Traveling with Alexander Campbell to Glasgow: Part 1 – The Homeland

By Carisse Mickey Berryhill, PhD

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 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.

Alexander Campbell was born in Northern Ireland near Ballymena about a mile from Lough Neagh, a huge lake in the center of Northern Ireland.

Jane Corneigle Campbell, Alexander’s mother, had grown up in that area, the only child of a widowed mother. Nearby was Shane’s Castle, a beautiful lake estate with a park where Alexander played as a child. When Alexander was little, his family moved south of the lake to Sheepbridge, where Thomas preached as a probationer.

Sheepbridge was in County Down on the old Belfast road about seven miles north of Newry, Thomas’s family home. Several members of Thomas’s family, including his brother Enos, are buried in Newry at the churchyard of St. Patrick’s Church of Scotland.

View from St. Patrick's churchyard across a valley to green hills.

Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland, view to the south from St. Patrick’s Church. Photo by David Mickey Berryhill.

About the time Alexander was old enough to go to school, Thomas moved the family to County Armagh to Market Hill to work with churches in that area and to teach for families there.  Alexander attended an elementary school there. He also attended an academy in Newry taught by his uncles Archibald and Enos Campbell. During this period Thomas avoided involvement with political groups in County Armagh during a time of extreme political tension and armed skirmishes between rival Protestant and Catholic militias.

Thomas received an invitation from the Governor, Lord Gosford, who admired his peaceable ministry, to move to the Gosford estate near Market Hill as a tutor to his family, with a residence and salary. Thomas declined because he did not want his children to learn to admire a wealthy lifestyle.

White stone castle with a round tower and arches windows

Gosford Castle near Market Hill, home of  Arthur Acheson, the Earl of Gosford, the governor of Armagh at the time.

As Alexander approached his teens, his father supervised his education. In 1798, Thomas accepted a call to the Ahorey Presbyterian Church and moved the family about five miles north of Market Hill to a farm in what is now the village of Hamiltonsbawn, a few miles closer to the Ahorey church. Alexander thrived on farm work and outdoor sports and began to develop as a scholar.

Two story stone house painted light blue with dark red trim near the main road in Hamilstonbawn village

Campbell Farm House now in village of Hamiltonbawn near Market Hill, Armagh, UK. Photo by David Mickey Berryhill.

Also in 1798, Thomas helped found the Evangelical Society of Ulster, begun in Armagh as an interdenominational association to support Bible literacy and gospel preaching. This affiliation proved to be a problem with his Presbyterian supervisors, who insisted he withdraw his membership two years later. At the same time, he was involved in efforts to reconcile two Irish Presbyterian factions.

Grey stone church with square corner tower entrance, surrounded by church graveyard.

Ahorey Presbyterian Church, County Armagh, where Thomas Campbell ministered, 1798-1807.

When Alexander was about seventeen, Thomas decided to start a school in Rich Hill to supplement his salary as the pastor of the Ahorey church.The family moved to a house across the town square from the castle of William Richardson, the High Sheriff of Armagh, and brother-in-law of Lord Gosford. Alexander assisted his father in the school, which became successful.

On Sunday evenings, when the Ahorey church had no services, Thomas and Alexander frequently visited the Independent congregation in Rich Hill, where they occasionally heard visiting ministers connected to the independent evangelical movement in Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. That meeting house is at the bottom of the hill just below the Rich Hill square where the Campbells lived.

White two story building with red door and red trim.

Meeting house of the Independents in Rich Hill, below the square.

Thomas, his health worn out by his work, decided to relocate to the United States and emigrated in 1807. Alexander managed the Campbell school and helped his mother with his younger siblings. He became the tutor to the young daughters of the Richardson family in the castle just across the Rich Hill square.

Castle of William Richardson, large U-shaped house in Rich Hill.

William Richardson House, Rich Hill, Armagh, UK

The following year, Thomas, having secured a job with a presbytery, sent for Jane and their seven children to sail to meet him in Washington, Pennsylvania. The letter dated January 1, 1808, arrived in March. They began to get ready to leave, but their departure was delayed when smallpox swept through Rich Hill. By the time everyone in the family had recovered, it was late in the sailing season. In September Alexander went to Londonderry in the northwest of Ulster to arrange their tickets, admiring the old walled city, its history, and its buildings.

Londonderry view of town on the south side of the Foyle River

Londonderry Waterside district on the east side of the River Foyle.

When the time came, the family traveled for four days to the port of Londonderry to embark on their voyage to America. Their ship, the Hibernia, sailed on the first day of October, 1808, bound for Philadelphia. It never arrived.

NEXT: Part 2: The Interruption (coming soon)

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).

Finding Aid Round Up

We’ve been busy writing finding aids for recent acquisitions and revising finding aids for some materials already in our holdings. You can browse all of our archival holdings on DigitalCommons. See something below that piques your interest or could be useful for your research? Get in touch and let us know what you’re thinking about; we’d love to help!


Pecos River Family Encampment Papers, 1944-1996, MS#22 [Revised Finding Aid]
The Pecos River Family Encampment began meeting in 1940, when James Frank Black, preacher, and Charlie Chandler, rancher, decided that Chandler’s land would be the ideal location for a camp. After a short hiatus during the World War II years, the camp began meeting again in 1944. The campground is located on Hwy. 349 between Iraan and Sheffield, Texas, on the bank of the Pecos River. The camp is supported by the local churches of Christ. This collection contains some of the financial papers, history, and photographs from the Pecos River Family Encampment.

From the Pecos River Family Encampment Papers, (1944-1996). Center for Restoration Studies MS#22.

