John Reading

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John Reading

Also Known As: "III", "Colonial Governor of New Jersey"
Birthdate: (81)
Birthplace: Gloucester Township, Camden County, New Jersey, United States
Death: November 5, 1767 (81)
Amwell, NJ, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. John Reading and Elizabeth Mary Reading
Husband of Mary Maretje Reading
Father of John Reading, IV; George W Reading; Captain Daniel Reading, Sr.; Richard Reading; Thomas Reading and 2 others
Brother of Mary Howell; Sarah Reading and Elizabeth Reading, Jr

Occupation: Governor, Surveyor and politician, Governor of New Jersey
Managed by: Jason Peter Ryerson
Last Updated:

About John Reading

John Reading (6 June 1686 – 5 November 1767) was the first native-born governor of New Jersey, United States, serving in 1747, and again from September 1757 to June 1758. His father, Colonel John Reading, was the first major landowner in Hunterdon County.

Governor Reading was one of the founders and trustees of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. The Reading family is still influential in the state of New Jersey.

Early life and political career

John Reading was born at Gloucester, New Jersey on 6 June 1686. John and his sister Elsie were sent with their mother to England for education, where they remained for several years. Upon return to the United States Reading assisted is father in his work as a surveyor and in the management of his extensive landed interest. He inherited a large estate upon his father's death in 1717, especially in land, which made him the wealthiest man in Hunterdon county.

On 3 November 1718, he was nominated by Governor Hunter to a seat in the provincial council at the young age of thirty-two. At the same time, Reading was named commissioner to run the north boundary line between New Jersey and New York. and one of the commissioners to run the lines between East and West New Jersey.

On 24 June 1720 Reading was appointed to the council of the new governor William Burnet. Reading retained the post until 1758, when he resigned. On two occasions during his tenure he became acting governor and commander-in-chief of the province.

On 10 February 1727, Mr. Reading was commissioned "Collonel of ye Military Regiment of ffoot for ye county of Hunterdon, whereof Daniel Cox, Esq. was Collonel," and on the same day he was appointed president judge of the court of common pleas of that county. On 14 August 1727, he was commissioned surrogate for Hunterdon and Somerset counties.

On 6 November 1728, he was appointed by the Crown one of the judges "to try pirates." In addition to these offices he held that of one of his Majesty's justices of the peace. On 18 April 1740 he was appointed one of the officers for Hunterdon county to enlist men to fight the war then waging against Spain, and in that year was also appointed by the King as one of the commissioners to define the boundary between the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He was also for some years one of the agents for the family of William Penn in managing their landed interests in New Jersey.

Acting Governor and Governor

On the death of Lewis Morris, governor of the province, 21 May 1746, the administration fell to Colonel John Hamilton, who remained at the head of the government until his death on 17 June 1747. Reading then became president of the council and succeeded Colonel Hamilton as acting governor and commander-in-chief, being the first native-born Jerseyman to govern the province.

Reading's administration was a brief one. On 10 August, he was succeeded by Jonathan Belcher of Massachusetts, who had received the king's appointment to the governorship in the previous February. Governor Belcher continued at the head of the government until his death on 31 August 1757. Reading was still the senior member of the council, and the administration devolved upon him. His age and infirmities were such that he at first declined to act, but he finally consented to assume the duties. He assumed the office on 9 September 1757, and on the 10th wrote to Thomas Pownall, the Governor of Massachusetts, whose commission also named him Lieutenant-Governor of New Jersey, asking to be relieved immediately of office due to infirmities and ill health.

Governor Pownall took the oath of office on 22 September 1757. Governor Pownall's administration lasted a single day: Pownall found that, while Reading was physically weak, he was mentally strong, and that he commanded the respect and confidence of the people to an unusual degree, so he returned to Massachusetts, leaving the government to Reading.

Prior to the union of the provinces, Perth Amboy was the seat of government of East Jersey and Burlington of West Jersey. After the union the two seats were retained, and the general assembly, to accommodate the people of both sections, usually alternated between the two places. Frequently, however, temporary changes were made to meet the pleasure of the governor. One of such changes occurred in October, 1757, when the assembly met at Trenton, to suit the convenience of Reading, who was located there for medical treatment. The assembly felt the importance of having President Reading reside at one or the other of the official seats, and, recognizing that his physical condition was such that it would discomfort him to be compelled to stay at an inn, offered to provide at the public expense a home at each capital for the use of himself and family.

