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History

Thomas Stone 1743-1787
By Ken Anderson / Mark E. Chase
Oct 5, 2004 - 10:23:00 AM

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Not much of known of Thomas Stone, as no letters or papers relating to his life have been found.
Thomas Stone

From the public record, as well as the writings of others, we know that he was born at Poynton Manor in Charles County, Maryland, in 1743. His father was David Stone, a descendent of William Stone, who was governor of Maryland during the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Thomas inherited a fondness for learning from his father and, at the age of fifteen, he studied the Greek and Latin languages in a school operated by a Mr. Blaizedel, located about ten miles from his home. Upon completion of his studies with Blaizedel, he went into debt in order to study law under Thomas Johnson, an esteemed Annapolis attorney.

Once he was accepted to the bar, he entered legal practice in Frederick, Maryland. Two years later, he moved his practice to Charles County, nearer to his birthplace.

Thomas Stone was an Episcopalian, a pious man, and a professor in religion as well as an attorney at law. By 1765, he was practicing law as a circuit rider between Fredrick, Port Tobacco, and Annapolis, Maryland.

At the age of twenty-five, he married Margaret, the daughter of a Dr. Gustavus Brown. Upon his marriage to Margaret, he received a dowry which he used to build one of the finest homes in Maryland, naming it Habre-de-Venture, near Port Tobacco. He and his wife had three children. Despite his legal practice, he was not a wealthy man, and the soil on his farm was not good. Nevertheless, he took on the responsibility of caring for his two younger brothers and three sisters upon the death of his father in 1773.

In time, his practice improved. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 when two members were added to the Maryland delegation, taking his seat on May 15, 1775. He was reelected in July, and again in May, 1776.

The Province of Maryland was very hesitant to enter into a confederation that might lead to separation from England, the mother country, instructing its delegates to take the greatest caution to avoid hasty decisions that might lead to such. Still, by the time that the Declaration of Independence was drawn, Stone and his colleagues eagerly signed their names to the document.

Thomas Stone's headstone.
The record does not show that Stone played an active part in the notable debates of Congress, but he did serve on several important committees. He was the only Maryland delegate to serve on the Committee of Confederation, where he remained until the Articles of Confederation were agreed to by a vote on November 15, 1777. Due to Maryland's continued reluctance to embrace the cause of liberty, Stone declined reelection to Congress, opting to instead enter the Maryland Senate, where he thought he could be more useful, and where he remained until his death.

At about the time that he entered the Maryland Senate, his legal practice became lucrative, particularly in Annapolis, and his professional reputation soared.

While in Philadelphia in 1776, as her husband attended the 2nd Continental Congress, his wife became very ill after receiving a smallpox inoculation, dying in 1787 without ever recovering. At the point of his wife's death, Stone's own health declined. On the advice of his doctor, he was planning a sea voyage to England; but on October 5, 1787, before the vessel sailed, he died at the age of forty-five, leaving one son and two daughters.

Since his son Fredrik was still a minor, the family estate, Habre de Venture, temporarily passed to Thomas' brother, who was custodian of the children. When Fredrik died in 1793, still a minor, the estate passed to his sisters. Following Stone's death, Habre de Venture was passed down through five generations of Stones. In 1936, the house was sold, passing through two different families until a fire destroyed the central section of the house in 1977. The National Park Service purchased the property in 1981, and the restored mansion was opened to the public in 1997.


Note: First published on October 5, 2004, this article was revised on April 7, 2009 by Mark E. Chase, a volunteer with the Thomas Stone National Historic Site.


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