History of the Restoration Movement

Wickliffe Ewing Campbell

June 21, 1837 - September 4, 1847

Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Young Wickliffe Campbell
By His Mother, Selina Bakewell Campbell

I HAVE yet to tell of the severe affliction in the drowning of my son Wickliffe, during his father's visit to England, Ireland and Scotland, in the year of 1847; and still to record the departure of my beloved and revered husband, whose absence is ever fresh and mourned by me, though I trust in submission to His will whose sovereign right it is to recall the breath he gives. But, O how present are all the dear ones to my thoughts and feelings, and how deeply do I feel their absence from the dear old mansion! I sometimes take consolation by appropriating the following sentiments contained in an extract from the poems of Dr. Young:

"I hear, or dream I hear, their distant strain,
Sweet to the soul, and tasting strong of Heaven,
Soft wafted on celestial Pity's plume,
Through the vast spaces of the universe
To cheer me in this melancholy gloom.
Oh, when will Death (now stingless), like a friend,
Admit me to their choir? Oh, when will Death
This moldering old partition wall throw down-
Give beings, one in nature, one abode?
Oh, Death divine, that givest us to the skies!
Great future, glorious patron of the past
And present! when shall I thy shrine adore?
From Nature's, continent, immensely wide,
Immensely blessed, this little isle of life,
This dark incarcerating colony Divides us.
Happy day that breaks our chain;
That manumits; that calls from exile home;
That leads to Nature's great metropolis,
And re-admits us, through the guardian hand
Of elder brothers, to our Father's throne;
Who hears our Advocate, and through his wounds,
Beholding man, allows that tender name.
’Tis this makes Christian triumph a command;
’Tis this cases joy a duty to be wise.
'Tis, impious in a good man to be sad."

It is thus I daily live, in the consoling, transporting hope of ere long being united to all the beloved ones, and of beholding my Advocate and divine Redeemer in the land of light and glory. I am not–I cannot, therefore, be sad, amidst all my trials and bereavements; feeling, as I do, that the Omnipotent arm sustains and upholds me!

Dear Wickliffe, a lad beautiful in person, and lovely and interesting, both in mind and heart, was a child of great hope to father and mother, and gave promise, from his early piety, of being a bright and useful worker in the Lord's vineyard. So devoted, so consecrated was he to the reading and studying of the Bible that he carried it with him into the fields under his arm, and committed from its sacred pages daily, repeating the verses at night. It was the practice of both Wickliffe's father and his honored Grandfather, Thomas Campbell, to read in the morning at family worship two verses, turn about, and then to recite the portions of Scripture committed through the day.

Wickliffe was a remarkably polite, obedient and affectionate child–always serene, always happy; as I have said, his future life promised all that was good and noble. I ought to have thought, but did not, that it was often such children the Lord, in his mercy, removes from the "evil to come." It was so in Wickliffe's case. The Lord had so ordered it in His wise Providence, Who sees and knows what is best for His children, both for those taken above, and those afflicted by their removal, who remain on earth. My dear husband was absent from home on his tour in Europe, in the year 1847; he had left the first of May and this was the 4th of September that the sad calamity took place. The child was in his eleventh year; sound in mind and body, and greatly beloved by all that knew him. But the Angel of Death snatched him away tenderly. He was in Buffalo Creek, bathing, on Saturday afternoon, about 4 o'clock. Two of his father's grandsons were bathing with him, Henry Ewing and Thomas Henry, who were students in Bethany College. They were all diving off a small skiff when Wickliffe disappeared and became bewildered under the apron of the mill-dam–for it was near the mill-dam and in sight of the house, and a short distance from it where he was drowned. He had asked his father's leave to bathe before he left home.

His father told him not to do so during the dog days, and so scrupulous was he to comply with his father's wishes that be would often say to me: “Mother when will the dog-days be over that I may go into the creek?" They were over, and he had been bathing. The alarm was given, but it was some time before he could be recovered. I was soon at the place. Many gathered around on the beautiful green banks of the Buffalo, near the spot where multitudes bad been baptized, and the voice of exhortation, prayer and praise had resounded often from bank to bank, and through the surrounding lofty hills.

But Oh! the scene that was then before me, (still vividly remembered) and which beggars description! the agony of that hour can never be forgotten while memory holds its seat; the idol of my heart lying lifeless, speechless before me! Many times since have I feelingly repeated the words of the good John Newton:“And soon or late, that heart must bleed, which, idols entertain."

