Archibald Campbell was born at Wynford, near Glasgow, Scotland on July, 19, 1787. He received the common rudiments of education, and at the age of ten became apprentice to a weaver.
Before the term of his apprenticeship expired, however, a strong desire to visit remote countries induced him to go to sea; and in the year 1800, he started his life aboard ships. He ended up with some Russians in the Aleutian Islands.
On the morning of the January 22, 1808, Campbell had his seal-skin boots fill with water, “the cold being so severe, the exercise of walking did not prevent from freezing. In a short time I lost all feeling in my feet”. (Campbell) Frostbitten, his feet were amputated. He later sailed on the ‘Neva’ with the Russians for the Sandwich Islands.
The Neva had a crew of seventy-five seamen, belonging to the Russian imperial service, and was commanded by Captain Hageimeister, who had been bred in the British navy, and could speak English fluently. They left December 11, 1808.
On January 27, 1809, “at day break, we discovered the mountains of Owhyhee, at the distance of ten leagues. In the afternoon, we were close in with the land, and coasted along the north side of the island.” (Through Campbell’s observations and subsequent book, we get an idea of life and landscape of the Islands.)
“We passed the-foot of Mouna-kaa, one of the highest mountains in the world. … a narrow tract of level ground lies between the base of the mountain and the sea, terminating in high abrupt cliffs; presenting at a distance a most barren appearance. On a nearer approach, however, we could observe numerous patches of cultivated land, and the lower parts of the mountain covered with wood.”
“Farther to the west, the plains are of greater extent, the country well wooded, and in a high state of cultivation; with many villages and houses, presenting every appearance of a numerous and industrious population.”
“We made sail in the evening, and reached Mowee the following day. … (and) weighed on the morning of tile 29th, and passing between the islands of Morokai and Ranai, reached the harbour of Hanaroora, on the south side of Wahoo, the same evening.” (Campbell)
“Upon landing I was much struck with the beauty and fertility of the country, … The village of Hanaroora, which consisted of several hundred houses, is well shaded with large cocoa-nut trees. The king’s residence, built close upon the shore, and surrounded by a pallisade upon the land side, was distinguished by the British colours and a battery of sixteen carriage guns”.
“This palace consisted merely of a range of huts, viz. the king’s eating-house, his sleeping-house, the queen’s house, a store, powder-magazine, and guard-house, with a few huts for the attendants, all constructed after the fashion of the country.”
“My appearance attracted the notice, and excited the compassion of the queen; and finding it was my intention to remain upon the islands, she invited me to take up my residence in her house. I gladly availed myself of this offer, at which she expressed much pleasure; it being a great object of ambition amongst the higher ranks to have white people to reside with them.”
Campbell noticed the King’s ship, “the Lily (Lelia) Bird, which at this time lay unrigged in the harbour. … Captain Hagemeister recommended me at the same time to the notice or the king, by informing him, that I could not only make and repair the sails of his vessels, but also weave the cloth of which they were made.”
The Neva remained in the harbor for three months, then haven taken provisions of salted pork and dried taro root, sailed for Kodiak and Kamchatka. Campbell stayed in the Islands.
Campbell moved forward with making a small loom and weaving for the king. “The making of the loom, from want of assistance, and want of practice, proved a very tedious job. I succeeded tolerably well at last; and having procured a supply of thread, spun by the women from the fibres of the plant of which their fishing lines are made, I began my operations.”
“After working a small piece, I took it to the king as a specimen. He approved of it in every respect except breadth … The small piece I wove he kept, and showed it to every captain that arrived as a specimen of the manufacture of the country.” (Campbell)
For a while Campbell lived with Isaac Davis, “a Welshman, who had been about twenty years upon the island, and remained with him till the king gave me a grant of land about six months afterwards.”
“In the month of November, the king was pleased to grant me about sixty acres of land situated upon the Wymummee, or Pearlwater, an inlet of the sea about twelve miles to the west of Hanaroora (his farm was at Waimano.) I immediately removed thither; and it being Macaheite (Makahiki) time, during which canoes are tabooed, I was carried on men’s shoulders.”
“We passed by foot-paths, winding through an extensive and fertile plain, the whole of which is• in the highest state of cultivation. Every stream was carefully embanked, to supply water for the taro beds. Where there was no water, the land was under crops ‘of yams and sweet potatoes. The roads and numerous houses are shaded by cocoa-nut trees, and the sides of the mountains covered with wood to a great height.”
“In the end of February, I heard there was a ship at Hanaroora, and went up with a canoe-load of provisions, wishing to provide myself with clothes, and, if possible, a few books. She proved to be the Duke of Portland, South-sea whaler, bound for England.”
“When I learned this, I felt the wish to see my native country and friends once more so strong, that I could not resist the opportunity that now offered. … the sores had never healed, and I was anxious for medical assistance, in the hopes of having a cure performed.”
“I was, indeed, leaving a situation of ease, and comparative affluence, for one where, labouring under the disadvantage of the loss of my feet, I knew I must earn a scanty subsistence. I was a tolerable sailmaker; and I knew, that if my sores healed, I could gain a comfortable livelihood at that employment.”
“The king was on board the ship at the time, and I asked his permission to take my passage home. He inquired my reason for wishing to quit the island, and whether I had any cause of complaint. I told him I had none; that I was sensible I was much better here than I could be any where else, but that I was desirous to see my friends once more.”
“He said, if his belly told him to go, he would do it; and that if mine told me so, I was at liberty. He then desired me to give his compliments to King George. I told him that though born in his dominions, I had never seen King George; and that, even in the city where he lived, there were thousands who had never seen him.”
“He expressed much surprise at this, and asked if he did not go about amongst his people, to learn their wants, as he did? I answered, that he did not do it himself; but he had men who did it for him. Tamaahmaah shook his head at this, and said, that other people could never do it so well as he could himself.” (Campbell)
“Having procured the king’s permission to depart, I went on shore to take leave of my friends; particularly Isaac Davis, and my patroness, the queen, who had always treated me with the utmost kindness.”
“It will be believed that I did not leave Wahoo without the deepest regret. I had now been thirteen months upon the island; during which time I had experienced nothing but kindness and friendship from all ranks – from my much-honoured master, the king, down to the lowest native.”
“A crowd of people attended me to the boat; unaccustomed to conceal their feelings, they expressed them with great vehemence; and I heard the lamentations of my friends on shore long after I had reached the ship. … We sailed next day, being the 4th of March (1810.)” (Campbell)
The image shows and 1810 map over Google Earth noting the Honolulu Harbor area – this is where Campbell first lived in the Islands.