Southwest Virginia Campbells

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The following article was published, under the title "Alexander, Father of Black David Campbell," in the Journal of the Clan Campbell Society, Volume 26, Number 1 (Winter 1999):


"Black David" Campbell of Augusta County, Virginia

By Phil Norfleet

David Campbell (1710-1753), better known as "Black David," is a familiar name to those people researching the Campbells of Southwest Virginia. Many notable pioneers and military/political figures are descendants of Black David. For example, both of his sons, Captain William (1748-1800) and Colonel David (1753-1832) were Revolutionary War veterans. Colonel David was the founder of Campbell’s Station, near Knoxville TN. A daughter of Black David, Martha Campbell (1750-1825), married Major John Morrison and was the first white woman to permanently reside at what is now the city of Lexington KY. William Bowen Campbell (1807-1867), the last Whig governor of TN was a great-grandson of Black David. Also, Alexander W. Campbell (1828-1893), a great- great-grandson of Black David, was a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army serving under General Nathan Bedford Forest during the last months of the Civil War.

As a direct descendant of both Black David and his brother Robert Campbell, I have often wondered if the unsubstantiated information provided by Margaret Campbell Pilcher at pages 130-134 of her book Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families (published 1911), concerning Black David, was supported by the official records of Augusta County, Virginia. Several years ago I commenced a study of these records and those of early Orange County (parent county of Augusta). This article summarizes some of the results of my research.

Parents of Black David

Published Family Traditions

Margaret Campbell Pilcher (1843-1921) was a great-great granddaughter of both White David and Black David. Indeed, she is the person most responsible for the use of the terms "White David" and "Black David" in describing these two men who married half-sisters. In her book on Campbell family history, she tells us the following regarding the ancestors of "Black David" Campbell:

"Alexander Campbell lived at Inveraray, Argyleshire, Scotland. His son, William Campbell, married Mary Byers. They emigrated from Scotland to the north of Ireland, near Londonderry. In Donegal Township, Ulster District. There they lived for some years, then moved, with their seven children, to America, the exact date of removal cannot be obtained. The father was an upright, honorable gentleman in every respect; the mother a woman of remarkable intelligence and possessed many womanly virtues. Their children were: David, Elizabeth, Martha, Alexander, Robert, William, Jane and Mary Campbell — eight in all."

William Campbell (1793-1885) was a great-grandson of Black David, whose mother (Margaret Campbell) was a daughter of Robert Campbell (a brother of Black David) and Margaret Kirkpatrick. In a letter written in 1874, he tells us the following regarding the origins of his family:

"I give this history of the Campbell family from the information of father and mother to my first recollection. I will begin at mother’s side, as she was one generation older than father’s.

"Mother’s grandfather came to America in 1704 from Scotland. I think there were three of them. I know but little of any of them. Only a few of them have I heard spoken of. John B. Campbell, from one branch of the family, formerly lived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky was a colonel and was killed in the War of 1812. He had two brothers who were in Kentucky a while, David and Charles." [1]

Based on the above statements, one could conclude that the first Campbell immigrants were William Campbell (son of Alexander) and Mary Byers, who arrived in America in the year 1704. Their children would have included Black David and his brothers Alexander and Robert. However, as will hopefully be shown in the following paragraphs, the official records strongly imply that the above accounts contain several errors.

The Official Record

Based upon my review of the court and land records of Orange County and Augusta County, Virginia, I have concluded that the father of Black David Campbell was Alexander Campbell not William Campbell. This Alexander Campbell settled within the confines of the Beverley Manor Grant (near the modern-day city of Staunton) in about the year 1744. I have not yet been able to determine the name of Alexander’s wife; however, she and her husband had at least seven children including four sons (Black David, Alexander, Robert and William) and three daughters (Florence, Mary and Jane). This conclusion directly contradicts Mrs. Pilcher’s claim that Black David’s parents were William Campbell and Mary Byers, and that Alexander Campbell was Black David’s grandfather.

Beverley Manor

Beverley Manor Land Grant

By patent, dated 06 September 1736, Lt. Governor William Gooch of Virginia 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 (see hyperlinked Map below). On the day after the grant was made, the partners conveyed their interest to Beverley who, in turn, began to sell to settlers. [2] 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 soon would become part of the newly formed county of Augusta. [3] The families of both White David and Black David Campbell were among the early settlers in the Manor.

Link to Map of the Beverly Manor Land Grant of 1736

Land Plat of Beverley Manor

In his well researched book The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom, Howard McKnight Wilson, Th.D. includes a magnificent map of all the early land plats of Beverley Manor. The early Campbell land purchases are all clearly delineated and are concentrated at the southwestern end of the manor. The map, hyperlinked below, has been adapted from Dr. Wilson’s plat drawing and shows the area where the Campbell land purchases lay. The map also depicts many nearby land plats belonging to families known to have been allied by marriage to both the White David and Black David Campbells, such as the Cunninghams, Allisons, Lockharts, Kirkpatricks and Hamiltons.

