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  • Sarah Campbell’s Story
  • Jason Brown (bio)

Sarah Campbell Howland, Ada Campbell

In 1803 Sarah Campbell Howland told her story to her granddaughter, Emma Howland, who wrote the story down and, shortly before she died, passed it to her granddaughter, Elizabeth Carelton. [End Page 140]

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Photo by Clarence H. White, courtesy of Boston Public Library

[End Page 141]

My grandmother, Sarah Campbell, was born in Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay, Scotland, on August 13, 1722, to pious parents who instructed her in the Christian religion. When she was about nineteen years old, her father went to Pennsylvania, and finding land suitable for his family, he wrote for her mother and the children to take passage in the first vessel and come to Pennsylvania. Her mother, with three daughters, left on board a large ship. On July 28, 1741, they sailed from Glasgow, Captain Knight commander. For some time after they sailed, they had pleasant weather, and everything was agreeable, excepting their seasickness. The ship’s company daily assembled on the quarterdeck for prayers, which were performed alternately by four or five of the passengers, to the great satisfaction of many on board.

When they had been about three weeks at sea, a mortal fever broke out and spread through the ship’s company. Not one was able to help another. Sarah’s mother and her children were preserved and restored to health, though many died around them.

After ten weeks at sea, they were visited with a violent storm. Waves rose above the mast, and a ceiling of water blew from peak to peak above them. Their ship was damaged, and they were all very near being lost. The captain said they were close to land and expected every day to make it. But the violence of the storm drove them to eastward. Their masts gave way, and they were in a distressed situation.

At that time the captain thought proper to put all hands on allowance, as he did not know where the ship was or how long they should be continued in their present situation. He knew not where to steer his course. One biscuit a day, a small portion of meat, and a quart of water, was all their allowance. This was continued for ten or twelve days, and then they were put upon half allowance, excepting the water, which was continued the same. Then days after, they spoke a ship, which supplied them with provisions, but their allowance was not increased.

October 28 they made land on the eastern coast and found it to be a desolate island a mile from shore, inhabited only by a few Indians, called Seguin. The ship was anchored, and they remained a few days on board. The captain and others took the longboat and went hoping to find some French inhabitants but returned without success. The passengers were then ordered to land. Many boatloads of people were scattered round the island, without any food. The number of people could not be less than a hundred. They were told that the last boats would bring them provisions [End Page 142] but were disappointed. Nothing was sent to the island. Some cried, some almost distracted, not knowing what to do.

Sarah and her family were landed in one of the first boats. Her youngest sister died in the boat, but she, her older sister, and their mother reached the shore. All being in confusion and trouble, there was no one to bury the girl. When the boats were landing, as she stood on the beach, a child, about two years old, was put into Sarah’s arms. She looked around to see who was to take it from her but found no one that would own it. Sarah inquired, Who takes care of this child? A little boy, about twelve years old, answered, Nobody, ma’am, but I. How she felt, knowing that this child’s parents had both died in the ship. Sarah was obliged to lay down the child and leave it to the care of Him who had the care of them all. The boy and the child...


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