John Wereat served Georgia in a variety of official capacities during and after the American Revolution. He is perhaps best known for his attempt to thwart the Yazoo land fraud.
Wereat was born in Road, Somerset, England, around 1733. Shortly before immigrating to America in 1759, he married Hannah Wilkinson. They had one child, Ann (“Nancy”). After his arrival in Georgia, Wereat established himself as a merchant-planter and, subsequently, as a dedicated public servant in his adopted state.
In the early years of the American Revolution, Wereat was a member of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety. From 1776 through the end of the war he served as Georgia’s Continental agent, representing the state in dealings with Congress. Wereat also served briefly as de facto governor of Georgia in 1779, when Savannah was in British hands and the constitutionally elected government was in disarray. Taken prisoner in Augusta in 1780, he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, by the British and remained there until his release a year later.
Between 1782 and 1793, Wereat served as state auditor, helping to extricate Georgia from the financial morass created by the Revolution. In December 1787 he presided over the convention that unanimously ratified the new Federal Constitution. From 1790 to 1793 Wereat also represented Georgia in settling outstanding claims against the United States.
Wereat’s final service to Georgia came in 1795, when he fought unsuccessfully to prevent the Yazoo land fraud. When the legislature rejected his attempt to purchase part of the state’s western territory on behalf of three Pennsylvania acquaintances, Wereat and several Georgia allies organized the Georgia Union Company to frustrate the corrupt Yazoo purchasers. The company attempted to acquire all of the western lands, but to no avail. As a member of the 1795 state constitutional convention, Wereat helped ensure that anti-Yazoo petitions would be sent to the next session of the legislature. Using these petitions and other evidence of corruption, the legislators rescinded the sale.
John Wereat died at his Bryan County plantation on January 25, 1799, at the age of sixty-five.