Link to Map of the Land Plats in the Southwestern Part of Beverly Manor

Beverley Manor Land Acquisitions in Orange County Records

Several Campbell families were among the early settlers, including relatives of both White David and Black David Campbell. Table 1 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.

Link to Table - Campbell Land Acquisitions in Beverley Manor

Based on the information in the above 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.

Beverley Manor Land Acquisitions in Augusta County Records

The Augusta County land records, during the period 1745-1772, contain many references to members of the Campbell family. The following hyperlinked table summarizes the genealogically more pertinent information.

Link to Table of Augusta County VA Deed Records Concerning the Campbells

Alexander Campbell, Father of Black David

As mentioned above, I believe Alexander Campbell to be the father of Black David. This conclusion is supported by the will and land records of both Orange and Augusta Counties. The following land transactions (see above hyperlinked tables for more information) involving Alexander Campbell, Sr. and his sons are of particular interest:

02 November 1744: Alexander Campbell acquires 559 acres of land in Beverley Manor directly from William Beverley.

28 May 1751: Alexander Campbell, "wheelwright," conveys 80 acres of land in Beverley Manor to David Campbell. The land was near a corner tract surveyed for William Campbell and near the corner of David Campbell’s "other survey." Presumably this David Campbell was his son who we now call "Black David." The "other survey" was presumably the 106 acre tract which David Campbell purchased from William Beverley in February 1749/1750.

28 May 1751: Alexander sells 166 acres of land to a certain Michael Raily.

20 May 1752: Alexander Campbell, "farmer," conveys 200 acres of land to William Campbell at "his father’s and William Ledgerwood’s corner;" also at "his father’s and his brother David’s corner" and "his brother Robert’s corner."

18 August 1772: William Campbell conveys two tracts of land totaling 186 acres in Beverley Manor to David Steel. The tracts are described as being:

" … the Courses of the hundred and six acres which joins lines with the eighty acres that David Campbell got from his father. …"

This William Campbell is almost certainly Captain William Campbell (1748-1800), son of Black David. Since Black David died intestate, under the law of primogeniture in effect at that time, both the 106-acre and 80-acre tracts would have automatically gone to Captain William Campbell as the eldest son.

Alexander Campbell died in the year 1758. His will, dated 02 March 1753, was probated in the Augusta County Court on 16 August 1758. [4] In his will, Alexander Campbell bequeaths the plantation where he now lives to his youngest son, Alexander and maintenance for his wife (unnamed); other children mentioned are his daughters Florence, Mary and Jane. As executors, he names his son William Campbell and William Ledgerwood. The will was witnessed by Patrick Cunningham, Robert Campbell and Walter Davis. [Hyperlink to Will]

The Augusta County, Virginia land record, cited above at number 4, establishes that, besides Alexander and William who are named in his will, Alexander Campbell, Sr. had at least two other sons - Robert and David. The "brother David" so cited must be "Black David." Further support for this conclusion comes from the later Augusta County land transaction cited above at number 5, where the two tracts of land acquired by David Campbell are now being sold by William Campbell (Black David’s son). It should be noted that, according to Margaret Campbell Pilcher, Black David Campbell died in November 1753, several years before his father.

"Black David" Campbell (1710-1753)

Family Traditions

Margaret Campbell Pilcher has this to say about "Black David" Campbell:

"David Campbell (called ‘Black David,’ because of his dark hair, eyes and complexion, and to, distinguish him from his cousin, ‘White David" Campbell, who was very fair, with yellow hair and blue eyes) was born about 1710. He married Jane Conyngham, a half-sister of Mary Hamilton (‘White David’ Campbell’s wife). David Campbell and his wife, Jane Conyngham, came from Ireland with their parents. They settled in the Colony of Virginia, it is thought, first in Culpepper County. Later, they removed to Augusta County, Virginia, which was at that time a frontier settlement. To this section of Virginia had emigrated a large number of Scotch-Irish, a brave, independent, liberty-loving race of people, who were faithful friends and the best of citizens. They gave to our country many of her greatest men.

"David Campbell, born in 1710, died in November, 1753, and Jane Conyngham, his wife, died in August, 1759. They had four children, namely: William, Mary, Martha and David Campbell."

The Official Record

I have no fundamental disagreement with Mrs. Pilcher’s statements, cited above, concerning either Black David or White David Campbell. Based on Orange County and Augusta County land records, Black David migrated, with his father, Alexander Campbell, his three brothers (William, Robert and Alexander) and at least three sisters (Florence, Mary and Jane) to Augusta County (Beverley Manor) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in about the year 1744.

