assembly in Denver.
The Campbells doted upon their daughter and grandchildren, often visiting them at their home in Rushville, Ind. When they spent the winter there in 1911, W. T.’s health began to fail. Diagnosed with transverse myelitis, he made plans to return to Monmouth, but died at Rushville on April 11, 1912. An overflow audience attended his funeral at Second U.P. Church, as Monmouth’s leading ministers presided over the service.
Jennie Logue Campbell would live another 26 years. She became the sister-in-law of widowed Monmouth College president T.H. McMichael, when her sister Nellie married him in 1934. Upon Jennie’s death in 1938 at the age of 94, the Chicago Tribune published her obituary with the headline, “Mrs. Campbell, Grand Old Lady of Monmouth, Dies.”
Jeff Rankin is an editor and historian for Monmouth College. He has been researching, writing and speaking about western Illinois history for more than 35 years.