Friday, August 1, 2008

John Campbell Is Dead

This is another chapter from my attempt at creative non-fiction in writing my family history. This chapter opens with the vignette describing the funeral of my Great Great Grandfather John Campbell of Carrollton, Missouri, and segues into his last hours. All the information is factual, taken from obituaries, a cemetery transcription, county history books, county records, county atlas, accountings, bills, probate records, newspaper articles and information found in a document concerning my family held in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection. It is my submission for the 1 August Carnival of Genealogy.

THE HEAVY silvered coach harness was brought out and polished. Doc and Frank came up from the stable to be groomed. The big black coach was brought out washed and gone over carefully. An unusual sadness rested upon the community of Carrollton, Missouri. Uncle John Campbell was dead.

The pageantry of the funeral procession began and could have been likened to a circus parade had its purpose not been filled with such sorrow. Doc and Frank, harnessed to the big black hearse, led the procession to the Oak Hill Cemetery.

The casket bearers walked behind the horse drawn hearse as was customary. It was January and bitterly cold, but they walked. Sarah rode in the best coach, behind the hearse, pulled by Pinto and Pigeon in all their finery. The hostler sat high on the driver’s seat decked out in his Sunday best.

The coach was a work of art, gracefully shaped with a richly upholstered interior. I doubt Sarah noticed any of this, for John’s death was a shock to her and to the entire town. He had never before been sick a day in his life. Most of the townspeople knew John was ill, but few were aware that his illness was serious and no one was prepared for his death.

Next came Rusty teamed with either King or Billie pulling a coach carrying the rest of John’s family. It was a large procession; John Campbell had been a highly respected and much loved member of the community. Dick and Silverheel were pressed into service. Their silver harness had been polished and they had been groomed, they pulled the brougham.

The procession reached its final destination, Oak Hill Cemetery. A large fire had been built near the grave to protect the mourners from the bitter January cold. Rev. J. B. Jewel, in a most eloquent manner, officiated at the graveside service.

The grave was on the crest of a hill surrounded by trees in the southwest corner of the cemetery. The beautiful Missouri River valley John had loved could be seen for miles to the south. Under any other circumstances the crowd would have stopped to enjoy the view, but not today. Today, they mourned.

Family and friends said their final good-byes to a man of no small influence in their community, a man who throughout his life had set a very high standard for his children to emulate and his friends and colleagues to live up to. John Campbell would be missed.


It is Monday, January 1, 1883; John Campbell is working at the jail. He is tying up loose ends as he turns over the Office of Sheriff to the newly elected George Winfrey. The family has already moved home to the house on North Folger Street. It will be good to be home again, yet there is still much to be done here at the jail.

John must finish an accounting of the County’s money. Nine dollars must be paid to the West Side European Hotel for keeping the jurors in the December 9th trial. There are witness fees to disperse in all the court cases from the last few months of 1882, $3.50 to each witness. And the jurors must be paid as well, $1.00 per day for each day they served. Disbursements need to be made to the judges and clerks.

There are judgments to be collected and J.W. (Clinkscales) hasn’t received his paycheck as Deputy since July and he will want his $50.00, not to mention the money they owe John. So much paper work to do, but John is not feeling well and he decides to go home. He will never return to his office nor to the work at hand.

John has taken to his bed. Dr. Cooper is sent for, he makes a house call. The news is grave indeed. The doctor has diagnosed John with typhoid pneumonia. This is most probably neither typhoid nor pneumonia, but rather typhus. Typhoid is more common during the warm summer months, and this is an extremely cold January. Typhus is most often the culprit in the winter months, as it is transmitted by lice and fleas. John had just ordered an extermination of the rats trying to escape the cold by taking up residence in the jail, and it is well known they are carriers of lice and fleas.

Lozier & Kern deliver the medicine ordered by Dr. Cooper. They have been supplying the family with prescriptions and wine for medicinal purposes for years. All John’s life he has carried a flask containing wine, but he restricted his use to strictly medicinal purposes, he did not hold with drinking.

The wine would not protect him, not this time. Neither would the doctor or the drugs. John loses his battle to typhoid pneumonia at 11:00 p.m. on January 7, 1883, his family surrounding him. He is seventy-two years old. Sarah a widow at fifty-six has spent forty years of her life and all of her youth with John Campbell. Now she must live without him.

The family turns to R. T. Hubbell for the casket and box. Normally this is where they have purchased their furniture and looking glasses, but R.T. also provides wooden caskets to the town.
The casket costs $45, a large sum of money in 1883, but Sarah will have no less.
The Livery is contacted and arrangements made for the hearse and carriages. John Campbell is buried Tuesday, January 9, 1883, at Oakhill Cemetery in Carrollton, Missouri. :~:


The entire family history is heavily footnoted. The footnotes have been omitted based on my need to get this submitted in time for the carnival. Anyone with an interest in the source information may contact me by email and information will be provided. I intend to add the footnotes at a later date. How can someone named footnoteMaven omit her footnotes? I apologize, it has just been one of those weeks.



Blogger Donna said...


Wow. You make it so much more interesting this way than merely stating the bare facts.

What's Past is Prologue

PS - I can't seem to post under "Open ID" even though I am logged into my WP account. Oh, well.

August 1, 2008 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Lidian said...

This is absolutely brilliant!

August 1, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Nikki - Notes of Life said...

A brilliant peice of writing, interesting too!

August 2, 2008 at 5:56 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Great job! You inspire me to try to do this with my collection of "stuff."

August 2, 2008 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...

MAVEN, Thanks for this example of creative-nonfiction. Most interesting --- makes me wish to read the rest of the book.

August 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

Enjoyed the creative-nonfiction VERY much! Wonderful job, it makes me want to read more of the stories also! Talented!


August 2, 2008 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

This was a really interesting post Linda. I keep saying I will research my family tree. It's just having the time to do it. I have German and Irish ancestry.

August 3, 2008 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Family Curator said...

Wonderful vignette, fM, bringing the past to life, from the title through the conclusion. You have a great story to tell here.

August 4, 2008 at 10:05 AM  

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