Shortly after arriving in Beverley Manor, about the year 1747, Black David married Jane Conyngham (Cunningham), the daughter of Walter and Martha Conyngham. At the time of the marriage, Black David, if he was born in 1710, would have been about 37 years old, rather old for a first marriage. However, I have no hard evidence with which to deny Mrs. Pilcher’s assertion that Black David was born in 1710. Black David Campbell and Jane Conyngham had four known children: William (b. 1748), David (b. August 1753), Mary (b. c. 1751) and Martha (b. 1750). Black David was short lived, dying intestate in Augusta County, Virginia in November 1753. Jane Campbell, Black David’s wife, died in Augusta County, Virginia in August 1759.

Jane Cunningham, Wife of Black David

As stated previously, the wife of Black David was Jane Cunningham, the daughter of Walter and Martha Cunningham and the half sister of Mary Hamilton, the wife of White David. Margaret Campbell Pilcher has this to say regarding the Hamiltons and the Cunninghams (Conynghams):

"James Hamilton married Janet Campbell, at Inveraray, Scotland. They had two children: Arthur and James. Arthur Hamilton married Martha Conyngham, daughter of Patrick Conyngham and Euphemia Vesse, his wife. He died near Londonderry, Ireland, leaving his widow with two small children: Mary and Arthur. She married a cousin, Walter Conyngham, with whom she and her two children came to America. At this time, Mary Hamilton, her daughter, was ten years of age, in 1726. She had several children by her second husband, Walter Conyngham, but of these we have no record, except of Jane Conyngham, the eldest, who married another David Campbell, called "Black David," on account of his dark complexion, to distinguish him from his relative of the same name, "White" David Campbell, who married Mary Hamilton, the half-sister of Jane Conyngham. Thus it will be noted that the half-sisters, Mary Hamilton and Jane Conyngham, married each a David Campbell, distant cousins, who were of the same clan in Scotland.

" … Patrick Conyngham was a Colonel commanding a regiment at the battle of Boyne, under King William of Orange. He married Euphemia Vesse. They had two children that we have on record: James and Martha Conyngham. Martha Conyngham married first Arthur Hamilton, and after his death she married a cousin, Walter Conyngham, with whom, and her two children, Mary and Arthur Hamilton, she emigrated to America in 1726." [5]

I have found nothing in the official records that would contradict the above statements of Mrs. Pilcher. The described genealogical relationship between Jane and her half sister, Mary Hamilton, is graphically shown in the following hyperlinked chart.

Link to Relationship Chart for Jane Conyngham and Mary Hamilton

Arthur Hamilton

Mary’s brother, Arthur Hamilton, is probably the same Arthur Hamilton who is mentioned several times in the Augusta County deed records. Arthur’s will, dated 1797, was proven in Augusta County on 23 June 1806. He mentions his wife Barbara; his sons John, James, David and Alexander; and his daughters Margaret, Mary , Sarah and Martha. [6]

Walter Cunningham

I have not been able to find any information concerning Jane’s father, Walter Cunningham. There is a Walter Cunningham, son of John Cunningham, who was a fairly important man in Augusta County, Virginia. He is obviously too young to be the father of Jane; however, he probably is a close relative, possibly a first cousin. The court and vestry records of Augusta provide the following entries concerning this younger Walter Cunningham:

09 Jun 1753: Walter Cunningham witnesses a deed between Robert Cunningham Esq. and Martha Cunningham, his wife, to Walter Davis for 322 acres in Beverley Manor on Cedar Spring. It should be noted that Walter Davis was a witness to the will of Alexander Campbell, dated 02 March 1753 [Augusta County Deed Book 4, page 448].

16 Aug 1763: Walter Cunningham is qualified as Captain of Militia [County Court Order Book VIII, Augusta County, Virginia, page 212].

22 Nov 1766: Walter Cunningham is chosen as Clerk of the Vestry vice Colonel William Preston [Augusta Parish Vestry Book, page 413].

16 August 1769: Walter Cunningham is recommended as Justice of the Peace for Augusta County [County Court Order Book XIII, Augusta County, Virginia, page 324].

22 Mar 1773: Walter Cunningham qualifies (with consent of the widow, Sarah) as administrator of the estate of his father, John Cunningham [County Court Order Book XV, Augusta County, Virginia, page 49].

17 November 1779: Walter Cunningham, who served as a Lieutenant in the First Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Byrd, heretofore obtained a warrant for 2,000 acres, agreeable to Proclamation of 1763, now makes further proof of having served as a Captain of Independents in the expedition commanded by Colonel Boquet against the Indians in 1764, and is now allowed 1,000 acres additional [County Court Order Book, Augusta County, Virginia, page 147].


1.  His letter was published a few years ago in the Journal of the Clan Campbell Society, Volume 14, Number 4 (Autumn 1987), page 37.

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

3.  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.

4.  See Augusta County, Virginia, Will Book 2, page 259

5.  Pilcher, pages 23-24.

6.  See Augusta County, Virginia, Will Book X, page 55.