University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Lukens Family Papers

1750 - 1904
(bulk dates 1759 - 1800)

Manuscript Collection Number: 161
Accessioned: Gift of Moyerman Family, 1972.
Extent: 2.33 linear ft.
Content: Accounts, applications, bonds, certificates, conveyances, correspondence, deeds, drafts, drawings,
field notes, instructions, inventories, land grants, letters, letters of credit, maps, land patents, receipts, sketches,
land surveys, survey lists, warrants.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Spring 1992 by Neva J. Specht.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

John Lukens (1720?-1789) served as Surveyor-General of Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1761-1776, and of Pennsylvania, 1781-1789. He was born to Peter and Gaynor Lukens in probably 1720. He married his first cousin Sarah Lukens (b. 1720?) in 1741 and they produced seven children: Charles (d. 1784?), Elizabeth (d. 1793), Jesse (1748-1776), Gaynor (d. 1788), Tacy (d. 1834), Judah (d. infancy), and Edith (n.d.).

Both John and Sarah were descendants of the original German immigrant families who settled Germantown. Jan and Mary Lukens and Rynier and Margaret Tysson left Rotterdam in July 1683 and arrived in Philadelphia in October 1683.

Lukens was involved with many influential men in Philadelphia. He co-founded the Hatsborough Public Library in 1755, and was acquainted with figures such as David Rittenhouse, Benjamin Franklin, and Francis Alison. Lukens' public position gained him a role in the team which surveyed the tangent line, middle point, and the twelve mile radius from the center of the New Castle Courthouse which formed the northern boundary of Delaware. These measurements, taken in 1762, were used by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in laying out the final Mason-Dixon line. Lukens belonged to learned Philadelphia associations such as the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge and the American Philosophical Society. Those types of associations lead to his appointment by Thomas and Richard Penn in 1761 to the position of Surveyor General.

William Penn's early decisions about Pennsylvania land distribution gave the Land Office significant power from the beginning of settlement. The land office was comprised of the secretary for proprietary affairs, the surveyor general, and the receiver general. Over time, the surveyor general became the most powerful position in the land distribution system because his duties were an integral part of that system.

A prospective settler made "an application," that is, a request for land, in a particular place. Barring any problems such as a previous application for the same land, the secretary of proprietary affairs would issue a warrant for a survey of the property. The surveyor general then assigned a deputy in the appropriate district to perform the survey. After its completion, the surveyor general certified the survey's accuracy and returned a report to the secretary who could then formally grant the land.

Lukens remained Surveyor General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until the American Revolution. In 1776, he was ordered to close down the land office in Philadelphia and move to Lancaster where he remained until October 1778. Until 1780, the Pennsylvania land office was essentially shut down. In 1781, the General Assembly elected Lukens to his previous position of Surveyor General for a five year term, since the position was no longer an appointed one. In 1785, he was reelected and continued in the position until his death in 1789.

Two of John Lukens' sons, Charles and Jesse, worked for their father as Deputy Surveyors. Lawrence Keene, who was married to Lukens' daughter Gaynor, also worked for John Lukens. Each of these men had their own district, mostly in the Northeast part of Pennsylvania. Gaynor and Lawrence Keene settled on family land in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Lawrence worked as surveyor in that area. They had three children. Charles Lukens married Margaret Sanderson in about 1769 and together they had five children. Jesse Lukens never married. Elizabeth Lukens married Joseph Jacob Wallis in 1775 and they produced seven children.

After John Lukens' death in 1789 his estate was administered by his grandson Lawrence Keene, Jr., and then by his granddaughter Sarah Lukens Keene. After their deaths John Lukens' great-grandchildren became the administrators of the family estate. Two of his great-grand children (Henry Edgar Keene and Ellen Keene Mitchell) filed a law-suit in 1869 against other members of the family over the liquidation of family lands, which were quite substantial because of John Lukens' many years as surveyor general.


Bingham Munger, Donna. Pennsylvania Land Records: A History and Guide for Research.
Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1991.

Mancabelli, Robert. "Becoming "a humble and obedient servant:" John Lukens and the Pennsylvania Land Office,
1761-1789." Research Paper, History Department, University of Delaware, 1992.

Lukens Family Tree in the Lukens collection folder, Special Collections, University of Delaware.

Scope and Content Note

The Lukens Family papers span the dates 1750-1904, with the bulk dates 1759-1800. The little-over two linear feet of the collection includes business and personal correspondence, land office business papers, sketches, and maps. Also included are personal and business accounts, business and household receipts, and legal documents.

