By CAROL MAHLER
Arcadian History Editor
In the Aug. 2, 1973, Arcadian newspaper, Ellen Holmer Campbell (1887-1981) was featured in an article written by Grace G. Smith (1896-1980). Campbell bought the home at 618 E. Oak St. in 1925.
But how she got there is the backstory.
Born in Oakland, Orange County, Florida, Campbell is listed as 13 years old in the 1900 U.S. Census, living with her mother, Maria, age 34, and siblings Gerda, 8 years; Otto, 7 years; Ruth, 5 years; and Gregory, 2 years. Maria had immigrated from Sweden in 1885 and had been married for 17 years. She and her husband may have chosen central Florida following the mid-19th century emigration of Swedes to the area.
Campbell moved with her family to Arcadia when she was a child and graduated from DeSoto County High School. She attended Stetson University for two years (1906-1908) and married Edwin Forest Campbell (1884-1926) in 1909.
That year he and a partner founded the Campbell Paint Co. It grew into a huge enterprise with jobs throughout the state and southeastern U.S., according to the Feb. 18, 1921, Arcadia Enterprise newspaper. The company completed the contract for painting the Carlstrom Field buildings in 1917-1918; the White Company’s Nitrate Plant No. 1 in Sheffield, Alabama; and the American Agriculture Company’s 150 buildings in Fort Pierce in 1920. In addition, the Aug. 5, 1921, Enterprise announced his development of a truck farm on his property along Horse Creek.
The Campbells had two sons — Bryan S., was born in Miami in 1910 where Ellen and Ed were listed in the 1910 U.S. Census, living with her parents, Carl and Mary Holmer, and Ellen’s five siblings. Ed was employed as a clerk in a hardware store. Bryan served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, had a nursery in Brownville, and died in 1957.
Born in Arcadia, their son Wallace O. (1913-1976), graduated from the University of Florida, and sometime after the 1940 U.S. Census moved to Clewiston, where he and his wife Louise Bussey Campbell (1917-1989) are buried.
After Ed’s death, Ellen worked for the State Welfare Board and then four years at Carlstrom Field for Riddle Aeronautics. Then she opened a dressmaking business in her home. A longtime member of the First Baptist Church, she had joined the choir in 1917. She was a charter member of the Arcadia Woman’s Club and the Arcadia Rook Club, and a member of the Business and Professional Womens Club. After her death, the house was sold by her estate to Maurice H. and Lee Yagel.
Arcadia house at 618 E. Oak St.
The Campbells did not build the house at 618 E. Oak St. It was probably built by Dwight Corley Langford (1881-1951), who bought the property from Miss Geneva Highsmith, an unmarried woman, on Aug. 26, 1919. That unrecorded deed was lost, so a second one was issued on Oct. 4, 1923, and filed on Oct. 10.
The house appears on the 1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, and the Langfords are living in it, according to the 1920 U.S. Census. He was listed as a grove owner. In 1930, they lived in Tampa. He had no occupation, and his wife Estelle worked as a saleslady in a department store, as she did in 1940. By that time he worked on his own account as a truck farmer.
Geneva Highsmith (1868-1955) was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, and earned a teaching degree from that state’s Oxford Seminary. She moved to Arcadia in 1907 and taught school. “She and her sisters were active in early building activities in Arcadia, investing in many rental houses and apartments,” according to her obituary published in the Oct. 17, 1955, Tampa Tribune. She owned the property for about a month.
Her sisters were Sarah Elizabeth “Bessie” Highsmith (1877-1968), also a school teacher, and Lela Ann Highsmith Royal (1878-1962). Their brothers were both doctors who practiced in Arcadia: Dr. John R. Highsmith (1881-1949), a dentist, and Dr. G. Franklin Highsmith (1885-1978), a urologist.
On Feb. 9, 1925, D.C. Langford and his wife Estelle A. Langford sold the house to A. D. Allen. In the 1921 Arcadia city directory, he was listed as a jeweler living with his wife Mary at 216 E. Oak St. After owning the house for two months, A. D. Allen and his wife Mary E. Allen sold the home to Ellen Campbell. She lived there more than a half century.