An Epistle on Debt from Mrs. Alexander Campbell
An Epistle on Debt from Mrs. Alexander Campbell

This brief article by and about the second wife of Alexander Campbell developed in a roundabout way.

The February issue of Christian Standard deals with finances, including “In the Arena” articles by Matt Merold and Chris Philbeck that take stands on the question, “Should churches embrace and utilize debt?” (Matt says yes; Chris says no.)

I wondered if writers from the magazine’s past had weighed in on this subject, so I dug into the archives of the Christian Standard’s first 100 years of publication. I turned to the listing for DEBT—an obvious place to begin the search—and was surprised to find only one article listed:

Campbell, Mrs. A., A good example.  1882 15 Ap:114

Strange, I thought, Mrs. Alexander Campbell wrote about debt 16 years after her husband’s death. I decided to investigate, and found that Mrs. Campbell’s “article” was actually a letter to Christian Standard founding editor Isaac Errett.

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– April 15, 1882 –

Dear Brother Errett: I think I have rather a novel affair to present to yourself, and to the readers of your paper. I shall endeavor to be brief, as brevity is quite a desideratum now-a-days, when there is such a variety, and so much reading to be done.

Some time ago I was favored with a kind letter from a Christian brother, all the way from the broad State of Texas. He informed me of his indebtedness for the volumes of the Millennial Harbinger for the years of 1845 and 1846. (Please remember, reader, only thirty-five years ago, as his letter was written nearly at the close of 1881.)

The brother stated “he had been financially ruined (he then lived in the good old State of Kentucky) at the time he was taking the M. Harbinger, but he had now paid off all his debts save one, after the one he paid to me.” He sent a post-office order for the sum of $5.00, which I received; of course it did not count any interest. But is not the conscientiousness of the good brother to be admired? And, I would say, worthy of imitation? Inasmuch as he did not plead the limitation law, which some, I am sorry to say, do. But certainly all such persons can not so quietly repose upon their pillows as those who, when they have it in their power, pay all cheerfully—limitation not being considered just before God. . . .

I would suggest, if all who can would be punctual in paying for their papers and pamphlets, (many from forgetfulness, or procrastination, are inattentive to such matter), editors would rejoice, for many of them have difficulty in raising money to pay for their ink, paper and pressmen, all of which require cash; and besides they would be able to put by in their coffers a few greenbacks or gold coin “against a rainy day,” as it is sometime said. I will be pleased and willing to accept any old outstanding indebtedness for pamphlets or papers, and that, too, without interest. . . . Or, should there be any old outstanding notes (we know of some), we will be thankful to receive their value in cash, by post-office orders. . . .

Mrs. Alexander Campbell
Bethany Mansion, March 29, 1882

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(Before I continue, I’ll point out that money still is required to produce magazines such as this one, in all its forms: website, paper, and digital newsletter. For information about how you can help, read our publisher’s column from our February issue.)

Selina Huntington (Bakewell) Campbell, second wife of Alexander Campbell (from a painting in the Bethany College Library)

Selina Huntington (Bakewell) Campbell—the writer of the above letter—was born in Litchfield, England, in 1802, and moved with her family to western Virginia in 1804, settling in Wellsburg.

She was a friend of Alexander Campbell’s first wife, Margaret Brown Campbell (b. 1791), who died of tuberculosis in 1827. As she was dying, Margaret suggested that her husband marry Selina, a member of the Church of Christ that her husband preached at occasionally. (Alexander Campbell had baptized Selina.) Margaret wanted her five daughters to grow up with a mother, and also wanted her husband to pursue a speaking career, which would require travel . . . which would require a parent at home. In 1828, Selina married Alexander Campbell (1788–1866), who was 14 years her senior.

“Selina was influential in preserving Alexander’s legacy by writing a book about his life and his impact on the Church of Christ movement,” according to a blog maintained by Abilene (Texas) Christian University’s Special Collections.

Selina Campbell’s book about Campbell was called Home Life and Reminiscences of Alexander Campbell (1882). It is available here.

Various sources indicate Selina Campbell was instrumental in the planning of Bethany College with her husband, and that she was the first woman within the Disciples of Christ to call for funds to support foreign missions.

Loretta M. Long Hunnicut, a professor at Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif., wrote the biography The Life of Selina Campbell: A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration, available from Amazon.

At the time of Margaret Campbell’s death, she and Alexander had five living children. Here is a listing of the eight children they had together: Jane Caroline Ewing (1812–34), Eliza Ann Campbell (1813-39), Maria Louisa Henley (1815–41), Lavinia McGregor Pendleton (1818-46), Amanda Corneigle Campbell (1820), Clarinda Pendleton (1822–51), John Brown Campbell (1822), and Margaretta L. Campbell (1824-26).

Alexander and Selina Campbell had six children together: Margaret Brown Ewing (1829–48), Alexander Campbell (1831–1906), Virginia Ann Thompson (1834–1908), Wickliffe Ewing Campbell (1837–47), Decima Hemans Barclay (1840–1920), and William Pendleton Campbell (1843–1917).

Selina Campbell died at Bethany, W.Va., in 1897 at age 94.

Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

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1 Comment

  1. Sandra Ziegler
    February 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    I enjoyed this report. I think I’ll track down the books. I’m glad you dig in the archives. History informs us all.

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