There are eight series in the Lukens Family Papers. John Lukens Papers is the largest and is divided into three sub-series: Lukens business papers, both correspondence and documents; Legal papers; and Family Letters. Other series include: Charles Lukens Business Correspondence; Jesse Lukens Correspondence and Business Papers; Lawrence Keene, Business Papers; Sarah Lukens Keene Papers; Henry Edgar Keene Papers; Ellen Keen Mitchell Papers; and Miscellaneous Correspondence and Documents. Some of the materials from these series have been removed to an oversize manuscript box for storage.

Detailed notes about the John Lukens Papers series can be found in the container list below.

The Charles Lukens Business Correspondence includes letters and business papers from 1768-1777. Charles was John and Sarah Lukens' oldest son. His letters concern surveying and purchasing land. Also included is a hand-made queen of hearts playing card.

The material from Jesse Lukens, John Lukens' second son, consists of correspondence with family and business partners, and business papers that include accounts, receipts, and IOUs. One document shows the amount each of Jesse Lukens' heirs received following his death. Jesse Lukens died intestate so a probate inventory was done and is included with his papers. This series spans 1768-1804.

The papers of Lawrence Keene, son-in-law of John Lukens, include documents about the settlement of the Keene estate. Reflected in the papers are his business and land transactions. Also included are the accounts from Elizabeth Lukens Wallis, Lawrence Keene's sister-in-Law. She took care of Lawrence Jr. and Jesse Keene (d. 1822) following the death of their father, who had been preceded in death by his wife Gaynor Lukens Keene. The accounts show the type of clothes their aunt bought for the two boys, school costs such as books and boarding, and other miscellaneous expenses. Lawrence and Gaynor's daughter Sarah Keene is not mentioned, but probably went to live with her Aunt Tacy Lukens Lenox and Uncle David Lenox.

The correspondence of Sarah Lukens Keene (1784?-1866) spans from 1818 to 1865 and includes letters about disputes in the neighborhood by the Irish servants, a cholera outbreak in Philadelphia (1832), family illnesses, family loans, land transactions, tenant rents in Huntington County, disputes with a Mr. Madden who had dammed a creek that ran through her property for his saw mill, and other discussions with her lawyer about selling land in Western Pennsylvania.

Other documents in the Sarah Lukens Keene papers include cancelled checks, receipts, and lists of accounts. Also included are her last will and testament and petitions concerning the settlement of her estate. Most of her estate went to her niece, Ellen Keene Mitchell. Provisions were made in her will, however, for the establishment of a home for older "gentlewomen" in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Sarah Lukens Keene's house and lot at the corner of 10th and Chestnut in Philadelphia was sold in 1872 (six years after her death) for $165,000.

The small amount of material from Henry Edgar Keene, great grandson of John Lukens and nephew of Sarah Lukens Keene, includes documents reflecting his profession as an attorney-at-law. The documents concern settlement of estates, family land transactions, and selling his aunt's house at 10th and Chestnut.

The Ellen Keene Mitchell Papers include both correspondence and household receipts and date from 1866-1904. Mitchell was the great-granddaughter of John Lukens and the niece of Sarah Lukens Keene. She married Dr. S.B. Wylie Mitchell in 1857. Ellen Keene Mitchell's correspondence includes letters about her aunt's estate, receipts from charitable organizations, requests for money, stock information, and cancelled checks which had been written to her sister-in-law. Other papers include household receipts from 1891-1904. Those receipts show the kinds of purchases an upper-class professional family made during the 1890s. Receipts include the following kinds of purchases: ice, coal, dry goods, bakery items, groceries, liquor, utilities, carpentry, newspapers, stationery, plumbing and lighting fixtures, flowers, medicines, stocks, wigs, hosiery, jewelry, and fabrics. There are also receipts for property taxes and various kinds of insurance.

The last series, Miscellaneous Correspondence and Documents, includes undated or unsigned items and letters and documents not directly related to the Lukens family.

Series Outline


I.     John Lukens Papers, 1759-1789

     I.1.  Business Papers, 1759-1789

          A.  Correspondence, 1762-1789

          B.  Documents, 1759-1791

          C.  Miscellaneous

     I.2.  Legal Papers, 1732-1866

     I.3.  Family Letters to John Lukens, 1767-1787

II.    Charles Lukens Business Correspondence, 1768-1777

III.   Jesse Lukens Correspondence and Business Papers, 1768-1804

IV.    Lawrence Keene, Jr., Business Papers, 1777-1820

V.     Sarah Lukens Keene Papers, 1818-1865

VI.    Henry Edgar Keene Papers, 1827-1872

VII.   Ellen Keene Mitchell Papers, 1866-1904

VIII.  Miscellaneous Correspondence and Documents

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I.  John Lukens Papers, 1759-1789
          Series I.1.  Business Papers, 1759-1789

