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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
William Lauder Campbell

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[This information is from pp. 240-242 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

William Lauder Campbell, Chief of Police, Schenectady, N. Y., was born near Gatehouse, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, February 2, 1844, son of William and Susan (Lauder) Campbell. The family for many preceding generations consisted of industrious farming people, and some of its representatives were overseers on large estates. The grandfather, also named William Campbell, was a native of Perthshire, and spent the greater part of his life as a farm overseer in Kirkcudbrightshire, in the south of Scotland. He married a Miss Campbell, who, though not a near relative, belonged to Clan Campbell, and in all probability was a descendant of the same stock. The grandparents reared four sons and four daughters. Two of the latter married well-to-do husbands, and were left widows with means. Coming to America with their children in 1855, they purchased fine farms in Prescott, Canada, opposite Ogdensburg, N. Y., and became affluent. One was the widow of William Black, and the other of David McKinnon.

In 1857 William Campbell, the father of William Lauder, sailed from Wigton with his wife and six of his children, for Liverpool, where he embarked for the United States on board the ship "William Tapscott," Captain William Bell. Arriving at New York, August 17, 1858, after an eight weeks' passage, they were met at Castle Garden by two other members of their family, James and Mary, who had preceded them a year before. The parents settled first at Bay Side, Long Island. They had ten children, two of whom died in Scotland; and Charles, aged nine, and Robert, aged one year and six months, died of scarlet fever while on the passage over, and were buried at sea. The living are: James, a farmer and landscape gardener, who married a Miss Palmer, and resides at Hartford, Conn.; Mary, who married John Dillen, a farmer, and resides at Choptauk, Caroline County, Md.; William L., the subject of this sketch; Susan, who married Robert Hemmens, an Englishman, and a moulder by trade, residing in Schenectady; Jessie, wife ofJames Myers,a contractor and builder at Schenectady, N. Y.; and Margaret, who is the widow of James Macgregor, late Paymaster's Clerk in the United States navy, is now living in Baltimore, Md., and has one daughter. James Campbell, who is now residing at Hartford, Conn., was supervising agent and landscape gardener for the Morgans of New York for seventeen years, and was employed in the same capacity by the Garretts of Baltimore, Md., having charge of their entire estate, amounting to three thousand acres, with several assistant superintendents under him. The father died in 1894, aged nearly eighty-three years, surviving the mother, who died in 1890, aged seventy-seven.

William L. Campbell obtained his elementary education in Scotland, where (as well as in the United States, after his arrival here) he attended both the day and night schools. Having acquired a good knowledge of landscape gardening from his father, and receiving from the latter his full liberty some years previous to his majority, he entered the employ of Andrew Boardman, of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., where he remained seven years, supervising the laying out of that gentleman's gardens, roads, lawns, and pleasure-grounds, having previously attended school and worked with his father, at Flushing, Long Island. He followed landscape gardening until joining the Schenectady police force in 1869, and during his residence in Poughkeepsie he drove the first stake in laying out the grounds of Vassar College. From his boyhood he has taken a lively interest in out-door games, and he was known in his youth as a good all-around athlete. Coming to Schenectady in 1868 solely for the purpose of attending a supper given by the St. Andrew's Society, he was induced to locate here, and on August 3, 1869, was appointed a patrolman on the capitol police force in this city. That body was disbanded eleven months afterward, and going to Saratoga he was for the succeeding three months in charge of a force whose duty it was to patrol the streets and watch private property, he having been the first uniformed police officer to do duty in that village. Returning to this city after spending the summer months in Saratoga, he again in September, 1870, joined the regular Schenectady police force as a patrolman; was advanced on June 1, 1872, to the position of assistant to Charles H. Willard, whom he succeeded as chief on July 6 of the same year. He has held that office ever since, a period of twenty-seven years, having acted chief from July 6 to December 3, 1872, when he received regular appointment — longer than that of any other chief or superintendent of police in the State of New York, and, as far as known, in the United States.

On January 10, 1872, Mr. Campbell was joined in marriage with Harriet S. Orr, of Saratoga, N. Y. They have had two sons, one of them, Bertie, died at the age of one year. William Alexander Campbell, who was graduated from Union University in 1897, and after studying law at the law school of the same university, where he graduated June 26, 1899, and was admitted to the bar July 13, 1899, is, like his father and grandfather, unusually well-developed physically. He is proficient in athletic sports, and a champion bicycle rider and lawn tennis player.

Mr. Campbell belongs to the Masonic Order, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias, and the Foresters.

In his report as chief of police of the city of Schenectady for the year ending November 30, 1898 — an interesting and valuable document, betokening a clear head and an earnest purpose — Mr. Campbell recommends that the penal ordinances, so far as they relate to peace and good order, together with the sanitary rules and regulations of the city, be printed in pamphlet form the size of a pocket diary and placed in the hands of the newsdealers for sale; that police officers and city officials be provided with copies; and that pupils in the schools should be instructed as to their duties in observing ordinances. He would have even the smallest child thus led to see that a policeman is his servant and not his master. Following the adoption of this plan, he sagely thinks that "another generation would see the number of policemen in cities reduced to one-half the ratio per thousand inhabitant now employed, and in this way our citizens would become more nearly self-governing."

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