Andy Thomas Ritchie, Jr. Papers, 1930-1970, MS#23 [Revised Finding Aid]
Son of Andy T. Ritchie, Sr., Andy Thomas Ritchie, Jr. was best known for his service as the choral director of Harding College and David Lipscomb College. This collection consists of 32 boxes and includes radio sermons, class notes, notes for a book, personal papers, materials relating to the Abilene Christian College lectureship, correspondence, sermons, poems, Harding College choir recordings, Frater Sodalis papers, funeral outlines, papers pertaining to Harding College, David Lipscomb College, Michigan Christian College lectureship, Oklahoma Christian College, Pepperdine College, and University of Arkansas.

William Webb Freeman Papers, 1912-1954, MS#24 [Revised Finding Aid]
This collection contains personal and professional papers of William Webb Freeman, including correspondence, research materials, thesis material, photographs, and ephemera. The collection is housed in 4 boxes.

Christine “Chris” Kyker Papers, 1946-2017, MS#487 [New Finding Aid]
This collection consists of documents created by Chris Kyker in her career as a professor of speech, communication, and theater at Abilene Christian University and a member of Women of ACU; as an advocate for public policy respecting aging, mental health, and disability; and as an executive in nonprofit agencies and in Texas state agencies for the benefit of older persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with mental illness. The collection includes correspondence, academic papers, policy documents she developed in a variety of nonprofit and state leadership positions, religious studies, fundraising materials, pamphlets, programs, and memorabilia from advocacy campaigns and conferences, photographs and awards. Also in the collection are papers of Chris Kyker’s husband, Rex Paxton Kyker (1912-1996), professor of speech at ACU; and of their colleagues in the speech and theater department, Lewis and Jerilyn “Jerry” Fulks.

Bill Love Papers, MS#490
The Bill R. Love Papers contain 1.8 linear feet of materials including book manuscripts, sermons, seminar notes, and general research files. [The following biographical note is excerpted from Bill R. Love’s obituary, which ran in the Houston Chronicle from May 1-2, 2004]. Bill R. Love was born in Tucumcari, New Mexico, February 10, 1938, and passed away at home in Houston on April 30, 2004. Bill’s family moved to Abilene, Texas, when he was in third grade. He completed his early schooling on the campus of Abilene Christian College where he went on to receive B.A. and M.A. degrees in Speech Communication. Bill married Deanna Bussie in December of 1960. From 1962 to 1967 they lived in Winnipeg, Canada where Bill served as minister for the Erin Street Church of Christ. Bill earned a Ph.D. in Speech Communication from Louisiana State University in 1972 while serving as minister for the LSU Church of Christ Student Center. In 1974, Bill became the preaching minister at Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston where he served until 1996. At that time Bill began his work as the Director of Development for Lifeline Chaplaincy, a position he held until suffering a stroke in November of 1998. Although disabled, Bill spent the last five years of his life as an encouragement and inspiration to all who knew him.


Stay tuned for more installments of Finding Aid Round Ups!

From the collection: a letter of recommendation from the Church of Christ at Lone Oak, Texas, 1892

Here is a letter of dismissal from the Church of Christ at Lone Oak, Texas, to Eunice Wells, dated “1st Lord’s day January, 1892.” The letter commends Eunice to a congregation of “Disciples of Christ wherever [it] may be presented.” This was a common practice until well into the 20th century. The occasion prompting the letter was a move from Lone Oak that would eventually take her to far West Texas.

A letter of dismissal from the Church of Christ at Lone Oak, Texas, to Eunice Wells, dated “1st Lord’s day January, 1892,” Texas–Lone Oak, Congregational Vertical File. Center for Restoration Studies. Milliken Special Collections, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Eunice Emily Davis Wells Thompson is the great-grandmother of Dr. Kenneth Pybus, ACU Associate Professor and Chair of Journalism and Mass Communication, who supplies this information: “My great-great-grandmother, Eunice Emily Davis Wells Thompson, was born in 1839 in Tennessee. She moved to East Texas as a child and married Ed Wells. They lived in Lone Oak and had four sons. After she was widowed, she married James R. Thompson and had another son. She and several sons left Lone Oak in 1892, moving for a time to Archer City and ultimately to Quanah, Texas, where she died at age 79. Several of her Wells and Thompson descendants attended ACU, including my grandfather, Sanford Rodgers Thompson, my sister, and several of my cousins. In fact, I know of one third cousin who went to ACU who’s a descendant, Gaylynn Wells Neas. (’92).”

Photograph of Eunice Wells, ca. 1892, Texas–Lone Oak, Congregational Vertical File. Center for Restoration Studies. Milliken Special Collections, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Kenneth’s grandfather donated the letter several years ago. He says, “Sanford Rodgers Thompson (‘41). He was a resident of Lake Jackson, Texas, and was employed as a chemist by Dow Chemical. He served as an elder at Lake Jackson Church of Christ for 40 years and died Feb. 18, 2010.”

Correspondence accompanying a letter of dismissal from the Church of Christ at Lone Oak, Texas, to Eunice Wells, dated “1st Lord’s day January, 1892,” Texas–Lone Oak, Congregational Vertical File. Center for Restoration Studies. Milliken Special Collections, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Envelope accompanying letter of dismissal from the Church of Christ at Lone Oak, Texas, to Eunice Wells, dated “1st Lord’s day January, 1892,” Texas–Lone Oak, Congregational Vertical File. Center for Restoration Studies. Milliken Special Collections, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Kenneth sent us this photograph of Eunice, taken about the time she moved from Lone Oak. This is a very nice example of a church dismissal letter, and one of the few in our collection. It is also especially nice to have a photograph to accompany the letter.