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READ FAMILY PAPERS

 

1756 – 1833

 

 

 

Manuscript Collection Number 237

 

Accessioned:  Gift of Anna D. Moyerman, 1972

 

Extent:  82 items (.4 linear ft)

 

Content:  Legal documents and correspondence

 

Access:  The collection is open for research.

 

Processed:  1991 by Lori Bridgers, revised April 2005 by Colleen E. Lemke


Table of Contents



Biographical Note

            The Read Family Papers contain letters and documents belonging to three members of the Read family of New Castle, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: George Read (1733 – 1798), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and two of his sons, George Read, Jr. (1765 – 1836) and John Read (1769 – 1854).

            George Read was born in Cecil County, Maryland, 18 September 1733, to Colonel John Read, an emigrant from Dublin, Ireland, and Mary (Howell) Read, an emigrant from Wales. He was the oldest of seven children. After completing preparatory studies under Francis Allison, he studied law and was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1752. He began practicing in New Castle, Delaware. He became extremely active in public political life, first serving as Attorney-General for Delaware from 1763 to 1774, during which time he penned a letter to King George III about the folly of taxing the colonists without allowing them representation in Parliament. He resigned as Attorney-General in 1774 to accept appointment to the Continental Congress. He served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777, and signed the Declaration of Independence. He was President of the Delaware State constitutional convention in 1776, and during and following the Revolution he served in a variety of capacities, including as Vice President of Delaware, as member of the Delaware House of Representatives, 1779 – 1780, as judge of the United States Court of Appeals, and ultimately as one of Delaware’s representatives to the Federal Constitutional Conventions in 1786 and 1787. Read helped to frame and subsequently signed the Constitution, encouraging its early ratification in Delaware. He was then twice elected to the United States Senate, serving from 1789 to1793, when he resigned to accept a position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware. He served that court until his death in 1798.

            In 1775, George Read had married Gertrude Ross, the daughter of the rector of Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle, Delaware. Four of their children survived to adulthood, including George Read, Jr., William Read, John Read, and Mary (Read) Pearce.

            George Read, Jr. (1765 – 1836) was born in New Castle, Delaware, the oldest son of George and Gertrude (Ross) Read. He studied law with his father, ultimately becoming an eminent jurist, and serving as a United States District Attorney for Delaware from 1789 to 1836. On 30 October 1786, he married his first cousin, Mary Thompson, daughter of General William Thompson and Catherine (Ross) Thompson. The couple built the Read House in 1801, a twenty-two room mansion in New Castle, Delaware, which is currently owned by the Historical Society of Delaware, and is operated as an historic house museum.

            John Read, the fourth son of George Read, was also called John Jr. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), graduating in 1787, and then studied law with his father. He was admitted to the Bar and moved to Philadelphia to practice; there he married in 1796. His wife, Martha Meredith, was a daughter of Samuel Meredith, the first treasurer of the United States. Martha (Meredith) Read achieved fame in her own right as an early feminist writer and novelist. The couple bore five children, though only three survived infancy: John Meredith Read, Henry Meredith Read, and Margaret Meredith Read.

            In 1797, John Read was appointed by President John Adams to serve as Agent of the United States under Jay’s Treaty. He continued in this office until 1809. He served as a city solicitor of Philadelphia, and was elected as Pennsylvania State Senator, for 1816 and 1817. He was also appointed Director of the Philadelphia Bank, and became President of the Bank in 1841. He was a prominent member of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, serving as warden of Christ Church, St. Peter’s, and St. James.

Sources:

 

Conrad, Henry C., History of the State of Delaware from the Earliest Settlements to the Year 1907, Volume III, (Wilmington, 1908) pp. 858-859, 863

 

Reynolds, Cuyler, Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, Vol. II (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911) pp. 489-496. Online edition of text available April, 2005, at: www.schenectadyhistory.org/families/hmgfm/read.html

 

The Chronology of American Literature (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)



Scope and Content Note

            The Read Family Papers contains correspondence and legal documents drafted by or belonging to three members of the Read family of New Castle, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: George Read (1733 – 1798), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and two of his sons, George Read, Jr. (1765 – 1836) and John Read (1769 – 1854). The collection was a gift of Anna D. Moyerman in 1972.

            The papers of George Read and George Read, Jr., consist primarily of drafts of legal documents written for the New Castle County Courts. Most of the documents are complaints seeking repayment of debts.

            The papers of John Read, which comprise the majority of this collection, reflect his legal involvement in the estates of George Clymer, Reese Meredith, and Samuel Meredith. John Read and his associate James Gibson were joint executors of the estate of George Clymer. Before the Revolution, Clymer had entered into business with Rees(e) Meredith, father of Samuel Meredith, and in 1765, Clymer married Elizabeth Meredith, sister of Samuel Meredith. The Clymer and Meredith families had joined several family lands and investments together in the Clymer & Meredith Company. Many of the letters in this collection reflect the attempts of James Gibson and John Read to untangle the interests of the Clymer and Meredith families after the deaths of George Clymer and Reese Meredith.

            John Read also handled many legal and business affairs for his father-in-law, Samuel Meredith, and letters in the collection reflect these responsibilities. Additional topics raised in the letters written by or received by John Read include taxation in Delaware, land speculation, road and bridge construction, locks and canals on the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers, funeral expenses, the Asylum Company, the Coal Lands Company, banking, and schooling.


