Sir John Yeamans was born in Bristol, England, in 1611, a younger son of John Yeamans, a brewer. A Royalist soldier, Yeamans rose to the rank of colonel during the English Civil War (1642–51). In 1650 he joined other Royalists in immigrating to Barbados, where he became a large landowner, judge, and member of council. Yeamans’s first wife, a daughter of a Mr. Limp, apparently died in Barbados in the late 1650s.
Yeamans once held some land in Barbados in partnership with Benjamin Berringer. Before Berringer died under suspicious circumstances in January 1661, his wife Margaret Forster Berringer transferred her affections to Yeamans. The Barbadian Assembly was among those who thought that Yeamans had hired someone to murder Berringer. Yeamans married the new widow ten weeks later.
Eight English noblemen acquired Carolina as a proprietary colony in 1663. Soon thereafter Yeamans’s eldest son, William, negotiated with the new proprietors to establish a Barbadian settlement there. The proprietors named John Yeamans governor of the projected settlement and arranged his elevation to the lesser aristocracy as a baronet. Sir John led the Barbadians to Cape Fear in 1665 but did not stay there long. The settlement was abandoned in 1667. When Anthony Ashley Cooper, who later became the first earl of Shaftesbury, convinced the other proprietors to send settlers from England in 1669, Yeamans was given the choice of becoming governor or naming another to lead the new settlement. Although he initially joined the settlers, he changed his mind and named for that task an aged Bermudan, William Sayle, who died a year later.
The proprietors’ Fundamental Constitutions for their colony established a hereditary aristocracy of landgraves and cassiques and provided that the senior resident landgrave should become governor in the event of a vacancy. They named Yeamans as the third landgrave of Carolina in April 1671. When Yeamans belatedly came to South Carolina in the summer of that year, he claimed the office of governor. Interim governor Joseph West and the Grand Council initially rejected his claim, but they accepted Yeamans as governor when a proprietary commission arrived in April 1672.
The Grand Council had earlier opposed Yeamans’s appointment with the argument that he had abandoned both the Cape Fear and South Carolina settlements to pursue his own interests. They noted that he departed the latter after a storm near Bermuda left it in “bleeding condition”—a result of the fact that the struggling colony was still dependent on imported provisions. In the slightly more than two years that he was governor, Yeamans sold food at inflated prices for his own profit. At the time he died, proprietary orders removing him from office were on their way across the Atlantic.
Yeamans died between August 3, when he was present at a meeting of the Grand Council, and August 14, 1674, when that body elected Joseph West as his temporary replacement. In addition to his second wife, Margaret, who returned to Barbados and remarried.
Sir John Yeamans’s will 1671
The will of Sir John Yeamans has been reproduced in the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Volume XI, Edited by Mabel Louise Webber and published by Walker, Evans and Cogswell Company of Charleston South Carolina in 1910.I have taken the liberty to update the language somewhat. This will can be found on page 2-7 of the Registrar’s Records, book for the years 1675-1696 in the Office of the Historical Commission, Columbus, South Carolina. It reads:
December 13th 1675
A true copy of the last will and testament of Sir John Yeamans Knight and Baronet late of Carolina deceased proved and approved of by Sir William Yeamans Baronet son and heir to the said deceased and sole executor in the said will nominated (by the name of William Yeamans Esquire) as by the attestation of Sir Jonathan Attkins Governor of Barbados where unto he has set his hand and caused his Majesties great seal appointed for said Barbados and other of the Caribbean Islands to be affixed together with said Sir William Yeamans his letter of attorney to Colonel Joseph West and Lieutenant Colonel John Godfree or either of them attested with his hand and seal brought before proved and approved of by Colonel Joseph West Governor of this north part of the province of Carolina the 14th of September 1675.
In the name of God Amen. I Sir John Yeamans Baronet being ready to imbarque myself to the province of Carolina and well considering the uncertainty of human condition by extraordinary hazards yet accompany such undertakings do therefore the settling of my worldly concernment declare this my last will and testament in manner following, hereby revoking all former wills whatsoever.
First:I will that all the debts I duly owe be paid justly and with all diligence and paid by my executor here after named.
Item:In the first place as is my affection I give and bequeath unto my wife the Lady Margaret Yeamans in full recompense of her dower thirty thousand pounds of “Muscavados” sugar annually from the day of my death during her natural life and also during that term aforesaid I give and bequeath to her the entire use of the house where in I now dwell, together with all the lands belonging thereunto containing about forty five acres, bounding upon the lands of Henry Mills Esquire, Thomas Merricke Esquire and the lands of that Lieutenant Colonel Berrenger died seized together also with all the houses and edifices thereon being provided always that my said wife shall make habitation thereon, and not lease it out and to be the place … her abode when so ever she please, so that she continue …
Item:I do bequeath also during my dear wife’s natural life these Negroes following (vide) old Hannah and her children Jupiter, little Tony and Joane also I give and bequeath unto her eight milk cows which have been accustomed to be milked about the house and all the hogs, turkeys, ducks and fowls that at present in any part of my possessions and my will is that the particular of stock in this last clause expressed shall be in her absolute power and disposal from the date of these presents, and also all the furniture of my said dwelling house and house hold stuff whatsoever.All my plate jewels, rings, money, linen bedding and all utensils in my said dwelling house being or thereunto belonging, and also my coach and the four horses and harnesses and also the choice of any one of my horses fit for riding for her use to be and remain to her and her heirs forever in recompense of the care and education of her children and in full consideration of her dower.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my said wife all the Negroes young and old that Lt. Colonel Berringer died possessed of and that came to her afterwards by right of Administration and to me by intermarriage with her together also with all the increase.
