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Sculls in the USA


IN AMERICA 1685-1830

By Robert Drake Scull

The surname Scull (Skull) appears to have originated in England, where it can vaguely be traced back to the period of the Norman Conquest. It may have earlier been derived from the Scandinavian name Skule, which has survived in Norway and in Iceland.  Characters named Skule are sprinkled throughout the Viking sagas and there was a close advisor of the Norwegian king Harold Hardrada named Skule.  (Saga of Harold Hardrada). In the Domesday Survey of 1086, there are listed a number of fiefs that had been owned by a noble named Skule prior to the conquest. In the Norman conquest of Brecknochshire, Wales that took place in the year 1090, one of the knights who served under Bernard de Neumarch was Sir John Skwl, who was rewarded with the manors of Bolgoed and Crai.  Two tombstones of Skwls dated from 1602 and 1647 located in Battle Aisle of the Brecon Priory claim a direct descent from this knight. One hundred and fifty years earlier there was a certain Sir Walter Scull, who served as the steward of several castles in Wales and as the chief Remembrancer to the Exchequer of Ireland.  Due to his geographical origin in Wales, it seems likely that Sir Walter may also have been descended from Sir John Skwl.  (Scull Pedigree, compiled by William Le Hardy, Genalogical Society of Pennsylvannia).

 However, it cannot be determined that the inhabitants in England and elsewhere who have inherited the name Scull or Skull are descended from Sir John Skwl.  It is just as likely that they are descended from other persons of Viking origin who in some way identified with the surname Scull or Skull.  In a questionnaire that I sent out to over 500 households with the name Scull in 1995 I could find no one who could verify a direct link to Sir Walter Scull. Because of this lack of continuity in information any explantions about the origin of the Scull surname have to be regarded as theories and will probably remain in this status for eternity.


 The earliest records of a Scull/Skull in the New World show up in the land patent records of the colony of Virginia, which list thousands of names of European and African immigrants to the colonies during the colonial period of American history.   These land patents or land titles were given in return for paying the passage of immigrants to the New World at fifty acres per head.  The earliest one of interest was dated May 22, 1642, in which William Eyres was given a grant of land on the western branch of the Nansemond River in which the land of John Sculler is mentioned as marking the northern boundary of the grant. A second land patent dated May 22, 1643 gave William Storey 250 acres on the western branch of the Nansemond River as compensation for transporting five persons across the ocean, including Oliver White, Karbery Kagan, Anthony Fletcher, Richard Marberry, and John Skull.  On a land patent dated November 20, 1645 William Storey received 200 more acres of land on the east side of the northwest branch of the Nansemond River for paying the cost of passage for Thomas Bayley, William Story, Harbor Kogan, and John Scull from England to Virginia. Each of these patents probably refer to the same John Scull, for It is hard to believe that there was a John Sculler, John Skull, and John Scull all on the western branch of the Nansemond River in the 1640s.  The Nansemond River is a very short river completely within the boundaries of what would later become the city of Suffolk (Nansemond County) and there are few other variations of the name Scull up any other creek in all the volumes of land patents for Virginia and Carolina for the entire century covered.  (Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, edited by Denis Hudgins, vol. I, p. 160, 778, 784).

 One notable exception would be in the current city of Virginia Beach, in Lynnhaven Inlet, where there was a small peninsula known as Scull Neck in 1652. A land patent to Edward Hall dated that year identifies the name in describing its boundaries.  In 1648 and 1652 Savill Gaskins purchased portions of Scull Neck and is believed to be the man who built a house there that is one of the oldest brick houses in the United States. Today the Association owns this house for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.  It is called the Lynnhaven House because it is not really certain who built it, but the creek that ran up to it was called Scull Neck Creek until sometime after the 1690s, when its name was changed to Witchduck Creek because a celebrated witch was dunked there. I visited Lynnhaven house in the 1980s to find out why the land was originally called Scull Neck, but apparently no one knows. There is no way of knowing if John Scull or any other Scull once frequented that neck of the woods.  (Cavaliers and Pioneers, vol. I, p. 260)(Gateway to the World, by Florence Kimberly Turner, pp. 73-75).

