Remembering John E. Skillman III (1939-2014)

It is with sympathy we announce the passing of John Earle Skillman III, the Skillman Family Association’s President.

As the Association’s first President, John pursued his vision of creating a Skillman family presence on the internet as a means of enhancing dissemination of the family’s substantive history. With that goal in mind, he worked diligently over the last two years providing the leadership to create the formalized Association structure and technology development to enhance its communication network for the future. His intent was to continue the great early-twentieth-century work of the Reverend William Jones Skillman, one of our great family forefathers. Now, just over a century later, our group has succeeded in realizing the first stage of John’s vision.

In one year, John managed to develop the Association’s formalized structure. He completed the development of its’ by-laws, and with the assistance of his son, Ken, they designed and crafted the Association’s first web site. John’s family was further represented by his daughter, Lee Ann, who graciously agreed to be the Association’s first Secretary. John was particularly proud of his success in achieving recognition by the IRS of the Association’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status; an accomplishment that was two years in the making.

John’s ability to look beyond some of the complicated issues in setting up an association and stick to the course at hand was one of his best character traits; his vision, intelligence and writing skills along with his keen interest in our family history are some of the wonderful attributes that I will surely miss. John also had a sense of humor during our communications which demonstrated his resilience to those around him. His humor and social networking abilities easily engaged the individuals he came in contact with. John’s many outstanding accomplishments are listed in detail in his obituary.

In recent months, one of the items John and I discussed was my willingness to take over as the President of the Skillman Family Association when the time arrived. I have agreed to do so and hope that you will be patient during this time of transition.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ellie, his wife, and their children: Ken, Lee and Paige during this difficult time.


Michael J. Wrona
Interim President

Cemeteries of the Early Skillmans

Have you ever wondered where our early Skillmans are buried? The general answer to that question is New Jersey, and Somerset County in particular. However, clusters of Skillmans relocated in later generations to New York, Ohio and Indiana in a general northern and western migration. Surprisingly, few Skillmans migrated south. Now, of course, later generation Skillmans are buried in nearly every state. Note that Hamilton County, OH, was a hotbed of later Skillmans. There are only 123 Skillman graves listed in all of Pennsylvania, so the Ohio Skillmans apparently skipped right over Pennsylvania.

The best source of data on the graves of early Skillmans is, a wonderful website which was recently purchased by, but for the moment it is still free to members. lists 417 Skillman graves in the state of New Jersey. Below are some data from on early Skillman burials. I have only included those cemeteries which contain ten or more Skillman burials, with the exception of the Beekman Cemetery, a small well-maintained private cemetery containing early Skillmans.

NameCityCountyStateSkillman Graves
Crown Hill CemeteryIndianapolisMarionIN19
Forest Hill CemeteryShelbyvilleShelbyIN23
Amwell Ridge CemeteryRingoesHunterdonNJ17
Beekman CemeteryMontgomery Twp.SomersetNJ9
Blawenburg Reformed ChurchBlawenburgSomersetNJ38
Elm Ridge CemeteryNew BrunswickMiddlesexNJ18
Green-Wood CemeteryTrentonMercerNJ14
Harlingen Reformed ChurchBelle MeadSomersetNJ26
Kingston Presbyterian ChurchKingstonSomersetNJ24
Mount Hope CemeteryLambertvilleHunterdonNJ38
Princeton CemeteryPrincetonMercerNJ33
Riverview CemeteryTrentonMercerNJ19
Rocky Hill CemeteryRocky HillSomersetNJ21
Second English PresbyterianAmwellHunterdonNJ10
Bemis Point CemeteryEllery CenterChautauquaNY17
Green-Wood CemeteryBrooklynKingsNY36
McDonough Union CemeteryMcDonoughChenangoNY27
Riverside CemeteryEndicott (Union)BroomeNY23
Greenwood CemeteryHamiltonButlerOH13
New Lexington CemeteryNew LexingtonPerryOH15
Reading Protestant CemeteryReadingHamiltonOH15
Spring Grove CemeteryCincinnatiHamiltonOH56
West Branch Mill CreekColerain Twp.HamiltonOH34

I had no idea there was such a large group of Skillmans in Lambertville, New Jersey, a charming town on the Delaware River. I suspect that each of the cemeteries listed above contain Skillmans almost exclusively descended from one of the five sons of Thomas2 Skillman from whom we are all descended. Without doing further research, it seems unlikely to me that two different lines of Skillmans would move together to a particular area or state. For example, all of the Skillmans in Riverside Cemetery in Endicott (Union), NY, are of my line and descended from Jacob5 (John4, Jacob3) Skillman.

