Campbell Twins

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They are Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Campbell, Oregon's oldest twins, honored residents of Dallas, Polk county.They are Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Campbell, Oregon's oldest twins, honored residents of Dallas, Polk county.

"Tom" and "Jim" commerated their twentieth birthday four days after they arrived in Oregon 67 years ago. And today, although "Tom" is slightly incapacitated by illness, "Jim" will read this humble review of his long life without the aid of glasses.

Mayhap, when the reading is done, he will do a delicate job at filing a saw or turn to a perfect balance a hardwood hammer handle. He testifies that he's as keen a workman as he was nearly three quarters of a century ago.

* * *

"Tom" and his twin "Jim" , were born in Morgan County, Illinois, October 3, 1833, and their advent was quite the talk of the county, where their honored and widely known parents, J. G. and E. A. Campbell lived. As youngsters the twins held their own with far tasks, and on April 14, 1853 six months before they were 20 years old, the brothers were full-fledged, husky members of the caravan train party that left their then home in Iowa for the great West.

The personnel of the Campbell section of the overland wagon train included the twins, a brother a sister and their parents. The equipment included two wagons 16 oxen, 4 horses, 14 cows, 1 mule and a hack.

Six months is an age of time where the plains are wide and the trails are manifold. But, after all, the horizon held promise that could not be dimmed by hardships, and the little family trudged on into the trackless wonderful West.

Signs of the depredation of Indian hordes did not deter the Cambbells, the twins declare, for the alkali of the desert that claimed a horse from their best team, was a vastly greater enemy. The enmity seemed overwhelming when, one after another, 11 of their oxen fell by the wayside, alkalied or sacrificed because, for the sake of speed, the train must be lightened.

The few cows with which Father Campbell hoped to start a herd that would bring wealth to reward his labors in the new land gave up the struggle as the bruises and lameness of the trek overcame them. Five of a herd of 14 cows remained at the end of the journey. The mule, sturdy leatherneck, survived every ordeal and brayed it's report for duty unfailingly.

Atop a hill near Meacham Oregon where "Jim" Campbell believes was the site of Lee's famous encampment in the Blue Mountains, may be found today, if time has not destroyed its solid timers, a wagon that was discarded from the train - a beautiful wagon, built especially to withstand the knocks of the overland Journey. But speed proved of greater moment than anything else and the wagon went into discard when there ere neither enough oxen or horses to pull it. longer.

When the Campbell's struck the Columbia--the peek in the wall through which the pioneer caught his first actual glimpse of the land of the great frontier--the little family built a scow, a crude, but sturdy affair and loaded on it their wares and provisions.

Some of the party floated the scow, while the twins undertook a hazardous maneuver in driving the remnants of their stock over the dim trail down the Columbia River Gorge, a trail now widened by the hand of progress and known through out the world as the Columbia River Highway.

The improvised raft had been floated to where the Cascade Locks have since been built, and there the caravan was formed again. From there the journey overland--trying grades and no roads at all--moved on to Oregon City, then the center of the Oregon Country.

Supplies replenished and hope revived by communion again with folks of their own like, the Campbell's talked and planned and dreamed of the future as they approached the domain that was to be their new home.

They arrived at Salt Creek, Polk County, then a populous community, the times considered on October 4, 1853. And just last week the boys who four days later commemorated their twentieth birthday were honored upon their eighty-seventh almost within the sight of Salt Creek, where they have spent the intervening 67 years happily and withal (sic) fruitfully.

Dallas was then a hope, but not a fact. Salem was a poor little cross road village when Campbell's passed through. But Salt Creek was a reality--there were great areas of wonderful timber, for whos heart had been cut, here and there, little patches that have widened since into one of Oregon's most fertile and fruitful valleys.

In all the years since October 4, 1853, "Tom" and "Jim" have only once been outside of the state, and a very few miles within the state would encompass the radius of charms--and they returned home more than ever content to remain.

