The Life of Selina Campbell: A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration

The Life of Selina Campbell: A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration

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by Loretta M. Long

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This first biography of Selina Campbell opens a window onto the experience of women in one of the most dynamic religious groups of 19th-century America.

Loretta M. Long examines the life and influence of Selina Campbell, one of the most visible women in the 19th-century Disciples of Christ movement. Best known as the wife of Alexander Campbell, founder of the


This first biography of Selina Campbell opens a window onto the experience of women in one of the most dynamic religious groups of 19th-century America.

Loretta M. Long examines the life and influence of Selina Campbell, one of the most visible women in the 19th-century Disciples of Christ movement. Best known as the wife of Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples, Selina Campbell both shaped and exemplified the role of women in this dynamic religious group (also known as the Stone-Campbell movement). Her story demonstrates the importance of faith in the lives of many women during this era and adds a new dimension to the concept of the "separate spheres" of men and women, which women like Campbell interpreted in the context of their religious beliefs.

A household manager, mother, writer, and friend, Campbell held sway primarily in the domestic sphere, but she was not held captive by it. Her relationship with her husband was founded on a deep sense of partnership conditioned by their strong faith in an all-powerful God. Each of them took on complementary roles according to the perceived natural abilities of their genders: Alexander depended on Selina to manage his property and raise the children while he traveled the country preaching. Campbell outlived her husband by 30 years, and during that time published several newspaper articles and supported new causes, such as women in missions.

In the end, as Long amply demonstrates, Selina Campbell was neither her husband's shadow nor solely a domestic worker. She was, in her husband's eyes, a full partner and a "fellow soldier" in the cause of Restoration.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Long’s gracefully written biography of Selina Campbell . . . contributes significantly to knowledge about this woman, whom scholars have frequently mentioned only in passing. . . . Noting the impact of feminist assumptions on modern scholarship, Long stresses the priority of Christian faith in understanding Selina Campbell’s view of the family and the world.” —Stone-Campbell Journal

“This elegantly written and clearly organized biography celebrates the intensity of Selina Campbell’s devotion even as it attempts to place her life within the larger context of American women’s history. . . . This book will help to diversify and enliven the literature on nineteenth-century American women.”—Journal of the Early Republic

"Long's biography of Selina Campbell tells the intriguing and important life story of Alexander Campbell's noted and influential wife. Based on impressive research and written with grace and clarity, this book throws a bright new light on both the 19th-century history of the Disciples of Christ and on the critical religious role of women."—David Edwin Harrell Jr., Auburn University

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University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
Religion & American Culture Series
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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The Life of Selina Campbell

A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration

By Loretta M. Long

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 2001 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-5755-9


The Bakewell Family

The story of the English brickmaker's daughter who became one of the most prominent women in America's fastest growing nineteenth-century churches begins in a small community in central England. The village of Lichfield, lying in the southern Staffordshire area, 118 miles northwest of London, numbered 4,842 inhabitants in 1801. Lichfield perhaps took its name from the "traditionary martyrdom of more than 1000 Christians, who are said to have been massacred here in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian." An old town with a strong sense of history, in 1802 Lichfield also became the birthplace of a woman whose life is noteworthy for its demonstration of devotion to family, home, and faith. The history of Selina Bakewell's family in Lichfield and in the rest of England provides a fascinating backdrop for her life. Events in Selina's childhood shed great light on her character as an adult, tell us about the members of her family and illuminate their role in her development, and lay the foundation for consideration of her adult experience.

The original village of Bakewell from which the family took its name lies in Derbyshire. The name probably came from the invading Normans of the eleventh century. Family records trace the Staffordshire Bakewells (Selina's branch) back as far as Levenettus Cancellarius, a thane of the king, who was appointed the "Rector de Bakewell" in 1158. Little is known about him except that he was believed to have been born in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Selina Campbell's branch of the Bakewell family descends directly from John Bakewell (1638–1716) of Castle Donington, the eighteenth generation from Levenettus. His son John (1690–1761) was the first Bakewell of Selina's lineage to list his residence as Kingston, County Stafford, where Selina's father was probably born.

