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Manuscript Group 489
LUKENS-LENOX PAPERS
1702-1900
4 cubic feet



Spanning the dates 1702-1900, with the bulk of the material dating from 1762-1875, the four cubic feet of the Lukens-Lenox Papers include correspondence, legal papers and financial records primarily relating to the activities of John Lukens, Surveyor General of Pennsylvania for the period 1761-1789, and of his family and descendants. At least half of the collection pertains to the settlement and distribution of his vast estate following his death in 1789. A small, but significant portion of the papers resulted from the positions held by his son-in-law, David Lenox, as U.S. Marshal during the Whiskey Rebellion and as president of the Bank of the United States.

The collection is divided into four major subgroups: Land Office Papers, 1702-1789 (29 folders); Personal Papers of John Lukens and his son Jesse, 1742-1789 (10 folders); David Lenox Papers, 1793-1826 (3 folders); and Papers of the Estate of John Lukens, 1789-1900 (54 folders). Also included is a single folder of document fragments whose association with other items or portions of the collection could not be determined.

The Land Office Papers, 1702-1789, include correspondence of John Lukens, Surveyor General, dating from 1762 until his death in 1789 and of five of his deputy surveyors-William Gray, Charles Lukens, Jesse Lukens, William Maclay and Joseph J. Wallis. Charles and Jesse Lukens were sons of John, and Joseph J. Wallis was his son-in-law, married to his daughter Elizabeth. The letters report a mixture of business and family activities, commenting on land to be surveyed, problems with competing claims, and the physical condition of various Lukens family members. Writing from "Wrights Ferry" on March 29, 1770, Charles Lukens remarked to his father that Charles's son George had been "inoculated for the Small Pox"--twenty-six years before Edward Jenner's first vaccination experiment. A number of the papers concern the distribution and surveying of land within the New Purchase (1768).

Almost a dozen items have some bearing on relations with Native Americans, and several letters describe various aspects of frontier life in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. In his August 20, 1770 communication with his father, Charles Lukens, writing from York, related an account "of a Skirmish with the Indians in the Red Stone Settlemt." where "Six or Seven Indians Came into the Settlement and got some Liquor so much as to intoxicate them [and] they then Plundered one or Two houses of all that was in them." The settlers followed the fleeing Indians and "a Battle ensued" the next day with "the Indians every one Killed on the Spot & . . . one White man." On October 13, 1764, William Maclay reported that "I am this moment dressed, with my Leggins my Match Coat, and other Habiliments in the Indian Taste . . . ." Several months later when writing to John Lukens on July 2, 1763, he observed that "the Woods are as thick as possible the gnats, Horse Flies, and Rattle Snakes are as plenty and bit as Wickedly as any time in the World."

Jesse Lukens's correspondence contains references to disputes with the Connecticut settlers in northeastern Pennsylvania, known as the "Pennamite Wars." William Maclay's letter of December 30, 1775, to John Lukens provides a moving account of one outcome of that conflict, the death of Jesse Lukens on December 25, resulting from a wound received while "attempting to Force a passage over the north Branch" of the Susquehanna River. Other notable personages whose names appear in the Land Office correspondence include: Ephraim Blaine, Anthony Butler, Reuben Haines, Thomas Hartley, Thomas McKean, Presley Neville, James Potter, Richard Peters, Dorsey Pentecost, James Scull, and James Tilghman.

The remainder of the Land Office Papers consists of administrative documents resulting from the operation of the Land Office such as items relating to the appointments of deputy surveyors, and applications, warrants and surveys of land as well as financial materials. Among the miscellaneous Land Office papers, 1748-1788, is a 1753 parchment commission of Edward Shippen as Lancaster County Recorder of Deeds, with a partially-fragmented wax seal of the Proprietaries.