* * *

In the meantime "Jim" had become a skilled carpenter and "Tom" was a farmer of ability and means. "Jim", who lives in a pretty little house at Dallas, across the street from the shop in which he is still active at his trade, had married on July 4, 1860. Last Independence day he celebrated with Mrs. Campbell the sixtieth anniversary of that happy day of their wedding at Salt Creek. "Tom" followed his twin into matrimonial market about a month later. His wife died some years ago. "Jim" and Mrs. Campbell hae two sons and three daughters to whom they can recite the tales of the long trail, and "Tom's family consists of one son and a daughter.

There was a time in the lives of these fine men, grayed veterans of Oregon's reclamation, when either could call by name every man, woman and child in Polk County. But the faces of half a century ago are memories revived only in the likeness of grandchildren, as "Jim" puts it, "one barely knows his next door neighbor these days."

As a carpenter though, no man in that day boasted an item of the present mill or carpentry equipment, "Jim" built the first dwelling in the now important city of Dallas. The pretty little home still stands near the bank of the Rickreall, harboring happy folks in a setting of pretty lawns and flowers.

The cottage was not the first building for that distinction is claimed by the old dormitory of La Creole Academy, now fallen into disuse, but once the home of the great seat of learning to which early students came from many miles.

`Dallas's first dwelling was built for J. G. Riggs, and with some assistance "Jim" Campbell hewed from great fir the timber from which it was built. Every board in the house is hand dressed--and hand hewn. "Hand-dressed lumber, 60 years ago was not sold for anything like the $100. a thousand feet that it brings to plutocratic mill owners of today", Jim declares.

With one man to help him, "Jim" Campbell made all the sash and doors used in the whole of Polk County throughout four of those pioneer years.


Polk County had been and continued for years to be an important stock raising section, into which the echoed war whoops of marauding Indians occasionally penetrated.

In '55 the echoes came to close for the comfort of pioneers and "Jim" took time off through that year to serve in the Yakima Indian Ward.

He tells thrilling stories of substance on an average of less than half rations--at times without anything to eat--as the anti redskin campaign went on.

Finally, though the Indians were calmed and became, to a large extent peaceful, friendly souls, segregrated upon their reservations to mourn the loss of their once unbound domain. So it was that in 1864 "Jim" was able fearlessly and profitably to conduct the agency carpentry on the Siletz reservation. At various times he has had in business aside from that of the trade that occupies his spare moments now. He was well known as a furniture dealer for some years though, even then he plied his trade with saw and hammer.

In all the years of their lives in Polk County, sometimes when politics waxed to hot and furious, and men sometimes men to fit county and state offices were scarce, neither of the twins ever held public office.

"Jim" recalls interestingly the year his name was proposed after the barrier of his protests, had been town by friends as county treasurer. The campaign did not Campbell, yet, while he remained inactive friends carried on the fight. In summing up he was defeated by one vote. That defeat was quite enough, and Campbell has never permitted his name to appear on another ballot.

Until rather recently the Campbell brothers played second fiddle to the Haines brothers in the record of age of Oregon twins. And they were willing to appear for the four patriarchs frequently foregathered to ruminate on the days of the long trek that brought them all to Oregon.

The Haines brothers, until the twinship was disturbed by the death of one of the brothers were unquestioned holders of the long distance championship in the matter of age of Oregon twins. At one of their meetings with the Hains Brothers a few years ago, the Campbell's discovered the Haines boys were born in Taswell County, Illinois. "Tom' and "Jim" appeared in the world on October 3, 1833 in Morgan County in the same state.

Meanwhile the affairs of a nation have been molded and it's effects have been built. ?Salt Creek, once a wilderness is a community of prosperous farmers, and Dallas, home town of the Campbell's has become a populous trading place in the heart of a happy valley, where then was but a desolate, timbered land of promise.

The old Campbell donation land claim in the Salt Creek neighborhood has long since passed into other hands--divided and subdivided, until it's original state is but a memory of their boyhood with the Campbell Twins.

From Oregon Historical Society
Portland Oregon
Scrap Book #72 pp. 167

Note: Actually there was another brother William Green Campbell and all of the Campbell daughters on the trip across the plains. The author of this article was more interested in "flowery" writing than in accuracy.

Submitted by Leta Denny Christiansen