John Campbell m. Grace Hay: Comparing Traditions in Lancaster Co, PA

If you have researched Campbells in SW Virginia, you are probably familiar with the family of John Campbell and Grace (Grissell) Hay, their sons Robert, David, Patrick of Beverly Manor, Augusta, VA and perhaps James. This is the ancestral family of General William Campbell, the hero of Kings Mountain and the (1837) Governor of Virginia, David Campbell.

The American origins of this family are said to be in Lancaster Co, PA – on this, most researchers agree, however the extent of the family’s activities in Lancaster is unclear. There have been several conflicting stories published and as a result, I believe some families have been mistakenly misrepresented.

For my purposes, I wanted to look at the three most popular versions of this story in order to understand its origins.

Note: The names of the Townships of Derry and Londonderry are used interchangeably throughout the documents transcribed here. Don’t let this throw you off too much. Londonderry was split from Derry in 1767. I transcribed as were written.

Gov. David Campbell

Gov David Campbell was the great-grandson of John Campbell who married Grace Hay. In the 1840’s, Gov David carried on a several year correspondence (about 10 yrs?) with Lyman Draper who was detailing the events of Gov Davids second cousin, General William Campbell, the Hero of Kings Mountain. During this time Gov David was collecting memories of family, friends and colleagues in order to assemble his family history. The follow information was taken from the pages of Phillip Norfleet, whose work I have studied extensively and found to be meticulous, especially when it comes to the “White David” branch of this family*. In an 1840 letter to Lyman Draper, Gov David stated his family:

  • (S)ettled near Lancaster in Pennsylvania in the year 1726

While researching this family Norfleet discovered an additional note, written by Governor David Campbell, which stated his family:

  • (I)n 1726 settled in the“Sweet Ara” river where Lancaster now stands in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately Norfleet did not reference the date of this note and indeed, it may not have been dated. It would be interesting to know when the reference to “Sweet Ara” (probably the Swatara) entered the narrative. A picky point but we will see how the smallest details are elaborated on. Was “Sweet Ara” from his own family history or did he obtain that bit of information from someone else? Either way there is a Swatra River and a Swatara Township.

In the above genealogical note, Gov David stated that (my notes in brackets and not italic):

  • Duncan Campbell moved from Inveray, Scotland to Ireland (Several other generations mentioned but not detailed)
  • (A descendant of the above Duncan) Duncan Campbell, had a son John (who m. Grace Hay)
  • He (John Campbell and Grace), had six sons, Patrick, John, William, James, Robert and David. Three – to wit – John, William and James were never married. John died in England having gone there with Lord Boyne and became (his) steward”

The last bullet point is probably the most important. According to Gov David, John never came to America and while we don’t know if William or James moved to VA with their brothers, he states they never married.

Also, I want to make clear, Gov David never named the wife of his Great Grandfather John Campbell. The name Grace (Grissell) Hay came later and to my knowledge, a record has never been found nor an original source named.

* ”White David” is a term coined by Mrs. Margaret Pilcher whose work will be discussed below. It is referring to David Campbell, one of the three brothers who removed to Augusta Co, VA in the 1730’s.

William Henry Egle, M.D.

Dr. Egle was a native of Harrisburg, PA, a Civil War Veteran, and the State Librarian from 1887-1899. During his tenure as State Librarian he oversaw the publishing of multiple books of genealogical significance; one of them being a series called Notes and Queries: Historical, Biographical and Genealogical relating chiefly to the interior of Pennsylvania, published annually (N&Q).

In the N&Q series, people would write asking for information, it would be published in a magazine and hopefully someone else with knowledge of the family would write back. The writers of these N&Q lived in the 19th century and many times had familial knowledge of their grandparents and great grandparents. While compiling and editing his books, Egle had access to (thousands?) of family histories/traditions.