   In fact, there is no way of knowing if any Scull stayed in southeastern Virginia after 1645.  The only comprehensive record of residents of the county that has survived other than the land patents is the Quitrents or land taxes paid in 1704.  No Scull is listed in those records. Since John Sculler owned land in 1642, it seems likely that land would have stayed in the family if the line continued.  I have searched the courthouse records surrounding Nansemond County for evidence that the descendants of John Scull stayed in Nansemond County after 1645, but there is no evidence of any Sculls in any of the surrounding counties from 1645 until 1749 when a carpenter named Edward Scull showed up with Virginia money in Bertie County, North Carolina.  It is hard to believe that if John Scull had any male descendants in Nansemond County that they could have quietly stayed in the Dismal Swamp listening to the bullfrogs and swatting the mosquitoes for over one hundred years without at least once leaving a record of their existence in one of the surrounding counties.  Therefore, it appears most likely that John Scull returned to England or that he died on the banks of the Nansemond River without having left behind any children. It is probably only a coincidence that my proven ancestor Edward Scull appeared there again about one hundred years later and saved some Virginia money before moving on to North Carolina.

 The elusive John Scull of Nansemond County may also have been missed in his home country.  On December 28, 1649 a widow named Alice Skull from Brinkworth, Wiltshire had a will drawn up in Somerset House, London in which she stated that her "sonne John Skull...is gone into another land and I know not whether ever hee mai returne." Therefore she chose her "kinswoman" Alice Beale to "queathe and peaceable enjoy the ...ground called Oxlayes (her estate in Brinkworth) until the said John Skull (alias Sherer) lay claime thereto."  Evidently, he never returned ("The Family of Scull" by Gideon D. Scull, p. 9) Oddly enough, there was a John Sherer who lived and prospered in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, the county adjoining Nansemond until 1701, when his will left land holdings to numerous descendants, but there is no evidence that any of them changed their name back to Scull if they were, in fact, part of the same family (Cavaliers and Pioneers, vol. 2, p. 32)(Isle of Wight County Courthouse, deeds and estates).

 On the other hand, John Scull may have become an experienced seaman.  In 1658 in the records of the admiralty court of London there was a lawsuit brought against Francis Doacket and Smith Franclin in regard to a cargo of nineteen casks of saltpeter (the most important ingredient of gunpowder) carried on board a ship called the Star whose master was none other than John Scull. One of the earliest ships to make regular voyages to Virginia is known to have been the Starr, which was designed in 1612 to transport tree trunks from the Chesapeake Bay area to England for the manufacture of masts.  The ship was "specially arranged for that purpose in the way of its decks and scupper holes" to carry tree trunks. Some of the tree trunks available in Virginia in 1612 were so large that the Starr could only carry forty of the eighty trunks for which it was originally designed.  (Scull Pedigree, by Hardee & Page, vol. I, p. 174, 1926)(JoAnne McCree Sanders, Barbados Records, 1982)(Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, p. 90).

 Of course, there is no way of knowing if this was the same John Scull or even the same ship, but if it was it appears that John Scull may have lived an interesting and somewhat stressful life.  Perhaps he was a Cavalier.  Virginia was loyal to the Stuart dynasty throughout the English Civil War and all through the Puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell until the Stuart Restoration of 1660.  He may have had good reason not to return to his family's estate at Oxlayes.

 There are three other records of Sculls in the Barbados during the colonial period and one record of a Scull in Maryland.  John Sculler was recorded in a court record in Barbados in 1671.  This could also be the same John Scull of Nansemond River in Virginia. There was also a Robert Scull, alias Robert Rogers, originally from Wakes Colne, who was sentenced in County Essex and transported to Barbados in 1684 and a Susanna Scull who was baptized on in Barbados on September 20, 1724.  It should be pointed out that the original labor force on the sugar plantations on the island of Barbados were indentured servants from Great Britain and Ireland. It is known that the descendents of this labor force began to immigrate to South Carolina after 1670, but no Sculls show up in the early records of South Carolina.  The name Cornelius Scull appeared on a passenger on a ship arriving in Maryland in 1671,but there are no indications that he stayed or survived. (Passenger and Immigration List Index).


 The next two Sculls to come to America were the patriarchs Nicholas Scull of Pennsylvania and John Scull of New Jersey. Nicholas arrived in Chester, Pennsylvania on a ship called the Bristol Merchant on October 10, 1685.  Some accounts say he was born in Ireland around 1665, which gives one the impression that Scull was an Irish name, but I have not been able to verify the Irish origin of the name with any documentation. While visiting Ireland in 1995, I could not find any Sculls in any of the phone books. Nor could I find Irish Sculls in the British census records from the 19th Century, but this does not prove that there were no Sculls there in the 17th Century, for Ireland's population declined by about 50% during the 19th Century as a result of famines and emigration.  It is possible that all the Irish Sculls died off or emmigrated to other lands.  In fact, I have found ten American Sculls in 19th Century census records who claimed they were born in Ireland. All ten of them were males and all ten of them were born between the years of 1800 and 1881, which was the period of greatest immigration of the Irish to the United States. (Colonial Families of the United States, vol. 6, pp. 93-94)(Quaker Saga, by Jane T. Brey, p. 543)(Autobiography of Charles Biddle, by Charles Biddle, p. 378).

