1886: The Society Loses a Founding Member

In 1886 the Historical Society of Delaware mourned the passing of William G. Whiteley, who had been a member since its founding in 1864.  Born in 1819, Whiteley grew up in the Newark area and graduated from Princeton in 1838.  He studied law with James A. Bayard (1799-1880) and was admitted to the bar in 1841.  In addition to a successful law practice, Whiteley served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1857 to 1861 and one term as mayor of Wilmington from 1875 to 1878.  He was appointed to the Superior Court of Delaware in 1884.

Whiteley had a great interest in Delaware history, and his greatest contribution was The Revolutionary War Soldiers of Delaware, written in 1875 and presented to both the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware General Assembly.  The article was published first in 1875, then again by the Society in 1896.  Written a century after the start of the war, Revolutionary War Soldiers is the foundational work in the historiography of Delaware’s military role in the war.

Compiling the piece required detailed, painstaking research, for “the subject had been long neglected.  Records had been scattered or lost. . . .but for his patriotic spirit, state pride and laborious efforts, the achievements and even the names of the gallant Revolutionary Soldiers of Delaware would have soon passed into oblivion.”  Once again, we owe a debt to pioneering research done by the dedicated gentlemen scholars of the Delaware Historical Society.

William G. Whiteley, 1850
William G. Whiteley, 1850

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