Ohio Biographies

James Campbell

James Campbell inventor of the Campbell Improved corn and seed drill, and sole manufacturer of the same at his Pioneer Drill works in Harrison village, was born in Chester county, Pennsylvania, April 15, 1817. He is of Scotch-Irish descent, on his father's side descended from the famous Clan Campbell and on his mother's side a Harper. His maternal grand-parents were Alexander and Nancy (Adams) Harper. The Harpers came from Ireland to America in 1794, bringing six children - William, Alexander, James, Mary, Margaret, and Sidney. Margaret was born in Donegal, Ireland, October 31, 1787, and was married in 1806 to Andrew Campbell, of Scotch blood, but a native of Londonderry; born July 18, 1774, who had come to this country in 1801. His mother was a Stewart, and he had three sisters, also a brother, John, who was a soldier in the Scotch Greys in the battle of Waterloo, and was killed there. The children of Margaret and Andrew Campbell were John, Mary, William, Alexandria, James, Martha, George, Charles, Andrew Jackson, and one who died in infancy -- all born in Chester county, Pennsylvania. Alexander came to the west in 1836, and settled in Harrison as a wagon-maker. His brothers William and James followed him thither two years later. They were both blacksmiths, and opened a shop for the prosecution of their business. They were inventive and enterprising, and manufactured a number of implements then new in the country, as cultivators and double-shovel plows. Before that corn had been cultivated in that region simply with harrows, single-shovel plows, and three-hoe flukes. They also introduced a patent spring for wagons, which took the place of the wooden affairs used on the "Dearborn wagons." In 1841 or 1842 Alexander made two corn drills, which failed to do the work, and in 1849 the brothers bought the right of the "Dickey drill" and began manufacturing them. It had a roller which ran over the corn after it was dropped, and if the ground was wet it packed the earth on the corn, making a crust and preventing the corn from growing. In 1859 they invented a corn drill, placing the drive-wheel in front and covering the corn with shears. It failed, however, in the dropping and driving arrangements.

Up to this time James assisted his brother, but the latter becoming discouraged, James then took it into his own hands, and invented two other drills, which also failed. In 1863 he invented one on the principle according to which he is now manufacturing, which is in general use throughout the south and west. In 1877 he added some improvements for dropping cotton as well as corn and other small seeds, and also made it a fertilizing drill. He adopts for his implement the name "Pioneer drill." because it was the first successful one of the kind, and is still in advance of all others. Over seventy-five thousand are now in use in different parts of America and Europe. One of his nephews, James A. Campbell, was formerly associated with him in business, but recently retired, and Mr. Campbell conducts it alone. He has been successful from the time of his humble beginnings in Harrison, reaping the rewards of industry, intelligence, and enterprise, and has added largely to his facilities for manufacturing. His blacksmith-shop occupies one building, the machine-shop another, and still another is used for the putting together and shipping of the drills. His manufactory, at the corner of Sycamore and Walnut streets, is just opposite the spot where he began business in the village in 1839. Several times, however, he has suffered reverses, being once entirely burnt out, the last day of August, 1867.  Since then his business has steadily increased, and he has now the largest manufactory of any kind in Harrison, on the Ohio side.  For some years he was a Free and Accepted Mason, but has not for some time given much attention to the order. With nearly a11 his family, he is a member of the Christian or Disciple church. He is a Republican in political faith, having been opposed to slavery extension ever since the CASS, Van Buren, and Taylor campaign, when he voted for the Kinderhook statesman on the Free Soil ticket, and voted steadily with that party until Republicanism was organized.

Mrs. Maria (Matsenbaugh) Campbell is of Pennsylvania German stock, daughter of Samuel and Rachel Matsenbaugh. Her father, as well as Andrew Campbell, of her husband's family, was a volunteer of the War of 1812.  Her parents moved from Pennsylvania to New Lisbon, Columbiana county, at an early day, and thence to Harrison shortly before her marriage. Her father, born August 9, 1794, in Virginia, died here December 24, 1850; her mother, born in Maryland March 1, 1799, also died here July 14, 1868. Maria remained at home with her parents until her marriage with Mr. Campbell, June 17, 1849, since which time her history has been identified with that of her husband. She is likewise a member of the Christian church in Harrison, and faithfully discharges her various duties as wife and mother, and in all other relations of life.

Their children have been:

Sarah Louisa, born May 1, 1850; died twenty-two days thereafter.

Angie, born October 29, 1851; residing with her parents.

Hattie Belle, born March 7, 1853; married July 26, 1874. to George F. Orr; residing in Harrison, Mr. ORR being an assistant of his father-in-law.

Benjamin Franklin, born October 21, 1855; died December died December 5, 1859, of membranous croup.

Ella Dora, born February 24, 1859; book-keeper in her father's office.

Albert Martin, born August 30, 1860; at home, head machinist at his father's establishment.

Harry Ogden, born November 4, 1864; also an assistant at his father's manufactory.

Elmore Edward, born September 29, 1867; at home, a lad in the schools.


From History of Hamilton county, Ohio, Henry & Kate Ford, L. A. Williams & Co., Publishers, 1881