In Pennsylvania Genealogies: Scotch-Irish and German, by William Henry Egle M.D., pub. 1886. (linked) On page 516 we find:

  • Duncan Campbell of the noble house of Breadalbane born in Scotland married there in 1612 Mary McCoy and removed with his wife in the same year to Ireland.
  • They had issue among other children whose names have not been preserved by the descendants in America, a son John Campbell b. in 1621 m. in 1655 Grace Hay daughter of Peter Hay and had issue:
    1. Dugald his descendants settled in Rockbridge county Va
    2. John b 1656 m and had issue
    3. Robert b 1665 m. in 1696 his descendants settled in Orange, now Augusta county Virginia in 1740
  •  (Number 2 above) John Campbell (John, Duncan)  b. 1656 in the north of Ireland d. February 20, 1734 in Derry township then Lancaster county Pa; buried in the grave yard of old Derry church; in 1726 came to Pennsylvania with his family his wife probably dying before emigrating. They had issue:
    1. Robert  removed to Virginia m and had issue five children four daughters and one son the last dying young the name of one daughter Rebecca has been transmitted.
    2. David in 1741 removed from Pennsylvania to Augusta county Va m Margaret Hamilton and left issue
    3. James b 1689 d May 31 1771 buried in Derry church grave yard was twice married; his second wife Agnes b. 1707 d. April 3 1757 and is buried by the side of her husband; they left issue
    4. Patrick b. 1690 a strong churchman removed from Pennsylvania to Virginia about 1740
    5. John b 1692 m and had issue

There is more about this family but for now, this is enough.

From Dr. Egle’s knowledge of (presumably) multiple family traditions, he has expanded on Gov. David’s knowledge of the family and added:

  • House of Breadalbane in Scotland (Gov David says Inveray), both agree they moved to Ireland
  • Marriage of Duncan Campbell and Mary McCoy (Gov David makes no mention of this marriage)
  • An additional generation of John Campbell Sr. who m. Grace Hay whose children are: Duncan, John Jr and Robert;
      1. John Jr. being the progenerator of the Gen William Campbell/Gov David Campbell family.
      2. John Jr is buried in the Derry Churchyard (Lancaster, PA)
      3. John Jr is the father of Robert, David, Patrick, etc
      4. Gov David states that the generations are Duncan to John who sons were Robert, David, Patrick, etc.
  • Knowledge of a marriage between John Sr and Grace Hay. (Gov David stated no such marriage)
  • James came to America and married. He died in Derry, Lancaster, PA and is buried in the Derry Churchyard. (Gov. David states that James never married)
  • John came to America, was married and had issue (Gov. David states that John never came to America)
  • Dr. Egle does not mention a William who Gov David states came to America and never married.

Again, understand that Egle was relying on tradition and most likely combining several versions on the same family into one narrative. We know today that he was not 100% accurate, for instance, the marriage of Duncan Campbell and Mary McCoy has pretty much been disproven by Dr. Ruby Campbell, genealogist for the Clan Campbell Society. You can read more about that at the bottom of this post.

There have been other corrections I have read concerning a Francis Campbell but that is beyond the scope of this sketch.  The point being, while there is probably much truth to these traditions, we can not rely on them. Today, they should be viewed as a starting point for further research.

Margaret Pilcher

Margaret Hamilton Campbell Pilcher published a genealogy on the Augusta Co Campbells, in 1911, called: Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher, and Kindered Families. It’s probably the most referenced / mis-referenced / re-referenced / “I don’t even know I referenced” / copied genealogy on the internet with regards to the Augusta Co Campbells.

Mrs. Pilcher, for the most part, was only repeating what was now (1911), printed traditions regarding this family. What is confusing is that she adds many new details but does not explain why or cite sources. Of the family’s arrival in PA, she says (my notes in brackets):

  • John Campbell, son of Duncan and Mary McCoy Campbell, was born in November, 1674, on his father’s estate, “Drumboden,” seven miles from Londonderry, Ireland. 
  • In the year 1726, with their children … settled on the Sweet Ara, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Donegal Township. 
  • Three of their six sons did not marry–John, William, and James. 
  • (Son) John Campbell died in England, having gone there from Ireland with Lord Boyne.  While there he became Steward to Lady Buckingham. 
  • (Son) James Campbell died in Ireland,
  • (Son) William Campbell died in Pennsylvania. 
  • The other sons who emigrated with their parents to America, married and had families, namely: (Sons) Patrick, Robert, and David Campbell.  Their daughters were: Margaret, Catherine, and Mary Campbell.