John E Skillman III

August Family Reunion Cancelled

It is with extreme regret that I announce that your Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel the contract with the Princeton Marriott for our planned first family reunion in August 2014. The decision was not made lightly and resulted from a combination of factors. As president, it was my full intention to run the reunion from beginning to end. However, in October my battle with stage-4 prostate cancer took a turn for the worse, and it is now unlikely that I will be well enough to run the reunion, much less attend it. Unfortunately, your Board was unable to come up with someone else willing to assume that important responsibility.

While 32 members have indicated that they would like to attend, 12 come from my immediate family and may not attend due to my health issues. Additionally, we anticipate that, despite the best of intentions, other members may drop due to health issues or conflicting events that preclude attending our reunion. It is quite possible that our final attendance by August could be fewer than 15 people, hardly the attendance we had anticipated.

Finally, our Family Association would be liable for a percentage of the cost of meals per the contract with the Princeton Marriott. By my rough calculations, this could have been in excess of $1500, which could have wiped out our limited treasury in the event of later cancellation.

Let me assure you, however, that those of you who still wish to go to Princeton on the first weekend of August are still welcome to gather with your cousins who wish to do the same on an informal basis. We will make the list of those who planned to attend the formal reunion available on the Members Only section of the website and you may contact each other freely. Your Board of Directors will do all it can to support such an informal gathering and it may, in fact, work quite satisfactorily. If any of you wishes to coordinate such a gathering, please let me know by email and I will do my best to put you in touch with others of a like mind.

John E Skillman III

SFA Family Reunion • August 1-3, 2014

The Skillman Family Association’s first family reunion is rapidly taking shape and it promises to be both informational and great fun for all who attend. My wife and I just returned from 4 days in New Jersey to survey hotels and historic sites for the group. All activities will be within 15 miles and a 30-minute bus ride from the selected hotel. Here is a tentative agenda:

Friday – Optional tour of the Princeton area for those arriving on Thursday
Friday Evening – Welcome reception and dinner at the hotel with cash bar
Saturday Breakfast – Group breakfast at the hotel
Saturday Morning – Bus tour of Skillman cemeteries, Skillman homes, and other historical sights
Saturday Lunch – Luncheon at a local restaurant
Saturday Afternoon – Bus tour continues, returning to hotel about 3:00PM
Saturday Dinner – A casual farewell barbeque dinner at the hotel
Sunday Breakfast – On your own at the hotel
Days/Times TBD – Group sessions on Skillman genealogy, Skillman history and Skillman DNA

Subject to Board approval, I am recommending that we use the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal, which will run $131.10 per night, taxes included.

Princeton Marriott at Forrestal

If you have not already responded to my earlier email, please reply to me with answers to the questions listed below at

• Do you plan to attend? If not, I need to know that.
• How many adults in your party? How many children and what are their ages?
• Will you arrive before Friday and/or stay beyond Sunday? Princeton is a beautiful and historic town and there are many sights to see in the area, including the beautiful Princeton University. Downtown Princeton has many lovely stores for shopping.
• Will you attend the reunion, but not stay at the hotel?

And remember, Thomas1 Skillman arrived in America in August 1664. Our first reunion will celebrate the 350th anniversary of that important event. It is also the 200th anniversary of the founding on the Beekman-Skillman (now just Beekman) Cemetery, which is the final resting place of 9 Skillman ancestors.

John E. Skillman III

Invaluable WJS Collection Now on SFA Website!

