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CAMPBELL, COLIN, merchant, shipbuilder, shipowner, and politician; b. 7 Aug. 1822 at Shelburne, N.S., son of Colin Campbell and Maria Taylor; m. 9 Dec. 1845 Phoebe Ann Seely of Saint John, N.B., and they had ten children; d. 25 June 1881 at Weymouth, N.S.

Colin Campbell’s grandfather, also named Colin Campbell, immigrated to New York from Scotland in 1776 and moved to Shelburne, N.S., with other loyalists in 1783. The family moved to Weymouth shortly after Colin’s birth in 1822, and he was educated there and at Digby, N.S. In the early 1840s he established himself as a merchant with a general store in Weymouth and also became a shipowner; his first vessel was the Cygnet, a 60-ton schooner built by Henry Barr at Weymouth in 1848. Two years later Campbell became the master and owner of a small brigantine. The next year he obtained a quarter share of the Maria, a 136-ton brigantine built at Weymouth by George Taylor. In 1854 Campbell established his own shipyard near his general store, in which over the next quarter century he built a number of vessels. He acquired timber lands in Digby County to guarantee a supply for his shipyard, and he also exported timber to the United States and Britain. All but one of his vessels were built at his yard with Reuben Hankinson as the master builder, and all were named for members of his family.

The first vessel built in the Campbell yard was the Colin Campbell, a brig of 169 tons launched in July 1854. In 1857 Campbell built the Douglas, a 110-ton brigantine, and in 1859 the Charlotte, a 71-ton schooner. He launched his first barque, the Helen Campbell, 274 tons, in August 1860. After 1860 both the number and the size of his vessels steadily increased. His first large barques were the 599-ton Susan L. Campbell, launched in July 1863, and the 664-ton Minnie Campbell, launched in November 1865. Over the next ten years six more barques and a brigantine were added to the Campbell fleet. These vessels averaged 688 tons, the largest being the Agnes Campbell built in 1870 at a cost of $29,559, the Harriet Campbell in 1873 at $30,872, and a second Susan L. Campbell in 1875 at $34,336. Three more large barques were added to the Campbell fleet in the late 1870s: the Douglas Campbell, 875 tons, the 1,112-ton Harry Campbell, and the 1,132-ton Campbell, the largest and the last of the Campbell vessels, built in 1879.

Colin Campbell was sole owner of all the vessels from 1854 to 1873, when his son George Douglas obtained a quarter share in three of them. Another son, John, acted as his father’s agent in London, where he arranged charters, cargoes, and insurance for the vessels. Campbell enjoyed considerable success with his vessels. Although a few lasted only three or four years, he retained over half from eight to 13 years. At the time of his death eight vessels, a brigantine, and seven barques, totalling 6,000 tons and valued at over $80,000, flew the Campbell house flag.

In 1871 Campbell went into partnership with George Johnson to carry on a dry goods and grocery business at Weymouth Bridge (Weymouth). The partnership was known as Colin Campbell and Company, with Campbell holding three-quarters of the shares, and continued until his death. In addition, Campbell was agent at Weymouth for the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax, founded in 1869. In April 1872 he formed the Weymouth Marine Insurance Company of which he was president. The company ran into financial difficulties in October 1878 and was dissolved the following year.

Campbell also had an active political career, serving in the House of Assembly as the member from Digby County from 1859 to 1867 and as a member of the Executive Council from 30 Nov. 1860 until 5 June 1863 in the government of Joseph Howe*. Again from 19 June 1875 until 15 Oct. 1878 he was a member without portfolio in the Executive Council of Philip Carteret Hill*. During his time in the assembly Campbell supported railway construction, free schools, and Nova Scotia’s entry into confederation.

After Campbell’s death in 1881 the majority of shares in the vessels were held by the women of the family and John Campbell managed the shipping business. No new vessels were constructed, however, and the existing fleet was gradually lost or sold. The store at Weymouth Bridge was continued and the lumber business was expanded and operated until after World War I.

Charles A. Armour

Dalhousie Univ. Arch., MS 4-1, Colin Campbell, Daybooks, ledgers, letterbooks, and misc. papers, 1859–81; Campbell papers, Estate records, 1881–85; G. D. Campbell and Sons, Daybooks, ledgers, and letterbooks, 1881–90. Digby County Court of Probate (Digby, N.S.), Will of Colin Campbell, 28 Dec. 1875 (mfm. at PANS). PAC, RG 42, ser.I, 98–99, 240, 242, 248, 263–65. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 27 June 1881. Novascotian, 2 July 1881. Yarmouth Herald (Yarmouth, N.S.), 30 June 1881. Yarmouth Tribune, 29 June 1881. Directory of N.S. MLAs. J. S. McGivern, Truly Canadian (5v., Toronto, 1968–69), III.

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Cite This Article

Charles A. Armour, “CAMPBELL, COLIN (1822-81),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 9, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_colin_1822_81_11E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_colin_1822_81_11E.html
Author of Article:   Charles A. Armour
Title of Article:   CAMPBELL, COLIN (1822-81)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 9, 2023