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 to Duncan Campbell of Kilduskland,    London, 30 November 1748


D. Bro[the]r

As soon as I arrived here, I desired Skipper Duncan to write to you, my day by day Expecting to hear from you prevented my writing to you. I am now to acquaint you of a monstrous Dreaderton that I’ve met with. You must know that the very Day I landed at Portsmouth the Counc[illor] went on Board a ship in this port in order to go to Jamaica;[1] of which I did not hear for some days after I came to this town, I had Bills on him for £500 Sterling which his Lady[2] has allowed to be protected; this was all my Dependance this year, and what is still worse, I dare not undertake my tour to Scotland before the Spring, so must continue in this extravagant City all the Winter; shall be glad how soon I hear from you, I hope still to be able before this time twelve month to advance 1500 £ Sterling & 500£ more the Sum[mer] following if anything worthwhile offers,[3] of this you’ll give me your opinion, pray my Compl[iments] to all friends and Excuse this confused epistell, and belive me to be Dr. Bror. Your most aff[ectionately]

Jas. Campbell

P.S. direct for me to Mr. David Curry’s care. Mr. McLachlan gives his service to you and all his friends. I sent our friend John Somervell [4] a Cask of Rum 20 Galls. of which I desired him to your Order.


[1] Hon. Colin Campbell returned to Jamaica after learning that he was about to be replaced on the Council after a five year absence in London. His stepmother, Elizabeth, had also died in Jamaica that year. Before returning, he wrote a will - in September [National Archives , London].

[2] Colin Campbell had married in Jamaica Margaret Foster whose family owned several estates on the island. A brother, Thomas Foster, became MP for Dorchester and lived in London

[3] Despite having to pass an extravagant winter, James seems to have had an eye for additional business

[4] John Somerville, brother-in-law to ‘Skipper Duncan’; his wife was Duncan’s sister Elizabeth. Somerville was later Provost of Renfrew and his son Neill was later employed as a ship master by Duncan Campbell

For more of the Early Campbell Letters, please go to:
     Early Campbell Letters # 1
     Early Campbell Letters # 2
     Early Campbell Letters # 4
     Early Campbell Letters # 5
     Early Campbell Letters # 6

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