 The record of the Bristol Merchant states that Nicholas Scull came over with seven "servants": Samuel Hall, Cornelius Dayire, George Gooding, Miles Morris, John Ward, Mary Cantwell, and Daniel Morin.  These "servants" may have been tenants on a previous estate in Ireland or they may simply have been unemployed residents of Bristol. Identified in the deeds as a "gentleman," and a "planter," Nicholas Scull purchased 100 acres of land from Zechariah Whitpain in 1688. By 1690 he purchased four more plots consisting of a total of 400 acres of land, located at the confluence of Sandy Run and the Wissahickon. He called his estate "Springfield Manor."  In 1691 he purchased 500 acres and in 1693 he acquired 300 more acres.  He died in 1703, leaving six young sons and a widow named Mary, whose brother was Major Jaspar Farmer, a British officer who had served under Cromwell before joining the Quakers and coming across the ocean in the same ship as Nicholas Scull.  In Ireland Jaspar Farmar had been a member of the Youghal Meeting House (Colonial Families of the United States, vol. 6, pp. 93-94)(Book of Deeds, Philadelphia County, vol. E2-5, p. 49)(The Papers of William Penn) 

 The relationship between the Sculls and Farmars appears to have been close. Farmar's sister had married Nicholas Scull and his overseer at his estate at Whitemarsh in Pennsylvania was named John Scull, believed to be a younger brother of Nicholas.  According to the New Jersey born genealogist Gideon Delaplaine Scull, who was buried in the town of Ilkley in Yorkshire, there is a colonial record dated in May of 1685 that indicates that John Scull was already in Pennsylvania before Nicholas Scull arrived. (Quaker Saga, by Jane Brey, 1967, p. 543)("The Scull Family of Pennsylvania, by Gideon Delaplaine Scull, p. 1).

 According to a history on Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, which was later carved out of western Philadelphia County; the local Indians made a complaint to the Governor's Council of Pennsylvania on July 21, 1685 that:

 The servants on Jaspar Farmar's place had made them drunk and abused them. A warrant was issued and sent out by a messenger, who after being lost in the woods, returned, when it was deferred. When the time arrived the servants made their appearance, but the Indians did not appear as accusers, and so the matter was probably dropped.

  (History of Montgomery County, by Theodore W. Bean, p. 1138).  

In 1701 and in 1712 Edward Farmar was employed by the government of Pennsylvania to serve as an interpreter in negotiations with the Indians (Ibid, p. 1138).

 In the will of Nicholas Scull, dated March 5, 1703, Scull made his Quaker in-laws Edward Farmar and Thomas Farmar overseers of the will. He also authorized the Quaker Meeting to look after his children in the event that his wife Mary was "not in capacity." There is no evidence that Nicholas Scull was a Quaker, but the trust that Nicholas Scull placed in the local Quaker meeting shows that he had some appreciation for the denomination.  Having also married the daughter of a Quaker, Jaspar Farmar, Scull's connections with the Quakers may have been a family tradition (Will Books, Philadelphia County, vol. B p. 456, #167).

 For this reason, I searched to see if the Quaker records in England could link Nicholas Scull to his ancestral place of origin in England.   The only surviving record of Sculls or Skulls active among Quakers in all of England are to be found in the meetinghouse established at Brinkworth:

October 16, 1677 John Church of Lea married Mary Skull, spinster of Brinkworth

September 9, 1703 Sarah Skull was buried

Dec. 14, 1703 Hannah Skull daughter of Thomas Skull of Brinkworth married William,son of William Walker of Brinkworth

March 21, 1724 Lydia Skull was buried

(Quarterly Meeting of Gloucester and Wiltshire, Book 576, p. 242; Book 580, p. 8; Book 620, pp. 73, 476)


 I think it is more than a coincidence that Brinkworth is the same town where Alice Skull left a will in 1649 in which she expressed her loss over the disappearance of her son John Skull, who had "gone into another land." The founder of the Quakers, George Fox, is known to have preached on a route across Wiltshire in 1662.  Brinkworth is located in Wiltshire. He passed through Wiltshire and Bristol again in 1663. He established a monthly meeting in Wiltshire in 1668 and traveled back through Wiltshire and Bristol again in 1670 and 1673.  Any one of these meetings could have gotten one or more Sculls involved and this would explain why they ended up in Ireland, as part of the general migration of Quakers there before their later migration to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. (Journal of George Fox, by George Fox). 

