The Immigrants
Woodstock, Connecticut
The Move to Royalton
Skinners Multiply
Calvin & Sally's Family
Lewis Skinner Family
John Calvin Skinner
Lewis & Olive Ann
Other Skinner Towns
Cheat Sheet

Roxbury, MA Settles Woodstock, CT
  Due to the system of land grants, new settlements were usually established by a group of people from one town who had identified a parcel of unsettled land and petitioned for a land grant. Woodstock, CT was settled by a group of folks from Roxbury, MA. In fact, the original name for the new town in Connecticut was New Roxbury. The petition for a land grant by 36 families in Roxbury was made in 1683 and the grant was made in 1684. Among those first settlers were three members of the Lyon family. A Lyon descendent of those settlers would later become an important figure in the Skinner family. The Skinners were not among the first settlers of Woodstock--they arrived almost 60 years later.

An Interesting Twist
  In town meetings in Roxbury to discuss how to approach settling the new land grant in Connecticut, it was decided that the citizens of Roxbury would financially support the efforts of the new settlers with a donation of 100 pounds, to be provide at the rate of 20 pounds every year for five years. To compensate for this financial support of the new settlers, the land in the grant was divided in two. The 'stayers', those in Roxbury not headed to New Roxbury, would get one half of the land and the 'goers' would get the other half. In 1686, thirteen men from Roxbury went to the new land grant to start the settlement. They became known as the "old thirteen" and they held their first meeting in New Roxbury on August 25th, 1686. Over the next year or two 39 settlers moved to New Roxbury. Unhappy that the town name did not give them their own identity, in 1689 they petitioned to change the town name to Woodstock. The name Woodstock was suggested by Capt. Samuel Sewell, Chief Justice of Massachussets, who was also one of the judges at the Salem Witch Trials.

New settlements must have at least two mills--a saw mill to saw lumber for new dwellings and a grist mill to grind grains into flour and feed. This was the grist mill at Woodstock, CT.

Two Generations of Abrahams

Abraham (Jr) married into the Hills family. His wife Tabitha Hills, was grandaughter of Joseph Hills, the first settler of Malden. Joseph arrived in America on July 17, 1638 on the ship "Susan and Ellen" and seems to be the organizer (financier) of that voyage . Joseph initially settled in Charlestown, but within a few years moved across the Mystic River to unsettled land. First known as "The Mystic Side", Joseph later named the town after Maldon, Essex, England where he lived prior to the voyage to America. Joseph was a 'woolen draper' who traded his goods in London and apparently was quite well off. During his life he had four wives. Each of the first three died . One marriage was to the sister of Henry Dunster, the first President of Harvard. Joseph compiled the first code of laws printed in New England. He was a town selectman, a magistrate, leader of the military in Malden and the first speaker of the house in Massachusetts. In 1662, as partial payment for his work compiling the colony's laws, the General Court of Massachusetts granted Joseph Hills 500 acres in what is now Hudson, New Hampshire. Three of his sons settled on the land and became founders of Hudson. Another of Joseph's sons, Gershom, was the father of Tabitha, Abraham Skinner's wife. Three of Tabitha's sisters died in Woodstock, but both parents, Gershom and his wife, died in Malden. The move from Malden to Woodstock is likely due to a connection between the husbands of the Hills sisters and the settlement of Woodstock.

Abraham & Tabitha Skinner Family
  One of Abraham and Tabitha's sons, Ebenezer, died at the age of 7 while the family was still living in Malden. Son Isaac married Hannah Marcy in the Woodstock Congregational Church on June 19, 1746. Son William married Thankful Mascraft in the same church on January 2, 1746 and William eventually became the Deacon of the church. Two daughters of this family, Abigail and Tabitha, were twins, never married, and lived out their lives in 'the old homestead' in Woodstock. Son Benjamin Skinner married Elizabeth Lyon, sister of Zebulon Lyon. Zebulon later becomes an important figure in the Skinner family.

The Hills, Skinners & Chaffees

In 1742 and 1743 land records show that Abraham and Tabitha Skinner sold their properties in Malden. On December 14, 1742, Abraham and Tabitha purchased two tracts of land totaling about 145 acres, a house and partial saw mill in Woodstock, CT from Joseph Chaffee. Abraham was a blacksmith, a trade common in the Skinner family. Abraham appears to have moved to Woodstock during 1743, almost 60 years after the town was first settled. The move included his wife Tabitha Hills, five sons and three daughters.

