I’m continuing to explore the connections between my Glasgow ancestors and the island of Jamaica.

As I’ve noted before, there is strong evidence to suggest that George Robb, the Glasgow merchant who married Penelope Thomson on 15th January 1805, was the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb. George and Penelope Robb had four children – George (1806), Elizabeth (1807), John (1808) and Jean (1810) – before George’s death, which occurred some time between 1810 and 1813, when Penelope married again.

Meadow Park House, Glasgow, in the 19th century

Penelope’s second husband, whom she married on 27th June 1813, was described in the parish register as ‘John Young Receiver General in Jamaica’.  John and Penelope Young would live at Meadow Park House and have three children – Penelope (1815?), Janet (1816) and John (1819) – before John’s death on 16th January 1827. In his will, John Young mentions ‘my cousins John Mitchell Esquire of the City of London, William Mitchell Esquire of the City of London merchant [and] Rowland Mitchell Esquire of the said city merchant’. These three men are nominated, together with Samuel Mitchell, and with John’s widow Penelope, as the executors of the will.

Until now, I’ve been unclear about John Young’s precise connection with the Mitchell family. However, information gleaned from Malcolm Sandiland’s family tree at Ancestry has made me aware that Mitchell was the maiden name of John young’s mother. Janet Mitchell married John Young senior in Glasgow on 19th May 1767. Born in Kilmadock, Perthshire, Janet was the daughter of John Mitchell of Doune (1712 – 1783) and his wife Margaret Ferguson (1723 – 1774). They had at least seven children besides Janet, including William (1742), David (1744), Marjory (1747), Christian (1749), James (1752), Margaret (1757) and John.

Slaves working on a Jamaican plantation

A number of these children would have close associations with Jamaica. The eldest son, William, was perhaps the most prominent. According to the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership website:

William Mitchell …married Catherine Hamilton and they had one daughter. William ‘King’ Mitchell (as he was known on the island) resided in Jamaica for nearly forty years. He was both a plantation owner and an attorney who in his own estimate had ‘perhaps 16 or 18’ sugar plantations under his ‘care’ at various times. He informed a committee in 1807 that he had spent over £30,000 on the erection of a sugar works on one of his own estates which included Windsor Park in St. Catherine, Bushy Park in St. Dorothy, New Hall in St. Thomas in the Vale and Georges Valley in Trelawny. Among others Mitchell did business with and borrowed money from the powerful Jamaica planter Simon Taylor.

Mitchell was returned as an M.P. for Plympton on the Treby interest at the general election of 1796. He was an active member of the Society of West India Planters and Merchants and gave evidence before Parliament’s West India Committee in 1807. He returned to Jamaica in 1798, likely due to the death of his brother James. Although nominally held by Charles Germain, 2nd Viscount Sackville from 1776 to 1815, in real terms James had held the lease on the office of the Receiver-General, a post which brought in commission worth £6,000 per annum average. Mitchell took a place in the Jamaica Assembly in 1798 and managed to stave off a bill which would have replaced the commission system with a fixed salary. William then succeeded as the lessee of the office of Receiver-General and in 1808 he renewed the lease for a further 19 years from Sackville’s younger brother George Germain, although it appears he appointed a deputy to this position. Mitchell’s political influence in Jamaica was strong and he was instrumental in securing the position of Agent for Jamaica for his nephew Edmund Lyon.

During her residence in Jamaica Lady Nugent, the Governor’s wife, met William Mitchell. She described him in her journal noting that ‘Mr. M’s delight is to stuff his guests, and I should think it would be quite a triumph to him to hear of a fever or apoplexy, in consequence of his good cheer. He is immensely rich, and told me he paid £30,000 per annum for duties to Government… He seems particularly indulgent to his negroes, and is, I believe, although a very vulgar, yet a very humane man.’ This description gives an indication of the lifestyle of a wealthy Jamaica planter – the importance of sociability, generosity and a reputation for benevolence.

As a member of the House of Assembly Mitchell had to apply for leave before returning to England, which he did in 1805. Although it had been expected he would only remain a year he was still resident in London in 1808 when he gave evidence to a committee of inquiry on the distillation of sugar. He resided at Upper Harley Street in Marylebone and was well known for the extravagant social gatherings he arranged for the absentee Jamaicans in London. It is not clear if he ever returned to Jamaica.

Mitchell died at Brighton in 1823 having made a will in 1819 which bequeathed all his Jamaican estates and his property in Scotland to his nephew John Mitchell. He also left over £25,000 in annuities and legacies for his wife and other relatives.

Further information on William ‘King’ Mitchell can be found at the History of Parliament Online website. William’s younger brother James, who mentioned in the above account, served as Receiver-General in Jamaica: there are references to him holding this office in 1796. He died in Spanish Town in 1806.

Carshalton House, Surrey, by Thomas John R. Winn (1896 – 1990), Sutton Central Library, via artuk.org

Another brother, David Mitchell, married Anne Hewitt Smith. They lived initially in Jamaica, and later at Carshalton House in Surrey. Four of their sons – John, William, Rowland and Samuel – were left bequests in the will of their uncle William Mitchell on his death in 1823. Presumably these are the cousins referred to in the will of John Young.

William Mitchell’s will also maintains that, according to the terms of the will of his late brother James, he and his heirs and executors are entitled to ‘hold, exercise and enjoy the Office of Receiver General of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica and to receive all the benefits emoluments and advantages which have arisen or may arise therefrom for the term of nineteen years from the seventeenth day of October one thousand eight hundred and eight’.

Of the four Mitchell cousins mentioned in John Young’s will, I’ve managed to find out most about Rowland. He married Anne Heath, probably in about 1810. They had three children that I know of: Mary Ann (1811), John (1813) and Ellen Kate (1815).  The two daughters married into the aristocracy. Mary Ann married Swiss Baron Charles Alexander de Steiger and they had three children: Anna Maria Charlotte (1833), Rowland (1836) and Albert Alexander (1837), before Baron de Steiger’s death, which occurred before 1841. Ellen Kate married the Hon Frederick Thomas Pelham, later a Rear Admiral in the Navy, and the son of Thomas Pelham, Earl of Chichester.