Born in Campbeltown, Kintyre, Scotland about 1705, the Rev. James Campbell came to America about 1730.
Campbell was probably licensed the Presbytery of New Castle in 1735, and "well received" on May 22, 1739, by the Presbytery of Philadelphia.
During the summer of 1739, Rev. James Campbell preached at Tinicum and Newton in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. On September 18, 1739, he received a call from the Tohickon Presbyterian Church (now called the Tinicum Presbyterian Church), but wasn't sure about accepting. He apparently talked with the Great Awakening preacher George Whitefield and reassured began his call in November. He continued to preach to churches. In Spring 1740, the churches and Rev. Campbell were transferred to jurisdiction of the Presbytery of New Brunswick.
In 1741 thre was a split within the Presbyterian denomination between the New Side and Old Side factions. Campbell preached to his church congregations as well as to churches on the Forks of the Delaware River.
Reverend Campbell was ordained on August 3, 1742, and ordered to split his time between the Forks of the Delaware and Greenwich, New Jersey.
He was installed on May 24, 1744, at the Tohickon Presbyterian Church. During the late 1740s a controversy arose of the siting of a new meeting house (church) and Rev. Campbell resigned his call at Tohickon in May, 1749.
He moved back to the Presbytery of New castle and preached at Conecocheague, Rocky Springs and others.
Rev. Campbell was still in Pennsylvania during the mid-1750s, preaching in Lancaster County on the Coneweheog. This is where Rev. Hugh McAden visited him, and convinced Campbell to go to North Carolina in 1757 to minister to the growing Scot population. Rev. Campbell spoke both Gaelic and English.
He came to North Carolina late 1757 or early 1758 and settled on a tract of two hundred acres on the west side of the Cape Fear River opposite to where the Old Buff Presbyterian Church now stands.
The Presbyterian Church in the Upper Cape Valley was formally organized on October 18, 1758, with the signing of a contract with Reverend Campbell by “Presbyterian Gentlemen” Hector McNeil, Gilbert Clark, Thomas Gibson, Alexander McAlister, Malcom Smith, Archibald McKay, John Patterson, Dushie Shaw, Neil McNeill, Archibald Buie, Angus Culbreth, and John McPherson for “the sum of 100 pounds in good & lawful money of North Carolina . . . yearly.”
Although the Upper Cape Fear call was effective from June 22, 1758, Reverend Campbell was not legally allowed to preach or perform marriages in the Colony until January 18, 1759, when he subscribed to the required oath that he would not oppose the doctrine, discipline, and liturgy of the Anglican Church of England.
Reverend Campbell commenced his preaching among the Scots, in both Gaelic and English, in three locations: at the home of Roger McNeill, near Tranthams Creek, at the home of Archibald McKay on the Long Street (the Yadkin Road), and at John Dobbin’s Ordinary on Barbecue Creek. Reportedly, he delivered two sermons at these churches as he rotated weekly among them. One sermon was in Gaelic and the other in English. The fourth Sunday, he was said to have visited other communities and preached, including some in the Colony of South Carolina.
Reverend Campbell served the three congregations, now represented by Bluff, Longstreet, and Barbecue Presbyterian Churches, and assisted in the Barbecue area from 1770 by Reverend John MacLeod. Apparently threatened about his prayers supporting the Patriot Cause during 1776, he left the Cape Fear area and moved to Guilford County. In 1780, Reverend Campbell returned to his home on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, where he died and was buried in a family graveyard.