  The first son of Nicholas Scull was Nicholas Scull Jr., who was trained to be a cordwainer, but later became a surveyor in Philadelphia and Bucks counties. He learned how to speak several Indian dialects fluently and was employed by the government to help conduct negotiations with the leading chiefs of the Conestoga, Delaware, Gawanese, and Shawanese Indians at Conestoga in 1728 and 1729. In 1737 he was one of three Pennsylvanians who participated in the so-called "Indian Walk," which settled the boundary between Pennsylvania and the Delaware Indians by a fifty-mile walking contest.  In 1740 he was sent to settle an Indian dispute at Minesinks and in 1745 he served as an interpreter when an Indian delegation visited Philadelphia.  He was elected Sheriff of Philadelphia in 1744. He became Surveyor General of Pennsylvania in 1748 and the director of the first library in Philadelphia, which met in his home during its organizational period in 1744  (Colonial Families of the United States, vol. 6, pp. 93-94)(History of Montgomery County, by Theodore W. Bean, p. 1140)(Autobiography of Charles Biddle, by Charles Biddle, pp. 379-83) (Pennsylvanian Magazine, vol. 14, p. 73). 

 Several booklets that he used for surveying notes and writing poetry have been preserved in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Some of his maps have been reproduced and were available for sale when I visited there in the 1985.  In the Peyton Randolph House in Williamsburg, Virginia, there is an enlarged print of a drawing of the Philadelphia waterfront by Nicholas Scull that has been reproduced as a mural on a wall next to the staircase. I first saw this while on a school field trip to Williamsburg in the sixth grade. When I saw his signature on the wall of the print I think it was the first time I had ever seen my last name outside the context of my own immediate family in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1990 when I was a Social Studies teacher in Belhaven, North Carolina, I took my classes on a field trip to Williamsburg and stumbled across this mural again. Although I had completely forgotten about it by that time, my memory came back to me and I could remember wondering at the age of twelve if my ancestors in North Carolina had somehow come from Pennsylvania.

 The rest of the sons of Nicholas Scull, Sr. lived less accomplished lives.  The second son, Edward Scull, was trained to be a joiner, an artisan who constructs articles by joining pieces of wood.  This was an important occupation before the mass production of nails, for wooden pegs held houses together in the time in which Edward Scull lived.   The third son, Jasper Scull, was trained to be a blacksmith.  The fourth son, John Scull, was trained to be a cordwainer, an artisan who works with leather.  Later he became a shoemaker.  The fifth son, James Scull, was trained to be a carpenter. The sixth son, Joseph Scull, was trained to be a husbandman. Originally, the term "husband" was used to refer to a man who earned his living by working as a farmer.  Over time the term has become more commonly used to refer to a woman's spouse, but before the Industrial Revolution almost all men were farmers and therefore most male spouses were husbands. All of these occupations and names are recorded in the deeds relating to the distribution of the original property of Nicholas Scull Sr.  On May 4, 1714, the six sons sold fifty acres of their father's land to their stepfather, Allen Forster, for 35. On September 29, 1717, they sold 150 acres to Edward Farmar for 95. On May 30, 1739, they sold 180 more acres of the land to Benjamin Charlesworth for  110 (Book of Deeds, Philadelphia County, Pa., vol. E7-10, p. 449; vol. F1, p. 135; vol. H9, p. 157).

  The numerous sons of Nicholas Scull, Sr. all married and had so many children between them that the exact genealogy of the grandchildren is confusing, despite the survival of numerous records in the Philadelphia County records and in the local churches.  A roughly-drafted sixteen inch by twenty-four inch genealogical chart of the descendants of Nicholas Scull Sr. can be seen in the Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Library in Philadelphia. It includes thirty-eight grandchildren, eighteen of whom are listed as the children of Joseph Scull, the husbandman, who reportedly had five wives over the course of his lifetime. (Perhaps this is the origin of the double meaning of the word "husband.")  I made a copy of this chart and would like to share it with you. (Scull Genealogical Chart in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library).




