The Reverend William Jones Skillman Collection: The Early Letters


Author’s Note

As previously mentioned, the Reverend William Jones Skillman original letters, and other documents were found, digitally photographed, and then the originals were placed in the Archives and Special Collections at Rutgers University.

As magnificent a work as is “Skillmans of America and Their Kin”, the Collection contains even more. The best of it captures a little about the lives and the personalities of our ancestors more than one hundred years ago.

The collection is available in the SFA members section as pdf files. The first pdf file contains Box 1 F1 to F5 (Folders 1 to 5) and these are the subject of this Blog. If you attempt to read the original letters, I would note that the + and – zoom feature is useful in making out the writing. It took me a year to photograph the whole collection, besides the time spent interpreting the handwriting; unfortunately a few are also slightly out of focus.


So much could be written about the letters. Each time I look at them I see more. I have tried to limit this to what stood out to me. These are my own impressions and could be wrong. Comments would be appreciated, even if it is just letting us know you read the blog!

Box 1 F1 is a letter from Elizabeth Andrews, dated March 27, 1907. She is under her Grandfather’s entry SOA #155 in “Skillmans of America and Their Kin” [155. THOMAS6 SKILLMAN (Francis5, Thomas4, Joseph3, Thomas2, Thomas1) [See either SOA or the collection letter for details.]

While photographing the collection, I noticed that beyond the content of the letters themselves, the envelopes and stationary provide a wealth of historical information.


The envelopes and stationary are from The Mohawk Hotel, Brooklyn NY, and postmarked March 27, 1907 at 1:30 p.m. So Elizabeth mailed it the same day it was written.

The Mohawk Hotel is now The Mohawk Apartments, 379 Washington Avenue, Clinton Hill Historic District, Brooklyn New York. “An upscale residential hotel”, it had been built a mere 3 years earlier, in 1904. Perhaps Elizabeth was living here at the time.

The irony of the use of a Native American image and name, is not lost on me. It would be deemed politically incorrect now, but was quite common at the time.

The letter contains straightforward and useful genealogical information. Elizabeth’s mother is mentioned as being the daughter of Judge Horatio Onderdonk. There are numerous entries on the internet about the Judge’s historic home, Onderdonk House. Interestingly, Onderdonk House is also in a video game from the “Sims” series. A website notes that “Based on the likeness of an actual historic home, this house from SimCity 3000 is now available for download for your Sims 2 neighborhood.”

In reviewing the letter, I realized that Elizabeth was the daughter of Francis Skillman. Francis Skillman was the Author of “Skillmans of New York” and was a former friend of WJS. Francis had passed away in 1898. Elizabeth mentioned that the letter had been forwarded from Roslyn, where Francis had lived. Even though it was nine years after his death, could the Reverend’s letter have been meant for Francis? You would wonder too, if you knew what I know! However, this story is about Elizabeth’s letter, so I will end the discussion there. I will save the subject of Francis, the Reverend and how their friendship may have come to a startling end for another time.

Box 1 F2 does not have much that is noteworthy, except that the person WJS was trying to find had died. One insight emerges from the address on the envelope. One could reconstruct the movements of the Reverend William Jones Skillman himself, from the many addresses he had over the years. Being a Reverend he moved to different parishes.

Reverend William Jones Skillman addresses in this first set are:

168 South Pearl Street
Albany, NY

27 March 1876, Box 1, F4
16 February 1881, Box 1, F2

462 Lyceum Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

2 February 1901, Box 1, F5
27 March 1907, Box 1, F1

Box 1 F3 is of interest to all of the descendants of SOA #8 Jacob3 Skillman (including myself), being a reference to the land he once owned. We learn that Jacob bought land in Kingston, New Jersey from the Widow of Barefoot Brinson, rather than from the man himself, as it appears in SOA. There is a record of Jacob’s Grandson SOA #53 JACOB5 SKILLMAN (Abraham4, Jacob3, Thomas2, Thomas1), and wife Sarah selling some of the land. Earlier more of the land had been sold, eventually going to Lemuel Scudder.

The exact layout of all of Jacob’s land is in question. There he bought land (600 acres says tradition), and built the first mill at that point, just where the Great Road between New York and Philadelphia (halfway between the cities) crosses the Millstone. There also he opened a store, and besides kept a tavern. The likely spot is the current location of the Kingston Mill (a later Mill built in 1888) by Route 27 in Kingston, New Jersey. Another possibility is Scudder’s Mill Road, Princeton NJ, since Jacob’s Mill eventually went to Scudder.