The Unitarians and the Skinners
  Abraham and Tabitha were Unitarians. All of the children of Abraham and Tabitha Skinner for which baptismal records exist were baptised at the First Unitarian Church in Revere, MA (near Malden). If blacksmithing was a trade common in the family, being a Deacon in the local church is just as common in the family. Although not all the decendants of immigrant Thomas Skinner are Unitarians, it is a religion very common in the family. Another descendent of immigrant Thomas Skinner, Clarence Russell Skinner, was a key figure in the Unitarian Church in America. The publishing arm of the Unitarian Church is called Skinner House Books. Read more about Skinners and the Unitarians at the 'Miscellany' link.

Deacon William Skinner
  Of Abraham and Tabitha's children, William is of most interest to the relatives of Lewis Bailey Skinner since he is a direct ancestor. William would have been in his early 20s when the family moved to Woodstock. In 1766 William was made Deacon of the Congregrational church in Woodstock. In colonial times, the sparcity of trained Ministers meant that settlers would elect lay people to substitute for a trained minister. On the surface, it appears unusual that Deacon William Skinner was a Congregrationalist, while his parents were avowed Unitarians. It turns out to be not that unusual--in colonial settlements, there was normally only one meeting house (church) built and the denomination did not matter so much, since it was the 'only game in town'. In fact, the 'congregational' churches arose because local church members did not want affiliations with larger religious bodies. 'Congregational' was a label that indicated the local church members, the 'congregation', controlled the affairs of the church, not some other larger body.

The original Woodstock meeting place, where William Skinner was Deacon, was destroyed in the hurricane of 1938. The building pictured above replaced the original and is located on the village green. The cemetery in the foreground of the picture contains the graves of several Skinners, including Deacon William and his wife, Thankful Mascraft Skinner.

The names Sabra and Ebenezer were used twice in this family. Since childhood death was not uncommon, families often named later children after those who had died at a young age.

Deacon William Skinner's family is pivotal in the Skinner genealogy. Members of this family served in the Revolutionary War, were some of the original settlers of Royalton, Vermont, and had a large influence on both the direction and 'personality' of future Skinner generations. Deacon William married Thankful Mascraft in Woodstock, CT on January 2, 1746. They had 15 (yes, 15!) children. One son, William (Jr.) became, like his father, a Deacon later in life. Another son, Ebenezer was one of the organizers of the Woodstock Academy in 1801. The Academy still exists today. Another of the organizers of the Woodstock Academy was Benjamin Lyon, brother of Zebulon, who we will learn plays a very important role in the Skinner family. Three sons Calvin, Luther, and Isaac served in the Revolutionary War. The story of each of these three Skinner brothers is of great interest and leads us to the next move for the Skinners. Calvin is of special interest because he is a direct ancestor of Lewis Bailey Skinner.

Calvin Skinner & Valley Forge
  Calvin Skinner, one of the sons of Deacon William Skinner and Thankful Mascraft grew up in Woodstock, CT. Calvin married Eleanor Porter and they had two children, Sally and Calvin (Jr.). Calvin Sr. joined the Revolutionary War effort and served under Captain Joseph Elliot's company from Killingly, CT. Calvin participated in the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775 and the Relief of Boston, 1775-1776 and he crossed the Delaware with George Washington's troops on Christmas night, 1776. Calvin also served at Valley Forge, where some reports indicate he contracted "camp fever" and died. Other reports indicate he died of exposure. His death in September of 1777 occurred 2 months prior to the birth of his second child, Calvin (Jr.). Eleanor Porter Skinner's later remarriage would set the stage for a move to Vermont and would also greatly influence the young Calvin Skinner.

Above is a paper that Calvin Skinner likely carried to prove his birth and family membership, as was common at the time, since birth certificates did not exist. Note Calvin's name upside down at the bottom right. The document lists the births of Calvin's parents, William and Thankful Skinner and all of his siblings. Except for the last two entries, it is identical the entries in the family bible owned and described by Lewis Bailey Skinner in the family genealogy he compiled in the 1930s. Lewis Bailey Skinner believed that the bible was once owned by Luther Skinner, a brother of Calvin Skinner Sr. This document was found on eBay and is now owned by a member of the family.

At the right is a monument at the entrance to the Thompson, CT graveyard listing the Revolutionary War soldier buried there. Calvin Skinner is listed in the right column.

Above left is Calvin Skinner's grave with the footstone in the foreground and the headstone in the background. The flag indicates it is the gravesite of a Revolutionary war soldier. Above right is a close up of the headstone.  The inscription reads:

In memory of Mr. Calvin Skinner son
of dec. [Deacon] William Skinner
& Mrs. Thankfull his
Wife of Woodstock
Who Departed This
Life July 14, 1777
In ye 32 Years of his age

I have bid y[e] empty
World adieu
My dearest friends
And so must you

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(c) Jerry Gottsacker, 2008