Wealthy landownerBy Rob Perez
lived the sweet life
HIS fortune was built on sugar and water. First, James Campbell parlayed several hundred dollars of savings into what eventually became a thriving Maui sugar producer, Pioneer Mill Co., in the 1860s.
Later, he dug the first artesian well in Ewa, helping transform the arid plains of West Oahu into productive agricultural land. That venture proved especially lucrative for Campbell, who had been acquiring West Oahu land when many considered it worthless.
By the time Campbell died in 1900, he had amassed a vast fortune. He was a millionaire several times over and was considered one of the larger landowners in Hawaii.
Campbell's influence still is felt today through the Estate of James Campbell, a $2 billion-plus trust that he created. The estate is one of the largest private land-owners in Hawaii.
It also is the guiding hand for development of big chunks of West Oahu, including the so-called second city of Kapolei.
Campbell, born Feb. 4, 1826, in Ireland, ran away from home at the age of 13, stowing away on a lumber schooner bound for Canada. He came to Hawaii aboard a whaling vessel in 1850. His skills as a carpenter led to ventures in boat building and home construction, but by 1860 he already was dabbling in the sugar trade.
In his later years, Campbell, described as reserved and dignified, devoted considerable time to traveling. On one trip he became a kidnapping victim in a sensational San Francisco case that generated banner headlines.
As he amassed his fortune in Hawaii, Campbell was described by one print editor in this way: "Mr. Campbell was a good citizen, although not a religious man. He was remarkable for sound business courage, qualities very commonly accompanying Scotch descent."
After a lengthy illness, Campbell died on April 21, 1900, at his Honolulu home. He was 74.