the people of Simcoe went about their business on Saturday morning last,
they learned that the Grim Harvestmen had some few hours before, visited
the town and called to his last long sleep one of the oldest and most
highly respected of our citizens.
About 12 months ago it will be remembered
The Reformer chronicled
the fact that Mr. Duncan Campbell had met with an accident resulting in a
fracture of one of his thighs. Since that time he has been confined
to his bed and a wheel chair and has required the services of a trained
nurse to attend to him.
health has of late been, for one of his advanced years, exceedingly good
and when his son left his bedside an hour or so after midnight on Saturday
morning there was nothing to cause any uneasiness as to his
condition. It was, however, the last time that Mayor Campbell was to
see his aged father alive.
Shortly after five o'clock the nurse was attracted by a choking noise and
going to the bedside saw Mr. Campbell was dying. He went to
arouse Lorne and on their return they found that during the nurse's
absence the spirit of Duncan Campbell had taken flight.
Coming now, at a time when Mr. Campbell has been for so many years removed
from the activities of business and so long confined to his residence, his
death will not create that remark that it undoubtedly would have done had
he been taken during the long period that he was so largely identified
with the town's affairs. "Duncan Campbell is dead," does not
mean so much to the generation that occupies the field of effort in Simcoe
now as it would have to the two or three that preceded it on the stage.
young and busy Simconian of to-day knows Duncan Campbell only as a very
old man, seen a year or so back, upon our streets at intervals. He
does not know, or if he does he fails to pause and think, that the life just
closed runs back side by side with the history of this good town that
strangers have long called "old and quaint" to it very dawn --
that considerable of it he built and more of it he at one time or another
was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, 2 Apr 1802, the son of Archibald and Ann Campbell, members of the
numerous House of Argyle. Though born to a good name there was no
patrimony to accompany it. The young Scotchman had his fortune to
win, and following the example of many of his fellow countrymen, he early
left the hills and heather of his native land to try his luck in
Canada. He was but barely in his teens when he struck out for
himself for he often told how the ship that bore him over the Atlantic
when leaving British waters met the ships coming back from France laden
with soldiers who had fought at Waterloo.
Landing in Montreal some time in 1816 he found employment as a clerk in
the warehouse of Gellespie & Moffet, a firm still in existence as the
Canadian Agents of the Phoenix Fire Insurance Co'y. of London.
rapidly rose in the esteem and confidence of his employers and when the
occasion came for sending some one to take charge of the store in Simcoe
kept by Mr. Bird, then in financial difficulties, Duncan Campbell, though
only a youth less than 18, was elected for the post. He arrived
in the little settlement sometime near or during the year 1820.
popular legend is to the effect that he travelled the last stages of the
journey on foot, and that his worldly possessions were on a stick over his
shoulder. The legend goes on to say the stick was a
branch of willow, which, planted by the young Scotchman, grew into a great
willow tree that stood until almost the present day at the corner of
Norfolk and Argyle streets.
However this may be, it is certain that
the clerk was not long in growing into the proprietor. Mr. Bird's
business became Mr. Campbell's property and he continued to conduct it
with ever-increasing success for some years.
From time to time other
enterprises were added. First, under a lease from Aaron Culver and then as
owner, Mr. Campbell ran the "old red mill" that stood at
the foot of what is now Water Street, and of which the fine merchant mill
of W. B. Browne & Company is the lineal descendent.
A distillery was also connected with the business.
Mr. Campbell was
Simcoe's first postmaster and many now living can remember when his
political opponents, temporarily in power, took the office away from him
and gave it to Thomas Mulkins, the father of the gentleman who now
occupies the position.
Success seemed to follow every venture, and it was not long -- some time
in the later thirties -- before Mr. Campbell was able to go out of
mercantile life. He did not, however, retire from business. He had
before this been appointed crown land agent, and for years continued to
transact the business of that office, disposing of the principal part of
the lands in Norfolk County.
After giving up his store he accepted
the post of manager of the old bank of Upper Canada. Leaving that
institution he took the managership of Gore Bank, which he held until
it went out of business, some 25 or 30 years ago.
that time he has lived quietly at his beautiful home, Lynnwood, surrounded
by all the luxuries that his great wealth could provide him, and happy in
the watchful attention of a fond wife and dutiful son.
1844 he was married to Clara, daughter of Captain Perkins, a retired navy
officer. Of this union were born five children, two sons and three
daughters. The eldest son, Archibald, a brilliant university
graduate and lawyer and one of the daughters, Miss Jessie Campbell
predeceased their father some years. His widow and three children,
Mayor J. Lorne Campbell, and Mrs. Beecher of London, and Mrs. Hale of
Brantford, survive to mourn his loss.
One of Mrs. Campbell's
sisters, is Lady Galt, wife of Chief Justice Sir Thomas Galt. One of
her brothers was Frederick Perkins of Perkins, Ince & Co.'y,
Toronto, whose death took place a month or so ago. Another brother
lives in South America.
With Mr. Campbell died a thousand recollections of the early history of
Simcoe that no one can now replace. His memory of Simcoe went
further back by a good many years that does that of any man now
had a long and interesting talk the other day with Mr. Jonathan Austin,
who for almost 71 years has lived in or near the town and has
come to be one of our veteran citizens. The conversation was
occasioned by the death of Mr. Campbell, and took the form largely of a
story of early times as Mr. Austin remembers them.
Indelibly stamped on his mind's eye, says Mr. Austin, is the time that he
first saw Duncan Campbell. He was a child, he would suppose of about
four or five years of age, and he had been taken for the first time in his
life "to town" by his father and mother.
The object of
their visit was to trade at Bird's store, and he remembers their talking
to the clerk, a handsome young man whom they all addressed as
Duncan. The store was a huge two-storey frame building, rough and
unpainted, that stood about where Mr. Christie's house now stands.
When Mr. Campbell left it, it was converted into a hotel and kept by
"Daddy" Beaupre, grandfather of Mr. John Beaupre, until it was
Mr. Campbell had
not been long in business for himself when Mr. Austin moved into town and
went to learn painting with a man named Farnham.
Mr. Austin says
that of those who lived then in Simcoe, or Birdtown -- it was called by
either indifferently -- only two beside himself now live here, his brother
John and Mr. J. J. Parke, at that time a young lad living with his father
in a house that stood where his present residence now stands.
place itself consisted of a small cluster of frame buildings. He
thinks that when Mr. Campbell came there were not more that a dozen
buildings in the settlement.
When Mr. Campbell left the old Bird
store he occupied a new building ... burned, and another one built in its
place. It was burnt after a comparatively short existence and the
present structure was erected by Ritchie, Ford & Co. Hugh
Ross & Co. gave place eventually to Robert Angus, a burly Scotchman
from Montreal, and then 47 years ago, Duncan Campbell, as manager
of the Gore Bank, sold the same property for creditors to Ritchie, Ford