James Yeo

Shipbuilder, businessman, politician

Born: 1789 in Kilkhampton, Cornwall, England
Died: 1863

James Yeo was the son of a shoemaker, born poor and with little social standing. He started a carrier business in England and, through that, met Thomas Burnard, a successful businessman. When the carrier business failed, Burnard paid Yeo's debts and sent him to Prince Edward Island to work in the lumber industry.

Yeo arrived in the Port Hill area in 1819. He began working for Thomas Chanter (Burnard's nephew) and, when he had sufficient money, opened a store selling liquor and other goods. When Chanter died in 1825, Yeo took over the business and began building ships. Over the next several decades, he created a trans-Atlantic empire with shipyards, warehouses, and wharves on PEI and in England. He was responsible for building over 350 ships during his lifetime.

Yeo entered politics in 1839 and served as Conservative representative. He was not a nice man — allegedly bullying voters and doing other unethical things, such as collecting timber and hay from land he did not own — but he was one of the wealthiest and most influential men the island has ever seen.

Additional trivia:

Shipbuilding was the primary industry on PEI from 1850 to 1875. Per capita, only Great Britan built more ships during this time period, which is known as the island's "Golden Age".

James Yeo owned nearly 20,000 acres of Prince Edward Island, most of which is now a provincial park. His son's house, which is in the park, is now a shipbuilding museum.

More information on:

Green Park Provincial Park
Green Park Shipbuilding Museum and Historic Yeo House


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Added 22 October 2002.