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.






John Campbell of Salt Spring to James Campbell of Kaims, 13 September 1757 [London]


Dear Cousin

This serves to acquaint you of my arriving here on the 25 Ult: with Capt Duncan. Had I not had some thoughts of taking a trip to Scotland and surprising you all before you heard of my arrival: I would have wrote you before this, but I cannot have the satisfaction of seeing you and other friends so soon as I wish, for my sister Mrs. Campbell [1] has been for some time past and is now in an indifferent state of Health, which prevents my leaving this place untill she is in a fair way of getting the better of her Complaints. When I left Jamaica friends in general there were well. Cousin Colin was laid up with the Gout which prevented him from writing you. Kerr & Co [2] had received nothing on your acct from the Councillour’s Estate[3] when I came away, nor I am afraid will not unless a levy is made, for which purpose they were revalued to Issue A Ventionii,[4] if they had not some payment made in a short time. Those Estate fell very short last Crop. Campbelltown and Salem[5] did not make over 120 h[ogshea]ds and Luann[6] not above 35 so you may believe Cousin Colin will not be a little pushed by the Creditors, the prospect of which gave him a great deal of uneasiness. It will give me much pleasure to hear from yours and Mrs. Campbell’s welfare. Capt Duncan is now sitting by me writing to the Old Gentleman [7] & Mr. Betham [8] as I now write to you he deferrs writing until another time when I do not write, he and My sisters[9] joins me in offer our Best for your and Mrs. Campbell’s welfare.[10] I am Dear Cousin your affectionate and H[onoura]ble Serv[ant]  John Campbell


[1] Rebecca Campbell, wife of Captain Duncan Campbell

[2] James Kerr, a merchant and planter from Dundee. Kerr was also partner with Dugald Malcolm at Prospect plantation which was neighbour to Salt Spring and Pell River

[3] A reference to the £500 that James Campbell had hoped to collect upon his return to London in 1748

[4] A court writ enforcing the sale of assets, including land, in order to discharge a debt

[5] Campbelltown/Campbelton  and Salem were two other plantations in Hanover established by Hon. John Campbell of Black River

[6] Either a reference to the Black River plantation in St Elizabeth, which was on the savannah between the Luanna mountains and the sea, or another estate in the area (it was not Luana plantation)

[7] Presumably his father, Rev. Neil Campbell who lived until 1761

[8] Richard Betham, husband to Mary Campbell, a sister of Captain Duncan Campbell. Their daughter Elizabeth married Lieutenant William Bligh, RN, who also commanded Duncan Campbell’s ship Britannia on the Jamaica run

[9] John Campbell’s sisters in all were Ann, Rebecca, Mary, Henrietta, Petronella, Deborah and Douglass.

[10] Margaret Lamont

For more of the Early Campbell Letters, please go to:
     Early Campbell Letters # 1
     Early Campbell Letters # 2
     Early Campbell Letters # 3
     Early Campbell Letters # 4
     Early Campbell Letters # 5

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