Mrs Pilcher used Dr. Egle as a source, so it must be from him that she received the reference to Duncan Campbell and Mary McCoy. The reference to Drumboden is a mystery.

The next point, that the family emigrated in 1726 and settled on the “Sweet Ara”, most likely came from the notes of Gov David however she adds that they lived in the Donegal Township. The Swatara River (assuming she was referencing the River not the Township) does not run through Donegal. Keep in mind we live in a time where maps, books and databases are only seconds away from the comfort of our living room via the internet. Not so for Mrs. Pilcher.

The reference to Donegal probably originated from another book Mrs. Pilcher used as a source. History of Lancaster County, by Israel Daniel Rupp, pub Lancaster, Co, 1844. The earliest Campbell references in this book are to a Patrick Campbell who in 1729 was an overseer of the poor or perhaps constable (see page 253). My opinion is that from this source, Mrs. Pilcher concluded the origins of this family were in Donegal, not Derry and deviated from the work of Egle.

As to the sons of John Campbell, progenerator of the Gov. David’s line, John having gone to England to become a steward was probably sourced from Gov David’s account. How she came to the conclusion that James died in Ireland and William dying in PA is unknown to me.

Mrs. Pilcher also referenced daughters of John Campbell. Another known source of hers was: Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, by Joseph Addison Waddel, pub 1902 (Second Edition). Most of the Campbells mentioned in this book center around this particular family activities in Augusta Co Virginia. On page 147 however, Waddel referenced the family’s origins in Lancaster and added a note that the family contained several daughters.

How Waddell knew the family contained daughters, I do not know nor do I know where Mrs. Pilcher obtained the names of the daughters.

The Children of John Campbell (and Grace Hay)

Dr. Egle’s Campbells stand in stark contrast to Mrs. Pilcher’s. The differences (depending upon whom you believe) may have caused some confusion when determining later descendants. Today, we have access to far more records than what was possible for the average person in the late 1800’s. Where they were had to rely upon tradition (for the most part), we can verify with documents and photographs.

Grave JohnC 1734

Grave of John Campbell
Find A Grave Memorial# 19229926

Pilcher said John Campbell, father of “White” David, moved to Augusta Co, VA with his sons. Egle says John d. 1734 in Lancaster and is buried in the Derry churchyard.  There is a grave of John Campbell who d. in 1734 at the age of 78 (b. abt 1656). Also listed is a memorial to James Campbell who d. 1751 (?) at the age of 33.

Patrick, Robert and David

I think we can all agree, it has been proven that these three moved to Augusta Co, VA. I like Philip Norfleet’s work the best when it comes to a modern writing with regards to this family. That said, much has been written and theorized and I will defer to other’s work on these three brothers.

One note about Patrick however, I do not believe that the Patrick who moved to Augusta Co Va was the same Patrick who was the Constable/Overseer of the poor. I write more of Patrick Campbell of Donegal here: Patrick Campbell of Lancaster Co, PA

William Campbell

Egle does not mention a William but Pilcher does and say’s he died in Pensylvania. There was a William who died in 1748 in Lancaster Co, Township unknown.  You can find his will at Go to PA, then the probate records of Lancaster Co, Book J, Image #44.  William names his wife Margary and children: John, William, Mary, Jane, Margaret, and Ann. His Exec were Sml Reed, Sml Grahams, Richard Lonkey(?).

Not a lot of information that points us to William being the son of John Campbell, progenerator. We certainly can’t link based on the will alone nor do I believe that Pilcher would have. I’m just pointing out the existence of a William Campbell in the area.

John Campbell

Pilcher says: John Campbell died in England, having gone there from Ireland with Lord Boyne.

