MRS. RUSH OWEN. It is seldom in the history of any county that the first pioneer can with any certainty be pointed out. The coming of men into a now settlement is usually so simultaneous that much confusion frequently exists, with many rival claimants for the honor. There is no doubt, however, that John P. Campbell, the father of the lady whose name heads this sketch, was the first white man to locate his claim on the site of what is now Springfield, with the intention of here making his frontier home. He was the son of John Campbell and was born in Mecklenburg County, N. C., and was five years of age when he went to Tennessee with his father. He received the common-school education of his day, but having an active mind and being fond of reading he became a man of more than ordinary intelligence and information. He began life as a farmer and surveyor and married in Maury County, Tenn., Louisa T. Cheairs, daughter of a wealthy slaveholder, and by her Mr. Campbell became the owner of slaves, although he did not believe in the institution and was a kind and merciful master. After the birth of his first child, in December, 1829, be came to Greene County, in company with his brother, Ezekiel M. They crossed the Missouri River at Walnut Bend, Ark., and were exploring the country for a home. They arrived in what is now Greene County in September and were much pleased with the country. Mr. Campbell located his claim, and, to mark it, blazed trees near the bottomless well, about where Sibley's warehouse now stands, intending to return and take up his claim as quickly as possible. On his return to Tennessee he stopped at the settlement of William Fullbright, on the Piney River, in Missouri, and told him of the fine appearance of the country. Mr. Fullbright, being interested in the description, came out at once, and when Mr. Campbell returned, in January, 1830, with his family, he found Mr. Fullbright already settled at what was afterward known as Fullbright's Spring, near where the Gulf Railroad shops are now located. Mr. Campbell selected a large body of land, much of which is now covered by the eastern part of Springfield. Being of a peaceful disposition, he had no trouble with the Delaware Indians, with whom he not only exchanged products but friendly greetings. Mr. Campbell was noted for his generous, old-fashioned hospitality, and lavishly entertained the old settlers, travelers and persons seeking homes in this new country. He was very genial, kind-hearted, and a friend to every one. He was finally, of necessity, obliged to open a place of entertainment, as the travel greatly increased, and he was the first tavern keeper in Springfield. Mr. Campbell was one of the founders of the Methodist Church in southwest Missouri. He made a profession of religion during a great religious revival, which spread through this country, and which culminated in the famous pioneer camp meeting at Ebenezer, and which was attended by the early settlers for many miles around. He became the fast friend of the Methodist Church and gave liberally of his means to its support. He gave the land on the corner of Walnut and South Street, where the Methodist Church now stands, and also land for a Methodist parsonage. Mr. Campbell and wife were the parents of the following children: Tolitha, born in Tennessee-the remaining children, John N., Mary F., Leonidas A., Sarah R., James P., Thomas C., Samuel J., William A. and one who died young--being born in Missouri. He had four sons in the Confederate army: Leonidas A.; John N., who was killed in the war; Thomas P., who died of exposure after the battle of Corinth, and Samuel J. The remaining children married as follows: Tolitha married E. D. McKinney, the pioneer editor of Springfield (they have but one child, a daughter, now Mrs. Frank Shepard, and the mother of eight children); Mary F. married Dr. Samuel Sprouel, a brother of Mrs. Dr. Bailey (she died childless); John N. married Mary, the daughter of Finley Danforth, an old pioneer (they have five children: Erskine A.; Lulu, wife of Thomas Merritt; John N.; Finley, and Mary, wife of Hugo Shaffer); Leonidas A. married Lulu McElhaney (they had one son-Robert Lee); Sarah R. married Jabez Owen, who died in 1862, leaving four children (Mary F., who married George T. Bryan and is the mother of two children; Felix G., now settled in Gainsville, Tex.; Lucy C., married John P. McCammon, and Jay a young man, unmarried). My. Campbell laid out the original plat of Springfield, which consisted of fifty acres of land. To this people afterward added as they saw fit, which accounts for the irregularities in some of the streets. Mr. Campbell is well remembered by some of the old pioneers who yet live and who speak of him, in the kindliest manner, as an upright and courteous gentleman who had the respect and confidence of every one who knew him as a man of sterling worth. He died in 1851.
Springfield-Greene County Library