Thomas Campbell, one of the best known citizens of Rock Island County was born January 9, 1842, in Ballyhaskin Parrish, County Down, Ireland. His parents were John and Margaret (McQuaid) Campbell, and of their union four children were born: Mary (now Mrs. Rutherford), Margaret (deceased), Robert and Thomas, the subject of this sketch.
The Campbells were originally from Scotland. About two centuries past the fore-bears of Thomas Campbell removed from Scotland and settled in the North of Ireland. February 11, 1850, when Thomas Campbell was eight years of age, his parents, with their children, left Ireland for America, embarking on the Elizabeth Augusta, a sailing vessel bound for New Orleans. The journey consumed seven weeks and three days. Upon arriving at New Orleans the family, having determined to come to Rock Island, took boat and proceeded up the Mississippi, but at St. Louis the illness and death of the mother compelled a temporary cessation of journey. Mrs. Campbell was buried at St. Louis and the rest of the sorrowing family continued upon their way to Rock Island, which they reached May 3, 1850.
On the first of May the following year, Thomas Campbell was taken into the home of John A. Boyer and wife. He attended the common schools of Rock Island, going three or four months in the winter, and spending the other months in farm work. He made his home with the Boyers until the death of that couple. Having no children of their own, they had made Thomas Campbell their heir, and they left to him considerable property, consisting chiefly of real estate. He continued to live in the old Boyer homestead until 1901, when he built a new house about two hundred feet south of the old one and moved into it. This is the only time that Mr. Campbell has moved since he came to Rock Island in his boyhood.
On August 9, 1862, Mr. Campbell enlisted as a private in Company I, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Seven companies were mustered in Rock Island County. All of them went to Dixon, Illinois, where they remained in camp three weeks. Then they were ordered to Chicago. While there one of the companies, (Capt. Williams’) went into the Eighty-ninth Illinois, and another (Capt. Ashbaugh’s) joined the Ninety-third Illinois. This left five companies from Rock Island County, and these, together with five companies from the southern part of state, formed the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. While they were in camp at Chicago, Harper’s Ferry had been taken. Some of the Union soldiers who were captured at that Confederate victory were paroled and sent to Chicago to Camp Douglas. One of them upon going to a sutler’s tent to purchase tobacco was informed by the sutler’s clerk that he “would not sell tobacco to a d coward.” This insult spread through the camp like wildfire and everything in the tent was destroyed by the enraged soldiers, so keen was their resentment of the insult offered their comrade. The other sutlers’ tents were guarded, or the same treatment would have been meted out to them. During this melee, through the accidental discharge of a soldier’s musket, Mr. Campbell was wounded, the ball passing through his left knee joint and crippling him for life, from the effect of which in 1900 he had to have his limb amputated four inches above the knee-joint.
Mr. Campbell was married September 7, 1864, to Mary J. Carson. Seven children were born to them, all of them living but one, who was killed in a railroad accident February 19, 1904.
Mr. Campbell has devoted his life to farming, his farm being located just outside the city limits of Rock Island, and being known to this day as “the old Boyer place.” For twenty-five years he has been crop correspondent for Rock Island County.
In politics Mr. Campbell is a Republican and has been frequently honored by his party, having held the offices of school director, road commissioner, supervisor, county treasurer in 1890, and on November 6, 1906, he was elected as a representative to the Illinois Legislature from the Thirty-third Senatorial District, which is composed of Rock Island, Mercer and Henderson Counties. His first presidential vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln on his second term, 1864.
Mr. Campbell is a member of John Buford Post, G. A. R. For about twenty years he was elected quartermaster, then commander, and at the present time he is chaplain. He is also a member of the Old Settlers’ Association.
He is affiliated with the First Baptist Church in Rock Island, and has been prominent in church work. For twelve years he has been a trustee and for ten years a deacon of his church.