Related Collections

            The Read Family Papers are most closely related to the Samuel Meredith Papers (MSS 240) and the Samuel Meredith Letters and Documents (MSS 239). John Read was Meredith’s son-in-law, as well as his attorney and advisor in many matters regarding land speculation, property ownership, chancery cases, and the Conewago Canal Company. Numerous letters written by John Read to Samuel Meredith and Thomas Meredith (Samuel’s son and Read’s brother-in-law) can be found in these collections.

            An additional related collection, the John Meredith Read Papers (1818-1870) can be found in the Archives and Special Collections Department of Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA. The Dickinson College papers of the oldest son of John and Martha (Meredith) Read include letters written by John Read to his son.


Series List

 

I. George Read, 1756 – 1785

II. George Read, Jr., 1786 – 1813

III John Read, 1790 – 1833



Contents List

Folder -- Contents

                        Series I. George Read, 1756 – 1785 (13 items)

                                    This series consists of legal documents prepared for the New Castle County Court, written or signed by George Read.

 

F1        1756, 1758

            Two drafts of court complaints seeking payment of debts

 

F2        1770

Drafts of court complaints for debt or rents, including a suit brought on behalf of a widow, Grace M. Coomes v. Benjamin Stockton

 

F3        1771 – 1774

            Drafts of court complaints seeking payment of debts

 

F4        1776 – 1785

            Drafts of court complaints seeking payment of debts

 

 

                        Series II. George Read, Jr., 1786 – 1813 (7 items)

                                   This series consists of drafts of legal documents prepared for the New Castle County Court, written or signed by George Read, Jr. The series also includes one letter addressed to Read.

 

F5        1786 – 1787

            Draft of court complaints seeking payment for debts or trespass

 

F6        1788 – 1813

            Drafts of court complaints seeking payment for debt. Also includes a brief note from the Farmers Bank in Dover, rejecting a loan application George Read had made on behalf of Samuel Meredith, 1813.

 

                        Series III. John Read, 1790 – 1833 (64 items)

                                    This series includes business letters to Read, drafts of legal documents for the Pennsylvania District Middle Circuit Court, and copies of letters written by Read. Also included are two documents (copies) from the United States Treasury Department.

 

F7        1790 – 1798

            Includes a letter from John R. Smith about business affairs and debt, drafts of legal complaints seeking payment of debts, and an inquiry from the United States Treasury Department regarding a taxation plan for Delaware under the new federal Constitution

 

 

 

                        Series III. John Read, 1790 – 1833 (continued)

 

F8        1805 – 1813

            Includes two receipts for tuition paid to Tilman Culp and letters about the property and affairs of Samuel Meredith. Letters about Meredith’s affairs include a letter from John Read to John R. Coats, Esq. about Samuel Meredith’s claims on manors in Wayne County, PA, including “Amsterdam” and “Roterdam,” and letters from James Gibson, Samuel Tate, and John Pierce. The letters reflect concerns about timber theft from the lands, debts, and potential sale. Also included is an account sheet of the mortgaged properties of George Clymer held by the Philadelphia Bank

 

F9        1816 – 1817

            Includes a letter from James Gibson with references to George Clymer, General Cadwalder, and Samuel Dickinson, two letters from Jaret Fyler about the academic progress of Read’s son Henry, and a note from James M. Kelly about a debt owed Henry Clymer.

 

F10      1818

            Includes letters from James Gibson about the Clymer and Meredith estates and the need for new roads to be cut in Pennsylvania, a letter from James Kelly about Clymer deeds, Robert Morris and Samuel Meredith, a letter and document about locks and canals in Pennsylvania, a letter from Ann (Shippen) Jones, and an announcement of a December meeting of shareholders in the “Asylum Company.”

 

F11      1819

            Letters from Dr. R. H. Rose, James Gibson, and James Kelly about the lands of George Clymer

 

F12      1820

            A copy of a letter from James Gibson to Thomas Meredith (John Read’s brother-in-law), two letters from Henry Clymer about the “Indiana Lands” and the “Luzerne Lands,” and a letter about the funeral expenses and estate of Mary Bedford, Aunt of John Read

 

F13      1821

            Correspondence with Henry Clymer and James Gibson, an outline of the settlement of the estates and joint accounts of the Clymer’s and Meredith’s including family transactions and partnership accounts of the Clymer & Meredith, and a note from Jacob Moyer about the purchase of a tract of land from Henry Clymer.

 

F14      1822

            Letters from Henry Clymer and James Gibson, a legal document about the execution of George Clymer’s estate, and a business letter from George McCall.

 

F15      1824

            Correspondence with Henry Clymer and a letter from James Gibson

                        Series III. John Read, 1790 – 1833 (continued)

 

F16      1825

            Includes a petition and letters written to Read as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to complain about associated coal companies and recent legislation, and a letter from Gibson about Clymer’s estate,

 

F17      1828 – 1833

            Letters from James Gibson about legal affairs, two letters written by Read about banking and politics, and a letter inquiring about a land deed

 

F18      [n.d.]

            A note from John M. Read about the legal affairs between James Gibson and John Read, a note about a church election naming John Read Warden, and letters from Henry Clymer and James Gibson


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