WHEELER, William (d. 1708), of St. Michael’s, Barbados
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Richard Wheeler (d. aft. 1699) by Elizabeth, sis. of Richard Howell of Haverfordwest, Hatton Garden, London and St. Michael’s, Barbados. unm. suc. Richard Howell in Barbados property 1701.1
Member of the Barbados assembly 1695–1700, 1706–7, dep. speaker 1699, speaker 1706–7; member of the Barbados council 1706–d.2
Wheeler’s family had migrated from Ireland to Wales two generations before, ‘during the troublous times’. They may have settled immediately in Haverfordwest, for a John Wheeler, a butcher, was replaced on the common council there in 1651. Equally, their first connexion with the borough may have been formed through the Member’s uncle Richard Howell: he described himself in his will as ‘of Haverfordwest’ and founded a charity in the town. Two of William’s brothers established themselves in Haverfordwest. In the case of William himself and a fourth brother, Edmund, Howell’s influence took them to Barbados, where both secured substantial plantations, as did a maiden sister, Joan. The date of William’s arrival in the Caribbean is uncertain. A ‘William Wheeler’ was listed as having taken ship from Barbados for the Leeward Islands as early as 1679. His first appearance as a parochial officer in St. Michael’s, Howell’s old parish, was in 1690. He was a member of the vestry board there by 1693, and in 1695 was elected to the colony’s assembly. In this capacity he attracted the attention of the governor, Hon. Ralph Grey*, who in March 1699 recommended him to the Board of Trade as a likely candidate for the Barbados council in the event of a vacancy. According to Grey, Wheeler had ‘one of the best estates in the island, and a warmth of zeal to employ it on so good an occasion’. In the assembly he had ‘always given proofs of his loyalty to the King and obedience to his governors’. In the following October Grey took it upon himself to have Wheeler sworn to a vacant council seat, though the Board of Trade insisted that the appointment be rescinded.3
By August 1700 Wheeler had left Barbados for London after the death there in quick succession of his sister Joan, brother Edmund and uncle Richard Howell. As executor and residuary legatee, he proved Howell’s will and secured his inheritance of the Barbados estates. While in England he joined the island’s agents in petitions to the King and Board of Trade, and with a partner, Richard Guy, appears to have made further purchases of Barbadian property. At some time he bought a small amount of Bank stock. He was also returned to Parliament in the two general elections of 1701 at Haverfordwest, presumably on the family interest and especially through the influence of his brother John. Naturally Wheeler served on the committee of 17 May 1701 to examine the petition of Thomas Hodges against Lord Grey’s government of Barbados: it is possible that this represented his main purpose in acquiring a seat. But in the following Parliament he was not named to the committee appointed on 25 Feb. 1702 when Hodges’ petition was reintroduced. This did not deter him from intervening in the debate on 6 May on Grey’s conduct in the governorship. According to Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, ‘Colonel Wheeler [his rank in the Barbados militia] complained of the unjust proceedings used in the plantations, commended my Lord Grey and arraigned all the other governors’. That same day occurred his only tellership: although he had earlier been classed with the Tories in Robert Harley’s* analysis of this Parliament, he acted as a teller on this occasion with Robert Walpole II* in favour of proceeding with the committee stage of the salt duties bill.4
Wheeler did not put up for re-election in 1702. He made his will in London in March 1703, naming various friends in Barbados and Haverfordwest, and by January of the following year was back in Barbados, where he remained. He served again as an assemblyman in 1706–7, this time as speaker, was named to the council in 1706 and in October 1707 was appointed by Governor Mitford Crow* to the joint committee of council and assembly investigating the public accounts. He was buried in St. Michael’s church on 10 Mar. 1708, leaving as his heir his nephew William, a Pembrokeshire ironmaster who subsequently served as county sheriff from 1718 until his death in 1720.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. W. Wales Hist. Recs. xi. 52–53; Haverfordwest Co. Lib. Francis Green Coll. index to Picton Castle mss, f. 134 (ex inf. Mr R. G. Thorne).
- 2. Jnl. Barbados Mus. and Hist. Soc. xi. 171–4; xii. 29–30, 35, 44, 80; CSP Col. 1693–6, p. 626; 1699, p. 691; 1706–8, pp. 291, 315.
- 3. W. Wales Hist. Recs. 52–53; Cal. Recs. Haverfordwest ed. Charles (Univ. of Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xxiv), 95; Jnl. Barbados Mus. and Hist. Soc. i. 179; xii. 29–30, 33–35; xv. 101; xvi. 197; xvii. 52, 125, 193; R. Fenton, Historical Tour of Pemb. (1903), 371; CSP Col. 1693–6, p. 626; 1699, pp. 30, 86–87, 454; 1700, pp. 35–36, 44–45, 189.
- 4. CSP Col. 1700, pp. 489, 743; 1701, p. 99; 1702–3, p. 788; Jnl. Barbados Mus. and Hist. Soc. xii. 29–30, 33–35; V. L. Oliver, Caribbeana, i. 167, 249; Egerton 3359 (unfol.); W. Wales Hist. Recs. 52–53; Haverfordwest and its Story, 102; Cocks Diary, 285.
- 5. Jnl. Barbados Mus. and Hist. Soc. xii. 80–81; xviii. 64; CSP Col. 1706–8, p. 526; V. L. Oliver, Barbados MI, 87; D. Miles, Pemb. Sheriffs, 41–42; Soc. of Geneal. index to par. regs.