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Johnson N. Camden

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnson Newlon Camden
Johnson N. Camden.jpg
United States Senator
from West Virginia
In office
March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1887
Preceded byFrank Hereford
Succeeded byCharles J. Faulkner
In office
January 25, 1893 – March 3, 1895
Preceded byJohn E. Kenna
Succeeded byStephen B. Elkins
Personal details
Johnson Newlon Camden

(1828-03-06)March 6, 1828
Lewis County, Virginia
(now West Virginia)
DiedApril 25, 1908(1908-04-25) (aged 80)
Baltimore, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseAnna Gaither Thompson
ChildrenJohnson N. Camden Jr., George Camden, Annie Camden Spilman

Johnson Newlon Camden (March 6, 1828 – April 25, 1908) was a prominent oilman, industrialist, banker, railroad tycoon, and politician who was estimated to have $25 million at the time of his unexpected death.[1] Although both of his attempts to become governor of the new state of West Virginia failed, he did become United States Senator, representing West Virginia on two occasions.

Early and family life

Born in 1828 in Collins Settlement, the county seat of Lewis County, Virginia (now West Virginia), to Col. John Scrivener Camden (1798–1862; who would serve in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1845-1846)[2] and his wife, the former Nancy Newlon, Johnson Newlon Camden was the grandson of Rev. Henry Benjamin Camden, who freed his slaves in Maryland in 1804 and moved west to what became Harrison County, West Virginia during the American Civil War and this Johnson Camden's lifetime. His siblings included CSA Lt. Col. Edwin Duncan Camden (1840–1922) of the 25th Virginia Infantry, William D. Camden (1842–1878), Amanda McKinley, Lorenzo Dow Camden (1844–1910) and John Scrivener Camden Jr. (1851–1923). His uncle, Judge Gideon D. Camden of Harrison County, resigned his judicial position as the Civil War began and declined to become a delegate to the Confederate States congress and later a became West Virginia state senator.

Johnson N. Camden attended school in Sutton and at age 14 apprenticed with his uncle, the county clerk in Weston.[3] In 1846, he won an appointment as a cadet to the United States Military Academy at West Point while his father represented Braxton, Lewis and Gilmer Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates for a single term (1845–46). Young J. N. Camden studied for two years but resigned in 1848, to read law in his home state.

On June 22, 1858, in Wheeling, Johnson N. Camden married Anne Thompson (1834–1918), daughter of prominent lawyer George W. Thompson, who had become a U.S. Congressman and was then a prominent local judge. They would have children Johnson N. Camden Jr. (1865–1942) and Annie Camden Spilman (1862–1958), although their son George died as an infant.[4]

Law and politics

Camden was admitted to the Virginia bar and began his practice in Sutton, the Braxton County seat in 1851. Although his father continued to live in Lewis county, his brothers Edwin, William and Lorenzo had moved to Braxton County. Young Johnson N. Camden was appointed the same year as Braxton County's prosecuting attorney. In 1852 J. N. Camden won election as prosecuting attorney for Nicholas County.

In 1858, Camden moved to Parkersburg, on the Ohio River. There he began investing in land. The following year, he moved to Burning Springs, site of an oil boom in 1860 which made him rich. Camden became involved in oil refining, coal manufacture and sold part of his interest for $100,000. He joined with his brother in law became a wealthy industrialist, selling their oil interests for $410,000 in 1866, and investing the proceeds in several new industries. Camden Consolidated Oil Company was ultimately acquired by Standard Oil.[5] Camden also consolidated several small railroads, which helped transport great quantities of coal.[6]

Camden sympathized with the Union and did not serve in either army during the American Civil War, although CSA General Stonewall Jackson had been raised nearby. His father died in Weston in 1862.[7] His younger brother Edwin Duncan Camden became Lt.Col. of the 25th Virginia Infantry, and after capture became one of the Immortal 600 (hostages used by the Union as human shields in South Carolina a retaliation for Confederate treatment of Union prisoners of war).

Camden became president of the First National Bank of Parkersburg at its organization in 1862, and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of West Virginia in 1868 and again in 1872.

Voters finally elected Camden as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate, where he served one term, from March 4, 1881, to March 4, 1887. He then resumed the practice of law at Parkersburg. Upon the death in office of U.S. Senator John E. Kenna, Camden won the election and served the remainder of that term, from January 25, 1893, to March 3, 1895, then retired from elective politics. While in the Senate, Camden was chairman of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expense (Fifty-third Congress) and a member of the Committee on Railroads (Fifty-third Congress). He continued his former business and civic pursuits.

Death and legacy

Camden died in Baltimore, Maryland, en route back to Weston, West Virginia, after visiting family.[8] His body was returned to Parkersburg for burial in Parkersburg Memorial Gardens with his infant son, and where his widow would join him a decade later.[9] His son, Johnson N. Camden Jr., was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky in the 63rd Congress.

In 1903–04, Camden built the Union Trust & Deposit Co./Union Trust National Bank at Parkersburg.[10] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.[11] Camden also owned lumber and hotel interests in Lanes Bottom, West Virginia (now known as Camden-on-Gauley).[12]


  1. ^ "Johnson Newlon Camden".
  2. ^ Cynthia Miller Leonard (ed), The General Assembly of Virginia 1619-1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members (Richmond, 1978) p. 416
  3. ^ "Johnson Newlon Camden".
  4. ^ findagrave no, 7782683
  5. ^ Howard R. Lee, The Burning Springs and other Tales of the Little Kanawha, (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press 1968) bio of Johnson F. Camden at App. III, available at Archived October 18, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Johnson Newlon Camden".
  7. ^ J.N. Camden owned one 40 year old mulattofemale slave in Lewis, Virginia in 1860; and his brother Dr. T. B. Camden owned one 15 year old male slave in the same county; John Scrivener Camden owned 5 slaves in Braxton county in 1860
  8. ^ "Johnson Newlon Camden".
  9. ^ findagraveno. 7782683
  10. ^ Eliza Smith, Christina Mann (December 1981). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Citizens National Bank" (PDF). State of West Virginia, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Historic Preservation. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  11. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  12. ^ West Virginia place names, their origin and meaning, including the nomenclature of the streams and mountains. Piedmont, W.Va.
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
John J. Jacob
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by  U.S. senator (Class 1) from West Virginia
March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1887
Served alongside: Henry G. Davis, John E. Kenna
Succeeded by
Preceded by  U.S. senator (Class 2) from West Virginia
January 25, 1893 – March 3, 1895
Served alongside: Charles J. Faulkner
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 16 November 2022, at 06:07
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