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The Colletons of Withycombe Raleigh & Monk's Corner, South Carolina

February 2008

By Jean E. Harris

John Colleton, second son of Peter Colleton of Withycombe Raleigh, was a Loyalist who supported Charles I during the time he had serious problems with Parliament. After Charles I was held for trial and subsequently beheaded (1649), all his Loyalist followers had either to flee the country or suffer the same fate as their king. John Colleton eventually fled to Holland returning only when Charles'son came back from exile to become Charles II (1660). Sir John Berkeley then petitioned Charles II for some redress to the Colletons for all that they had lost supporting Charles I. In 1661 the king created John Colleton a baronet and awarded him tracts of land in the "large Dominions in North America". By this, the Colleton family became one of the Lord Proprietors of the state of South Carolina and it was at Monk's Corner (north of Charleston)where they had their huge mansion named Fairlawn. There they reigned supreme until 1776 becoming very wealthy and owning many slaves. Sir John Colleton (4th bt) lived there his entire life, returning to England only occasionally and it was during two of those visits that he married Devon ladies; firstly Anne Fulford of Great Fulford whom he divorced in 1771, and secondly Jane Mutter at Bovey Tracey in 1774. Sir John died in 1777 and so did not live to see Fairlawn totally destroyed near the end of the Revolutionary War. By his will (PCC 1778), having disinherited both of his sons by his second wife, he left his entire estate to Louisa Carolina Colleton, his daughter by his first wife but, as Fairlawn and all the contents were lost in 1781 and the slaves gone, Louisa did not inherit the vast fortune that Sir John's inventory would suggest it was all worth in 1777. His son John (about three years old in 1777) did become the next baronet and after this young boy was taken back to Devon in 1785 by his half sister Louisa, he never returned to South Carolina again. Thus ended the Colleton connection with South Carolina.

As a small footnote, Sir John Colleton (3rd baronet) is said to have been the person who introduced the magnolia plant into England, presumably having brought these from South Carolina. A small article about these Colletons in the Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries Vol 11 has "but in the garden of a house close by, called the old Manor House, there is still a large specimen of Magnolia Exmouthia, which Sir John is said to have been the first planter in England, and which was named after the first place where it was planted."

Brian Randell, 4 Feb 2008