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James Campbell

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of William Campbell and Martha Adams
Husband of Abigail Kuaihelani Campbell
Father of Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa and Ethel Muriel Kuaihelani Shingle

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About James Campbell

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

James Campbell was born on February 4, 1826 to Scotch-Irish William Campbell (1788–1879) and Martha Adams (1794–1871) in Derry, 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. 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. After a few months he escaped on a ship bound for Tahiti where he settled and lived for several years.

Lahaina, Maui

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.

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. 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.

Family life

On October 30, 1877, Campbell married 19-year old Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine (1859–1908). 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.

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

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 James Ashley of California to drill water wells 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. 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. After being held for three days, he still refused any ransom. The 70-year-old Campbell was injured released. Winthrop never testified, but was found guilty.

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". The conversion happened in January 2007, with only three family members cashing out.


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

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