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This week in history: May 2-May 8

We’ve posted letters about the hell-raiser in the Campbell family, Robert and Hugh Campbell’s niece Bessie Campbell.  But even with all the trouble that Bessie caused the family, her actions were very little when compared to her brothers Hugh Kyle Campbell and Robert Boyle Campbell.  Ironically named after their St. Louis uncles, these two were the true source of grief for Andrew and Elizabeth Campbell.  According to The Campbell Quest, written by the pair’s great-great-nephew, “Hugh Kyle followed in his father’s footsteps and became an alcoholic, while Robert Boyle became a bully . . .” .  These two caused trouble in Ireland, likely burning their grandfather’s will and harassing their Aunt Ann so that Hugh Kyle Campbell could lay claim to their Uncle Hugh Campbell’s rightful estate, Aughalane.  Hugh Kyle Campbell finally married, but never stopped drinking and finally died of “intemperance, one year.  Delirium tremens, one week” in 1877, a year after writing this letter.  Robert Boyle Campbell came to live with his Uncle Robert and Aunt Virginia for a while, but eventually left and moved west, hoping to strike it rich.  He also caused trouble for the family in the American Civil War.

Today’s letter is from Hugh Kyle Campbell to his brother-in-law (and Patrick Campbell MacCulloch’s great-grandfather) Hugh MacCulloch about his Aunt Ann’s death.  He makes is abundantly clear that he is not happy that Aunt Ann left so little to him in her will, obviously a very wise choice on Ann Campbell’s part when it came to this particular relative.  The letter was transcribed by Frank Collins of the Ulster American Folk Park in Northern Ireland, which now houses Robert’s birthplace, Aughalane house.  It was part of a collection that Collins and the Folk Park donated to Campbell House Museum last summer upon the European release of the book The Campbell Quest.  We hope you enjoy the account from another ‘black sheep’ of the Campbell family!


7th May 1876.

Dear Hugh.

Enclosed I send you what you drew up with all the names properly signed there was no a dissenting voice as they all gladly signed it. As to those in America as to them signatories it is not at all necessary in a legal point of view as to have signed it, at least all but…. & I presume she’ll not object. I congratulate you on the straightforward manner in which all has been conducted as far as I know,by both you and R Dunn.

This I can say for myself I am the greatest loser over my Aunt as I can …. And have been the proprietor of Aughalane only for her & her continually writing to my uncle Hugh. I never knew this until I was examined in Dublin and had I wished to be contention at that time I’d at all event prevented the sale of it for years but I never opposed it.

She always was my greatest enemy- all I ever got from her was those £27 and a bedstead? and curtains except I think £2 and I counted one of those due me for tidy? cows she allowed me keep the other.

I need not enlarge on this but I trust she may be happy as God only can discern our intermit thoughts and private actions and many a one to the human eye here is counted God fearing  & lending poor moral life by appearances, but when laid on the bed of sickness and death then deceptive and former hypocrisy   Tell then in their hard struggles not wishing to leave this world yet a letter? Wished and all as they counted it.   I am informed my Aunt did touse? the expression very hard.

One thing I do know Margaret had the greatest trouble with my Aunt. & most certainly £100 would not have repaid the trouble & sleepless nights she suffered over her sickness.

With kindest regards to you and Mgt.

I remain Your Affect Bro-in-law

Hugh Kyle Campbell

Mr H MacCulloch.

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