Special Collections Department
Lukens Family Papers
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.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
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.
Sources: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
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.
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
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 excerpt 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, 1768-1777 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 Estate 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 Documents 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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