Documents from John and Jesse Lukens that relate solely to their activities outside of official Land Office business are found in the subgroup identified as the Personal Papers of John and Jesse Lukens, 1742-1789. The files of John Lukens papers, 1742-1789, represent his many and varied involvements, serving as a surety for bonds and helping to settle estates. Included are documents relating to the settlement of the Robert Tomkins estate, administered by Lukens. The family correspondence, 1784-1789, primarily contains letters that he received from his children and grandchildren. Jesse Lukens's papers, 1769-1789, document his business activities, land dealings in the New Purchase, and financial records relating to his estate following his death in 1775.

The David Lenox Papers, 1793-1826, document two aspects of the career of John Lukens's son-in-law, as a federal marshal for the Pennsylvania District Court of the United States, 1794-1795, and as president of the Bank of the United States and of the Philadelphia Bank in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Although the Lenox's U.S. marshal papers include varied items relating to his duties as an agent of the court, the primary focus of the file is his involvement in the quelling of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Found among these documents is a manuscript copy of the "Pittsburgh Resolves," dated July 31, 1794, a draft of resolutions proposed by residents of Pittsburgh "on this delicate crisis" whereby they expressed their support of those opposed to the "excise law" (transcribed and published in Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Volume 4, pp. 79-81). This item may be the only original draft of the Resolves known to be in existence. Letters regarding banking matters and bank notes comprise the majority of items in the two folders of Lenox's bank correspondence and related papers.

The largest segment of the Lukens-Lenox Papers is the materials relating to the settlement and distribution of John Lukens's estate following his death in 1789. Dating from that year until 1900, these files include copies of Lukens's will, 1790 vendue lists itemizing his personal estate, and papers and accounts pertaining to the financial aspects of the estate. Found here is an estate account book, 1789-1833, in which entries were made as money was distributed to his heirs and was paid for expenses against the estate.

The settlement of Lukens's estate became quite complex owing to various factors-his many landholdings, the untimely deaths of his sons and his executors, legal challenges to the settlement, and the settlements of estates of his heirs. One particular problem was the failure of the executors to convert the real estate to cash so that the inheritance could be distributed more easily and equitably. The administration of the estate continued until at least 1875.

Lukens designated his brother Abraham Lukens and his sons-in-law Joseph Jacob Wallis and David Lenox as the executors of his estate. They died, leaving David Lenox as the sole executor until his death in 1828. Lenox's widow, Tacy, daughter of John Lukens administered the Lukens estate as the executor of her husband's estate. Upon her death in 1834, her niece, Sarah Lukens Keene, became the administrator of the estate. Keene died in 1866 without children, naming her niece, Ellen Keene Mitchell, as the executor of her estate. Ellen's brother, Henry Edgar Keene, an attorney, assisted her with estate matters and the administration of the Lukens estate for the remainder of the nineteenth century.

Most of the estate correspondence, 1790-1900, consists of letters from heirs to these successive administrators, requesting money from the estate and urging the settlement of it. The physical conditions and financial situations of various family members also were mentioned frequently. As later administrators attempted to locate distant relatives, the letters included information about family relationships and lineage.

With funds from the Laurel Foundation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission purchased the Lukens-Lenox Papers on March 18, 2004, at an auction of the private collection of James L. Kochan, dealer of art and antiques, Shepherdstown, WV. The auction was held in Timonium, MD by Richard Opfer Auctioneering. Mr. Kochan believes that the papers originally were in the custody of a woman who had been adopted by Lukens descendants who had no natural children.

The Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library, Newark, DE holds a complementary set of documents known as the Lukens Family Papers (Manuscript Collection 161). Internal evidence indicates that both sets of papers originally comprised one large unit. Similar types of documents-and possibly portions of the same document-appear in both.


A. Land Office Papers, 1702-1789 & undated

B. Personal Papers of John and Jesse Lukens, 1742-1789 & undated

C. David Lenox Papers, 1793-1826 & undated

D. Papers of the Estate of John Lukens, 1789-1900 & undated

E. Fragments, 1771 & undated


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