restricted access 7. John Campbell and the Blending of Industrial Development and Moral Uplift in Early Ohio
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URING HIS lifetime John Campbell, described by historian Anne Kelly Knowles as the “premier example” of a southern Ohio ironmaster, played a significant role in guiding the state into the industrial age. Yet for Campbell producing pig iron and personal wealth were not enough, so he founded a town. Located on the Ohio River near the triangular bottom of the state, Ironton quickly became a center of pig iron production and the culmination of Campbell’s work. Inspired by a social as well as an economic vision, Campbell wanted his creation to be more than just another company town. Campbell’s life and work fits the patterns of both industrial development and moral uplift that were so common during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Campbell lived during a time of rapid change. With the nation expanding westward, new towns sprang up as boosters created places to make communities and fortunes. At the same time, the Second Great Awakening spurred on reform movements . From what we know of Campbell, he seemed to have no difficulty reconciling personal gain and social reform. Campbell was a leading businessman who sought to make a profit, but he also championed temperance and abolitionism. Campbell was very much a man of his time straddling the sometimes murky lines between self-interest , reform, and social control. We find in the Campbell family a familiar story in the settlement of Ohio. Like so many of the settlers in the eastern part of the state, they descended from Scotch-Irish immigrants. Earlier generations of Campbells originally had settled in Augusta County, Virginia. In 1790, Campbell’s grandparents moved from Virginia to Kentucky 7 84 John Campbell and the Blending of Industrial Development and Moral Uplift in Early Ohio PHILIP PAYNE  D vantne_3rd_chap7.qxd 11/4/2003 11:51 AM Page 84 and then to Ohio in 1798. John Campbell was born in Stanton, Ohio, on January 14, 1808. Campbell came from an obscure farm family and received the “ordinary school education of those days.” A contemporary biographer claimed his parents “were of little assistance , and his life exhibits what can be accomplished by industry and integrity combined with good judgment.” How much of this is accurate and how much of it is a Horatio Alger–style myth is difficult to tell. Still, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to call Campbell a selfmade man. Campbell enters into the historical record as a young man working as a store clerk, so there is a good chance that that he did receive an education somewhat beyond the “ordinary.” As a clerk, Campbell showed business acumen that so impressed the proprietor that they jointly opened a store in Russellville in the late 1820s. Campbell soon bored of the slow life of a village storekeeper and invested his life savings ($600) in the riverboat Banner, becoming its clerk in 1830. The river trade, however, also proved to be too slow, and he sold his interest in the steamer the next year. Looking for opportunity, Campbell returned to southeastern Ohio and became deeply involved in the iron industry emerging along the Ohio River. What was it that kept Campbell in southeastern Ohio? The importance of the Ohio River as a transportation artery cannot be discounted . Campbell certainly understood this from his work on the Banner. Developments in agriculture, transportation, and industry continually increased the traffic on the Ohio. The natural resources of the region were also of crucial importance. Southeastern Ohio and eastern Kentucky have a rugged landscape dominated by the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. For years, locals referred to the hills as the “little smokies.” Here Campbell and others pioneer ironmasters found the raw materials needed in the form of iron ore, limestone, and lumber. The Hanging Rock Iron Region exemplified the connection between natural resources, transportation, and early industrial development . The region straddled the Ohio River extending into Ohio and Kentucky. In Ohio, the region encompassed six counties: Adams, Lawrence, Gallia, Jackson, Scioto, and Vinton. In 1838, Professor Kaleb Briggs of Ohio University exemplified the boosterism and excitement of the area when he wrote that the “iron region from the Ohio River, near Franklin Furnace, northward by Jackson, to the Hocking river occupies an area . . . capable of yielding 3,000,000 tons of good ore to each square mile.” The quality of the ore was “so great 85 JOHN CAMPBELL vantne_3rd_chap7.qxd 11/4/2003 11:51 AM Page 85 that Jackson, Lawrence, and Scioto counties are...


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