William Campbell [ 1832 - 1918 ]

William Campbell’s general store on the main street was one of the largest and most successful in the village for more than 48 years, and continued to operate under his name long after his death.

Campbell started in business about 1869, arriving in Fenelon Falls from Montreal. The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory for that year lists Campbell in partnership with Robert McCallum selling boots and shoes, but that agreement appears to have dissolved by 1870, and Campbell was soon on his own . The 1871 Census records him as a 38 year-old, Scottish-born, Presbyterian merchant. Campbell’s business continued to grow during the 1870s allowing him to buy the stock of the Meagher Brothers in 1875 [CP 23 April 1875; 3] and to go on buying trips to Montreal for new stock [CP 7 Sept 1877; 1].

By 1880 the business had expanded to the extent that he rented new premises in the Scully Block [FFG 24 July 1880; 2]. In April 1881 Campbell rented space in the Cunningham Block where he had 20 feet added onto the back, along with new shelving [FFG 30 April 1881; 2]. The 1881 Census records a 29 year-old George Campbell living with William and his wife and working as a “merchant”, so this may have been a nephew or other relation. William moved into his new premises that September. Millinery was added in 1883 and a “new milliner” hired [FFG 19 Jan 1884; 3 ]. Several clerks assisted in the store over the years in order to operate the business. Although the Gazette recorded that Campbell would retire in 1894 [FFG 6 April 1894; 4] he continued to have a hand in the store’s operation until his death. Campbell was actively interested in the affairs of the town and served for a time on Council, starting around 1880.

William Campbell died June 9th, 1918, aged 86. His wife Jennet, a “Miss Morrin, also from Montreal” whom he had married soon after his arrival in the village, had predeceased him 7 months before. His funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church in Lindsay, and his body taken to Montreal by train, as he was buried beside his wife in Mount Royal Cemetery. “All the places of business [in Fenelon Falls] were closed from three to five o’clock while the funeral was being held.” [FFPL – 18.12]

Following Mr. and Mrs. Campbell’s deaths, Miss L. [Lucy] Potts, who had been employed with them for some years , took charge of the business, carrying it on under the same name. “The millinery stock has been disposed of and Miss Potts deals entirely in dry goods, carrying a large and up-to-date line” [FFPL – 28.8A]. The business ceased altogether about 1940; when the entire stock of clothing, some of it decades old, was sold. These vintage items were purchased and worn with great flair by many of the local residents.

203 The directory for 1888 has not been located to date.

204 The ad is dated Oct. 1st, 1883.

205 Some of the store staff noted in the press were Miss Morgan [millinery dept] (1891), Lucy Potts, Jim Cameron, Wm. Lochead, Wm Graham, F.W. Warren, John Cullen and Fred Varcoe.

206 “Wm. Campbell. — One of the largest dry goods stock to be found in the Village is that carried by Mr. Wm. Campbell in his store on the east side of Colborne St. The stock comprises every line of staple and fancy goods, curtains, carpets, house furnishings and also a most complete stock of millinery. Mr. Campbell is the business man of longest standing in the Village, having been engaged in active business for 34 years. He employs four assistants, who are kept busy attending to his large trade, his customers from the surrounding country being very numerous. In addition to his large cash business Mr. Campbell handles a large amount of produce in poultry, eggs, butter, etc., which he ships to outside markets.” Souvenir of Fenelon Falls (1904); [p. 20].

207 Potts was also listed as the Campbell’s “lodger” in 1901.

208 [History of Fenelon Falls Business Places From Their Establishment to the Present Day (1928)] [a series of articles from the Fenelon Falls Gazette in 1928, transcribed in the FFPL.

209 Conversation with Helen Speller (née Stewart) (June 2007).

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