Rooted in Campbell
April 27, 2012
The 'Big House', home of Neil and Annie Matthews in 1909
A Modest Monument
With few trees to block the biting cold wind on a sunny December afternoon, Dr. Christopher Stewart looked down at the modest brick monument dedicated to the wife of Campbell University’s founder and, face to the wind, thought out loud about the importance of the spot where he stood.
“I wish someone would have a plaque here about what this house meant to the community … to Campbell University,” said Stewart, looking at what’s now an empty field of grass near the entrance of the Keith Hills community. “There was just so much history in this house.”
No Dancing at CAMPBELL
When I was in school, dancing was strictly forbidden.
Once, when I was a sophomore in high school, some friends and I who were on the basketball teams went to a friend’s house one Saturday night for a party to celebrate our good season. We played records and were sort of playing around — it wasn’t really dancing.
The basketball coach observed what we were doing, but said nothing to us. The next night, the coach walked home after church with my father and told him we were “dancing” at the party.
On Monday morning, we were called in by my father and were severely reprimanded for having violated the rules. We thought the coach should have told us at the party that he thought we were breaking the rules.
— Catherine Campbell King,
granddaughter of J.A. Campbell,
daughter of Leslie Campbell
“This house” was the birthplace of Cornelia Pearson, who would become Cornelia Campbell, wife of University founder Dr. James Campbell. It later became the Matthews Home, owned by Neil Matthews, father of 13 and the great grandfather of Stewart, an internal medicine physician who in 2010 became the first medical director of Campbell’s new Physician Assistant program.
But that title is far from the only connection Stewart has with Campbell University. His roots go all the way back to the school’s founding 125 years ago … and beyond.
It was Neil who helped build the Baptist church that still stands today on the Campbell campus, and it was Neil’s house — the one he rented from the Campbells and that once stood within eye-shot of Campbell’s home — that served as a meeting place where several discussions about the future of the school were held.
Great aunts and uncles attended, taught and supported Campbell as it grew from Buies Creek Academy to Campbell Junior College to Campbell College.
Stewart’s parents attended Campbell and met there. And today, Stewart is part of a program that’s helping launch the school toward a future as a state leader in health care education.
For every milestone at Campbell University over the past 125 years, a Stewart or a Matthews has been on hand to witness it. It’s a fact that’s not lost on Christopher Stewart, who grew up in Buies Creek but attended the University of North Carolina partly to see what else was out there.
Since he’s returned, he’s grown to appreciate his family’s place in Campbell’s history a little more.
“I realize that my family was here during the founding — and played a role in it — and here I am today the founding medical director of the P.A. program,” Stewart said as he escaped the wind and cold and climbed in his Jeep. “I think about it sometimes — the full-circle component of all of this — and it’s really unbelievable to me.
“I’m incredibly blessed to be here.”