Everything was done at the place to endeavor to resuscitate him. Mr. Pendleton bled him, and he bled freely, and was rolled on a barrel, and rubbed with brandy and wrapped in a blanket; besides many strong men, who were present, each blew successively into him, endeavoring to inflate his lungs, but all without avail.

He was then speedily brought round through the meadow to the house and laid upon a table. By this time Doctor Richardson had arrived with bellows to inflate the lungs, hot salt was applied to both of his sides until it raised large blisters; this was continued for some two or three hours: At last the Doctor remarked: "Sister Campbell I think It will be fruitless to try further means for his recovery." Then, for the first time, I burst into a flood of tears; not one had dropped all the time I was aiding in trying to restore him to life!

The foregoing is a meagre description of what took place, thirty-three years ago (the third of a century) the 4th of next month, September, 1880. But just here, for the good of society, or any one who might happen to read this little history, I desire to state, that a few years after the drowning of Wickliffe I read an article upon drowning, and the, importance of continuing to use all means for recovering the apparently lifeless person for many hours, and not to give up under less than eight hours; and it was also added that one sign was infallible that life was not extinct if a blister could be raised. It was an able dissertation on the subject by a writer in the city of New York.

But to return, for a brief space longer, to the history of the beloved and lovely son. He was committing to memory, when his father left home, the first chapter of John's Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him not a single creature was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light, shone in darkness, but the darkness received it not.” The foregoing is John's preface, as given in the amended translation by Mr. Campbell, in “The New Testament translated from the original Greek,” by Doctors George Campbell, (of Scotland), James Macknight, (also of Scotland), and Phillip Doddridge, (of England), which has often been called Campbell's Testament by opposers and the uninformed. Whereas, whatever emendations were made by Alexander Campbell were put in parentheses, that all readers might know. It is thought by many learned and excellent men to be the best translation in use. It was published in Pittsburgh, in 1839, and since then in Cincinnati, by Bro. B. Franklin, but can now be purchased from the publisher of this work. But this is a digression from my brief history of Wickliffe. He continued to commit to memory the first five chapters of John. I then proposed to him the committing of the Book of Proverbs during his father's absence, and, in obedience to my wishes, he commenced and committed as far as the 12th or 14th chapters, besides having learned fifteen hymns; always repeating at night what had been committed during the day. His grandfather, Thomas Campbell, was then in vigorous health, and staying with us in Mr. Campbell's absence, and to him Wickliffe recited regularly. The hymn recited the night previous to his death, begins:

“Father of Mercies in thy Word,
What endless glory shines!
Forever be Thy name adored,

For these celestial lines!” A day or two before his father left on his tour, I heard Wickliffe ask him to let him have out of his study, to read, a missionary work entitled, “Guttsalaff's History of China,” and it was among the other books that he was reading at the time he was called from earth to heaven! He, with his father's grandson, had, by leave granted them, gone to the book bindery and had a neat scrap book made. In Wickliffe's were found several beautiful pieces of poetry cut out of religious newspapers. I have the book only partly filled, to this day. It is a sweet memento of my angel boy, of whom not one trace of disobedience; nor an evil habit, is left inscribed on memory's page, or stored in my heart to keep it aching. Ah! he was a child far beyond his years, and soon ripened for a better land–as often, very often did he sing the poem composed by Mrs. Hemans:

"I hear thee speak of the better land,
Thou callest it children a happy band!
Mother! O, where is that radiant shore?" etc.

I give another incident of his life worthy of record. I think it occurred on his last birthday on earth. A school was kept in the old stone meeting-house, just across the creek from Bethany Mansion; he desired me to let him have a party on that day to entertain his schoolmates, but it was just on the eve of Bethany College Commencement (which for several years was kept on the 4th of July) and I was so busily engaged in making preparations for the occasion, that I was obliged to deny him the pleasure; however, I gave him money to purchase candies, etc., in place of the party. At a suitable hour on that day his schoolmates were invited to assemble in the beautiful green yard, and, arranged in a circle, be waited liberally upon them in such a manner that the event must be ever cherished in their memories! And it may be that some of them are living to this day, who will remember the happy little party of their school days when Wickliffe Campbell was one in their midst!

