Ann Campton (1790–1863)

Taylor Wright

Ann Campton, my fourth great grandmother, was born December 12, 1790 on the Island of Ireland. She was most likely from County Tyrone or County Londonderry as I have been able to locate several others there around her age with the last name Campton. In the U.S. she was a member of both Presbyterian and Methodist churches which reflects the North English/Scots Irish origins of her surname. Her Irish born origins are filled with mystery that spurs me to only want to search for her younger years more, especially as she is my most recent immigrant ancestor.

I imagine Ann’s childhood was filled with numerous family and friends, living a rural life in a very small community with thatched roof stone houses amidst rolling green hills. Here she and her family would have raised animals, farmed their crops, as well as where she would have learned the crafts of spinning, weaving, and cooking. This childhood ruled by traditions, the church, and the fruits of the land prepared Ann for the life she would live once she arrived in America. At the young age of 8, Ann was witness to events surrounding the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Led by the United Irishmen, which comprised both Catholics and Protestants, the rebellion was in direct opposition to the British Rule of Ireland, a stance that had been brewing in the area for some time. After a long period of peace in Ireland, she and her family would have been felt the rising tension building in the nation.

Based on information from American records Ann’s story picks up again in 1812 at the age of 22 on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean giving birth to my third great grandfather, John. Given the crowded ship and chances of contracting various diseases it is extremely lucky these two survived the journey making it the entire way to South Carolina. The two disembarked into a foreign world full of a terrifying chance at either surviving or not. With no ship records as well as being nine months pregnant it is presumable she made the trip alone, having either been sent away or choosing to leave on her own accord.

Ann and her infant son John possibly sought assistance in the foreign port city of Charleston with the Catholic Hibernian Society, a new society at the time of her arrival with the mission of helping all Irish immigrants, to South Carolina. Charleston, a city of around 65,000 people, was shoved into an area of about 5 square miles. This crowded and bustling city was a stark contrast to Ann’s upbringing in more rural oriented Ulster. Unlike the Irish in the northern part of America, a common picture that Ann would have unfortunately seen daily in Charleston were the cities’ many slave markets and large population of slave laborers. As a non slave holding immigrant Ann would have belonged to the poorer class in the city, the middle class in Charleston being almost nonexistent then. After leaving behind the oppressive British rule of Ireland, she was experiencing a continuing dark time in America’s history. Like many other Irish immigrants in Charleston, Ann would have most likely found work as a maid or even a weaver to support herself and her young son. At the time she arrived Irishmen were looked down upon by Americans whose ancestors had long since assimilated. Within a few years Ann’s next two sons’, William and Leander, were born. As there are no records of any man connected to Ann through a marriage or census, and no birth records for her children, it is easy to hope and imagine that she found solace and love for her young family through fellow Irish immigrants at church and in the local Irish community in general.

Leaving Charleston, Ann chose to join other Scots-Irish who had settled in the interior of South Carolina. She ventured to Chester County, 170 miles northwest of Charleston. It was here that she welcomed her fourth son, Samuel, in 1827. Her son Leander married and remained his entire life raising his family in Chester County. Ann however did not remain in Chester County for long, soon she moved to the next county north, York. Her sons’ John, William, and Samuel moved along with her. The town of York became her home for more than 20 years. Ann can be found here on the 1840 and 1850 American Census’. With a population of around 15,000 in the county at the time, Ann would have found a much more sparsely developed area than she first arrived to in Charleston, but similar in size and population to Chester County. Living inside of the town, the family would have lived in log houses that were inspired in part by traditional homes in the north of Ireland. These houses were elevated off the ground on stones and bricks to allow air circulation. The interior of the house featured a fireplace and whitewashed walls. Their few pieces of furniture in the home were for practical use as were rest of their belongings. Ann would have continued work within the community to support herself and her youngest son as he grew into adulthood. The older sons’, being grown, found work within the small town as laborers as well as farmers outside of town which helped them to support their mother and their own young families.

Her sons’, having heard the many tales of opportunity on the frontier of Western Tennessee, headed to Carroll County situated halfway between Nashville and Memphis. Nearing the age of 70 Ann found herself on another new adventure to a new land. Traveling by covered wagons with her sons’, daughter in law, and grandchildren, Ann endured this long journey into the frontier, thankfully this time surrounded by family and friends. Carroll County’s population at the time numbered roughly 17,000, just slightly bigger than York County. Ann and her family settled in the town of McLemoresville where they appear on the 1860 American Census. The town had many saloons, schools and colleges, inns, and restaurants already established when the family arrived. Similar living conditions to the South Carolina interior would have been found here. Ann was still being supported by her sons’ as they found work as farm laborers in the county. Her youngest son continued to live with her providing support and assistance. Starting in 1860, while still on the relative outskirts of settled and civilized America, Ann would have read in newspapers of the county reports on the American Civil War, the deadliest in American History.

December 27, 1863, at the age of 73, Ann passed away. She was buried in Carter’s Chapel Cemetery in Carroll County Tennessee. She may have left Ireland alone but she departed her life surrounded by numerable family members as well as many friends. She was well respected and loved which earned her a biographical sketch in the History of Carroll County – 1987. Her life in America, whether her choice or not, flourished.

I often reflect back on Ann’s life, especially her early life, with more questions than I have answers for. Or that I can even find answers for. What I do know of her life illustrates her as a strong, resilient woman determined to survive. With my search for more of her life story I have only just begun to embark on my own journey into all of the information that Ireland has to offer.

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