52 Ancestors: Week 13: John Skidmore and a Murder Trial

First Presbyterian Church
 of Jamaica,Long Island,
 Queens, New York

Again, this is the research work of Warren Skidmore in 1980.  Here is a synopsis:

John Skidmore was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts on 11 April 1643, the youngest child of Thomas and Ellen Skidmore.

John married Susanna Davis in about 1662 in Jamaica (named after the Jameco Indian Tribe), Long Island, and they had five children.

click within
image to enlarge

John had settled at Jamaica, Long Island, by 1662 when it was voted and concluded at a town meeting that “John Skidmore shall have the first lot next the highway…upon consideration that he shall do the town’s work for smithery.”

On 1 January 1663/4 his name is signed as one of the proprietors of Jamaica in the statement of allegiance addressed to Charles II.  Long Island was under Dutch rule at this time and the men of Jamaica protested that their “soil being invaded and His Majesty’s rights usurped by the Hollanders to the great scandal of government and discouragement of His Majesty’s hopeful plantation which we will for the future defend as Englishmen, just proprietors, and loyal subjects.”

His name appears frequently in the Jamaica town minutes. As early as 1668, he served as town clerk and was given “twelve shillings for his pains (service).” He was also clerk for the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica which dates from 1662 and claims to be the oldest church of the denomination in the United States.

His home lot in Jamaica was on the north side of the burying ground (now Prospect Cemetery at 159th Street near Jamaica Ave).

In addition to blacksmithing, John Skidmore was also a tobacco planter.

In 1675, his eldest son John, then about 12 years old, accidentally shot and killed a young friend, Thomas Barker, while his parents were gone from home. In spite of his youth, the lad was indicted for murder.  On 22 July 1675 John and Susanna Skidmore addressed a petition to Gov. Andros; “to our great grief and trouble it fell out so that my son taking up a gun which stood in the house not knowing it was charged, yet presuming to cock the gun without examining whether it was charged or not, it did that mischievous act killing the other for which hath been so great a grief to your petitioners in so much that we know not well how to bear our affliction.”

The petition asks that the case be heard by persons unprejudiced to their son for “seeing some of our neighbors manifest so much malice against us and our child adds much to our grief." The petition is signed by John Skidmore and the mark of Susanna, his wife.

The trial was at New York City on 7 October 1675. Samuel Barker, the father of the victim brought an indictment against John Skidmore, Jr. The jury was sworn and the lads present at the shooting said that there was no quarrel between the boys.  Another witness stated that the young Barker forgave John Skidmore before he died.  The jury returned with a verdict of “chance medley” and the prisoner was cleared.  His younger brother Joseph (our ancestor) was only about 1 year old at the time.

The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead
(a home in the Jamaica area built in 1654)
Painting by William R Miller
On 13 Feb 1677/8, John Skidmore, “being now sick of the small poxe” made his last will.  His wife Susannah had just died, perhaps of the same complaint.  John left all his property to be divided among his five children.

However, John recovered from the pox, but then died about 3 years later:  John (age 37) died at Jamaica, Long Island, just previous to 7 July 1680 when an inventory of his estate was made. Including real property, it totaled £127. His children (approx. ages 17, 15, 12, 6, 4) appear to have been divided among several kinsmen.

  • http://www.firstchurchjamaica.org/
  • http://www.thirteen.org/queens/history.html
  • Thomas Skidmore (Scadamore), 1605-1684, of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, and Fairfield, Connecticut by Warren Skidmore, 1980  https://openlibrary.org/books/OL4164222M/Thomas_Skidmore_(Scudamore)_1605-1684_of_Westerleigh_Gloucestershire_and_Fairfield_Connecticut/borrow
  • Records of the town of Jamaica, Long Island, New York, 1656-1751, edited by Josephine C. Frost,Published 1914 by Long Island Historical Society in Brooklyn, N.Y .


  1. The language of the past is fascinating. One's work or labor is referred to as "his pains" while a fatal disease is "a complaint" and a bad accident is a "chance medley" Reflective of a fatalistic attitude that perhaps one's lot in life was destined.

    1. I agree, that is really interesting. I had noticed the language, but not put it all together. Very astute!


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