Rev. James M. Campbell
1840 - 1926
Madison, Wis., May 13, 1926
My Dear James: - The news of the death of Rev. James M. Campbell of Claremont, California, just reached me today through a letter from my daughter Effie. There are still many in Watertown who remember him and I think will be interested in the following quotation form her letter of May 9.
Friday morning came the letter from Mae saying that her father had slept quietly away on his eighty-sixth birthday after some hours of unconsciousness. One of the clergymen said yesterday at the funeral service, that he had finished his autobiography last Saturday, and his last book “The Christ of Experience” last Monday.
Homer and I both agreed that we had never heard a more impressive service than that held at the Claremont Congregational church yesterday. It was conducted by four Congregational ministers, each one speaking briefly and excellently. The service opened with Geo. Matheson’s hymn “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go”. Matheson, who had been Mr. Campbell’s classmate and intimate friend in Edinborough, was also a blind preacher, and I imagine Mr. Campbell had chosen that hymn. The service ended with “Abide With Me”.
The cemetery is just half a mile down the road from Argyle Grove, an easy walk from the house. There was a full church, people coming from Manhattan, Sierra Madra and Claremont and a very long funeral cortege. There was a great quantity of flowers and Mae seemed to be surrounded by a host of fine friends.
The above puts me in a reminiscent mood, and I hope you will excuse me, if I give from memory a short sketch of Mr. Campbell’s career: He was born in Scotland May 6, 1840, and was educated at the University of Edinborough, one of his intimate friends and classmates was Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the Telephone, who was at that time a teacher of the deaf in Edinborough. After finishing his theological studies, he was for some years a minister in Laughlin Dumfriesshire. He emigrated with his family, a wife and four children in 1873 and for some time filled various pastorates in Illinois.
In 1882 he was called to the Congregational Church at Watertown, and served that congregation for nine years.
He afterwards preached to a Congregational church in Lombard, Illinois, and after some years went to California. He has written a great many books, mostly of a religious nature, several since he became blind. Five years ago we had the privilege of attending Sunday service at Manhattan Beach, in a church which he had organized after he was over seventy years of age.
He kept up his activities as a Christian minister, until blindness (optic atrophy) made it impossible. We had the pleasure of visiting him twice at his home in a beautiful little orange grove, of which his son, Theodore, is manager, last winter during our stay in Los Angles.
His intellect was as clear and unclouded as that of a man thirty years younger and he was as busy writing books as ever. The little poem is one which my daughter, Effie, composed and sent to him after one of our visits to his home in Claremont:
TO A BLIND FRIEND
When with slow steps you sought your way in darkness
And turned the gaze of sightless eyes on me,
I longed to tear away that veil of blackness
And give you of my light and power to see
But as we lingered on that day we met
To speak of books you’d written and would write
While I had felt the fever and the fret
Of all that God had shut from your dimmed sight
Oh, then I knew that your’s had been the vision
Of things that were not given me to see
While I was bent upon an earthbound mission
You had touched heaven and immortality
E. M. Watt, March 27, 1926