Sir John Yeamans
Governor April 1672 – August 1674
John Yeamans was born in England in 1611, the younger son of a wealthy brewer, and made his first career as a military officer during the English Civil War. In 1650, he emigrated to Barbados, where he served in the militia, on the court of common pleas, and on the colonial council. In 1661, Yeamans married as his second wife Margaret Forster Berringer, who was the widow of his former commercial partner (whom Yeamans was generally suspected of having killed).
John Yeamans became a large landholder in Barbados. In 1665 he received the title of baronet, and appointment as governor of a proprietary colony at Cape Fear (North Carolina). The colony struggled, Yeamans returned to Barbados, and the Cape Fear settlement was abandoned in 1667.
In 1669, with their ships en route from England, the Lords Proprietors authorized Sir John Yeamans to govern the new colony, or to name a governor of Carolina. He appointed William Sayle of Bermuda, and remained in Barbados.
The proprietors named Yeamans a landgrave in April 1671, and he traveled to South Carolina a few months later. Upon arrival, he claimed the governorship by right as a resident landgrave, but interim governor Joseph West and the Grand Council rejected his demand. When the proprietors’ orders reached Charleston in April 1672, Sir John Yeamans was finally proclaimed governor.
By this time, planning was underway for the new town at Oyster Point. One of Yeamans’s first official actions was to instruct surveyor general John Culpepper to lay out town lots in “Charles Towne on the Wando [Cooper].”
John Yeamans was an unpopular governor, considered by many to be a profiteer, and the proprietors sent a letter removing him from office. When he died in August 1674, the Grand Council elected Joseph West his interim successor. The instructions to remove Yeamans from the governorship arrived in Charleston after his death.
Bates, Susan Baldwin, and Harriott Cheves Leland, eds. Proprietary Records of South Carolina. Volume Three: Abstracts of the Records of the Surveyor General of The Province, Charles Towne, 1678-1698. Charleston: History Press, 2007.