Sir John Colleton, 3rd Baronet:

He was born in Exmouth in 1679 and became the 3rd Baronet on the death of his father Peter in 1694. At the time he was a minor and his sister Katherine was an executor of her father’s will and together with Robert Ball managed the estates of her late father, Fair Lawn, which was prospering with livestock and the plantations the family owned. On 21 September 1702, when Sir John became of age, Katherine notified Ball that their contract was at an end. Sir John appointed Sir Nathaniel Johnson to be his representative and deputy to take charge of his interests in South Carolina.

Sir John married Elizabeth Snell, daughter of John Snell on 10 December 1700. They had four children all three sons pre deceasing their father. Sir John and his family lived at the family mansion South Lawn at their plantation, Fair Lawn Baroney, in St John’s Parish of Berkeley County. They lived  there until at least 1714 but not long after he returned to Exeter, where he was the 6th wealthiest merchant in the city. On 5 December 1718 he was granted a new barony known as Devils’ Elbow Barony in Granville County in South Carolina as it was named after a sharp elbow shape in the river, that later became the Colleton River. This was named after the Earl of Granville who gave his name to the county.

In 1726 Sir John divided up his estates between his three sons:

His first son, John, known as The Hon Sir John married his cousin, Suzannah Snell in 1731. He was given Fair Lawn and the estates around it which meant he became a very wealthy man. John died at Fair Lawn in August 1750 and his wife died there in December of that year. Sir John then took charge of his grandchildren.

His second son, Peter, was given the barony of Colleton Neck in Beaufort County, sometimes referred to as Oaktree barony. He also purchased a further 300 acres of plantation called Epsom. He predeceased his brother John and left his estates to him and Epsom to his brother Robert who had been born in 1713. There was a sister, Elizabeth, born 1708 but nothing is known of her.

Sir John moved to Exmouth with his grandchildren and in 1728/29 sold all his interest in Carolina in America to the Crown. He lived in the Manor of Rill, or Hill, a sub manor of Marpool. This was situated to the rear of what is now the library, on the edge of North Street, and Exeter Road and marked with a blue plaque on the library to commemorate his living there as a retired administrator of South Carolina. In his book of 1872, Memorials of Exmouth, the Rev William Webb wrote that “In one of his cottages which formed part of his residence are the remains of the handsome gilded leather which adorned the walls, and which he brought from South Carolina. There is a monument to him in the Chapel Yard of Withycombe”. Sir John was a great benefactor of St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Withycombe Raleigh which in 1722 he paid for its restoration. He is credited with bringing to Exmouth from South Carolina the first magnolias. These were developed by him at his house and became Magnolia Grandiflora Exmouthiensus which is now incorporated into the town’s coat of arms. Magnolia Walk and the Magnolia Centre are derived from this.

Next week we will continue John’s life in Exmouth but in the meantime if you would like to know more visit the museum website at or contact Mike at