Campbell, Robert Peel


Robert Peel William Campbell 1853 - 1929

Robert Peel William Campbell was born in St. Hilaire Québec on August 27th, 1853. He was the second son of Major Thomas Edmund Campbell, seigneur of Rouville, and his wife Henriette-Julie Juchereau Duchesnay. Thomas Campbell became seigneur upon his wife’s inheritance of the seigneury from her father, Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry de Salaberry. Robert’s great uncle was Charles de Salaberry, CB, who led the Canadian troops at the battle of Chateauguay in their defeat of a numerically superior American army advancing on Montreal during the War of 1812.
He grew up in the Manoir Rouville, a Tudor style mansion located on the south bank of the Richelieu River, in the shadow on the majestic Mount St. Hilaire. His youth would have been spent exploring the countryside of St. Hilaire and helping his father with development of his 150-acre model farm, a large portion of which was devoted to the nurturing of trees. Owing to his mother’s French-Canadian roots and his father’s British heritage, he was completely fluent in both English and French. This ability would serve him well later in his life.
He attended Bishop’s College School (BCS) in Lennoxville. He continued his studies at the University of Bishop’s College completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in June of 1873 and a Masters of Arts degree in June of 1876. At the age of 22, this was quite an accomplishment for the day. He went on to study law at Laval University and with the completion of his L.L.B. was awarded the Dufferin Gold Medal. The medal was an official British commendation awarded by the then Governor General Lord Dufferin, to Canadian students and athletes who had achieved high excellence in academics and athletics.
While at BCS he would have met boys with ties to Tadoussac. The Rhodes boys were all around his age - Armitage (B. 1848), Godfrey (B. 1850), William (B. 1851), Francis (B. 1853) and Robert (B. 1855). As Robert’s father Thomas and William Rhodes were both officers in the British Army in Canada at one time in their lives, it is entirely possible that there were family ties before the BCS days. One can imagine these young men leaving Québec on a steamer bound for Tadoussac with the entire summer ahead filled with outdoor adventure on the Saguenay River. Robert became a great friend of the Rhodes and Williams families and spent many summers visiting their summer home on the banks of Tadoussac Bay.
Robert was called to the Québec Bar in 1877 and practised law in Québec City. He was appointed Assistant Clerk of the Legislative Council of the Province of Québec in 1883. The Legislative Council was the unelected upper house of the bicameral legislature in the province from 1867 to its disbandment in 1968. Concurrently, he was appointed English Journal and English Translator for the Council, no doubt because of his proficiency in both languages. In 1893, he was appointed Clerk of Private Bills and Railways for the Province. He became Clerk of the Legislative Council in 1909. The title of King’s Counsel was conferred upon him in 1903.
At some time between 1882 and 1885 he purchased the property know as Kirk Ella from John Brustall. The 83-acre property was located on the opposite side for Rue St. Louis from Godfrey Rhodes residence Cataraqui. The house on the property was destroyed by fire in 1879 after Burstall had done extensive renovations. A new residence would have been built by Robert Campbell. He lived at Kirk Ella until his death.
Robert Campbell never married. Throughout his life he was devoted to the institutions which were responsible for his education and to the church. For many years he was a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Bishop’s College. He took a leading role in the administration of the affairs of the University. In 1907 and in recognition of his many years of service he was awarded the degree of Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University. He was also Chairman of the Board of Directors of BCS from 1908 to 1912 and a Trustee of King’s Hall Compton.
It was probably through his association with the Anglican Church in Québec that he came to be such good friends with Lennox Williams and his wife Nan. Robert became Chancellor and secretary of the Diocese of Québec in 1905, and had been associated with the church in Québec for many years. While being 6 years older than Lennox Williams, Robert would have known him and his father James at BCS, and certainly would have developed a close bond while Lennox was the minister at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Québec City.
Robert died at Kirk Ella in Québec City in 1929. The stories of his time in Tadoussac are lost to the passage of time. The plaque placed in his memory in the Chapel recognizes his long and dedicated service to the Province of Québec, his university, his church and the great esteem with which he was held by the summer residents of Tadoussac of that generation.

Lennox John Leggat
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Volume X – Thomas Edmund Campbell
Wikipedia – Thomas Edmund Campbell
Prominent People of the Province of Quebec in Professional, Social and Business Life, 1923
The Mitre, University of Bishop’s College Volume 37 No.3 December 1929
Pedigree, The Children of the (Late) Colonel William Rhodes of Benmore, Quebec, Canada

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