Early in March, 1758, letters arrived from England, announcing the appointment of Major-General James Abercrombie to succeed the earl of Loudoun in the command of the King's forces in North America, and calling upon the provincial governments to raise troops to fight in the Seven Years' War. The letter to Reading was delivered to him on 6 March. Reading responded immediately to the King's call, and summoned a meeting of the general assembly, which convened at Burlington on 23 March. On the following day, he delivered addresses to the General Assembly calling for raising of troops to support the King in the war. He also issued a proclamation for the raising of a regiment for immediate service. Reading appointed a day of fasting and prayer.

Retirement to private life

The last meeting of the council under his administration was held at Trenton on 22 May 1758, on which occasion he signed warrants for the pay of the officials of the colony. Three weeks later, the Honorable Francis Bernard arrived from England with a commission as governor, and on 16 June he succeeded Reading in the post.

In the King's "Letter of Instructions" to Governor Bernard, the name of John Reading appears at the head of the council. Reading was still determined to retire from public life. On 28 July 1758, he waited upon Governor Bernard at Burlington, and informed him that "his great age and infirmities rendered him uncapable to perform the duty of one of his Majesty's Council and desired that his Excellency would be pleased to accept of his resignation and dismiss him from his Majesty's service." Governor Bernard "thanked him for his services, and promised him to represent the affairs of his Majesty's Council in order to obtain his approbation of such dismissal," and, with the unanimous consent of the council, "did suspend [excuse] him from the office and duty of a councillor of this colony, until his Majesty's pleasure be known." The King in due time accepted the resignation and appointed a successor.

On his release from public office, Reading retired to private life, in which he remained until his death on 5 November 1767. A communion service provided for in his will was later procured and presented to the Old Amwell Presbyterian Church, with which he was connected, and in whose burying-ground his body lies.

“He was Catholic in his Sentiments, and loved good Men of every Denomination of Christians - He had a strict Regard to Truth, and was punctual to his Word - Was universally beloved, and died lamented on the Fifth Day of November last."


Any of you that are related to Gov. John Reading of New Jersey may be interested in some information that I was able to discover about their ancestry. Turns out that his wife Mary Ryerson, has family that goes further back than I'd thought, and through the Ryersons, we Readings are connected to other prominent families: {~• one being: Joris Jansen Rapalje } The below is a genealogy that I created for my niece,with information culled from many sources. It traces the family to the present day California branch. I hope someone out there finds this helpful. I thought it was very interesting...

1) John READING [Sr.], b. unknown in England, d. unknown in Pipe Hill, Staffordshire, England; m. to Mary ____; they resided in Pipe Hill, St. Michael, Staffordshire, England; their children: [#2] i. Col. John, b. 14 Sep 1657, d. 30 Oct 1717, m. Elizabeth ?; ii. Job, b. 8 Nov 1659; iii. Daniel, b. 28 Jul 1661;

(2) Col. John READING, b. 14 Sep 1657 in Pipe Hill, Staffordshire, England, d. 30 Oct 1717 in Amwell Twsp., Hunterdon Co., NJ; m., 22 Feb 1682, to Elizabeth ____ (b. 1657, d. 20 Jan 1714); they resided in Gloucester Co., NJ, and Amwell Twsp., Hunterdon Co., NJ; their children: i. Elizabeth, b. 5 Jun 1684, 22 Jun 1692; [#3] ii. Gov. John, b. 6 Jun 1686, d. 7 Nov 1767

             m. Maretje "Mary" RYERSON;

iii. Mary "Elsie", b. 26 Sep 1688, d. 27 Feb 1732,

             m. Capt. Daniel HOWELL;

iv. Sarah, b. 26 Aug 1691, d. 1691

Col. John READING, the founder of the New Jersey family, came to this country sometime after his marriage which occurred Feb. 22, 1682. He was interested in the development of West Jersey as shown by his purchase of 1/6 of a Propriety in August 28 and 29, 1677a lease and Release from William Penn, Gaven Lowry, Nicholas Lucas and Edward Byllling to John Reading and other for one Propriety; and this is further shown in a deed dated Nov. 1, 1687 when he conveyed 250 acres of land to Matthew Medcalf, a portion of "his second taking up of a 1/6 propriety, etc., bearing date of 28 and 29 Aug. 1677, and made between Edward Byllynge of Westminster in the Kingdom of Great Britain, the trustees of the one party, and John Reading and partners of the other party;" and still again when he conveyed 1000 acres of said propriety in 1697 to Samuel Thorn. A "Propriety" was "one equal one-hundredth part of a province."