In 1796 Samuel Bakewell married Selina's mother, Ann Maria Bean, at St. Chad's Cathedral, Shrewsbury, England. The couple soon settled in Lichfield. There is no record of any other Bean children, but there is also no reason to believe that there were none. George Bean, Ann Maria's father, actively served the Shrewsbury Baptist Church as deacon for several years and through his diligent service to his church transmitted his faith to his daughter. The piety that would later so broadly characterize Selina's life thus had its roots deep in her family history. At the church itself two monuments inscribed with the Bean name illustrate the family's relationship with the congregation, as do the graves of many members of the Bean family in the cemetery of the church's courtyard. Later, after Ann Maria Bean Bakewell and her children crossed the Atlantic to a new home, they joined a Baptist church in Wellsburg, Virginia—the ultimate testimony to the faith of George and Ann Bean.

The early years of the nineteenth century yielded momentous changes for the Bakewell family and for the young Selina. Probably responding both to a lack of opportunity in central England and to his own adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit, Samuel Bakewell left his family and sailed for the United States in 1803. This move obliged the family to build a new life in a new country. The special clay of the hills surrounding Samuel's home in Shrewsbury and Lichfield and the larger county of Staffordshire was especially suited to pottery, an industry that Samuel Bakewell apparently attempted to join. The market for pottery, however, had been declining around the turn of the century. The potters of Staffordshire, mostly journeymen and craftsmen, had formerly owned their own kilns and exercised great control over the production and sale of their products. Growing specialization and organization of the market increasingly drove production into mechanized factories, so that the journeymen and craftsmen now exerted less control over their employment. As prices fell and opportunities evaporated, many potters tried to relocate. Samuel Bakewell was probably one such worker who wanted to establish a factory in America.

Bakewell sailed for the United States in 1803 and eventually reached York County, Pennsylvania. After residing in the area for a few months, he became a naturalized citizen at the Allegheny County courthouse in Pittsburgh in early 1804. Ann Maria, Selina, and Selina's three brothers set sail from Liverpool on April 30, 1804, on the ship Diana to reunite all members of the family. Selina and her three older brothers had all been born before the family moved. Two more sons, Arthur and Edwin, would be born in Virginia. For fifty pounds sterling the family and their possessions, which included a bureau with brass handles, a 1790 cookbook, and an old tea canister, among other things, were brought to the United States. After the arrival of the wife and children, the reunited family settled in Charlestown, Brooke County, (West) Virginia. Samuel most likely chose the Wellsburg area because of the ready availability of a particular type of clay in the surrounding hills that was especially useful for firing pottery. The verdant gradients lining the Ohio River, where Wellsburg had been settled in the late eighteenth century, overlay a wonderful soil.

By 1816, after nearly thirteen years in the United States, Samuel Bakewell had abandoned his family to escape debtor's prison. None of his efforts to produce new types of stoneware and brick in Virginia had been successful, and his debts kept mounting. He held a patent on a new type of brick kiln and struggled vainly for several years to get the funding to promote it. As Samuel's debts accumulated, his family grew to eight members.

The first Bakewell child, George Bean, had been born May 18, 1797, seven years before the family moved to Virginia. We have little information about this eldest son of Samuel and Ann Maria Bakewell. Family records do not even mention him until he passed in 1822. His death, though the circumstances remain unknown, was an accident for which his father, it seems, blamed himself. The family apparently did not hold Samuel responsible even though he felt liable, probably because he was absent when the unspecified accident occurred. "We pray that you won't lacerate our hearts afresh by supposing that we would cast any blame on you on account of poor George's death," Horatio, the second son, assured his father in 1822.