               This subseries is divided into correspondence,
          documents, and miscellaneous items pertaining to John
          Lukens' career as Surveyor General of Pennsylvania from
          1761-1789.  Correspondence is arranged in chronological
          order and is generally directed to John Lukens,
          Surveyor General from his deputy surveyors and other
          business acquaintances.  Included with the
          correspondence are also occasional copies of letters
          from John Lukens to various business associates.       
               Subjects include discussion of disputed lands his
          deputy surveyors had been sent to survey; quality and
          quantity of work his deputy surveyors were doing;
          settlement of accounts between John Lukens and his
          employees; description of land settlement in Western
          Pennsylvania; requests for assignments to larger
          districts by deputy surveyors; disputes between deputy
          surveyors over boundaries of districts; and letters of
          recommendation for candidates for the deputy surveyor
          positions.  Correspondents include John Scull, James
          Scull, William Scull, Jasper Scull, Bartram Galbraith,
          Henry Vandershire, David Rittenhouse (1 letter), Thomas
          Lightfoot, Wallace Thomas, William Lynn, Witton
          Atkinson, William Wheeler, and Francis Alison (one
          letter in F12).
               Lukens' business documents are arranged
          chronologically into the following categories: 
          warrants, survey lists, survey returns, survey
          sketches, bonds, and instructions.  Survey warrants and
          returns detail the work of the deputy surveyors. 
          Information contained on those documents include name
          of individual(s) for whom the warrant was issued, and
          location, description of land, acreage, and deputy
          surveyor.  In addition, the survey returns include a
          measured drawing of the surveyed tract.  Survey
          sketches contain rough drawings of land surveyed.  One
          partial sketch details the 12 mile arch measured from
          the New Castle, Delaware court house.  This arch
          established Delaware's border and aided Mason and Dixon
          in surveying their line.  The survey returns include
          those from Berks, Philadelphia, Cumberland,
          Northumberland, Lancaster, Chester, Bedford, York,
          Northhampton counties, and West Jersey.

1         Series I.  John Lukens Papers (cont'd)

               Survey lists include the name, number of acres,
          and warrant numbers of the surveys that the deputy
          surveyor completed.  Deputy surveyors were required to
          keep the lists as an official record.
               Bonds and Instructions give the name and county of
          the commissioned deputy surveyor.  After a time all
          deputy surveyors receiving commissions were required to
          be held in bond with the Surveyor General. 
          Instructions list eight rules required by each
          surveyor.  The following counties are included: 
          Northhampton, Berks, Philadelphia, Bedford, Cumberland,
          Washington, Westmoreland, Lancaster, Franklin, Chester,
          and land newly purchased from the several Indian
          nations to be given to Revolutionary soldiers as
          payment in kind.
               Miscellaneous papers contain various documents
          pertaining to Lukens' career as surveyor general.
          Some material has been removed to the Oversize section.

          Series 1.1.A.  Business Correspondence, 1762-1789
     F1   Apr 1762 - Dec 1763
     F2   Jan 1764 - Oct 1764
     F3   Jan 1765 - Nov 1765
     F4   Mar 1766 - Nov 1766
     F5   Feb 1767 - Dec 1767

     F6   Jan 1768 - Dec 1768

     F7   Jan 1769 - May 1769 

     F8   May 1769 - Dec 1769 

     F9   Feb 1770 - Nov 1771 

2    F10  Jul 1772 - Nov 1773 

     F11  Sep 1774 - Jan 1775

     F12  Jan 1776 - [n.m.] 1777 
          Frances Allison letter included here.

     F13  Apr 1780 - Dec 1781 

     F14  Apr 1782 - Nov 1783
     F15  Apr 1784 - Nov 1784

     F16  Dec 1784 - Oct 1786 
     F17  Apr 1787 - Mar 1789 

     F18  [no date]

3         Series I.1.B.  Business Documents, 1759-1791

     F19  Warrants, 1759-1791 

     F20  Survey Lists, 1765-1788 [oversized materials]

     F21  Lists of Deputy Surveyors and Petitions for Deputy
               Surveyors [n.d]
          Survey Returns
     F22       1745-1765 [oversized materials]

     F23       1766-1773

     F24       1773-1795 [oversized materials]
     F25       1807-1880

     F26  Survey Sketches, [n.d.]

     F27  Survey Sketches, [n.d.]