Kingston-NJ-Cemetery-and-MillThe Kingston Mill in 2010. Photo: Jay Skillman

Box 1 F4 contains Letters written by Eliza H. Burke, Princeton, NJ; 27 March, 20 July, 5 December, 1876 and 13 January 1877. Daughter of SOA #99. PETER6 SKILLMAN (Gerardus5, Thomas4, Isaac3, Thomas2, Thomas1)

When I read the first letter, the thing that struck me was on the back of the envelope. There is written “good natured, pleasant letter”. I soon learned to recognize the black ink and handwriting of the Reverend William Jones Skillman himself. Not only do we get a letter from 1876, but we get the Reverend’s own thought about it and a hint at his personality. There would be many more to come. Indeed reading the four letters from her; I would agree with his assessment of them. Eliza’s letters are pleasant, and she was very helpful. She made a good many inquiries to help with the family history. Many of the people she talked to, then corresponded with WJS as well. Words of Wisdom from Eliza: “When we are young we are looking forwards, it’s only when we are growing old that we look back.” And “I am obliged to you for furnishing me with the names of my ancestors, it is wonderful to trace a family back so far.” We are all still obliged to the Reverend, and will be, far into the future.

Thanks to all who have or continue to contribute to Skillman Genealogy and the Skillman Family Association, including Bill Skillman, Greg Skillman, Ken Skillman, Lee Fleming, Michael Wrona, and of course especially to the late John E. Skillman III.

Jay Skillman
Administrator of the Skillman DNA Project

For SFA Members

The best way to find if there is a letter written about or especially by your direct ancestor, is to find the most recent ancestor (late 1800’s to early 1900’s) that has been assigned a number in “Skillmans of America and Their Kin”. Then search in the Finding Aid by that number, in the form SOA #___. In example, the Reverend William Jones is SOA #165. I am willing to help, if you need assistance checking for a letter.

A Meaningful Book for Skillmans and Their Cousins

Would you enjoy reading detailed stories about the lives of your Skillman cousins? If so, my book Beyond DNA: Inheriting Spiritual Strength from the Women in Your Family Tree is for you! The book includes stories about your cousin Annie Skillman (later Mrs. Isaac Henry Bosman), her son (Rev. John T. Bosman), her grandson (George LeCato Bosman, Esq.), and her grandson (John Bosman). Annie Skillman was the daughter of F. Robert J. Skillman (1813-1890) of Baltimore (see the Skillman Tree for more on his ancestors).

Beyond DNA by Selena PostMy book, while written to encourage women toward a new twist on genealogy (seeking to learn of the spiritual lives of their female ancestors), includes chapters about ANNIE (with reflections on her Skillman family and ancestors — thanks to Bill Skillman’s help), MAMIE (wife of Rev. Bosman including the story of his life and siblings), MARIE (wife of George LeCato Bosman and includes his story), GRACE (my mother and wife of John Bosman where you’ll meet your cousin John and his child — me).

For more details about my book, go to where you’ll see the cover, a description, some reviews, and you can use the “search inside” tool to read parts of the book. Mamie, Annie, Marie, and Grace are pictured left to right in the top row of photos on the cover.

If you would like more information, please e-mail me at, and I’d be happy to e-mail the surname key (giving you last names of all the 15 women whose chapters inhabit my book) as well as a list of names of women as they appear in photos on the cover. Since many of the women were Methodist and related to Methodist ministers, I also developed a page of information illustrating their kinship to Methodist ministers. If you’d like a copy, just ask.

Looking forward to meeting Skillman cousins at the August 2014 reunion!
Blessings! Cousin Selena

Guest Post by
Selena Post (nee: Bosman)
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

The Second Generation in America

The following is extracted from “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin” by William Jones Skillman of Philadelphia, PA. This is the beginning of the first of twelve quarterly issues published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record from January 1906 through October 1908. William Jones Skillman’s genealogy and history of the Skillman family in America covers the first five generations of Skillmans in this country and it is considered the definitive genealogy of our family. The genealogy in its entirety is available in the “Members Only” section of the website under Skillmans of America.