 Only five years after Nicholas Scull settled in Pennsylvania there was another line of Sculls that settled in New Jersey. The patriarch of this family was John Scull, who purchased 250 acres along Great Egg Harbor in 1695, married Mary Somers, the daughter of a wealthy Quaker named John Somers, the owner of Somerset Plantation, an estate of 5000 acres.  John Scull became a prominent member of the Great Egg Harbor community, where he was one of the founding members of the local Quaker meeting house and served as tax accessor and justice of the peace in Gloucester County.  His will that was written in 1745 has survived in the New Jersey Archives.   John Scull died in 1748, leaving behind thirteen children, nine of whom were sons.  The names of these nine sons were John, Abel, Peter, Daniel, Benjamin, Recompense, Gideon, Isaiah, and David. Not surprisingly, the New Jersey clan of Sculls is the most prolific branch of the Scull family in America.  Census Records throughout the 19th Century trace most Sculls throughout the northern United States back to New Jersey.  ("Genealogical Notes Relating to the Family of Scull", by Gideon Delaplaine Scull, pp. 3-4)("Notes on the Scull Family of New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia," by William Ellis Scull, Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, vol. II, pp. 808-814)(New Jersey Archives, XXX, 422).

 The genealogists Gideon Delaplaine Scull and William Ellis Scull, who are descended from John Scull of Great Egg Harbor, have subscribed to the theory of William de Hardy that the founder of the New Jersey branch of Sculls was a Dutchman, the son of Pieter Jansen Schol of New Amsterdam, whose father had been prominent in the court of William of Orange before the latter became the King of England. This idea is based on the evidence that the Great Egg Harbor deed described John Scull as "late of Long Island," where Pieter Jansen Schol settled after leaving Holland, but the Dutchman also spelled his name as "Scholt" and the deed only states "late of Long Island."  I think it is more likely that the overseer John Scull left the estate of Jaspar Farmar, traveled to Long Island for a while and later returned to Philadelphia, where he purchased the Great Egg Harbor plot. He purchased this land from Thomas Budd of Philadelphia, a wealthy Quaker merchant from Somerset, England who owned 15,000 acres of land in what is now New Jersey.  Budd was part of the commission that went to London and lobbied for self-government for the Quakers. He published a book proposing Quaker settlement in the New World in 1684 called A True and Perfect Account.   Because the Sculls of Philadelphia had strong Quaker connections and the New Amsterdam Schols did not, to me it is more likely that the mischievous overseer John Scull had a religious awakening, turned away from his early life of drinking with the Indians, and making use of his skills as an overseer became a leading member of the Quaker community of Great Egg Harbor.  ("Genealogical Notes Relating to the Family of Scull", by Gideon Delaplaine Scull, pp. 3-4)("Notes on the Scull Family of New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia," by William Ellis Scull, Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, vol. II, p. 808-814)(Scull Pedigree, compiled by William Le Hardy, Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania)(The Province of West Jersey: 1609-1702, by John E. Pomfret, pp. 89-90, 140, 285-87).


 The earliest Scull to settle in North Carolina was Edward Scull, a carpenter and a joiner, who purchased land in Bertie County, Virginia in 1749.  He died in Hertford County, North Carolina in 1767, leaving behind a will as indicated on a list.  Unfortunately this will had not survived. By the time of the 1790 Census there were several Scull households in Hertford County, North Carolina and Bible Records indicate that they were descendants of Edward.  Some of his descendants moved to Mississippi before the Civil War. Today there are Sculls directly descended from Edward in Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. (Bertie County Deeds)(Hertford County Deeds and Wills)(Elisha Scull Bible Record, film #1036950, LDS Genealogical Services)(James Scull Bible Record, Harrellsville Historical Society)(U.S. Census. 1850, 1880). 