4         Bonds and Instructions
     F28       1762-1782

     F29       1783
     F30       1784-1785

     F31       1785

     F32       1785

     F33       1785
     F34       1785-1789

          Series I.1.C.  Business Miscellany
     F35  Miscellaneous Business Papers

     F36  Miscellaneous Business Papers

5         Series I.2.  Legal Papers, 1732-1866    

               This subseries includes accounts and receipts of a
          personal nature such as to John Lukens' tailor, cooper,
          merchants, and tavern keeper.  The legal papers also
          include accounts and receipts, and legal documents
          related to John Lukens and the settlement of his estate
          following his death in 1789.  The settlement of John
          Lukens's estate appears to have been complex and
          lengthy because appointed administrators of the estate
          died during settlement.  The papers contain a court
          appeal by two of Lukens' grandchildren concerning
          settlement following the sale of real estate property. 
          This collection also includes documents from the Robert
          Tomkins estate which was administered by Lukens.  Those
          documents include Tomkins' marriage certificate and
          promissory notes for various land purchases, as well as
          an estate inventory.

          Miscellaneous Personal Accounts and Receipts
     F37       1750-1767

     F38       1767-1795

     F39  Petitions on John Lukens Real Estates, 1789-1821
          Accounts, Receipts, and Petitions on John Lukens estate
     F40       1789-1818

     F41       1828-1866

     F42  Miscellaneous Legal documents and John Lukens Diary

     F43  Documents from the Robert Tomkin Estate, 1732-1759
                              [oversized materials]

5         Series I.  John Lukens Papers (cont'd)
          Series I.3.  Family Letters to John Lukens, 1767-1787

               This subseries contains correspondence from three
          of John Lukens' children: Charles Lukens, Jesse Lukens,
          and Gaynor Lukens Keene.  Most letters are addressed to
          their father; however, occasional letters are addressed
          to Sarah Lukens (John's wife), or to "parents."
               Both Charles and Jesse Lukens worked for their
          father as deputy surveyors.  Many of their letters
          concern land disputes, details of surveys, Indian
          relations, land purchases, and land settlement.  Both
          sons also wrote concerning the attempt of the
          Susquehanna Land Company (est. by Connecticut
          investors) to claim land near Wyoming, Pa. (present-day
          Wilkes-Barre) for the colony of Connecticut.
               Letters from John Lukens' daughter, Gaynor Keene,
          discuss her life in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, where she
          moved following her marriage to Lawrence Keene.  Her
          letters discuss homelife, especially the numerous
          illnesses she and her family contract. In two letters
          she mentions how she plans to, and then does, get her
          son inoculated for small pox.  She also discusses
          remedies for treating fever and coughs.  Gaynor's
          homesickness for her parents is another recurring theme
          in her letters, as is discussion of her daughter Sally
          and son Lawrence.  A few letters from Gaynor also
          contain notes from her husband Major Lawrence Keene to
          John Lukens inquiring about a job as a surveyor and
          requesting loans for investments.

     F44  Letters from Charles Lukens (John Lukens' first-born
               son), 1767-1783
     F45  Letters from Jesse Lukens (John Lukens'second-born
               son), 1770-1775

     F46  Letters from Gaynor Lukens Keene (John Lukens' first-born daughter), 1784-1787

6         Series II.  Charles Lukens Business Correspondence,
     F47  Charles Lukens Business Correspondence, 1770-1776
6         Series III.  Jesse Lukens Correspondence and Business
               Papers, 1768-1775
               Some material removed to Oversize section.

     F48  Correspondence, 1768-1804

     F49  Personal Accounts and Receipts, 1768-1804

          Series IV.  Lawrence Keene Business Papers, 1777-1820

     F50  Accounts, Receipts, and Business Documents, 1777-1820

          Series V.  Sarah Lukens Keene Papers, 1818-1865

     F51  Correspondence, 1818-1845

     F52  Correspondence, 1845-1865

     F53  Accounts, Receipts, and Checks

     F54  Accounts, Receipts, and Petitions for Sarah Lukens
               Keene's estate, 1867-1902

     F55  Last Will and Testament, and Petitions for Sarah Lukens
               Keene's estate

          Series VI.  Henry Edgar Keene Papers, 1827-1872

     F56  Business and Legal Documents

          Series VII.  Ellen Keene Mitchell Papers, 1866-1904

7    F57  Correspondence and receipts about Sarah Lukens Keene

          Household Receipts
     F58       Aug 1891 - Oct 1894

     F59       Nov 1894 - Mar 1896

     F60       Apr 1896 - Sep 1896

     F61       Nov 1896 - Dec 1896

     F62       Jan 1897 - Dec 1899

     F63       Jan 1900 - Mar 1900

     F64       Apr 1900 - Jul 1900

     F65       Aug 1900
     F66       Jul 1901 - Jul 1904

          Series VIII.  Miscellaneous Correspondence and
               Some material removed to Oversize section.

     F67  Miscellaneous Correspondence, [ca. 1770s]

     F68  Miscellaneous Documents
The Lukens Family Tree is available in the Lukens collection folder.
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