POMEROY — The efforts of the Meigs County Historical Society to replace a marker honoring James Erwin Campbell were realized on Monday, Sept. 28, what would have been Campbell’s 153th birthday.
The original maker was placed in Water Works Park in 2007, and damaged beyond repair in 2013. The park is located near Campell’s boyhood home in the Kerr’s Run area of Pomeroy, Ohio.
Members of MCHS were on hand for the ceremony, which began with a review of Campbell’s accomplishments by Shannon Scott. Scott said he became interested in Campbell’s history when he learned of the damaged marker.
“I didn’t know about Campbell, so I began exploring and was amazed by what I found. He was able to do so many things in such a short period of time; one has to wonder what else he might have achieved had he not died at age 28.”
Scott said he spent the next several years researching, and used the information for his college thesis.
As part of the ceremony, Scott read the last poem Campbell wrote before returning to Pomeroy for a visit.
The poem, entitled “Homesick”, was written in early December 1895. Campbell passed away in January 1896.
The Big Bend Beardsmen’s work in the installation of the marker was recognized, with MCHS members stating that without their help the marker would not have been placed.
Chloris Gaul-McQuaid along with other volunteers, applied and received a grant for a replacement. After delivery, Gaul-McQuaid said the Society needed volunteers with skills to erect the plaque. New member Jill Cochran suggested they approach the Beardsmen. Beardsmen members Ricky Hysell and Mike Kennedy got to work immediately and had the marker installed in time for the re-dedication on Campbell’s birthday.
A previously published article in The Daily Sentinel earlier this year introduced the new group to the community. The Big Bend Beardsmen as described by one of their members are “a group of facial hair enthusiasts who do volunteer work in the Bend Area and raise money for local charities.” The group’s members include “bearded gentlemen and ladies who are big fans of beards,”and are dedicated to promoting volunteerism.
MCHS President James Stanley concluded the afternoon event with a reading of the marker:
“James Edwin Campbell was born on September 28, 1867, in the Kerr’s Run area of Pomeroy to James and Letha Campbell. He graduated from Pomeroy High School with the class of 1884. After graduation, Campbell taught in various parts of Meigs County. Campbell achieved notoriety as an African American poet, editor, author of short stories, and educator. He began his writing in 1887 with the work Driftings and Gleanings. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, he wrote regularly for daily newspapers in Chicago and was employed on the literary staff of the Chicago Times-Herald. His dialect poetry attracted wide-spread popularity and he published a collection of his best works, Echoes From the Cabin and Elsewhere. Campbell was installed as the first president of the West Virginia Colored Institute (West Virginia State University) serving in the capacity from 1891 to 1894. James Edwin Campbell died in Pomeroy on January 26, 1896.”
For more information on James Edwin Campbell, look for an upcoming article featuring his poetry, and visit mydailysentinel.com to read an article published last week about Campbell’s life.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.