Many people had inhabited the property on the Strand prior to the time that the Read family settled there.† For instance, before the Dutch even began to explore the area, many Native Americans called the area home.† Once European settlement began to take place, the presence of Native Americans became less common.† The Read House property became the home of several people of Dutch and English descent.† Unfortunately, there is much less information about these families than there is about the families that lived there after the Reads.
This watercolor by Robert Shaw is of the New Castle waterfront (circa 1830).† Reproduced with permission of The Historical Society of Delaware.
One of the first English settlers on the property was Richard Halliwell.† He was a single, politically active merchant who died in 1719.† He apparently moved to the area hoping to get rich from trade. Knowing that Maryland was growing tobacco, England and Scotland were producing textiles, glass and ceramics and that the West Indies was a new spot for sugar and rum, trading would be a sure way to secure a good profit.† He petitioned the governor for permission to trade but was denied.† After he disregarded the governorís denial, he was considered a pirate thereby prompting an attack on New Castle by the governorís militia!†
By the time the first Reads, William and Jane, move onto the property in 1722, trading and accumulating goods was a little easier.†
Jehu and Mary Curtis lived on the land between 1730 and 1740.† He too was successful and owned several slaves, and opened the famous Indian King tavern on a property across the Strand on the Delaware River waterfront.
*All of these families were actually living on the lot adjacent to the one that the Reads later bought.† The Frenches, who lived on the lot from around 1700 to 1767, were the ones that rented the property to George Read I.† However, both lots eventually became one.† The Frenchís property was the lot of the Read House and the others became the Read House gardens.
-Researched by: Amy Cunningham