John Pinney

The young Pinney

Turtle watercolour

Azariah Pinney and his son John both died within a year of each other and the estate passed to Azariah’s grandson, John Frederick (born 1718). He grew up in England and spent only a few years on the island of Nevis following his 21st birthday, from 1739 to 1742 and in 1749.

When John Frederick died in 1762, all the Pinney property on Nevis was left to a distant cousin, John Pretor, a warehouse apprentice in London. A condition of inheritance stated he must change his surname to Pinney, thus he became John Pinney.

Before John Pinney went out to Nevis, the general approach to enslaved people had been suggested by his cousin John Frederick Pinney. In a letter of April 9th 1762, to his new manager, William Coker, John Frederick had written ‘I hope it is unnecessary to recommend to you a mild (not cruel) treatment of my Negroes and more especially so at the time of their Sickness, a merciful Man is so, even to his Beast’.

John Pinney finished his apprenticeship in 1764 and set sail for the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. Journeys across the Atlantic usually took between 29 and 41 days. Despite William Coker’s energetic work, on arrival he found the estate in poor condition. John Pinney set about improving the plantation himself.

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