One very remarkable indication of his piety and good taste was afforded in the selection of a picture. It was at the time of the Mexican War, when captains, majors and generals were represented in great numbers, in colored pictures, for sale. I remember seeing among them Gen. Ringold, with others. Many were brought to a store in B____, and with them other pictures. One, especially, attracted dear Wickliffe's admiration. It was not a general nor any of the warriors; but, would you think it, my little reader? It was a lovely picture of a little boy holding up his hands in prayer, and it was called "The Morning Prayer," as follows: "Defend us from all evil throughout this day." Thus Wickliffe gave decided proof of the feelings and admiration of his heart for heavenly things, even in the little child's prayer, above glittering soldiers and generals. He had been taught by father and mother that the religion of Jesus was a religion of love, and good will to man, and not of war and hate!

I ought to have stated a remark of his, when speaking of his bathing with the grandsons of his father. Henry had just been baptized a short time before returning to College. At the creek Wickliffe spoke of it to his companions, both older than himself, and said : "I intend to be baptized when I am a little older," but for myself, when I heard of the saying, I could but exclaim, O the Lord baptized him at his death!! Of course it was a wild imagination.Neither his father nor myself ever urged our children to take this important step, but hoped they would be led to obedience as they learned the commands of their Saviour. All three of the youths, that were in bathing at that time, are now sleeping in the dust–the two older were both members of the Church.

One very remarkable selection I found in Wickliffe's scrapbook I have reserved till the last, and shall, after giving it, (which almost looked prophetic) and an extract from a letter written by his father on his return from England, perhapswith one or more precious references, bring my child's biography to a close. The lines I found on the top of a blank page in his scrap book. They were printed, and must have been cut out of a paper, and were as follows: “Hope then mother! hope in sadness; cheer thy drooping spirits up, sorrow soon will turn to gladness, cheer up mother; cheer thee up."

It was long before I could feel my "sorrow turn to gladness," but God in His tender mercy has healed my grief, and now causes me to rejoice in the prospect of ere long meeting and greeting him with all the other loved ones, on the other side of death's cold river!

Dear Mr. Campbell, after his return home, told me of the dark, troubled night he had the Saturday night of Wickliffe's death. He stated at the breakfast table the next morning that he had been greatly troubled in his sleep, and that he was conscious that something sad had happened at home. The very first letter written by Brother Patton, from Glasgow, with whom he was sojourning, referred to the remark Mr. C. made at the breakfast about home matters. It was net definable, but it imparted gloom and sorrow. It is spoken of in the Memoirs of Mr. Campbell, by Dr. R. Richardson. Ah! Solomon says in one of his proverbs, "That even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right." Proverbs 20:11.

Whether I am considered a believer in dreams or not, I will here relate one that my dear husband thought a significant one, as I do to this day, although, it was dreamed many years ago, and some time after Wickliffe's sudden death. I thought he returned from the grave, and in his full natural size and usual dress–still I knew it was his spiritual appearance; he was sitting on my lap or leaning on my arm and looking up into my face. I very earnestly and impressively asked him: "Wickliffe in what way were you drowned?" Without replying a word, he took my right hand and laid my forefinger upon my lip, most tenderly, indicating silence, as much as to say that was not to be known! Such I interpreted the dream; he soon after disappeared.

In my full heart and active memory of the past, (for it is from memory I write) I had forgotten to mention one important item, when speaking of Wickliffe having committed the Proverbs, I intended to have added for the sake of my grandchildren, or any youth who may happen to read this sketch.It was this: I have often heard dear Mr. Campbell say that every youth ought early to be taught to commit the Proverbs to memory. It was this earnest advice of Mr. C., that caused me to give Wickliffe the Proverbs to commit when I did. They would prove a good guide to every young person through life, and would prevent them from getting into trouble, by teaching them "not to intermeddle with what did not belong to them," and a safe guide to their feet. Mr. Campbell's father had him commit them all when quite young! I trust it will be an incentive for my young grandchildren to commit them on reading their grandfather's course and the example of Wickliffe.

But now for the promised extract from Wickliffe's father about him, in connection with what I have written:

"Bethany, Virginia, Nov. 25, 1847.

