My Family Roots (Continued)

Donald Binnie Campbell & Elizabeth Matilda Kellerman

by R. G. CampbellJune 8th, 2018

The author Charles Thompson wrote that Elizabeth Matilda's grandfather, Jacob (John) Kellerman was:

"a man of gigantic stature who, in order to avoid being pressed into a regiment of giants formed by Frederick the Great, fled to the West Indies [Jamaica] where he married.”

Charles John Samuel Thompson, 
in his book Alchemy and Alchemists 
(first published as 
The Lure and Romance of Alchemy 1932)

The Alchemist

Thomas Kellerman’s older brother John Kellerman (1775-?), the other son of Bloxburgh’s founder, 
Jacob (John) Kellerman, made wealthy by the wills of his grandfather and father, acquired some notoriety in England as a man of fashion with a passion for horse racing who became an eccentric and lived in a dilapidated mansion with high walls around it in the village of Lilley in Hertfordshire, England.

C.J.S. Thompson devoted several paragraphs to him in his book Alchemy and Alchemists under the topic of The Last of the Alchemists. And according to Richard Alfred Davenport’s Sketches of Imposture: Deception and Credulity, this John Kellerman “was a singular character, who shunned all society, carried six loaded pistols in his pockets, barricaded his house and filled his grounds with spring-guns [to discourage would-be intruders].” He claimed he could make as much gold as he pleased and even offered to pay off Britain’s national debt. The memory of John Kellerman, my 3rd great-grand uncle, still lives on in the village of Lilley where he is known as “the alchemist, Johann Kellerman.

At this link is a record of an 1828 interview with John Kellerman done by Sir Richard Phillips as part of his, A Personal Tour through the United Kingdom.

Alexander and Marie Louise’s youngest son Donald Binnie Campbell—my 2nd great-grandfather—married Elizabeth Matilda Kellerman (born 1826). Donald and Elizabeth had two sons: Alexander James Campbell (1848–1917), who was my great-grandfather, and Donald Spence Campbell (1850–1886). 

At the time of Donald Spence’s birth, the family lived on Duke Street in Kingston, Jamaica. Donald Spence Campbell became a planter and died on 8 Aug. 1888 at 38 years of age. He, apparently, never married.

One family story claims Donald was at one time in charge of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s (RMSPC) offices on the island of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, then part of the Danish West Indies. And my father once told me that his family lived in the Virgin Islands when they first arrived in the West Indies and moved from there to Jamaica.

This seems unlikely, however, since Dad’s great, great-grandfather seems to have immigrated directly from Scotland to Jamaica. The story seems to have gotten muddled because Dad’s great-grandfather (Donald Binnie Campbell who was born in Jamaica) was posted for a time in the Virgin Islands when he worked for the RMSPC whose packet steamers carried all British mail between the United Kingdom and the Caribbean. RMSPC had its main West Indies transfer station on St. Thomas.

Donald Binnie Campbell died at the age of 30. Cause of death is unknown, but since his will was drawn up only weeks before, we assume his death was expected and was probably due to an illness or an accident from which he was not expected to recover. At the time of his death, Donald Binnie still owned an interest in Turnbull Penn, a family estate in St. Catherine parish, which was handed down from his father.

Elizabeth Matilda Kellerman’s father was Thomas Penny Kellerman (abt. 1789-1834) who was the proprietor of Bloxburgh Estate, a coffee plantation in the Port Royal Mountains. Her grandfather was Jacob Kellerman, who was known as “John.” He was of Prussian birth and had arrived in Jamaica in the 1750s where he was naturalized on 1 Oct. 1762.

In 1764 John Kellerman was granted 300 acres of land, which became the Bloxburgh Plantation in the Port Royal Mountains. Bloxburgh was on top of a hill north of Bull Bay. It was a coffee estate with about 300 slaves, which also grew limes, oranges, cinnamon, cocoa, cotton and tamarind."

In Benjamin M’Mahon’s book—Jamaica Plantership: Eighteen Years Employed in the Planting Line in that Island. (London, Effingham Wilson: J. Matthew Printer. 1839)—the author from Ireland tells of working as a bookkeeper on the Bloxburgh Estate. He writes that slaves were very badly treated and was shocked by many of the things he saw. He describes how the slaves were shackled together whilst they worked in the fields, and flogged to force them to work harder. The practices on the estate eventually caused him to leave to look for work elsewhere on the island. (The full text of M’Mahon’s book can be found at this link.) 

Here’s an excerpt from Planters and Slave Resistance: Two Original Accounts:

M’Mahon’s experiences at Bloxburgh Estate also enabled him to describe the ways in which the interactions between various plantation managers influenced the treatment of the resisting slaves. When the proprietor, T.P. Kellerman, formed a relationship with Charles Austin, a neighboring plantation overseer described as ‘a monster in human shape,’ Kellerman rapidly became just as merciless. … M’Mahon pointed at the following as the reason for this rapid change in administration: ‘No man could succeed in the planting line, but one whose heart was hard and adamant; he must have no pity for the Negro….’

by Erin Hodge

François-Auguste Biard (1799–1882), The Slave Trade (Slaves on the West Coast of Africa) (c 1833), oil on canvas, 162.5 × 228.6 cm, Wilberforce House Museum, Hull, England. Wikimedia Commons.

Pretty strong stuff! 

By the way, the Charles Austin mentioned above is one of my 4th great-grandfathers from a female line—we don’t get to choose our ancestors, family research is not for the squeamish! 

By the time of Jacob’s death, Bloxburgh had grown to just over 1,200 acres, and he owned several other properties as well, including the nearby New Ramble Plantation and a house in London, England. 

Thomas Penny Kellerman, one of John (Jacob’s) sons, married his neighbour, Charles Austin’s daughter Mary Ann Austin (1801-?). 

On that note, I’ll pause here and when I pick up again I'll tell the story of my great-grandfather, Alexander James Campbell and his wife Ida Julia Brandon.