Egle states that: John Campbell (was) b. in 1692 in Ireland d. 1764 at York Pa a minister of the Episcopal church. He married and had issue

  1. James b 1731 in 1760 removed to Virginia*
  2. Eleanor b 1733 d 1735
  3. Francis b 1737 m Elizabeth Parker
  4. John b. 1740 d 1797 was one of the most eminent lawyers in Western Pennsylvania

* My Note: I can’t be sure but I wonder if this is the source of various genealogies stating that James Campbell, son of John Campbell and Grace Hay, moved to VA. Sometimes I see James listed as a brother to John. Here, Egle is saying James is a grandchild of John.

James Campbell

Pilcher says: James Campbell died in Ireland

Egle says: James b 1689 d May 31 1771 buried in Derry church grave yard was twice married; his second wife Agnes b. 1707 d. April 3 1757 and is buried by the side of her husband; they left issue.

I have researched the James who lived and died in Derry/Londonderry, Lancaster Co, PA.  He is buried next to whom Egle believes is his father John (1734). It is my theory that the memorial to James (1751), on John’s stone, was most likely the son of this James who left a will in 1771. You can read about James here: James Campbell Sr of Londonderry, Lancaster, PA.

Of course there is always the possibility that James came to America and moved to VA with his brothers and I have seen multiple internet genealogies making this claim. However, I haven’t seen any sources listed or arguments presented for why they believe this may be true so for the most part, I classify any mention of a brother James in VA as erroneous.


Mrs. Pilcher states the daughters of John (and Grace Hay) were Margaret, Catherine and Mary.

Dr Egle mention no daughters however, in the 1771 will of James (above), he mentions 2 sisters: Martha Cary and Elizabeth Long. They were to receive a legacy if they came to this country (from where is not stated).


I’m not the first to point out the differences in published genealogies with regards to the Augusta Co, VA Campbell’s. I haven’t read any others in detail as I wanted to come up with my own list and not be influenced. I have spent a lot of time with these Campbell’s in VA even though they are not mine (as shown by DNA). If you are researching in Augusta Co, VA it’s important to know who they were as there are so many random connections to this family, you can actually miss your own if not careful or be lured into making a false connection which I believed has happened time and again.

But, for now, my concern is in Lancaster Co, PA.

My recommendation to anyone researching Campbells in this area is obtain original documentation and draw your own conclusions vs relying on the traditions of the past. IMO, there is no 100% accurate narrative when it comes to this family’s early history in America (prior to Augusta, Co). There is a treasure trove of original documentation available on-line thanks to many folks mentioned in my All Source Page linked above.

As always, your opinions are very much appreciated.  Just leave a comment below or email me.

End Note:

Duncan Campbell m. Mary McCoy: In regard to the Augusta Co Campbell family (John Campbell who m. Grace Hay), there is no sourced information that says Duncan Campbell married Mary McCoy. A posting by Diaramid Campbell can be found here and is a far better source:

  • The family tree in the 18th century document found in recent years among the papers from an estate in Virginia, and outlined in the second of Dr. Ruby Campbell’s articles on the subject in the Clan Campbell Society (North America) quarterly Journals (Vol. 28 No.2 Spring 2001 pp. 46-48 & Vol. 28 No. 4 Autumn 2001 pp. 47-49), is the earliest known record of this family to date, and while a secondary source rather than primary, it does offer some possible clarification of relationships. It clarifies that there was a Duncan Campbell who married Mary Ramsay (said to be of the Dalhousie family – discussed in the article) followed by their son John Campbell, followed by his son John Campbell who appears to have married Mary McCoy. Their son John Campbell (3rd of the name) married Grizle Hay, daughter of Patrick Hay

Dr. Campbell’s research has been out there 12 + years… Time to update some genealogies if you can… I understand, not all information posted on the web can be updated – Heaven knows I’ve put out wrong info that I cant change –  but please, if possible…  go back and source Dr. Campbell’s work to avoid confusion for future researchers.

1 comment
  1. joanne said:

    Going back to your early post. Please research Cumberland Co PA where Dugal and Robert had land. They might have moved on but there are several Campbell families and Kennedy families which prob. are tied to 1685 ship to W Jersey There are Arbuckles, Campbells, Canadays(Kennedys) who moved to Cumberland Co Pa now Juniata Co PA most are in Lack Township and families were their thru 1800s

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