Local legal historic sites: Stonum, country home of George Read
Delaware attorney George Read was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Born in Cecil County, Maryland in 1733, his family moved to New Castle, Delaware shortly after his birth. He attended schools in Pennsylvania and studied law in Philadelphia with John Moland. Another of Moland’s students was John Dickinson, another future delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Dickinson and Read were lifelong friends.
After his admission to the bar, Read returned to New Castle, where he started a law practice and lived for the rest of his life. In 1763 Read was appointed attorney general for the three lower colonies (as Delaware was known at the time). He was a representative to the Continental Congress for Delaware. He was initially in favor of reconciliation with Britain and voted against the Declaration of Independence, but when the Declaration was eventually adopted he signed it. During the Revolution, he was a member of Delaware’s Legislative Council and president of Delaware from 1777 to 1778. He was named Judge of the Court of Appeals in admiralty cases in 1782.
Read represented Delaware at the Constitutional Convention. Like the other Delaware delegates he was concerned with protecting the rights of the smaller states. He was also a U.S. Senator and was Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court until his death in 1798.
He had a town house on the Strand in New Castle, which was destroyed by a fire in 1824. It was on a site next door to the George Read II house, built by Read’s son. The George Read II house is still standing and is open for tours. Stonum (or Stoneham), at Ninth and Washington Streets in New Castle, was his country house and is the only house associated with Read still standing. Stonum is privately owned and not open to the public.
For more information on George Read see: William Thompson Read. Life and Correspondence of George Read. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1870.
Photos from: Wikimedia Commons.