Alexander James Campbell and Ida Julia Brandon

Alexander James Campbell
Alexander James Campbell

When I was a child, my father told me his family had come to Jamaica via the U.S. Virgin Islands, formerly the Danish West Indies or the Danish Antilles. (The islands were sold to the United States in 1917 and renamed the United States Virgin Islands in 1917.)

Donna (Campbell) Kenny, a cousin who lives in Australia, also heard a similar story via our 2nd great-grandfather, Donald Binnie Campbell’s granddaughter Corinne Eckert, née Campbell and her cousin Thomas Cripps. Subsequent research by Donna and her cousin Raymond Hopwood, however, has settled the fact that my direct Campbell family line, once arriving in Jamaica, were all born on that island. Having said that, some members of the family did work overseas at various times—my paternal grandfather, for instance, lived and worked in Panama for some time.

In her book, Donna Campbell-Kenny quotes from Corinne Eckert and Thomas Cripps’ account that Donald Binnie Campbell was in charge of the Royal Mail Co.’s offices on St. Thomas, that island being the mail transfer station for Royal Mail. So Donald Binnie might have lived there for some time with his family, providing the basis for the idea that we came from the Virgin Islands. Records show that neither of Donald Binnie’s sons was born there, however.

Marriage of Alexander James Campbell & Ida Julia Brandon

My great-grandfather Alexander James Campbell was known generally as “James” and signed his name, A. James Campbell, so we will call him James. His occupations were described in various documents as a clerk, commercial clerk, storekeeper, merchant and gentleman. At one point, he owned a haberdashery at 43 King Street, Kingston.

Ida Julia Brandon
Ida Julia Brandon (1860-1942)

On 24 Nov 1880, James married 20-year-old Ida Julia Brandon, and they had 14 children, including their oldest son to reach adulthood, my grandfather Donald Harcourt Campbell (1883-1974). Ida Julia was a Sephardic Jew from a family that originated in Portugal and—after spending some time in England—arrived in Jamaica early in the island’s British history. Indications are her family belonged to the Brandãos of Viseu, Portugal and changed their name to Brandon after arriving in the U.K.

Jews are among the oldest residents of Jamaica. Some Jewish families were part of the earliest Spanish settlements. Although small in number, the Jamaican Jewish community has been very influential in government and commerce throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, and Israel.

One of Ida Julia’s second cousins, for example, was David Henry Brandon (1855-1903). He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Esther Athias and Jacob Brandon of Jamaica. David Henry along with his brothers Nathaniel and Isaac Brandon founded finance and import firms. He was also elected Commander-in-Chief of the Panama Fire Department, the Cuerpo de Bomberos, to reorganize and modernize that volunteer fire brigade. He was honored a half-century after his 1903 death with a postage stamp (see image on this page). 

In 1879, David Henry married Judith Maduro (1862-1940) in Panama. She was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She was the third of eight children born to Esther Piza and Salomon Levy Maduro, both from St. Thomas and with roots in Curacao. They had 13 children, five girls and eight boys. One child died at age two, and the other twelve had a total of 39 children.

Judith Maduro eventually moved to New York with her ten youngest children, and some years later to Havana, Cuba where several of her grown sons lived. She died in Havana in 1940. [Source/credit: How are the Brandon and Maduro families related? by Sita Levy Likuski]

James and Ida Julia had mixed fortune during their marriage, with quite a measure of prosperity dwindling to rather a modest existence. James and/or Ida Julia seem to have inherited enough money at some point for James to give up working, yet they seemed to fall on leaner times later in their marriage. Family accounts relate that Ida Julia liked to move from one house to another. She repeatedly would build a house and move in for a while before selling it and moving again. Apparently, she loved to do this.

Sadly, seven of their children died in infancy, and some of their surviving children began leaving Jamaica for “greener pastures” overseas: Corinne, Violet, and Gwennie emigrated to the U.S. This was happening about the time of James’s death in 1917. He died of heart failure and is buried at the Church of Scotland (Scot’s Kirk) grounds in Kingston.

Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church
Rebuilt after the 1907 earthquake
on the foundation of the original church.