Some writers have conjectured that George was mentally disabled and that his accidental death was therefore particularly difficult for the family to accept without a certain amount of guilt. The demise of his son seems to have tempted Samuel to take his own life, leading Horatio, his eldest surviving son, to reassure him years later, "It is true that we greeve [sic] on account of [George's] death, but can't we greeve and at the same time acquit you of any blame at all. We firmly believe that it was the Lord's will he should be called." Though the rest of the family accepted the loss of George, it was clear that the father found it difficult to absolve himself.

Samuel reached a crisis point a few weeks after the tragedy. The letter he wrote to his family about his breakdown has not survived, but from Selina's reply we glean several important facts. Her father seems to have fallen into a deep depression in the early 1820s that threatened to overwhelm him. His comments were so startling that Selina wrote him an impassioned letter. "You mention in your letter had it not been for the love you bore for us & the dread of offending the Almighty you think you would not have received Life so long as you have." Frightened at the depth of father's distress, Selina begged him to consider the one from whom his destructive thoughts had come and to resist the pressure. "I humbly intreat [sic] you," she wrote, "never to cherish or indulge such thoughts as these; as they do not proceed from above, but from the great Adversary of our souls." She feared the punishment for a "Self Murderer" and begged her father to turn to God in his despair for sustenance.

Samuel did not end his life in his sorrow, but his absence from the family made the grieving process harsher. George's death, her husband's refusal to come home, and his expressions of despair seemed to embitter Ann Maria; her disposition worsened as the years passed and the separation of the family continued. Selina stepped in to care for the family, but she was not the only one to feel the burden of their father's absence. The difficult emotional state of her parents and relatives probably contributed to the strength of character that she would later show.

The second son of the Bakewell family, Horatio N., was born in 1798. At the age of eighteen, since his older brother could not assume responsibility for the family and their father had abdicated his obligations, Horatio became the family mainstay, a burden that weighed heavily upon him. In the late 1820s he married Margaret H. McClure, the daughter of Denny McClure, a resident of Wellsburg, (West) Virginia. Margaret died on July 18, 1835, leaving her husband with a young son, James Edwin, who also died a few months later. Several years passed before Horatio remarried and had a second family. In the meantime he continued to provide the leadership for his family in his father's absence.

A prominent resident of Wellsburg, Virginia, all of his life, Horatio Bakewell served actively in a number of local organizations, but he spent most of his young adult life providing for his siblings. Horatio, probably under the influence of his mother's teaching, was a diligent member of the Wellsburg Church of Christ, the second church founded by Alexander Campbell. He served two terms as elder from November 18, 1832, to June 18, 1834, and from March 5, 1839, to January 28, 1844, and also acted as trustee from March 14, 1838, to December 3, 1861. He owned and operated the family business, the Bakewell Factory, which sat on two lots at the southwest corner of Eleventh and Main Streets in Wellsburg. Horatio and his younger brother, Theron, had persuaded Wellsburg resident Robert Dawson to sell them the land in 1826, and the elder brother operated the business there until his death in 1865. The factory produced glass, pottery, and brickware that Selina Campbell once claimed was "superior to any that ever my father ever made," even though Horatio labored "under many difficulties which [Father] did not—having to pay heavy rents for the shops & dwelling house." Though still a young man when he began the business, Horatio experienced some success in his enterprise that enabled him to pay for his family's home and support. The Brooke County Republican on September 10, 1835, described the Bakewell Factory as "atwo-story stoneware factory owned and conducted by H. N. Bakewell, employing three hands" and made of brick.

