Until his death, Colleton was the foremost leader of the Lords Proprietors. Under Colleton’s direction, the proprietors set out to populate “Carolina” with settlers from existing New World colonies, including New England, Virginia, and the Caribbean islands, especially Barbados.

Proprietor. Born in England, possibly in Devonshire, Colleton was a son of Peter Colleton, who was the sheriff of Exeter, and Ursula Hull. On November 19, 1634, he married Katherine Amy, daughter of William Amy of Exton, Devonshire. They had at least five children. Colleton was a soldier and a courtier to King Charles I and spent more than £40,000 of his own money to support the king during the English Civil War (1642–1649). Following the trial and execution of Charles I, Colleton and his family fled to the protection of relatives in Barbados. There, Colleton became a counselor, judge, merchant, and planter, with sizable landholdings in three island parishes. During this period he also became interested in exploring and settling North America.

Colleton returned to England in 1659. Settling in London, he joined George Monck and William and John Berkeley, his cousins, and others in returning Charles II (1660–1685) to the throne. Colleton was knighted in 1661 for his service and loyalty to the crown and was appointed to the Council for Foreign Plantations and the Royal African Company.

Until his death, Colleton was the foremost leader of the Lords Proprietors. These included Monck, the two Berkeleys, Edmund Hyde, William Craven, George Carteret, and Anthony Ashley Cooper. They comprised the king’s closest advisers and largest creditors, who in 1663 accepted a collective land grant of more than 850,000 square miles between Virginia and Spanish Florida in exchange for what was owed them individually. Under Colleton’s direction, the proprietors set out to populate “Carolina” with settlers from existing New World colonies, including New England, Virginia, and the Caribbean islands, especially Barbados. The latter island’s booming sugar economy led to overcrowding, and by the 1660s the surplus population began spilling over to neighboring islands. Colleton convinced the other proprietors that these Barbadians were experienced colonists who could afford to pay the expenses of colonization themselves. In return, the proprietors stood to make handsome profits simply by recruiting them to Carolina and renting them land. Colleton’s efforts were briefly rewarded by the establishment of a Barbadian settlement on the Cape Fear River in 1665. However, Colleton died the following year, on April 16, 1666, and his Cape Fear venture foundered shortly thereafter.

Powell, William S. The Proprietors of Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1963.

Sirmans, M. Eugene. Colonial South Carolina: A Political History, 1663–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Colleton, Sir John
  • Author Louis P. Towles
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/colleton-sir-john/
  • Access Date December 14, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date April 15, 2016
  • Date of Last Update May 16, 2016