James Campbell (industrialist)

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For other people named James Campbell, see James Campbell (disambiguation).
James Campbell
James Campbell (industrialist).jpg
One of the wealthiest landowners in Hawaiʻi
Born (1826-02-04)February 4, 1826
Derry, Ireland
Died April 21, 1900(1900-04-21) (aged 74)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Occupation Carpenter, Businessman
Spouse(s) Hannah Barla
Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine
Children Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa + others
Parent(s) William Campbell and Martha Adams

James Campbell, Esq. (1826–1900) was the founder of the Estate of James Campbell, one of the largest and wealthiest landowners in the United States Territory of Hawaiʻi and in the state of Hawaii until 2007. It then became the James Campbell Company.

Early years[edit]

James Campbell was born on February 4, 1826 to Scotch-Irish William Campbell (1788–1879) and Martha Adams (1794–1871) in Londonderry, Ireland. Campbell was the eighth child of twelve children. At the age of thirteen, Campbell boarded a ship leaving Ireland for Canada. He then went to work for his brother John in New York City. For two years in the United States, Campbell followed in his father's footsteps as a carpenter. In 1841 he joined a whaling crew bound for the South Pacific where the vessel was shipwrecked in the Tuamotus. Campbell and only two shipmates survived by clinging onto debris and floating to a nearby island. They were captured by natives and held prisoner. He convinced the chief he could be useful by using his skill at improvised repairs and their lives were spared. After a few months he escaped on a ship bound for Tahiti where he settled and lived for several years.[1]

Lahaina, Maui[edit]

In 1850, the young Irishman boarded another whaling ship which later arrived at the port of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Campbell once again took up carpentry to make a living. In Lahaina he married Hannah Barla, who died in 1858.[1]

In 1860, Campbell formed a partnership with entrepreneurs Henry Turton and James Dunbar. They established a sugar processing plant, Pioneer Mill Company. Dunbar sold out of the business early on. The partners also bought the Lahaina Sugar Company when it went bankrupt in 1863.[1] With the thriving sugar industry in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Campbell became one of the wealthiest people in Lahaina. He used his profits to purchase land on the islands of Oʻahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. In 1877, Campbell sold his interest in the Pioneer Mill for half a million dollars to Turton. The Pioneer Mill produced sugar until 1999.[2]

Family life[edit]

Hawaiian woman and four daughters
His wife and daughters

On October 30, 1877, Campbell married 19-year-old Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine (1859–1908).[3] In 1878 he bought the Honolulu house of Archibald Scott Cleghorn. Cleghorn was brother-in-law to King Kalākaua, and the heir to the throne. Victoria Kaʻiulani was born in that house.[1]

They had four children: Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa, Alice Kamokila Campbell, Beatrice Campbell and Muriel Campbell. Four other children died young. The oldest, Abigail, would marry Prince David Kawānanakoa of the reigning House of Kalākaua and assume the title of Princess of Hawaiʻi. Kawānanakoa had three children: Princess Abigail Kapiʻolani Kawānanakoa, Prince David Kalākaua Kawānanakoa, and Princess Lydia Liliʻuokalani Kawānanakoa. These children would later become heirs to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi as the House of Kawānanakoa.

Land holdings[edit]

While raising his family, Campbell ventured into real estate with purchases of massive parcels of land. One of his most controversial purchases was of flat, arid and barren 41,000 acres (166 km²) in the Ewa District of Oʻahu. Other businessmen criticized Campbell for making such a wasteful, unproductive investment and called him insane. Campbell hired in 1879 James Ashley of California to drill the first artesian water well in Hawaii to supply his purchase with fresh irrigation. Campbell used the land for sugarcane production and profits poured into his coffers. Campbell continued to purchase underestimated plots of real estate and transformed them into productive agricultural districts.

He was appointed to serve in the House of Nobles (upper house of the legislature) in 1887 and 1888.[4] He and his wife were loyal supporters of Queen Liliuokalani at the time of her overthrow in 1893. In August 1896, while he was in San Francisco, he was kidnapped by Oliver Winthrop who pretended to be asking real estate advice. Winthrop and an unknown accomplice took $305 from him and threatened to shoot him if he did not write them a check for $20,000. After being held for two days without food or water and enduring several beatings, he still refused any ransom. The 70-year-old Campbell was released. Winthrop never testified, but was found guilty.[5]

He died April 21, 1900 with US$3 million to his name, left in trust to his children and their heirs.

It is on land owned by his estate that Kapolei was developed, a new suburb of Honolulu. In 2004 his 176 beneficiaries decided to form the "James Campbell Company".[6] The conversion happened in January 2007, with only three family members cashing out.[7]


The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge was leased from the estate in 1976, and then purchased and expanded in 2005.[8] James Campbell High School was named for him.[9] The James and Abigail Campbell Family Foundation was founded in 1980.[10]

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "James Campbell, Esq." (PDF). James Campbell Company LLC. 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  2. ^ Gary T. Kubota (September 3, 1999). "Lahaina cane workers, lands face unpredictable future: With Pioneer Mill's last harvest, 'it's going to be all dry -- no more nothing'". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  3. ^ "Marriage record, Oahu(1832–1910)". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  4. ^ "Campbell, James office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  5. ^ Joe Theroux (November 2009). "The Nerviest Man in Honolulu: Hilo-based historian Joe Theroux recounts the 1896 kidnapping of James Campbell". Honolulu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  6. ^ Allison Schaefers (October 6, 2004). "Campbell heirs opt for private business: Estate beneficiaries will form a company to manage real estate". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  7. ^ Theresia McMurdo (January 23, 2007). "Campbell Estate becomes the James Campbell Company" (PDF). press release. James Campbell Company. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  8. ^ "James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge". official web site. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. February 22, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  9. ^ "History of the school". official web site. James Campbell High School. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  10. ^ "The Foundation". official web site. James and Abigail Campbell Family Foundation. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 

External links[edit]