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  • HISTORY OF CAMPBELL: a presentation by Kerry Perkins @ Campbell Library

    Kerry Perkins, Senior Museum Specialist at the Campbell Museum gave a summary of the history of Campbell. She began by giving broad strokes of background history from the time of the Native Americans, to Spanish rule, then Mexican rule followed by American rule. Next she focused in on the Campbell family.

    In 1846 William Campbell moved his family including Benjamin (the eventual founder of Campbell) from Missouri to California. This was a 2,000 mile trek by walking. The travelers covered 12 miles a day. This was not all smooth flat grassland. They had to go through mountains and desert. The journey took them about 6 months. They traveled with other likeminded people including the famed Donner party. The Campbells were spared the fate of the Donner party when they split from that group, taking a safer route.

    When the Campbells arrived in California, the area was in a revolt against the Mexican government. The elder William Campbell got recruited by John Fremont to fight, while the son Benjamin stayed behind as a home guard.

    William Campbell was an enterprising person. He built his own threshing machine, got a job as a surveyor (he was a smooth talker) and built a lumber mill.

    The discovery of gold brought in a huge influx of fortune hunters. The Campbells also got caught up in the “gold fever.” They tried their hand at finding the precious metal. The hard work, in looking for the precious metal was unrewarded. They switched to selling supplies.

    Around this time the widower William Campbell remarried. His new wife would not let him travel back to Missouri. He sent his son Benjamin Campbell in his place. With the wonders of modern travel, Benjamin traveled via ship to Panama then New Orleans, finally ending up in Missouri. In contrast to the six month journey this trip took one month. It was also very expensive.

    While in Missouri, Benjamin Campbell proposed to Mary Rucker. Her family would not approve of the marriage until Benjamin had some land holdings. So he went back, purchased 160 acres of land then returned to Missouri. He moved his wife along with other family members out West. The overland trek in 1852 was easier than in 1846. This time there were people in the business of ferrying travelers across rivers. This journey took 5 months instead of 6.

    When he returned to his purchased land, Benjamin Campbell had to fight legal battles against claim jumpers until 1870. That piece of land was the beginning of the city of Campbell. In addition to fighting claim jumpers, Mr. Campbell tried his hand at wheat farming (dry farming) which was not very successful. Since the ground had a good source of water he along with other farmers switched to fruit farming.

    The railroad was a big bonanza to Benjamin Campbell. Goods could be transported much more quickly. In 1877 Southern Pacific asked Mr. Campbell for a right of way, which he granted. Later in 1886 the railroad asked to establish a depot. This was also granted. Of course he did not grant these rights without a price. The area became a transport hub for moving fruit. It was called “Orchard City.”

    The speaker also mentioned the role of Mr. Ainsley’s cannery business. Mr. Ainsley’s company offered day care for the children, while the mothers worked.

    Since time was limited, the speaker went on to mention certain highlights in the history of Campbell such as the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.

    She also briefly covered the story of the incorporation of Campbell into a city. There had been an attempt to incorporate years earlier but that was turned down. No one wanted to pay the extra expense. This time it was a matter of survival. The City of San Jose basically said: be annexed by us or you don’t get city services. Rather than get swallowed up by San Jose (or big bad evil empire), residents of Campbell chose to incorporate. And the rest they say is history.

    The speaker should great enthusiasm for the subject. This was not some detached subject for her. While she did not grow up in Campbell, she does have a family connection to the city. Her grandfather was the postmaster for Campbell from 1905 until his death in 1910. History becomes more meaningful when there is a family connection. There is more to history than listening to lectures. As she pointed out the Campbell Museum has the fire house and the Ainsley house for touring. In addition the Museum has programs such as History Happy Hour and a Mystery Party in the garden of the Ainsley House. The various programs offered through the Campbell History Museum indicate a creative, fascinating approach to history. People should avail themselves or take advantage of the programs offered.

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