Margaret Ann Taylor Campbell
Memories and questions of "Old Seminole Life"
Submitted by Nancy Barlow
Margaret Ann Taylor Campbell, Maggie, was my great-grandmother. She married Benjamin Franklin Campbell, a Confederate veteran, in 1868. They settled in Seminole, Florida in 1873, where they raised nine children.
Maggie died in 1927, ten years before I was born, so I never knew her. There are so many things about her that I wish I knew.
From the few pictures I’ve seen, she looks to be a large woman. As was customary, she didn’t smile for the photographer so she looks rather stern. I wonder if she wasn’t a lot prettier and happier than she seems in her pictures.
Their first home in Seminole was built of logs, probably harvested on their own land. Later, as the family grew, they built a larger house out of lumber. I wonder how many bedrooms it had. I wonder if the living room was a proper “front room” only occupied when the preacher visited.
Where did she cook? Did the house have a separate “summer kitchen”? Did they have chickens and hogs? Who tended the garden? They must have grown corn and potatoes and blackeyed peas and some kind of greens. I’ll bet she had a guava tree. And maybe a lemon tree. Did they go to Largo to buy flour and sugar and coffee?
Who did the laundry? There must have been a lot of it… pinafores, overalls, bed linens. Shoes… did they order from Sears? Bet those kids wore lots of hand-me-downs.
Maggie was raised by her grandmother, after her mother died too young. Was her grandmother able to visit and spend time with the children? What did they call her? Where did the kids sleep? I imagine Ben cut down another tree and built a bed (maybe bunk beds?) for each new child. I don’t know this, but since necessity is the mother of invention, I expect he was a pretty handy woodworker.
Getting really personal here… where did they bathe? And where did they go potty? Was it far from the house? Was there a path? With flowers blooming along the way?
In an antique shop today you might see a sampler embroidered by a young lady a century or more ago. Did Maggie learn to sew on a sampler? Wish I could have seen her handwork. She must have been an accomplished seamstress because her eldest daughter, my grandmother Annie, was. I’ve been told Annie sewed for “everybody in the family.” I wonder if she did… that’s a lot of sewing!
For sure Annie sewed for her daughters, and passed on the skills to her eldest, “little Annie,” and to Winifred, but not to her happy, playful youngest, my mother Virginia. Mom thought people who sewed and did handwork were so “smart”, but she hated it and wouldn’t do it. I’m glad to have things that Annie and little Annie made— especially my beautiful crocheted bedspread. (I have Annie’s Singer sewing machine, purchased before 1910, well used and still usable.) When I took a notion to learn to crochet, it was little Annie who taught me.
Back to Maggie! I wonder if she had any bad personal habits. For instance… is it true that she used a particular tobacco product? I’ve heard she chewed, or used snuff, or something. Was that a common vice for proper ladies of her day? Where did she get it?
The first school building in Seminole was called the Campbell School, I’m told. Who else attended? Did they have actual paper and pencils to do their homework with? Did they have homework and did Maggie or Ben help them with it?
Outside in my pine trees, two “Jack Married the Widow” birds are calling back and forth. I wonder if Maggie had time to go out on the porch in the evenings and listen to the night sounds just like I do. Did she have to worry about the kids because of wildlife… snakes and alligators and such… and were there bears? Was venison a big item on the menu? There were no armadillos here back then, but plenty of ‘possums and gopher turtles, no
How did they celebrate Christmas? Surely a simpler holiday than today. No endless Christmas music, no frantic shopping, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could pull up a chair to Maggie’s Christmas dinner table! Wonder what was her specialty that the kids always requested for dessert… a cake, or pie?
I love antiques, but not so much the really old “antiquities” or the elegant crystal and silver and china of yesteryear. I’m more fascinated with things that Maggie might have owned and used. If she had a favorite iron skillet, I’d love to see it and touch it. If she had jewelry to pass down to her children, I’ve never seen it. I wonder if she was drawn to gold or silver, rubies or sapphires, bracelets or earrings. Surely she must have liked pretty things… even a hardworking mother of nine would. I wonder of she had a favorite sweater and if she knitted it herself. I wonder!
I wonder if I’m the only one who wonders all these things. I wonder what it would have been like to know Maggie and be her daughter, or her sister, or her friend. I’m so curious about my esteemed foremother.
My little Corgi is named Maggie Moonbeam. Sometimes I call her Margaret Ann. Not having a daughter to honor with Maggie’s name, I gave it to my dog. Sorry, Maggie. No offense intended.