There is a similarity of Coat Armor in the Reading families in England which suggest a common origin. This coat armor has the characteristic charge or device of "Three Boars' Heads." The seal used by John Reading when Clerk of Gloucester Co., New Jersey shows "Three Boars' Heads couped," and this charge is also shown on the Reading Coat of Arms which was on a set of two silver tankards, (given to the family by Queen Anne), and the family coat of arms has been willed to the eldest male descendant in each generation.

John Reading and his wife Elizabeth (last name unknown) on their arrival in the province, located at Gloucester; he surveyed land in N.J. as early as 1684. When Gloucester Town, the county seat, was surveyed and laid out he was one of the surveyors and became the owner of a majority of the 88 lots into which the town was divided. He became an extensive land owner, being one of the largest in the province; in addition to the lots in Gloucester and the 1/6 of Propriety mentioned before, he purchased Maurice Trent in January 1695/6 one eighth of a propriety; the following month 1500 acres of James Read; Sept. same year the propriety of Andrew Robeson; February 1700/1, 4000 acres of Sarah Welch and Susanna Turner; and in 1704 1/8 of a propriety from William Biles.

A chronological account of the various offices in the Province held by Emigrant John Reading: Member of Colonial Assembly 1685; Clerk and Recorder, Gloucester County, N.J., 1685-1711; one of the Proprietors of West Jersey, 1687; Commissioner 1688/9; Member of House of Rep. West Jersey 1697; Rep. Gloucester in Council 1687-1707; Member West Jersey Council Proprietors; Deputy Surveyor of the Sea Coast 1691; Member of the Council of the United Province 1702; Judge Supreme Court 1711; Member of the Governor's Council 1713-17; Capt. of Militia 1695; 1702; 1713; 1714 and Lt. Col. 1715. In 1693 he became owner of a ferry at Gloucester Point until 1707. In 1703 the Council of Proprietors appointed John Reading, William Biddle and John Mills to purchase the great tract of 150,000 acres between the Raritan and Delaware. Col. Reading removed from Gloucester County to the part of Burlington Co. which later became Amwell Township, Hunterton Co. His first purchase of lands there was in 1704. In a deed dated Nov. 12, 1709 he calls himself "Mount Amwell in the county of Burlington;" this no doubt the name of his estate, from which the name Amwell Twp. came. His estate lay on the Delaware River, and he established a landing known as "John Reading’s landing." Col. John Reading died at his seat in Hunterdon Co., N.J., Oct. 30, 1717, inventory and app. made December 6, 1717. Among the interesting items in his inventory is "Books and Instruments belonging to Writeing"£40,s.16,p.10

It is known that Col. John {1} and Elizabeth Reading left two children; Gov. John Reading and a sister. In all early accounts of this family, this sister's name is given "Elsie" who married Capt. Daniel Howell.

From the Gov. John Reading Bible, his sister Elizabeth died in 1692; his sister Sarah in 1691 and his sister Mary in 1732. The will of Daniel Howell dated Sept. 9, 1733 indicates the recent death of his wife, and this will names his "brother-in-law John Reading” as one of the executors. This old Bible record was discovered by Mr. Hiram E. Deats, Genealogist of Flemington, N.J. and published by him in the Publications of the Gen. Society of Penn. (1930-32 Vol. XI, p. 72/3). It was found in not the usual Bible, but in a volume of sermons, London, 1676, which Mr. Deats believes Gov. John (3) Reading must have bought when he was over there in school. It was given by Mr. Deats to the N.J. Historical Society. The births, deaths, etc., are in Gov. John's handwriting up until his death. Until its discovery there was no date of marriage of the 1st John Reading, or death date of his wife Elizabeth, nor list of their children.

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John Reading's Timeline

June 6, 1686
Gloucester Township, Camden County, New Jersey, United States
March 30, 1722
Age 35
Old Amwell Township, Hunterdon, New Jersey, USA
February 26, 1725
Age 38
United States
February 2, 1727
Age 40
Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States
December 8, 1732
Age 46
Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States
September 27, 1734
Age 48
August 29, 1738
Age 52
Old Amwell, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States
November 5, 1767
Age 81
Amwell, NJ, USA