The trite saying “Truth is stranger than fiction” finds its fulfillment in the life of the Rev. Alexander Campbell, who was born in a log cabin in the Province of Quebec, three miles from any house, and nine miles from a settlement. His parents were puritanical enough to believe in work as a means of living in “Honesty as the best policy,” and in religion as essential to success in life. Hence his father, a farmer and a sturdy Presbyterian, taught his boys not only the “Decrees of God and His eternal Purposes,” but also the use of the spade, the hoe, and the woodman’s axe.
Mr. Campbell’s early days were spent in the rude rough work incident to clearing a farm and making a home in the backwoods of a poor country. He learned to read, but it was by earnest effort and by the light of the fire on the old hearth stone. He never even saw a school house or a schoolmaster until he had attained his majority; and the only books which he remembers having seen were the Bible, the Confession of Faith, and Boston’s “Fourfold State.” But though thus utterly devoid of opportunity, even while very young, he had strong desires for education; and these desires continued to increase until they became the ruling power of his soul, and led him against his mother’s entreaties and his father’s counsels, to seek in a strange land, that which he esteemed so dear, but which he could not find at home.
His struggles and privations for education were protracted and great. Funds being refused at home, he had to depend on himself and his God. At one time he had to trade his hat; at another to sell his dictionary; and at another to travel hundreds of miles to college, living on biscuit and water, that he might be able to prosecute his studies. But he persevered and succeeded, having, before entering the ministry and commencing his theological course, spent two years in earnest study at Derby Center, Vermont; one year and a quarter at Fort Edward, New York; and a little more than two years at Victoria College, Ontario, and these but sufficed to lay the foundation upon which Mr. Campbell has been assiduously building.
His theological difficulties were almost as great as his educational. At the time of his conversion to God, he was a firm believer in all the five points of Calvinism. And that he might be able to give a reason of the hope that was in him, he began to study the Bible for the purpose of proving his creed. For a time he succeeded quite to his own satisfaction, and became zealous indeed in propagating his faith. But doubts arose. He read, he thought, he prayed; renounced Calvinism, and entered the ministry of the Methodist church of Canada. After the usual probation, he was married to Miss Clemmie Abbott, a lady of rare amiability and goodness. Her society he enjoyed but two brief years. She fell a victim to Canadian cholera. He lived for nearly seven years a widower, and then married her sister, Miss Hattie Abbott, who now, with two little girls, “Florrie” and “Gertie” adorn his home.
He has labored with acceptance and success on such important circuits as Napanee, Cornwall, Sherbrooke street, Montreal; and Ottawa, west.
He is yet in the prime of life, and bids fair for years. of usefulness a man of pure purposes, of strong convictions, of earnest effort and of indomitable courage. His motto through life has been: “Be sure you are right, and then go ahead.” And his own life illustrates the correctness and value of the motto. He has already accomplished more than most men ever do. May his faith, friends, and success be multiplied ten fold.