On September 4, 1800, another son, Theron Hervey, enlarged the Bakewell family. He and Selina, so close in age, remained good friends well into their old age. Selina was born just over two years after Theron on November 12, 1802. Another Bakewell son, Arthur H., was the first of the two Bakewell children born in Virginia. (Edwin, the youngest Bakewell, was born five years later in 1812.) Little is known about the life of Arthur beyond the fact that it was relatively short. But his experience within the family is worth mentioning for its impact on his older sister. As a young woman, Selina often expressed her concern about her younger brother and his future; she was actively concerned with the welfare for every member of the family. Arthur seemingly possessed a great thirst for knowledge, upon which his sister commented several times in her letters to other members of the family. When Arthur was a young man and had left Wellsburg in search of employment, Selina expressed her faith in his character and abilities. "Brother Arthur left this place [Wellsburg] the first of this month for Cincinnati," Selina informed Theron. She was pleased with his plan "of getting in as a clerk in some commercial House, as he had several good recommendations from this place." She described him as "a fine amiable young man, possessed of many excellent qualities—and ... a great thirst for acquiring knowledge," but he was also "for sometime prior to his departure seriously disposed." Apparently, he longed for more than working at brother Horatio's factory could offer. Sounding much like an elder sister, Selina expressed her satisfaction that he accepted the teachings of their mother as he "read the Scriptures with pleasure & admiration & began to think that the truths therein contained ought to interest us above every other consideration." In the absence of their father, she shared a bond with her brothers that might not otherwise have been so powerful. By February 1827, Arthur had written his family to let them know that he had obtained a position at a "respectable school" in Cincinnati.

An unfortunate turn of circumstances had forced Arthur to seek employment away from his hometown. As Selina informed Theron, "the reasons for leaving when he did arose from a misunderstanding which took place between him & Br H[oratio]." Apparently, Arthur felt "that he had not sufficient encouragement given him," but Horatio "thought that it was his duty to assist in supporting the family until he was of age." Assuming the role of peacemaker in the family, Selina believed Arthur did sincerely desire to help the family, but she also understood his desire to pursue his own career. Arthur had assisted his brother in running the Bakewell Factory for several years, but he soon chafed under the restrictions of supporting the family. Horatio must have shown some resentment of the burdens he carried for the family, while Arthur's constant search for a better education unfortunately clashed with the duties Horatio expected young Arthur to fulfill. Two years later news reached the family that Arthur had succumbed to an unspecified illness. The family was again thrown into mourning.

The quarrel between Horatio and Arthur over the younger brother's continued obligation to the family business arose from a situation with roots in earlier events. Accompanied by his son Theron, Samuel Bakewell had fled Wellsburg and, because of debts, had wandered for ten years, seeking his fortune. One of the first stops the two made was in Nashville, Tennessee, where the father took out an advertisement informing residents of the city that he had for sale an assortment of stoneware, green glass, and other items. He probably transported the goods by boat to the area and docked at a port before advertising in a local paper. His schemes all centered on the desire for a windfall that would allow him to redeem his debts and return to his family. He produced inventions of all sorts, including a plumbing system made with stoneware that he attempted to sell to various cities in the South including Nashville. He and Theron also spent time in Tuscaloosa and Coffeville, Alabama, and in Columbus, Mississippi. Letters from these places streamed into Bethany and provided the only link between the family's members. Samuel was blamed for the family's separation because he continually refused to return home and find a way to settle his debts. Instead he left the family divided and obliged his youngest children to grow up without their father.

By late 1822, father and son had settled in Washington, D.C., where Samuel continued his experiments with new kilns for burning brick. Later he became involved in a labor dispute with the Society of Brick Makers in Baltimore, whose strike he did not support. He attempted to convince the citizens of Baltimore, especially "the exporting merchants and mechanics," that the brickmakers were trying to raise the price of bricks unjustly. He followed this argument with a request for support of his new plan for a "Brick Manufacturing & Exporting Company," which would be based upon a new type of brick kiln that he was patenting. Apparently his appeals met with little success, because in 1829 he abandoned the United States and went back to his native country in search of new opportunity. He died there, never having returned to see his family, which learned of his death through a letter from relatives in England. Selina wrote to her father several times during their twenty-two-year separation and always deeply regretted not having seen him again.


Excerpted from The Life of Selina Campbell by Loretta M. Long. Copyright © 2001 The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Loretta Long is Assistant Professor of History at Abilene Christian University in Texas.


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