Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library

Jamaica Campbell letters, 1747-1757


The following letters are from the MacTavish of Dunardry Papers, which are held in the Argyll and Bute archives in Scotland. They give some detail about the Campbells of Western Jamaica, their activities and their family and commercial connections on both sides of the Atlantic – mostly from or in Argyll. This earlier series of Campbell letters complements those by London merchant Duncan Campbell and others, which are already available on this site. The early career of ‘Skipper Duncan’ as merchant mariner, is touched upon several times during this period.


The Campbells who settled in this part of Jamaica were, essentially, one family who were all closely related to Colonel John Campbell of Black River. As a measure of their influence after 50 years, five cousins represented only one percent of landowners in Hanover, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth yet owned ten percent of all the cultivated land in the three parishes. Colin Campbell of Black River was appointed to the Council of Jamaica shortly after his father’s death in 1740. In later years, John Campbell of Salt Spring and John Campbell of Orange Bay several times represented Hanover in the Assembly and each in turn was also appointed Custos of the parish. Their cousin, John Campbell of New Hope, Westmoreland, became a Supreme Court judge and was also appointed to the Council.


James Campbell of Kaims to Duncan Campbell of Kilduskland              Salem, 10 June 1747


James Campbell was a son of Patrick Campbell of Kilduskland and cousin to the Campbells of Jamaica. He traded as a merchant at Lucea and was also planting attorney at Salem, Hanover, for Hon. Colin Campbell of Black River who owned the plantation.


Dear Brother,

The perusall of yours by Skipper Duncan,[1] who was with me last week, you may believe was very acceptable, notwithstanding your severall accusations against me for my silence, by which I find you have not recd my answer to yours by McNeil and Cus: Arch: Lamont, the miscarriage I suppose owing to the late unhappy troubles.[2] I then assured you in 2 years I intended to pay you a Visit, and defered answering your Serious Questions till then, only by retorting them upon your Self: however to pass all Jokes I am now to assure you, if in Life, I intend, please God, to go home next Summ[er] to which purport I wrote our Cus: the Counc[illor][3] a Paragraph of mine to him you have Inclosed, by which you’ll find I’m in earnest; I’ve likewise remitted by this fleet to Mr David Currie [4] a Bill of Exchange for £210 Ster[ling] which desired him to pay to your order, I’ve likewise wrote him if you require it, to advance 200£ more. In regard to our Cus: the Counc[illor] paying the £500,[5] you must write him first and have his answer, and beg he wou’d let you know after what manner he wou’d chouse to make the payment, if you can prevail with him to pay £1000 I shall be very well Satisfied; but you may Depend if no accident happens, that I shall make £2000 Sterl[ing] good towards a purchase by this time 12: mo[nths] I need not belive make use of any arguments, to assure you that I unfeighnedly has as great a desire to be with you and friends, as is possible for the ties of Brotherly love and naturall affection to Excite, for to comply w[ith] your desire I now give up at Least 500£ pound. I’ve wrote to Mr. Currie to acquaint you after what manner he woud Chouse to make remittance to you of which you may advise least he forgets. – now, D[ear]:B[rother]:, I wish from my soul you wou’d endeavour to relive the Paternall Inheritance if it be sold[6], in this you may think I have a little of the Highland Superstition, which I own so farr prevails that I wou’d, if I had it, give 200 Guineas more than you sold it for, and to make that sum good wou’d stay a little longer here, but this I leave Intirely to your self. I expect to hear from you on receipt hereof, you’ll send your letter with Coppy to Mr. Currie to go by different Ships. I will write you soon & then shall write to Largie[7] and Dunardry[8], tho’ I never recd a line from Largie and but once from Dunardry, however make my Sincerest regard acceptable to them and famalys and all that Enquire for D[ear] Br[other] yrs most aff[ectionately]

Jas. Campbell


[1] Duncan Campbell, a son of Rev. Neil Campbell, principal of University College Glasgow and a nephew of the writer

[2] The Jacobite uprising in Scotland, in 1745, which ended with the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army at Culloden in 1746. The Campbell militia from Argyll fought with the king’s army against the rebels for the Dukes of Argyll had long supported the Hanoverian monarchy.

[3] The Councillor: Hon. Colin Campbell of the Council of Jamaica, eldest son of Col. John Campbell 1 of Black River [d.1740]. Salem was one of his several estates in Hanover.

[4] David Currie, merchant in London whose wife, Anne Campbell, was the daughter of Col. John Campbell 1 of Black River, Jamaica. Kent’s Directory for 1740 lists ‘Campbell & Currie, Merchants’, at Fenchurch Buildings, London. David Currie’s uncle, John Currie, was a planter in Westmoreland who had died in London in 1742

[5] The settlement of this debt became a long running affair which only concluded 29 years later

[6] Money made in the colonies was often a way of retaining or regaining family lands at home

[7] Possibly one John MacDonald of Largie, Argyll who is referred to elsewhere in the Dunardry papers

[8] Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry


For more of the Early Campbell Letters, please go to:
     Early Campbell Letters # 2
     Early Campbell Letters # 3
     Early Campbell Letters # 4
     Early Campbell Letters # 5
     Early Campbell Letters # 6

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