Southwest Virginia Campbells

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The Campbells of Southwest Virginia

by Phil Norfleet

There are certain members of the Campbell Clan who are popularly known as the "Campbells of Southwest Virginia." They are usually divided into two distinct groups:  (1) those belonging to the "White David" branch and (2) those of the "Black David" branch. The American immigrant ancestors of the White David Campbells appear to have been John Campbell and his wife Grace (Grissell) Hay. The immigrant ancestor of the Black David Campbells appears to have been a man named Alexander Campbell.

Based upon my research among the records of Virginia I have concluded that the families of both Black David and White David Campbell settled in that part of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley near the modern-day city of Staunton, at a place then called "Beverley Manor." The White David group was probably the first to arrive, in about the year 1738 or perhaps a little earlier. The Black David Campbell family was settled in the area by the year 1744. These Campbell settlements in Beverley Manor occurred during the latter part of the "Golden Age" of Colonial Virginia.

The Golden Age

Most historians define the Golden Age as having commenced with the arrival, in 1727, of Major William Gooch as the Royal Governor of Virginia and having ended with his return to England in 1749. At least four factors were responsible for making this 22-year period into an economic and political Golden Age:

1.  On 11 June 1727, George II followed his father, George I, to the Throne of England. The new King, under the influence of his wife, Queen Caroline, and her Whig Party advisors, elevated the brilliant Sir Robert Walpole to the political leadership of England as its first Prime Minister. Walpole was an adroit manager who welded the ruling Whig Party into an efficient instrument of legislative power and, due to his mastery of the erratic and unpredictable George II, he was able to achieve an unprecedented era of harmony between the executive and legislative branches of the British government. [1] Walpoles’s policy toward the American colonies was essentially one of benign neglect. As long as the British merchants who traded with the colonies were content, the American colonial legislatures were pretty much left alone to govern as they saw fit. [2]

2.  In September 1727, the able and amiable Scottish Whig, Major William Gooch, arrived in Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. The titular Governor of Virginia since 1705, George Hamilton, Earl of Orkney, remained in Britain and took no active part in governing the Colony, aside from collecting the revenues of the office! In my opinion, Gooch was one of the three most competent royal governors (along with Sir William Berkeley and Alexander Spotswood) in the history of colonial Virginia and unquestionably was the governor most esteemed by the people of Virginia.

3.  Among Governor Gooch’s most important achievements was the legislative passage and royal approval of the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730. This Act revolutionized tobacco regulation and became a permanent feature of the Virginia tobacco trade until the end of the colonial era. The Act established public warehouses in each Virginia county, provided for the appointment of county tobacco inspectors and required all planters to transport their tobacco to one of the public warehouses for inspection. The inspectors received annual salaries and were obliged to refrain from engaging in the tobacco trade. [3] Systematic inspection of tobacco reduced fraud, raised quality, standardized shipment weights and reduced tobacco surpluses. [4] The Act worked smoothly in Virginia, increased the overall quality of tobacco shipped, and significantly enhanced the overseas market for the Virginia product.

4.  Gooch also encouraged a liberal policy of granting large tracts of land located west of the Blue Ridge Mountains to wealthy planters. The grants were made with the understanding that these large tracts were to be subdivided and sold for a modest sum to settler families of mainly German and Scotch-Irish origin. One of these large land grants was a patent of approximately 118,000 acres, given to William Beverley in 1736, which subsequently became known as Beverley Manor. The Gooch policy was designed to help rapidly populate the Virginia frontier regions and provide a buffer zone protecting the Tidewater areas from the Indian tribes living west of the Alleghenies. This policy was so successful that, during the 22 year Gooch tenure, 16 new counties were created resulting in a total of 44 counties in Virginia by the mid-eighteenth century.

The Gooch regime was popular with most Virginians of all social classes and it was with considerable popular lament that he and his family sailed back to Britain in August 1749. The poet John Markland wrote:

"Arts flourish, Peace shall crown the plains,

Where Gooch administers, Augustus reigns"

Beverley Manor

By patent, dated 06 September 1736, Governor Gooch issued a grant of 118,491 acres of land which lay "beyond the Great Mountains on the River Sherando [Shenandoah] called the Manor of Beverley" to William Beverley (1696-1756) of Essex County, Virginia and his partners in the venture: John Randolph, Richard Randolph and John Robinson. On the day after the grant was made, the partners conveyed their interest to Beverley who, in turn, began to sell to settlers. [5] Most of these settlers were Scotch-Irish immigrants who had come down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to what was then Orange County, Virginia but would soon become part of the newly formed county of Augusta. [6]

Link to Map of the Beverley Manor Land Grant

Several Campbell families were among the early settlers, including relatives of both White David and Black David Campbell. This hyperlinked table lists the early Campbell land acquisitions in Beverley Manor, which are entered in the records of Orange County (Deed Books III-IX), by members of the Campbell family during the period 1738-1745.

Based on the information in the above cited table, it is apparent that the family of White David Campbell was the first to arrive in the Beverley Manor area, in about the year 1738; they probably had migrated down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road from Pennsylvania. The family of Black David apparently did not arrive until several years later, in about 1744.

Augusta County Land Records

The Augusta County land records, during the period 1745-1772, contain many references to members of the Campbell family and families allied to the Campbells by marriage, i.e., the Cunninghams, Hamiltons and Lockharts. This hyperlinked table summarizes the genealogically more pertinent information.

Campbell Marriage Practices

The most notable and discernible marriage practice followed by both the "Black David" and "White David" Campbells of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, is the frequency of cousin marriages or at least marriages within the Campbell Clan. One result of this consanguinity is that the author of this essay is a direct descendant of both Black David Campbell and his brother Robert! This hyperlinked table provides some examples of these cousin marriages, including the degrees of consanguinity from both the Civil and Canon Law perspectives, for members of the "Black David" and "White David" families.

Campbell Child Naming Practices

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both the Scots and the Irish had a frequently used scheme for child naming. The first born male child was normally named after the paternal grandfather; likewise, the first borne female child was named after the maternal grandmother. The second borne male child was named after the maternal grandfather and the second borne female child was named after the paternal grandmother. Only with the third born son and daughter, did you use the names of the parents, if those names differed from those of the grandparents. In many but not all cases, this naming scheme seems to have been used by the Southwest Virginia Campbell families that are discussed at this web site.


1.  Kenneth O. Morgan, Editor, The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (1984), pages 369-370.

2.  Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Virginia A History (1984), page 37.

3.  Arthur Pierce Middleton, Tobacco Coast (1953), pages 135-136.

4.  William W. Abbot, A Virginia Chronology 1585-1783 (1957), pages 47-48.

5.  John McDill, The Beverley Family of Virginia (1956), page 534.

6.  Augusta County was officially authorized by the Virginia General Assembly on 01 November 1738. However, the legal business of the county continued to be conducted at the Orange County Courthouse until late in the year 1745. The first court held at the Augusta County Courthouse, in Staunton, was convened on 09 December 1745.