How would you like to read a letter in your own great grandfather’s or great grandmother’s handwriting and view his or her signature? You may be able to do this now that the complete William Jones Skillman Collection is on the SFA website! It still amazes me that the Reverend William Jones Skillman’s collection of his correspondence, scrapbooks, and journals has survived the several generations and 99 years since his death in 1914. “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” his genealogy of the first five generations of the Skillman family in America (also under the Members Only section of the SFA website), was the result of some 30 years of his correspondence and work from the 1870s through the early 1900s. That this collection was discovered three years ago in an antiques shop in Connecticut is truly miraculous.

In September of 2010, before the Skillman Family Association was conceived, the collection was purchased by Jay Edward Skillman, Michael Jeffrey Wrona, and this author, three descendants of Thomas1 Skillman with the foresight to preserve it for posterity. Once it was digitized for the members of the SFA, it was donated in the name of the Skillman Family Association to the Archives & Special Collections Section of the Alexander Library at Rutgers University, but SFA members can view the entire collection under the Members Only section of the SFA website. For more on the collection and its donation to the Alexander Library, see the SFA Blog dated 28 April 2013 entitled “William Jones Skillman, Rutgers Class of 1860, Returns to Campus!

After the collection was purchased, it was shipped to Michael Wrona, Supervising Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Dearborn, MI. Using his extensive library experience and his certification in archival administration, Michael spent many hours of his free time organizing and cataloging the collection and preparing a finding aid, which is an index to the contents of the collection. The collection was then shipped to Jay Skillman in Middlesex, NJ, who spent many hours of his free time expanding the finding aid and photographing and digitizing the numerous documents in the collection. It was Jay who then presented the collection to the Alexander Library.

All members of the Association, both present and future, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Michael and Jay for their extensive work on the collection and to Ken Skillman, our Webmaster, for his time and effort in posting the collection on our website. As members of the Skillman Family Association, we are truly fortunate to be able to view every document in this wonderful collection online without having to travel to the Alexander Library in New Brunswick, NJ. In my opinion, this access alone is well worth the price of our annual dues. Be sure to start with the Finding Aid, which will help you identify items pertaining to your own ancestors. You will note on page 4 that Jay Skillman has added his tips on some of the most interesting items in the collection. They will give you an insight to William Jones Skillman and the frustrations he faced in compiling his genealogy of our family. So take advantage of the time and hard work of your cousins and spend some of your time with the William Jones Skillman Collection. You are likely to be well rewarded!

John E. Skillman III

William Jones Skillman, Rutgers Class of 1860, Returns to Campus!

On April 20, 2013, the Reverend William Jones Skillman’s original letters, notebooks, and other documents which he used to compile the family history, returned to the place of his studies so long ago! The Reverend William Jones Skillman Collection was discovered in an antiques shop in Connecticut. The collection was purchased by three Skillman descendants, John E. Skillman III, Michael J. Wrona, and myself, Jay Skillman. Now at the Archives and Special Collections at Rutgers University, his collection has finally found a permanent home. Ninety-nine years after his death, I feel that, along with his life’s work, a special, more intangible part of him has returned to Rutgers. Spending 2012 reading the entire collection, I came to get a sense of the Reverend. You could tell when his feelings had been hurt, see his humor, his anger, his personal beliefs, and even his sense of wonder within pages written as long as one hundred and forty years ago. Now all of his notes and all the letters he kept that were sent from people across the United States and beyond are preserved at his alma mater.

Rutgers University Campus
Reverend William Jones SkillmanWhile William Jones Skillman had “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin” published first in the Princeton Press, and later in “The N.Y. Genealogical and Biographical Record” in 1906-1908, there is more to be learned from the non-published part of the collection. Some letters serve to give a sense of the person. For example, there was one correspondent whose only interest in the family history was monetary gain (this really angered the Revered, who said “why not get out of the devil-clutch of greed and money!”). There was another whose political views were made clear — “All Skillmans is [sic] Democrats.” Some tell a little something about themselves, like being intelligent but illiterate and needing a relative to write it down for them. One spells phonetically, but at least he was able to express himself.
Some family secrets were directly revealed, and other hints have already led to new discoveries. Finding out James Carnahan Skillman was a detective was the lesser of the two surprises his letter revealed! A notebook reference to a Skillman changing his name to Stewart has now led to the discovery of living Skillman-Stewart descendants. The Reverend pondering the possibility that the Dutch Schillemans could be related led the Skillman DNA Project to test a Schilleman, but the one Schilleman who has tested so far is not related to the Skillmans. All this, and more, will be discussed in future blogs, and the Collection Finding Aid and images of the actual Collection itself will be appearing in the Members Only section of the Skillman Family Association website.
For those wishing to see the original collection in person…
Special Collections and University Archives
Archibald S. Alexander Library
Rutgers University Libraries

