Robert & Alexander Campbell and the Airdrie Furnace in Kentucky
I have been doing research on my husband's family since 1985. We were never able to dig very far into the family. It was always a very lost cause. My husband's ancestors were coal miners who worked first in Kentucky and later in Illinois. The problem is that the early settlers, died young. However, I persisted and finally found a facinating story of how his family came to this country from Scotland.
It all starts with Sir Robert Alexander of Airdrie, Scotland. Although he inherited his title from his uncle, he was born in the United States (in Kentucky). He left his family when young and was trained to be the heir since his uncle was unmarried. In Scotland, the family had many interests, one was in the ironstone works and the mining done in that area of Scotland. However, over time, the mines were playing out. Sir Robert was also home sick. He missed his family. It was during one of thes times that he came up with a plan...why not open an iron stone furnace in Kentucky. This way, he could visit with his family and see to the family business at the same time. He sent his engineers and they found a spot in Muhlenberg County near the town of Paradise. He offered a small group of his workers transportation, homes and work if they were willing to relocate to Kentucky to work this iron stone furnace. He only made this offer to the best of his workers. Two of the workers were two brothers - Robert and Alexander Campbell. Both were young, but they joined the workers who volunteered.
From all the research I have been able to find, there were not many people who came immediately. There were about 25 families. I know some of the names but not all. We have been unable to find the name of the ship that brought them over. It was specifically picked by Sir Robert to bring the families over. They came over about 1850. Alexander was about 17 and Robert about 16. Due to the fact that the Scottish Ironworkers were unfamiliar with the Iron in this part of the world, setting up the furnace proved to be difficult. Sir Robert eventually gave up and released his workers to find work elsewhere. Both Robert and Alexander ended up working in the various coal mines in Muhlenberg County.
Alexander Campbell married Agnes McGregor. When the Civil War broke out, Alexander volunteered and he died in 1863 leaving behind his wife and children.
Robert Alexander married Catherine Pollock. Catherine was the sister of Archibald Pollock who was another worker who had come from Airdrie, Scotland. They had many children, but Robert died in 1875. We still have no record of why he died, but we do know that Catherine mouned his death and never remarried. They are supposed to be buried in the Old Rockport Cemetary in Rockport, Kentucky. However, we were not able to find a grave stone.
We were able to find out that their father was George Campbell, who died in 1861 and was born in 1809 in Kirkconnel, Scotland. He was an ironstone worker in the New Carnbroe, Bothwell. His wife was Agnes Dalziel and she remarried a number of years later to a widower Alexander Shankland.
George's father was James Campbell, a master blacksmith, born about 1775, but we don't know where. His wife was Elizabeth "Betty" Baird. We have no information We know George had a number of simblings: William was born October 1799 in Connelburn, New Cumnock; James born 1812 in Old Cumnock; Jean born 1813 in Old Cumnock; and Robert born 1819 in Kirkconnel and died in 1884.
I am still searching for information.