Item:My will is also that ye custody of all my children unmarried and under the age of twenty one years and till they shall attain it shall be in the care of my dear wife and that she educate them in such manner as shall seem fit to her judgment and they prove capable of and not withstanding the provision I have already made and the charge thereof may be less felt by my dear wife my will is that the executor hereafter named provide at his own charge one decent suit of apparel for each of my children yearly, the same to be delivered to my said wife for their use.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my daughter Willoughby one hundred and twenty thousand pounds of “Muscavados” sugar to be paid by my executor within ten years after her marriage or when she arrives at the age of twenty one years, which … first happen.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my son Ro… two hundred thousand pounds of good “Muscavadoes” sugar to … by my executor when he shall arrive to the age of twenty one years.
Item:I give and bequeath to my daughter Anne one hundred and twenty thousand pounds of good “Muscavados” sugar to be paid by my executor within two years after her marriage or when she comes to the age of twenty one years which of them shall first happen.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my two sons George and Edward each of them one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of good “Mucavadoes” sugar to be paid to each of them when they or each of them shall arrive to the age of twenty one years by my executor.
Item:I give and bequeath to my wife’s daughter Margaret forever 17 thousand pounds of “Muscavadoes” sugar within three years to be paid by my executor after her marriage or she attains to the age of twenty one years which shall first happen.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my wife’s son John forty thousand pounds of sugar within three years next after he shall attain to the age of twenty one years.
Item:I give and Bequeath unto my daughter Mrs. Frances Hackett the present wife of Robert Hackett Esquire within four years after my decease twenty thousand pounds of sugar to buy her a ring by my executor.
Item:I give to my wife’s daughter
Mrs. Ma… Maycoke five thousand pounds of sugar to buy her a ring to be paid by my executor.
Item:I give to my wife’s son “Symon” the choice of my horses for his own use, and to be delivered by my executor.
Item:I give to my nephew Samuel Woorey twenty thousand pounds of sugar to be paid by my executor within three years after my decease in further lieu of his time spent with me.
Item:my further will is that if my wife dies before my children or any of the arrive to their age or time of marriage as aforesaid, that then my executor to pay yearly every year five thousand pounds of “Muscavados” sugar for each of them maintenance and education to whomsoever my said wife shall appoint to have the custody of them, or for want of such appointment to whomsoever shall have them in custody to educate them and maintain them until they arrive respectively to their age or days of marriage.
Item:I make my son William esquire my whole and sole executor for the payment of my debts and legacies herein mentioned and for the due and punctual proof of all other matters that to the duty of an executor belongs and do bequeath unto said son all my estates real and personal disposed of in the my will with all reversions and remainders to him and to his heirs for ever upon express condition that he does punctually perform all the bequests and orders in this will expressed and to this my last will and testament I have put my hand and seal this twentieth day of May in the year f our Lord one thousand six hundred seventy one.
Test. John Yeamans(seal)
Item:I do further will that my dear wife have my vessel “Ketch” called by the name of the Hopewell now in voyage to Virginia and expected hither to enjoy for her and heirs for ever.
Item:I give and bequeath unto my said dear wife two parcels of land containing twenty acres and ten acres in each one I bought of Phelps bounding on Mrs. Sandiford, and on Thomas Jones the other bought of James Masters and Henry Jones bounding on Mrs. Gay, my brother Foster and on Robert Clifton, to her and her heirs forever.To this addition also of my last will annexed to the other sheet I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 20th day of May 1671.
Sealed and delivered these two sheets John Yeamans(seal)
Containing my will in the presence of
By his Excellency
Mr. William Browne this day personally appeared before me and made oath on the holy Evangelists that he did see Sir John Yeamans Baronet sign, seal and publish this will as his last will and testament and that he was at the doing thereof of sound and disposing memory to the best of this deponents knowledge given under my hand the first day of December 1674
A true copy attested the
15th day of June 1675
p Edwyn Steede Deputy Secretary
By his Excellency
These are to certify all whom these presents shall concern that upon the fifteenth day of June in the year of our Lord God one thousand six hundred seventy five, and the seven and twentieth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland King defender of the faith and “cet” , personally appeared before me John “Prysse” aged twenty five years or thereabouts, Clerk to Edwyn Steede Esquire Deputy Secretary of the aforesaid Island and made oath on the Holy Evangelists, that the annexed pages copies of the last will and testament of Sir John Yeamans Baronet and the letter testamentary thereon both attested under the hand of the said Edwyn Steede were by him said John Prysse examined and compared with the records now remaining in the said secretaries office, and that they are true copies of the said records in testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused His Majesties great seal appointed presents affixed the day and year above written.
To all whom these presents shall come or may concern.
[Ibid, page 7]
By his Excellency … know ye … that 1st Dec. 1674, before me the last will and testament of Sir John Yeamans Baronet deceased was proved … and therefore Sir William Yeamans Baronet, son and heir to said deceased and sole executor is admitted to take custody and administer all estate of said deceased 2nd Dec. 1674
A copy attested by
Edwyn Steede Deputy Secretary
15 June 1675
[Ibid, page 8] I Sir William Yeamans Baronet heir and sole executor of the last will and testament of Sir John Yeamans Baronet deceased, appoint well beloved friends Colonel Joseph West and Lieutenant Colonel John Godfrey my lawful attorneys in the Province of Carolina 16 June 1675
[witnesses] Will Yeamans
Carolina by the Governor
The aforesaid William Mayers this day made oath before me that he saw said Sir William Yeamans sign etc. the above power of attorney.At Charles Town, 8th Sept. 1675
This will shows the relationship of Margaret (Foster) Berringer to Sir John Yeamans that being his wife.It also gives the names of children living at this time but does not indicate which of them may have been Margaret and his children.It does delineate her children by Benjamin Berringer.