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

169 College Avenue

New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1163

Phone: 848/932-7006

SC/UA is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In the Alexander Library follow the signs for the Archives and Special Collections, however the Collection is not in this room. The Collection is now housed in the Archives underground climate controlled vault, but by filling out a simple request slip, it can be brought up from the vault for viewing. This is a very simple process and takes only a few minutes (I have examined items from the vault myself on several occasions). The Finding Aid will be made available online through “The Genealogical Society of New Jersey” website and may also be available in the Rutgers Library computer system. There may be a short delay until the Collection is available as a call number etc. will need to be assigned to it. The Genealogical Society of New Jersey has officially taken possession of the collection, as much of the Archives are actually owned and administered through them.

Rutgers University's Janet Reimer and Jay Skillman, descendant of William Jones Skillman
Jay Skillman turning in the Collection to Janet Reimer. Michael Wrona had provided the handsome compact boxes for hundreds of letters, notebooks and more, making thousands of pages neatly filed in acid-free folders to protect them!
My sister Gail and I delivered the collection to Rutgers, which was highly appropriate as we are both fellow Rutgers graduates and also descendants of the Reverend’s Grandfather William Henry Skillman. While there, we spent some time on campus sharing the nostalgia of again being among buildings that were there when William Jones Skillman studied there.
I would like to thank Janet Reimer, GSNJ Manuscript Chair, and retired (yet still working) University Archivist (the Original University Archivist as she likes to say)! Her efforts expedited the Collection reaching its new home! Additionally, I would like to thank Michael Wrona for processing the collection and creating the first Finding Aid, this in turn helped me to read, digitally photograph, and add to the Finding Aid. Also, thanks to John Skillman and Bill Skillman whose help was invaluable. Finally, thanks to the Reverend William Jones Skillman himself, to whom all Skillmans owe a great debt!

Guest Post by
Jay E. Skillman
SFA Member

Our First Skillman Family Reunion

According to William Jones Skillman in “Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” Thomas1 Skillman arrived in America on August 18, 1664. In 2014 the Skillman Family Association will celebrate the 350th anniversary of that important event. What better way to celebrate than by holding a Skillman Family Reunion?

New Jersey's Millstone River Valley
This photo was taken above the town of Kingston, NJ, looking southwest towards Princeton. The body of water is Carnegie Lake, with the Delaware and Raritan Canal running along side of it. The road is Route 27, part of the Lincoln Highway now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Of particular interest is the red building with the black Mansard roof at center right. This was formerly Skillman’s Mill. (Thanks to Peter D. Skillman, SFA Member, for this description.)

Beginning in the early 1700s, most of the Skillmans left New York and settled in the central part of New Jersey, primarily in Somerset and Mercer Counties. This area boasts many early Skillman gravestones in the old cemeteries, as well as churches that the Skillmans attended, many original to the period. In a two-day period in 2007 while visiting old cemeteries in central New Jersey, I found and photographed more than 100 gravestones of our 18th, 19th, and 20th century Skillman ancestors.

This area of New Jersey, being replete with Skillman history, is a logical place to hold our first family reunion. Contrary to most impressions of New Jersey, the central part of New Jersey where our early ancestors settled is beautiful with rolling hills, rivers, and farms. We will allow time for you to explore some of the Skillman history in the area. We will also have meetings on subjects such as our Skillman history and family tree, getting started in genealogy, and Skillman DNA. And there will be social time, allowing you to meet your distant cousins.

So please mark your calendar for our first Skillman family reunion in August, 2014, and plan a vacation around it. We will post details on the website as they develop, so please stay tuned. We will also need a Reunion Committee, so please let us know if you are willing to serve.

John E. Skillman III