Jessie Campbell’s Journal and Letters

Thanks to Jessie Campbell’s journal we know a great deal about the voyage of the Blenheim, and from her letters we also learn about the conditions of life in New Zealand in the 1840s.   We also learn a lot about Jessie Campbell herself, and about the people around her.

These pages provide some background on Jessie Campbell and her family, and it is planned to include some elaboration of the people, places and events she refers to.

For the text of the journal, go to Jessie Campbell’s Journal.

For the text of the letters go to Jessie Campbell’s Letters.

For the history of the Blenheim go to About the Blenheim.


Jessie Campbell

Jessie Cameron was the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel John Cameron of Achnasaul and Louisa Campbell of Glenure. She was born around 1807 in Kilmallie.

Jessie’s father, John Cameron of Achnasaul, was a lieutenant-colonel who fought in the American War of Independence, and afterwards became Governor of Fort William. John Cameron was a member of the family of MacSorlie-Camerons of Glen Nevis, and was the second son of Alexander Cameron, 12th of Glen Nevis, and Mary Cameron of Dungallon, a grand-daughter of Sir Ewen Dubh Cameron of Locheil. Alexander Cameron was imprisoned more than once for his support of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and subsequent dealings with Jacobites in exile.

John Cameron of Achnasaul married Louisa Campbell of Glenure in 1800, and they had several children:

  • Margaret Cameron, born c 1802, died c 1851-54, married Thomas MacDonald, writer (lawyer), Fort William, in 1818, probably sixteen children.
  • Isabella Cameron, born c 1805, died in 1847, married James MacGregor, writer (lawyer) and bank agent at Fort William, one son, James Cameron Macgregor, born in 1845.
  • Jessie Cameron, born c 1807, died in 1885, married Moses Campbell in 1827, and went to New Zealand in 1840; see Captain Moses Campbell and Jessie Cameron.
  • Ewen Cameron, born in 1810, died in 1883, a Captain in the 79th Cameron Highlanders, married Catherine Bridson, from the Isle of Man, in 1841 and settled there as a farmer and magistrate, and had probably seven children.
  • Colin Cameron, born c 1812, died in 1870, married Henrietta Stewart Whelan in 1846, at least three children; served in Her Majesty’s Customs, Liverpool and Glasgow.
  • Alexander Cameron, born in 1814, died in 1858, married Emily Ashworth, daughter of General Ashworth, had two sons who served in the Royal Engineers, and a daughter; served as a lieutenant-colonel in the 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) from 1855 to 1858, commanded a regiment at the Relief of Lucknow in 1857-58, was wounded at Bareilly, and died in August 1858.

In 1827 Jessie married Captain Moses Campbell, when he was around 40 and she was 19.

Moses Campbell was born around 1787, the son of John Campbell of Inverliver and Susan Cameron of Breadalbane. He served in the 72nd Regiment, the Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, being promoted to Captain of Infantry in 1828.

Moses Campbell had a sister, Jane Butler Campbell, born around 1800, who married Lieutenant James Wright of the 24th Regiment of Foot on February 6 1821 at Cawnpore, India.  Jane and James had twin sons Robert and George, born at Glenrolach House in South Knapdale, Scotland, on 7 July 1823.  They appear to have had at least one other child, a daughter Wilhelmina, born around 1827. Jane Butler (Campbell) Wright died in 1876 in Edinburgh.

On the death of his father, Moses Campbell left the Army on half-pay and seems to have lived in Glasgow while he tried to sell the estate of Inverliver, on Loch Awe in Argyll. After advertising it for a number of years, Moses Campbell sold the Inverliver Estate in 1836 having already moved to Achindale, near Fort William and the home of Jessie’s family. By 1839, the family had decided to emigrate to New Zealand. In that year Moses was allotted two one-hundred-acre sections in Wanganui by the New Zealand Company and retired from his half-pay post with the army, by the sale of his commission.

By the time of the Blenheim’s voyage in 1840, Moses and Jessie had five children – John Cameron Campbell 8, Colin Macmillan Campbell 6, Louisa Margaret Campbell 4, and 1-year old twins Isabella Eliza Campbell (died at sea) and Susan Ann Campbell. One child, born in 1830, had died before the voyage, and they went on to have a further six children in New Zealand – William Patrick Campbell (1841), Ewen Alexander Campbell (1843), Isabella Elizabeth Campbell (1845), Helen Ann Campbell (1847), Robert Andrew Campbell (1850), and Mary Susan Campbell (1852).

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