Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What Happened to John and Susan (Wilson) Campbell?

Susan Wilson was a great granddaughter of my four times great grandparents, John and Margaret (Grainger) Semple and my second cousin three times removed. She was born on 24 June 1871 at her parents' home on Rankin Street in Carluke, Scotland, one of thirteen children born to Adam Wilson and Margaret Scott. Adam worked as a coal miner. Sometime between 1872 and 1874 Adam moved his family from Carluke to Dalserf, where Susan spent the first decade of her life.

Her brother, Robert, left Scotland in 1880 and made his way to Mystic, Iowa, in Appanoose County. Mystic was in the Walnut Creek area of the county and was described as "one continuous mining camp." Susan's father, Adam, followed his son to Iowa the following year, arriving in New York City on 5 July 1881 aboard the Anchor Line's SS Circassia. Susan, her mother, and siblings followed later in 1881.

At the age of 19, Susan married John Campbell on 31 December 1889 in Mystic. John Campbell was born on 4 January 1859 in Auchinleck, Scotland, to John and Mary (Carlyle) Campbell. His father was a laborer who worked at the bottom of a coal pit, at an ironstone works, and toward the end of his life on a farm. John's sister, Mary Campbell, immigrated to the U.S. sometime between 3 April and 24 December 1881 when she married in Marion County, Iowa. Perhaps, her brother, John, traveled with her?

John and Susan had their first three children in Mystic but sometime between 1892 and 1894 the family moved to Mahaska County, Iowa. Coal mining was the major industry in the county. Their youngest child was born there in 1894. That birth record is the last record I can find for Susan (Wilson) Campbell. The children were:
  1. Howard, born 15 January 1890 in Mystic, Iowa
  2. John, born 17 March 1891 in Mystic
  3. Margaret Wilson, born 8 December 1892 in Mystic
  4. Marion, born 22 December 1894 in Mahaska County, Iowa
John was listed in the 1895 Iowa State census as living in Spring Creek, in Mahaska County, but his wife and children no longer lived in the county. It is the last record I have been able to find for him.

We know that in 1895, two of John and Susan's children -- Howard and Margaret -- lived with their maternal grandparents. And two -- John and Marion -- were enumerated in 1900 in Olympia, Washington. They lived with their father's sister, Mary, and her husband, John Crawford and were listed in the census as their children. Were they informally adopted? They continued to use the Crawford surname for the remainder of their lives.

So what happened to John and Susan (Wilson) Campbell? And why were their children split up and living with relatives?

Susan's mother consistently told census enumerators she had 13 children, of which 8 were living in 1900 and 7 were living in 1910. Susan's sister, Jane, died in 1903, which accounts for the change in the number of living children between 1900 and 1910. Since we only know about 11 of those children, it makes impossible to definitively say Susan died before 1900.

The children of Adam and Margaret (Scott) Wilson; created using Microsoft

My Semple research collaborator and I have two different theories and yet there is probably at least three:

Theory 1: Susan died shortly after her youngest daughter, Marion, was born and the children were split up among their maternal grandparents and paternal aunt and uncle. And John died sometime between 1895 and 1900. The trouble with this theory is those two unknown children Susan's mother consistently said she had. In order for Susan to have died before 1900, they both would have to be living either in Scotland or the U.S. and no record of either of them has been found.

Theory 2: Susan had to be institutionalized for some physical or mental illness after her youngest daughter, Marion, was born and died sometime after 1910. With this theory, the two unknown children died as infants or very young children, which is much easier to explain.

Theory 3: Susan ran off with another man, abandoning her husband and children. And John sent his children to live with relatives so he could continue to work.

We both assume that John Campbell died sometime after the 1895 Iowa State census was enumerated and before 1900. But it is possible that he left Iowa and was enumerated in another state. His name is quite common and we have not eliminated all the possibilities.

What do you think happened to John and Susan (Wilson) Campbell?

Anchor Line: Scottish Ships for Scottish Passengers
Mining Coal in Appanoose County

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