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Gov. William Stone (c. 1603-c. 1659/60) and Verlinda Stone

William Stone served as Maryland’s first Protestant Governor, and he and his wife Verlinda both took action to preserve freedom of religion in Maryland.

William Stone was born in England around 1603 and came from a well-known merchant family in London. However, William chose to come to America, and migrated to Virginia in 1628. He was successful there, working as a merchant and planter. He was respected by his neighbors and was appointed justice of the peace and then sheriff in Accomack County, Virginia.

He also served as a burgess in the Virginia Assembly. However, when civil war broke out in England, many Protestants who supported the Parliament were no longer welcome in Virginia, which supported the King. At this time, Lord Baltimore, the proprietor of Maryland, began trying to attract more settlers to Maryland, and many Protestants left Virginia.

William Stone and his wife Verlinda came to Maryland in 1648. That same year Stone was given a great opportunity. With civil war still going on in England and with many new Protestant settlers in Maryland, Lord Baltimore wanted to appoint a Protestant Governor. He chose William Stone, probably partly to reward Stone for promising to bring hundreds of settlers to Maryland. Stone served as Governor for six years until some of the more radical Protestants, called Puritans, gained control of the government and began to pass laws which restricted religious freedom.

Stone decided he needed to fight back, so he organized about 100 supporters and marched against the rebels in the Battle of Severn. He was greatly outnumbered, and after losing nearly half his men and being wounded in the shoulder, Stone surrendered. He was made a prisoner and held for over a month.

While he was in captivity, his wife Verlinda tried to help him by writing to Lord Baltimore. She made sure the proprietor knew exactly what happened so he could protect both her husband and the colony. Stone was eventually released from prison and resumed his position as Governor. He died in 1660, leaving 14,950 pounds of tobacco for his wife and seven children.

Verlinda soon started acquiring more land for her family. In 1664 she patented 300 acres of land in Charles County which she called “Virlinda” and two years later bought 500 more acres in what is now Prince George’s County. She lived in the colony which she and her husband had fought to preserve up until her death in 1675.

  • Hall, Clayton, Colman, Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.,1910.

  • Maloney, Eric John, Papists and Puritans in Early Maryland: Religion in the Forging of Provincial Society, 1632-1665. PhD. Dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1996.

  • Papenfuse, Edward C., et al. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, 2 vols. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.
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