Above is a photo that both returning readers and relatives (a lot of overlap, there, too 😉 will recognize.
There are a few copiesof this picture floating around amongst those of us descended from the fellow on the right, George P.B. Campbell (1835-1910). From the date written on them, we’ve always known the picture was taken the summer of 1905 in Georgetown, Colorado. And from written “records of the family” we’ve known three things: 1) that Georgetown, Colorado was at that time the residence of the fellow on the left in the picture: Thomas B. Campbell (1830-1907), eldest of the group of siblings; 2) that he and the rest of the family had lived in southwestern Wisconsin from 1844 to around 1880; and 3) that in 1905 they were the last living of what had been a brood of seven.
Seated next to Thomas (in the middle), Henry R. Campbell (1843-1913) was the second youngest of the seven, and at the time of this picture lived in Stockton, California, where he’d lived since 1874. Only George (on the right) remained living in Wisconsin, but not in the extreme southwestern part of the state where they’d all lived as boys, where their parents had died, where they’d all grown, married and had families, where their only sister and baby brother had both died some 40 years earlier, the area that even for the two brothers who went west to California was without question the family crucible and launch pad. Henry and George had served together in the Civil War in Company H of the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. (Here’s a narrative I wrote of that: GPBC CIVIL WAR1) In fact, it was an event oif the Civil War veterans’ organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, of which they were both members, that occasioned this reunion. Meanwhile, The 2nd oldest of the siblings, John A. Campbell (1833-1873) had gone overland in 1851; the 4th son Columbus A. (1838-1900), had sailed via Panama in 1858.
Thomas had had 8 kids, remarried after his first wife died and had three more kids before leaving to Colorado around 1879. George also had remarried after his first wife died and had had three kids prior to himself then moving to northern Wisconsin. Thomas had been a bookkeeper and shopkeep in what had started as a mining boom town. But New Diggings never made that critical transition away from economic dependency on mining. In the mid 1870s if mining boom towns was what you knew, the place to go was Colorado. Henry was also a bookkeeper, living just two doors down from Thomas; he left sooner (he had only three kids, so perhaps was able to save the money to go more quickly than Thomas) and opted for the help (possibly) of their brother Columbus out in California’s central valley (John had died the year before; perhaps Henry was to assist with John’s kids, too). George, on the other hand, had followed in the work of their father: he was in the lumber milling business, and by the mid 1880s one of the places to go if that was your thing was northern Wisconsin.
Out in California, Columbus died in 1900.
Thus, just from the barest knowledge that these three were the last living of the siblings–of a family that had been born and raised on the wagon roads through the Midwest, orpahend as kids (ranging from ages 19 to 3)–and that these three lived in truly far-flung locales (California, Colorado, Wisconsin), it was obvious that the picture was something of a big deal, or rather, had been taken full of intent to remember, notate, commemmorate.
Well at long last and sort of out of the blue, we now have–and I am tickled pink to present…
The story behind the picture,
told in first person
the oldest brother,
Thomas B. Campbell, himself
Here, then, is the account, told by that alert-looking little man on the left of the picture, of these three brothers’ reunion in the Rocky Mountains just over a hundred years ago, as he recounted it in a letter to one of his granddaughters, who was at Catholic boarding school in Nebraska.
December 11, 1905
I had quite a reunion last September with my brothers, George P.B. and Henry R. at the grand army meeting in Denver at that time. We three are all there is now living of the original seven, six brothers and one sister.
We three had met together at New Diggings, Wisconsin in July, 1874 at the time Henry was about to leave for California and we had not seen each other since then.
Brother Henry of Stockton,California was a delegate to the grand army [of the Republic] meeting and Besides, we found that brother George had a son – George D. …in Denver. This I did not know until the past summer, when a man on one of the excursions, inquired of the bystanders for me and I happened to be at the station at the time and he made him known as son of my brother George, and when brother Henry got to Denver, a letter of mine to him in the care of Mrs. Duff informed him of the address of our nephew George D.
Brother George (of Chetek, Wisconsin near St. Paul, Minn) did not intend to come to the grand army meeting, but brother Henry arranged with nephew George D. to have brother George come to Denver and he came…..
So we three brothers made our head quarters in Denver with nephew George D. and his wife. They gave us entertainment to the Queens or anybody else‘s state. We had a great time. Brother Henry and his wife were up here and went back to Denver before Brother George came out, and when George came, I went down to Denver and after brother Henry left for home, brother George came up here with me. The Denver relations appear to be nice people and we now hope that we can become better acquainted.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I am very truly yours,
Thomas B. Campbell
The letter is taken from a privately published book available through the LA Family History Library that chronicles the life of Thomas’s oldest grandchild, Lulu Donnersberger (nee Kidder) via letters written by and to her over the course of her life, beginning when she was 8 years old, and includes some, like the one above, between various other family members. The book was written and edited by Lulu’s daughter Ella Laub (nee Donnersberger) in the 1970s.
Click here for the post that links to it.