By Carisse Mickey Berryhill, PhD
Series introduction: Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was born and grew up in Northern Ireland. In 1807, his father Thomas Campbell (1763-1854), a Presbyterian minister, emigrated from Northern Ireland to western Pennsylvania and sent for the rest of the family to join him in 1808. Shipwrecked on the western coast of Scotland, the family spent almost a year in Glasgow before joining Thomas in 1809. During that time Alexander studied at the University of Glasgow. In 2019 I set out to visit the places in Ireland and Scotland that are the backdrop for this crucial year in his life. Travel with me as we retrace his journey in three posts: the Homeland, the Interruption, and the University of Glasgow.
Young Alexander walked up to Greville Ewing’s door to present his letter of recommendation. Ewing was the minister of the Jamaica Street Tabernacle, an Independent meeting place. Ewing hospitably invited him in to spend the night and the next morning connected him with another minister who helped Alexander find furnished lodgings for his family on Broad Street, in Hutchinsontown. Ewing often invited young Alexander to meet leaders in the Independent missionary movement. During his year in Glasgow, Alexander found himself growing more “favorable to the principles of Congregationalism entertained by Mr. Ewing, which secured an entire emancipation from the control of domineering Synods and General Assemblies, and which seemed to him much more accordant with primitive usage” (Richardson, vol. 1, p. 189).
Hutchinsontown was a densely populated neighborhood of mostly immigrants from Scotland and Ireland who were working in the industries of Glasgow. The Hutchinsontown Bridge, replaced by the 1871 Albert Bridge, crossed the river to the old city which lies on the north bank of the Clyde.
Founded in 1451, Glasgow University lay on High Street near Glasgow Cathedral until the college relocated to Gilmorehill in the West End of the city in 1870.
Glasgow University was a vibrant seat of the Scottish Enlightenment during the time that Alexander, and his father Thomas before him, attended there.
When Alexander enrolled in the university, he would have come and gone through this gatehouse which faced High Street.
Alexander enrolled in three courses: Greek with Prof John Young, Natural Philosophy with Prof. Andrew Ure, and Logic and Belles Lettres with Prof. George Jardine. Alexander’s notebooks from these classes survive and are held at Phillips Library at Bethany College, WV, and at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Bethany, WV.
Professor Jardine, who had also taught Thomas, was a curriculum innovator who examined how people know, learn, and communicate. He was also a founder and board member of the Royal Infirmary, a charitable hospital for the needy, opened in 1794. The Infirmary is now a huge hospital complex.
During his time of study at the University, Alexander would go to the Glasgow Cathedral precinct for quiet times of reflection. He revisited the site and the adjacent Necropolis in 1847, on his only trip back to the lands of his youth.
When Alexander’s school term ended in May, the family began to prepare to travel again to the United States. For about five weeks, Alexander worked in Helensburgh, a resort town across the Clyde northeast of Glasgow, as a tutor to children and young ladies of several wealthy families who had summer homes there.
Richardson comments (vol 1, p 191) that Alexander’s obligations as an escort for the young ladies on outings to visit the beautiful countryside took so much time that he didn’t get quite as much reading done as he had planned to do.
In June Alexander returned to Glasgow to buy tickets for the family’s voyage to America on the Latonia, which sailed from Greenock for New York on August 3. After eight weeks at sea, the Latonia arrived at New York Harbor September 27. The family then sailed from New York to Philadelphia, arriving there October 9, and then hired a wagon driver to take them to western Pennsylvania. Father Thomas met them on the road on October 19, two and a half years after their separation. The reunited family arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania, on October 21, 1809, to begin their life together and their new mission in the new country.
Open-Access photographs selected from my trip retracing Alexander’s journey to Glasgow are available for free download at ACU’s Stone-Campbell Teaching Archive for use in teaching. Read more about the Campbell family and Alexander’s life in Memoirs of Alexander Campbell by Robert Richardson (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1868) and in Doug Foster’s A Life of Alexander Campbell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020).