“2. Thomas2 Skillman (Thomas1), b. 1671…Was Commissioner of Highways, Newtown 1714; joint owner with [others] of a plat, 30 x 22 feet for a School House, May 20, 1721. This building was at Middletown (near Dutch Kills)…Subscribed £5 for erection of Dutch Ref. Church of Newtown, 1731. The first board of Kerck Meesters (wardens or trustees) of this church, chosen 1736, were Peter Berrien, Thomas Skillman, and Petrus Schenck. His pew in this church was No. 1, on the northwest side of the middle aisle, and his family home (which had been his father’s, the homestead), was at Dutch or Maspeth Kills. In 1693, Thomas, m. Annetje, dau. of Adriaen Hendricksen Aten (Aaten, Aate, Aeten, Atje) “immigrant, 1651, 36 y’r” (his age then), from Holland (van Doesburg)…The will of Thomas2 Skillman (Records of Kings County and Queens), dated Feb. 13, 1739,…names his wife, Ann, and all their then living children. Two had died young. They had:

  • Peter3, bap. In Brooklyn (Ref. Dutch Church), March 4, 1694… He d. in infancy.
  • Elizabeth3, twin with Peter, Bap. at same dates with same witnesses and church; m. 1717, Hendrick Van de Water, N. Y. City. Infant dau. Ann, bap. (Collegiate Church), Aug. 29, 1718…Both mother and child died.
  • Jan3, b. 1696.
  • Mary3, b. 1698; m. Johannes Bant (Band, Bandt, Bondt, Bond) of N. Y. City.
  • Mercy3, bap. In Brooklyn (Ref. Dutch Church), Feb. 2, 1701…She m. John Fijn (Fine), son probably of Jan Fin and Aaltje Jans, bap. (Collegiate Church) May 18, 1698…
  • Annetje3, b. 1703.
  • Abraham3, b. 1704.
  • Isaac3, b. 1706.
  • Jacob3, b. 1708.
  • Benjamin3, b. 1710.
  • Joseph3, b. 1712.”

The third and subsequent generations become much more extensive and will not be extracted into a blog. Members wishing to learn more should go to Skillmans of America in the “Members Only” section for access to the entire twelve quarterly articles.

John E. Skillman III

The First Skillman in America

The following is extracted from “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin” by William Jones Skillman of Philadelphia, PA. This is the beginning of the first of twelve quarterly issues published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record from January 1906 through October 1908. William Jones Skillman’s genealogy and history of the Skillman family in America covers the first five generations of Skillmans in this country and it is considered the definitive genealogy of our family. The genealogy in its entirety is available in the “Members Only” section of the website under the menu bar “Skillmans of America.”

“[The first Skillman in America] came probably from London or from near there. He was a musician in the Nicolls forces, and all his life, tradition says, was a musician. With his commander he sailed in the Guiney [sic], the chief of the three (possibly four) very small vessels that brought the adventurers to these shores. Down to this day he is known among his descendants always as Captain Thomas Skillman, a courtesy title, or one gained in later service in this country, or possibly it came from some militia connection merely.”

“[Thomas1 Skillman] was an Englishman, an enlisted soldier under Col. Nicolls, to whom Nieuw Amsterdam surrendered in 1664, becoming thereafter New York. This conquest achieved, the ancestor, so the story goes, being specially attached to his commander, now made Governor of the Province, did not return with his comrades in arms to the home land, but soon took a wife and settled permanently in the Newtown, (L.I.) region, at Maspeth or Dutch Kills. Then the children afterwards intermarried with their Hollandish neighbors, and so the family ultimately came to be much more largely of Belgic than of British blood.”

“With this brief introduction we now pass to the formal record (condensed) of the Skillman Family in this country, direct and collateral, running through the first three and possibly into some of the later generations, so far as details at present date can be fairly well determined.

Thomas1 Skillman, b. 1635-40. Soldier under Col. Richard Nicolls in Expedition of Duke of York, ordered by the King, Feb. 25, 1664, sailed from Portsmouth, May 15, and dropped anchor in the harbor of Nieuw Amsterdam (near present Fort Hamilton), Aug. 18, same year. After the surrender he stayed in this country and became ‘inhabitant and freeholder’ at Newtown (L.I.), under Nicolls’ patent of Jan. 13, 1666. Served in Esopus War; honorably discharged April 6, 1668. In 1669 he m. Sara, Dau. of John Petit, Newtown…John Petit and Sarah Scofield, his wife, were the parents of Sara, wife of Thomas Skillman. Children:

  • Thomas,2 b. 1671
  • Elsje, b. 1672
  • Sara, b. 1675; m. Cornelius Hendricxen, 1694. Their dau. Marytje, bap. In Ref. Dutch (Collegiate) Church, of New York, Aug. 10, 1695
  • Lijsbet, b. 1677…She m. Jan Aten, of Flatbush, brother of Thomas, settled at Jamaica, L.I. and had a child bap. there (Ref. Dutch Church), in 1705.In 1710-15, with other members of the Aten family, Jan removed to Three Mile Run, N.J…Jan Aten’s will, probated March 13, 1743, names his wife Elizabeth.”

(To be continued with the 2nd generation)

John E. Skillman III