Saturday, December 28, 2013

Who cares about Joel Campbell?

If you are a descendent of Joel Campbell, you are in a large group.  I estimate there are over 200,000 living descendents of Joel.  Only but a few have ever heard of Joel and even fewer know a single fact about him.  Even the avid genealogists cite incorrect facts about his life.

But genealogical facts are not what this blog is about.  Rather it is the story of the common farmer at the birth of a nation.

Joel is an archetype of the thousands of yeomen who worked the soil, tended their families, and battled nature and men to create the United States of America.  If Adams, Madison, and Jefferson were the brains, these men were the muscle.

Their story, Joel's story, is one of common trials and minor victories.  They struggled to find land they could call their own, endured epidemics of small pox that decimated villages, survived incarceration in the prison ships of New York, and huddled through some of the coldest winters of the century.  They also saw virgin streams and forests teeming with wildlife, they tasted sweet cider of their own making, they gazed at brilliant starlit skies on quiet summer nights, and they gathered in meeting houses with sons and daughters, friends and neighbors to discuss the issues of the day.

One day I found myself on the top of South Mountain near current Maplewood, New Jersey.  I had just hiked from the location of the home in which Joel was likely born and had lived as a child.  I gazed east over the trees of Newark to the New York City harbor.  For a minute I could imagine Joel doing the same.  As a boy he had surely made the walk to Newark and seen the ships tied up there.  But had he ever been to New York City?  Or had he just seen the forest of masts far in the distance from the South Mountain lookout a few miles from his house?

Joel moved with the country as it expanded from South Mountain (Newark Mountain in those days), New Jersey to Newburgh, NY to Port Jervis, NY to Elmira, NY.  He and his family experienced the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. By the time he died he had over 100 descendents.  Today it is estimated that he has more that 300,000 descendents, the majority currently alive.

This blog contains working snippets from a future book describing the times in which Joel lived.  Whether you are a descendent of Joel, have other revolutionary heritage, or are a student of early American history, I look forward to your comments. [Author's note:  The book was published in 2016 and is available here:]