Biography of A. C. Campbell

A.C. CAMPBELL. – The respect Mr. Campbell commands in his community as a man of honesty and integrity, and as one who has acquired a very enviable competency by hard knocks and straightforward dealings, reminds one of Longfellow’s famous blacksmith; but, although Mr. Campbell has for years upon years listened to the “measured beat and slow’ of his hammer on the anvil, he no longer appears with leathern apron and bare, brown arms, because he is now settled down in a comfortable home, and in the midst of his loving family living happily by other and less arduous pursuits than blacksmithing. He an contemplate with pleasure the means which he has accomplished by industry and determination. He is one of the pioneers of the county, and as such should not be passed over with a mere casual mention. If there is any one class of men more than another entitled to the admiration of everyone, it is that known as the “early pioneers.” They were men possessed of more character, hardihoood and genuine bravery than any other class of men living, and possessed a versatility which seemed to fit them particularly for the life of a pioneer, – to subdue and have dominion. It by no means follows that all men who came to the coast in “early days” were pioneers of this stamp. “Those were the times that tried men’s souls;” and only the ones possessed of an adaminatine spirit were successful and prosperous. Every man’s nerve was put to the test, – his honor tried, his spirit of determination proved and only the ones who came through the ordeal with character unscathed are now successful and happy. It is the pioneers of the country, the men with hearts of oak, who hewed out the way for the advancement of a later civilization and made possible the settlement of the now prosperous country, to whom we owe our deepest debt of gratitude. They were a set of grand adventurers who led the dangerous way for us to follow. If the trials they endured, the hardships they encountered, and the triumphs they attained, were connected with a country’s cause or in a war against an enemy, it would have served to hand their names down to succeeding generations as heroes. No man on the coast better illustrates this type of the early pioneers than the subject of this sketch.

Mr. Alexander Colin Campbell, of Puyallup, Washington, has been for a number of years a successful hop-grower in Puyallup valley; and in following him through his peregrinations we cannot but be struck by such a remarkable career of intermingled success and failure, and the happy denouement which is sure to follow the efforts of a man possessed of such a caliber to either “find a way or make one” as is Mr. Campbell. he was born in Pertha, Ontario, May 26, 1833, and was the son of Donald and Mary McCoy Campbell, both of Scotland. He spent most of his early life in Ottawa, where he learned the blacksmith trade, which in following years was destined to be his best friend, and in many cases his only standby. He went to California at the age of twenty-one years, being possessed of a spirit of adventure which to an extent marked his whole career through life. After living for a short time in California, he returned to his home in Canada, and after marrying an estimable lady who has ever since been the partner of his joys and sorrows, bought a farm of 600 acres at a place called Lochaber.

The arduous labor and slow remuneration attendant upon farm life did not exactly suit the tastes of young Campbell; and he embarked in the square-timber business, in which he remained for about three years, when he opened a wholesale and retail merchandising establishment in Ottawa, and in connection with it a grist-mill on Ottawa river, which he carried on quite successfully for four years. Again the roving and adventurous spirit of young Campbell predominated; and in 1862 he wound up his business and started for British Columbia. This was at the time of the great Cariboo gold excitement. Arriving at that place, he started to work at his trade, and in the first year, by hard work and sobriety, saved $10,000. Eastern readers will perhaps marvel at this; but they most recollect that in those days tradesmen were scarce in such locations, and that gold was plenty; hence almost any price asked for a job of work could be obtained. With this money he bought a claim the following year for $16,000, called the “Welch” claim, having borrowed $6,000 to make good the amount. For two years he toiled in this mine, and had for his trouble the pleasure (?) of seeing his expected fortune pass away as though in a mist before his eyes. In addition to the purchasing of the claim, it cost him $3,000 to work it; and he sold out the whole thing, improvements and all, for the miserable sum of $500. Such was the life of a miner in those times.

With characteristic pluck, Mr. Campbell again took to his trade to acquire a fresh start, which he did, and once more located a claim on Grouse creek, – this time with more success; for in less than a year and a half he took $18,000 in gold coin out of his venture; after which he returned to Canada and brought out his family to Victoria, buying a fine residence. He once more made for the Cariboo country with $15,000 worth of hardware. Here another stroke of ill-fortune overtook him. The town in which he had commenced a thriving business burned down, and with it all of Campbell’s worldly stock; and he was once more thrown upon the world a poor man. Again he took to his old standby, the blacksmith trade; and after a year and a half of hard work and little pay he became disgusted with the country, and, as the phrase is “pulled out” coming to Puget Sound with $250 in his pocket and a wife and four children to support. He worked four years at his trade with a partner named Peter Rinquest, at Steilacoom, after which he removed to Old Tacoma. This was about the year 1873. He bought out a shop and started a blacksmithing business, together with a wagon shop and livery stable. The failure of A. Cook & co., bad debts and other things, combined to make this enterprise also unsuccessful; and he was obliged to close up and borrow $25 to go to Seattle, where he once more started up a business with a partner named Hunt, he having a good friend in Seattle who indorsed for him the amount of $250, in order that he might buy an interest in this business. Neither was he successful in this venture; and he left Seattle and went east of the mountains to Dayton, and after a year there came to Puyallup, where he commenced his first continuous streak of fortune. He took the blacksmith shop connected with the stave factory, and successfully worked it on shares, finally buying it out entirely. This business he carried on uninterrupted by the vagaries of fickle Fortune for three years, when he, with $2,000 cash, bought 242 acres of a farm. Mr. Campbell has since sold part of it, and at the present time owns 183 acres of as fine hop or any other kind of land as lies out-of-doors. The first year he put out 43 acres of hopes (57,000 poles), which he has since increased; and his hop crop alone brought him last year $19,909.

Of Mr. Campbell’s later life it may be said that he has been very successful, and has also been highly honored. He is an incorporator, stockholder and director of the National Bank of Commerce, of Tacoma, of which his son Colin is now the bookkeeper. He is president of the Farmers’ Bank of Puyallup, which has a capital stock of $50,000. He is also the present mayor of Puyallup, proprietor of the Hop Exchange, and a large buyer of hops. The cities of Steilacoom, Tacoma and Puyallup successively honored him with a seat in their first municipal councils. One of the enterprises of this pioneer is the large mercantile establishment of Campbell & Sons, dealers in general merchandise and farming implements. The “sons” are Albert D. and Henry James, two young men of sterling integrity.

Mr. Campbell has raised eight children, four boys and four girls, two daughters of whom are married. He was careful to give them a good education; and they are all a credit to their proud parent, but fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, are not (like their father was) disposed to rove, but are contented and happy in their home in one of the loveliest valleys on which the sun shines. Mr. Campbell is now only fifty-three years of age, although he looks younger. Mr. Campbell’s house is a substantial built frame structure on Church street. It is surrounded by trees and lawn, and looks in all respects exactly what it is, – the home of a happy, well-to-do and God-fearing family.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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