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Francis Skillman papers

Call Number



1769-1896, inclusive


Skillman, Francis


2.8 Linear Feet in one manuscript box and two flat boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


Francis Skillman (1817-circa 1897) of Roslyn, Nassau County (part of Queens County in the nineteenth century), on Long Island, N.Y. was a Justice of the Peace from 1851-1876 in North Hempstead, a genealogist who published a family history of the Skillmans in 1892, and a farmer. The Francis Skillman papers include materials from each of these aspects of Skillman's life. These materials include correspondence, a genealogy manuscript and the research underlying the manuscript, journals, a docket book, property agreements, and miscellaneous historical documents. The journals principally concern Skillman's farming activities and his hiring of help. The correspondence can generally be categorized as: letters from the Civil War years to Skillman from Christian Walthert, a private in the 15th New York Regiment of Engineers; letters from Skillman to his brother principally concerning family matters; and responses to Skillman's genealogical inquiries. Genealogical information on the Schenck and Onderdonk families can also be found in the collection.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Skillman (1817-circa 1897) was born at the Wallabout (now part of Brooklyn, N.Y.), the son of Thomas Skillman (1791-1841) and Catherine Onderdonk (1792-1868). As a boy, Skillman moved to Manhasset, Long Island, to live with his grandfather. Skillman married Sarah Ann Schenck in 1842. After marrying, Skillman moved to Roslyn, Long Island. Manhasset and Roslyn were, and are, both part of North Hempstead, where Skillman was Justice of the Peace from 1851-1876. (During the nineteenth century, North Hempstead was part of Queens County, New York; after part of Queens was consolidated into New York City in 1898, North Hempstead became part of the newly-formed Nassau County.) Skillman was also a member of the New York Assembly in 1867 and 1868. Sarah died in 1864 and Skillman married again in 1865, to Josephine D. Onderdonk. Francis and Josephine had one child, Elizabeth, born 1871. Francis frequently corresponded with his younger brother, Joseph (1827-1872), who lived at Black Stump, Long Island (now known as Fresh Meadows in Queens). Francis delved deeply into the history of the various branches of Skillmans, following the extended family's migration across America and publishing The Skillmans of New York in 1892. (Source: The Skillmans of New York, in the Brooklyn Historical Society library at call number CS71.S5555 1892).


The collection is arranged by topic and format.

Scope and Contents

The Francis Skillman papers include a range of materials related to his activities as a justice of the peace, family genealogist, and farmer. The collection includes correspondence, a genealogy manuscript and the research underlying the manuscript, journals, a docket book, property agreements, a political poster, and miscellaneous historical documents.

Skillman's docket book covers 1851-1876, his years as Justice of the Peace of Queens County at North Hempstead (now part of Nassau County). The book includes cases brought to the court, testimony taken, decisions, and other information about the trials. Cases concerned theft, failure to pay debts, disputes over property, wages, etc, and assault. Some cases involved African-Americans. The book also includes a record of marriages performed by Skillman.

The collection includes three journals maintained by Skillman. Two journals, ranging from 1844-1864, include daily notes, principally concerning farm activities and transactions. Some entries include other brief observations about weather, illnesses, fires, general farm conditions, and the like. The journal concludes in March 1864 with Skillman's poignant entries about his first wife's death. A third journal is principally a record of farmhands and household help, with occasional other entries, 1853-1896. At least one such farmhand, from 1873-1878, was African-American.

The collection includes a manuscript version of Francis's The Skillmans of New York, with the extensive correspondence, notes, clippings, transcriptions, tables, drawings, original historical documents (e.g., receipts, marriage and baptism certificates) and other materials accumulated during the research of the manuscript. Most of this material is in a scrapbook. The correspondence ranges from the 1850s to 1890s, across several branches of the Skillmans, both those around New York City and Long Island and those farther away, including Chenango County (N.Y.), Minnesota, Texas, and South Dakota. The Schenck family also appears significantly in this genealogical correspondence. The collection also includes indentures, agreements and maps involving the property of Onderdonks (a part of the extended Skillman family) and others at Hempstead and Oyster Bay, Long Island (1769-1814, 1841).

The collection includes correspondence from Francis to his brother Joseph, principally discussing family and farm matters (1858-1872). Another set of correspondence from the Civil War years is directed to Francis from Christian Walthert (or Walthart) of the 15th Regiment New York Engineers. In his letters, Walthert reported on his regiment's movements through Virginia and North Carolina, troop morale (low), requested stamps and money, and looked to Skillman as the conduit for submitting his vote in the 1864 presidential election (for McClellan).

The collection also includes a miscellany of historical documents with no apparent connection to the Skillmans or to one another, and may have been collected principally for their artifactual value. These documents date circa 1779-1875, and include receipts, correspondence, certifications of membership in the New York State Artillery (1826), and cut out autographs. Some correspondence is from Europe and is in French and Italian. The most prominent autographed correspondence appears to be from Nathaniel Greene (1779).

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The material is in the public domain.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Francis Skillman papers, ARC.280, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection, including the genealogical material and docket book, was donated in 1934 by Harry E. Stam, executor of the estate of Elizabeth Andrews, the daughter of Francis Skillman. Much of the loose correspondence in the collection also appears to have been donated by Stam and/or Charles M. Welling in 1944. One letter from Skillman to his brother was donated by Barbara Burr Hubbs in 1959. The source of the three account books is unknown, but might have been part of the 1934 Stam donation.

Related Materials

Extracts from Skillman's diaries were transcribed by Edna Huntington of the Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society) in 1940. These are available in the BHS library: "Extracts from the diary of Francis Skillman, Roslyn, L.I." in Long Island miscellaneous vital records (call number F127.L853.L66.1900z.vol 3).

BHS holds the Henry Onderdonk papers (call number ARC.045), which includes some correspondence with Francis Skillman.

The Queens County Library holds a collection of Joseph Onderdonk Skillman correspondence, which includes letters from Francis.

Collection processed by

Larry Weimer

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:17:07 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English

Processing Information

The collection was processed in December 2011 by Larry Weimer. The collection combines accessions 1973.149, 1973.150, 1973.151, 1974.243, and 1977.179.


Brooklyn Historical Society
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201