It is interesting to note that Gwennie, who never married, and her sister Corinne returned and lived in Jamaica until their deaths. Corinne married Emil Eckstein in 1923 and, after living in America, spent much of their retirement years in Jamaica. Violet married Trygve Lodrup, who she met in New York, and they settled in Norway.

Violet Lødrup née Campbell
(06 Oct 1890 – 17 Jun 1982)

James and Ida’s eldest daughter, Myrtle Mizpah, married Cyril Croswell in 1906, and they had six children. I remember their son, Cyril, jr. and his wife, Joyce née Snaith. After Cyril’s death, Joyce moved with her son, Christopher, to Canada, where I met her a few times. I also remember Cyril, jr.’s sister, Phyllis, who married Leicester Levy, a family friend.

The only one of my grandfather Donald’s siblings I knew well as a boy was his youngest brother, Cecil Guy Campbell (1898-1985), always known as Guy. After my parents divorced, my mother and Uncle Guy and his wife Aunt Lena remained friends, so we saw them frequently. Cecil Guy, who was always known as Guy, converted to Judaism and, in 1918, married Lena Elma Vaz (1896-1991), who was a Jew and so began a Jewish line of the Jamaican Campbell family.

My sister, Diane, in the 1950s, also married into the Vaz family, making our cousin, Vernon Vaz, her husband. (Vernon’s father was my Aunt Lena Campbell’s brother). And Ida Julia was also connected to the Vaz family through her sister, who married a Pinto who married a Vaz. But that’s typical of Jamaican families—many inter-connections.

Julia (Julianne) Grace Brandon née Henriques, Death Registry | Ida Julia Brandon’ Mother
on 17 May 1910 at 123 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica

Guy and Lena had five children: Clive, Cecil, Emil, Randolph and Norma. Most of that family moved to Canada, but for decades they were very much part of the business community in Jamaica. Guy worked with the United Fruit Co. for many years and was also Secretary Manager of the Jamaica Gasoline Retailers Association. Later, Guy worked as Manager of United Estates Ltd, a sugar factory, I believe.

Cecil Guy Campbell (1898-1985) Birth Registration

Emil, Guy’s third son, built one of the top restaurant, catering and hotel operations in Jamaica, and for several years provided in-flight food service for Air Jamaica Airline. Lena and Guy left Jamaica in 1975 and died in Vancouver, B.C. in 1986 and 1991, respectively.

Quite by coincidence, I worked for several years with Versa Services. This Canadian company purchased a half interest in Emil Campbell’s Jamaica operation, so I had some business interaction with Emil and especially his older brother Cecil.

Ida Julia Campbell née Brandon Death Registry

After the death of her husband James, Ida Julia seemed to divide her time between her girls in New York and her family in Kingston. She died 23 Jan 1942 at the age of 84. At that time, she was living at 19 Brentford Road, St. Andrew parish.

Rapid Vulcanizing Co. Ltd. (1962)
Corner of Harbour and Duke streets, Kingston, Jamaica

One of James and Ida Julia’s sons Arthur Churchill Campbell (1885-1965) founded what became the iconic Kingston-based Rapid Vulcanizing Co. Ltd., which operated a lumberyard, gas stations and a drug store and sold tires, automobile parts and hardware. AC, as he was generally known, also owned or otherwise established the Wembley Athletic Club, a members-only sports club. Before I left Jamaica, wharves and warehouses were added to his holdings.

Arthur Churchill Campbell (1885-1965) Birth Registration

Donna Campbell-Kenny gives an excellent account of her grandfather AC’s life and many accomplishments in her book, A Journey Through Time in Jamaica: The Story of AC Campbell & His Ancestors. (Toronto: Stewart Publishing & Printing, 2003. ISBN 1-894183-41-X.)

Alexander James Campbell (1848-1917) Death Registration

Alexander James Campbell died of “heart failure” on 14 Jan 1917 after a 10-day illness. At that time, he lived at 23 Rae Street, Rae Town, Kingston. This former clerk, storekeeper, merchant, and gentleman was 70 years old.