“Brother Wallis, My Very Dear Sir:

“Having written you from Halifax, and having on my arrival at Boston received the melancholy intelligence of the death of my son Wickliffe, and on arriving at home found my wife greatly afflicted and disconsolate, I could not bring myself to write to any one for some time; and when preparing to write, I was, according to my custom, counting on the 19th day instead of the 16th day of the month, for the regular steamers, and in this way I could not write by the proper mail. Meantime, I have but little to communicate to you and Sister Wallis, that can be interesting, except that which concerns myself and family, in which I know you take great interest. You have, no doubt, seen an account of the great loss we have sustained in the death of a very amiable and promising son, who was unexpectedly snatched from us in an hour, and in a manner the least of all to be expected. To me, indeed to us all, it has been a most afflictive, as well as a most mysterious Providence. Although inured to afflictions, with loss of many children, on all former occasions our minds were gradually prepared for it, by the slow and doubtful advances of a lingering decline. But in this case we were taken by surprise. A son, too, who gave much promise, and on whom clustered many a hope of future usefulness greatly devoted to his Bible, pious and most exemplary in his behavior,fond of learning and of books, we had nothing to fear, but everything to hope from him. No youth of ten years could have been more universally admired and beloved by all who knew him than he. This made the bereavement the more distressing and afflictive. His mother's heart was bound up in him, and he was, as I often said to her, ‘like her shadow,’ always by her side. To her, then it was a sad bereavement, an almost insupportable shock, too much for flesh and blood. She is, indeed, but very gradually recovering from it, and I fear will not for some time become her former self. It is in this case peculiarly hard to say, ‘the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ But, indeed, there are but few of us that can feel that our children, and all else we call our own, belong to Heaven's Great Lord. Still we must, and do endeavor to acquiesce in this affliction, believing that the Lord has done it for some wise and kind, through to us mysterious, purpose. But I must refer you to the December number of the Millennial Harbinger for a fuller account of this painful matter, and our reflections upon it. It will, I trust, not be without a blessing to us all, in weaning our affections off things seen and mortal, and in placing them on things unseen and immortal.”

One cause of my dwelling upon the life of dear Wickliffe to the extent I have, is that I feel that, in a measure, I have fulfilled a desire of his dear father, who at sundry times expressed a wish that I should write a tract for the Sunday School, containing a history of his beloved son. But my heart and pen shrank from the painful task of recording the sad event of his death. My dear husband, with a sympathizing heart often followed me in the grey of the evening, in the solemn twilight, to the cemetery, when he would say: “My dear wife they are not here, they are not here;” then taking me gently by the arm, would lead me to the house.Never did one unkind or impatient word escape his lips during these days and months of trial. I think of him now, with love and admiration, that such was his course, although many long years have faded away.

Oh! thanks be unto the Lord, who has brought me through so many trials of parting with loved ones, and has reconciled my heart to their absence, so that I now rather rejoice in the prospect of soon meeting them on the celestial shores, where there will be no more parting nor weeping. Ah! how many have been gathered upon the precious hill since I became an inmate of Bethany Mansion. At that time only my revered predecessor, with two or three infant children, were the sleeping occupants. Now six lovely married daughters repose there. Thomas and Jane Campbell (the father and mother of Alexander Campbell) and four sisters and two brothers of Alexander Campbell are sleeping there; they were all that came from Ireland with Mr. Campbell; none of them were married when they came; their brother, Alexander, taking charge of his mother and them, bringing them to this country. Their father, by the advice of physicians, preceded them some two years to America, in quest of health, being at that time spare and delicate; he afterwards became somewhat corpulent and lived to be ninety-one years of age lacking a few days. Also, John Brown, (the father of Mrs. Margaret Campbell,) and mother Brown repose within its walls. My mother, Mrs. Bakewell, who died with us, sleeps there also. My father, Samuel B. Bakewell, died in England, in 1836, having gone there on business; he was buried in the same cemetery with several of his brothers. Mr. Campbell visited his tomb in 1847 when he was in England.

-From The Life Of A. Campbell, By His Wife, Chapter II, pages 27-40

In Memory Of
Wickliffe Ewing Campbell
Son Of
Alex. & Selina H.Campbell,
Born June 24, 1837
He Drowned Sept. 04, 1847
In His 11th Year


Beautiful In Person, In Mind And Manners: Pious And Intelligent In The Sacred Scriptures; Admired And Beloved By All His Acquaintances. Peculiarly Dear To His Parents And Relatives, As If Destined For A Higher Sphere Than Earth. Is Pleased The Lord In His Inscrutable Providence To Take Him Suddenly Unto Himself

Webmaster's Note: This page was added to the website for many reasons. More than anything else, one perhaps dreams of what might have been in the case of Wickliffe Campbell. Had he lived, some predict that the Restoration Movement would have taken a different direction than it did. Beyond the possibilities, this heart-warming story of the life and sad departure of young Wickliffe Campbell should not be forgotten. For in his death he yet teaches both young and old how to prepare their heart for things which are above.

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