1897: The Death of the Honorable Leonard E. Wales (1823-1897)

Leonard E Wales
Honorable Leonard E. Wales

The Honorable Leonard E. Wales, former Historical Society of Delaware president, passed away in 1897. Wales had been an active member and served as society president for 14 years. He was continually reelected and served as society president from 1879 to 1893.

His legacy extended beyond the historical society as he was also a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware and New Jersey, and a judge for the United States Court of Appeals. Wales was educated at Yale College and studied law under the direction of his father in Wilmington. He was admitted to the bar in New Castle County on May 8, 1845. At the outbreak of the Civil War Wales enrolled himself as a volunteer in the Delaware Infantry and was elected second lieutenant of the organization. Upon his discharge from the military Wales became one of the commissioners of the Board of Enrollment and prepared drafts for the army. In terms of community involvement, Wales was also a member of the Republican Party in Delaware beginning in 1856 (he had formerly been a Whig), a member of the Presbyterian Church, and helped establish the Ferris Reform School.

His death was noted at the meeting held on February 15, 1897 and the Society mourned his passing.  The society minutes recall Wales fondly noting “this society, in common with the whole community, has lost one whose varied characteristics, gifts, and acquirements won for him an honorable place not only in the respect, but also in the affection to all who were privileged to know him.”


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