George (1834-1895) and Margaret Campbell (1834-1891) came to the United States from Scotland with three children around 1866; his sponsor was Matthew Strachen. George applied for naturalization in 1869. The family settled in Union Township (now Banksville) where George was employed as a teamster and Margaret kept house. By 1880, the Campbells had had seven more children and had lost one-Robert. Robert died July 29, 1876, in an accident that occurred on a Saturday afternoon at Gray and Bell coal works in Banksville. Two other men were also killed and one severely burned in an explosion when a lamp ignited fire damp (a highly combustible gas formed in coal mines). Robert was only 18; one of the other men killed was 15.
Later that year, George and Margaret had a son they named Robert (“Bert”), see below, most likely in honor of the son they had recently buried.
In 1891, Margaret passed away at age 57. Two years later, George and Margaret’s daughter Mary, wife of William Elliott, died on Sept. 23, 1893 at the age of 26. Her “babe” Mary Margaret, died five months later, conjuring up images of Mary’s possible death during childbirth.
In 1895, George died; his son William‘s death occurred four years later in a railroad accident. The headline in the Feb. 14, 1899, Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette ran: “Bad P&LE Wreck, The Cannon Ball Express Derailed at McKees Rocks, Fireman Campbell Killed.” William was 29. The accident, which injured several passengers, occurred at 11 a.m. on train No. 22. The newspaper reports that the train, which was coming from Cleveland, left the tracks at a split switch with such force the engine “turned a complete somersault,” landing upside down. Slippery rails and a possible clog in the switch were blamed. The paper reports: “Campbell was found with the weight of the truck laying on his abdomen and legs and was rescued with great difficulty as the machinery to raise the wreck that held him to the frozen ground was not at hand. The life was almost completely crushed out of Campbell and he died in one hour and 18 minutes.”
Tragedy struck the family again in 1905 when William’s younger brother Bert-the namesake to Robert who died in the mine explosion-died in an accident on the West Side Belt Railway (eventually part of the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railway). The obituary was without much detail, saying Bert’s death occurred “suddenly” at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 21. Bert, who was 29 years old, was laid out at the home of his brother-in-law John Adamson in Banksville.