John Logan Campbell

Biography

John Logan Campbell

In the winter of 1840, recent immigrant John Logan Campbell and his business partner William Brown settled on an island at the mouth of the Waitematā Harbour, confident that the Tāmaki Peninsula would soon house the colony’s capital. By the time the capital shifted south the following year, Campbell was poised to make a tremendous profit from – and contribution to – the growth of the town. He became known as the Father of Auckland.

From a warehouse in Shortland Crescent, Campbell and his partner conducted their business as general merchants (with Māori trade particularly profitable), auctioneers, shipping and commission agents, and land speculators. The speculative coup of this period was the purchase in September 1853 of a superb 1000-acre [405-ha] suburban farm, which Campbell renamed One Tree Hill. Much against his inclinations he became caught up in politics, serving as provincial superintendent and as a member of the House of Representatives for the City of Auckland in 1855–56.

But the pioneer life which was quickly making Campbell wealthy did not satisfy him. He felt ‘banished from every thing that can be called society.’ In November 1856 he left the colony to begin his ‘season of enjoyment’, funded by his business interests back in Auckland. Campbell, his much younger wife and their two daughters divided their time between resorts and spas in Italy, Switzerland, France and Britain until 1871, when they returned to New Zealand for good.

In the late 19th century, Campbell expanded his commercial empire into timber milling and breweries, founded Auckland’s first school of art, and served on more than 40 committees, boards, trusts or directorates. No ceremonial occasion in Auckland was complete without his presence. In 1901, at the age of 83, Campbell was persuaded to serve as honorary mayor of Auckland to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and of York to New Zealand. He took the opportunity of the heir apparent’s tour to gift 230 acres [93 ha] of One Tree Hill to New Zealand, renaming it Cornwall Park.

Adapted by Matthew Tonks from the DNZB biography by R.C.J. Stone

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