 It was difficult proving that Edward Scull the carpenter/joiner of North Carolina and Edward Scull the joiner of Pennsylvania and the apprentice Edward Scull of Ireland were all the same person.  It required me to make a trip to Ireland, but in doing this I was also able to establish that the Sculls of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina were all very closely related. The deed records in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania indicate that the second son of Nicholas Scull was Edward Scull the joiner. A single entry in the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting regarding Edward Scull's apprenticeship in Cork, Ireland did not indicate the occupation he was trained in, so it was possible that all three of these Edward Sculls were different people.  (Marriages, Christchurch, Philadelphia)(Administration Book, Philadelphia County, Book G, p. 49)  Therefore, in the summer of 1995, I decided to see what information there was in the Meeting House records of Cork, Ireland regarding the apprenticeship of Edward Skull.  Mary Shackleton, the librarian at Swansbrook House in Dublin explained to me that the practice of serving apprenticeships on the other side of the ocean was not unusual for Quakers during the colonial period because many families had business contacts on both sides of the ocean that were strengthened through the social contacts provided by the Quaker meeting houses.  The apprenticeship of Edward Scull was verified in the minutes of the Cork Meeting House and a reference concerning Edward Skull, dated September 9, 1706:  "John Dennis having received a letter from Edw. Skull out of Pensilvania to send him a certificate drawn on by John and Thos. Wright saying he is not married." This indicated that John Dennis and the John and Thosmas Wright were among his most significant contacts of Edward Scull in Ireland. (Minutes, Cork, Ireland Meeting House, Swansbrook House). 

 Therefore, I needed to know the occupation of these men.  To answer this question it was recommended by more than one Quaker in England and Ireland that I contact Richard Harrison of Bantry, the author of a book on the history of Quakers in County Cork. I wrote him a letter while still in Ireland requesting information concerning the occupations of the three members of the Cork Meeting House listed on Edward Skull's certificate. Not long after returning home to North Carolina I received an aerogram from Harrison, dated July 26, 1995, in which he explained that "although I do not have information on John or Thomas Wright, John Dennis was certainly a timber merchant." I was delighted with the response, for as a timber merchant, John Dennis would have been an excellent prospect to place young Edward Scull in the hands of a master woodcraftsman.

 Fortunately, while in Swansbrook House in Dublin, I found a letter written to the library in 1960 by Richard P. McCormick of Rutgers University.   McCormick was researching the proprietors who founded the Quaker colony of West Jersey in 1677.  Looking over the names of the seventeen proprietors, I noticed that two of the names were Samuel Dennis of Cork and John Dennis of Cork. This means that John Dennis was not only a lumber merchant, but one of the leading investors in the Quaker settlement in what is now southern New Jersey. 

 After returning to the United States I picked up a copy of McCormick's book, New Jersey From Colony to State: 1609-1789.  According to McCormick, ten years before William Penn acquired Pennsylvania, West Jersey was created in 1674 when Lord Berkeley decided to sell half his interest in the colony of New Jersey.  He sold the land to John Fenwick, a former officer in Cromwell's army who had become a Quaker.  The line was drawn across the colony from the coast beginning at Great Egg Harbor and running off to the northwest as far as the Delaware River.  The West Jersey colony was divided into 100 shares or "proprieties" at 350 per share. Fenwick established the Quaker community at Salem on the Delaware River in 1675. Gloucester County, including Great Egg Harbor, where John Scull settled in 1695 was at first known as the "Irish Tenth" because it was largely purchased by Quakers who had previously fled from England to Ireland. According to another historian, John E. Pomfret, the Quakers in Ireland "were mostly of English birth that had left for Ireland to escape persecution." They later left Ireland because they were persecuted there as well (New Jersey From Colony to State, by Richard P. McCormick, pp. 39-50)(The Province of West Jersey, by John E. Pomfret, p. 89).

 All of the 120 purchasers of shares in the Irish Tenth were Quakers except for one.  Among the early purchasers of shares in the colony were three Quakers from Cork:


  1678 1/4 share to William Steel of Cork, merchant

       1/14 share to John Dennis of Cork, joiner

       1/7 share to Samuel Dennis of Cork, merchant

  (The Province of West Jersey, by Pomfret, pp. 87, 285-89)


Here I could see that John Dennis actually was a joiner before he became a lumber merchant. Thanks to the work of McCormick and Pomfret, I had proof that the Edward Skull who returned from Ireland in 1706 had been trained as a "joiner" and therefore had to be the same Edward Scull who was the second son of the gentleman Nicholas Scull. According to Pomfret, John Dennis later moved to West Jersey and settled on Timber Creek (Pomfret, p. 90).

 I think it is also worth noting that in the New Jersey deed of sale giving 250 acres on the shores of Great Egg Harbor to John Scull that the deed specifically granted to Scull the "privilege of cutting cedar," a comment that would not have been mentioned unless the purchaser intended to make a profit in lumbering.  Perhaps he intended to sell timber to John Dennis and other New Jersey proprietors, much as an earlier John Scull had done in Nansemond County and in the waters about Scull Neck fifty years earlier.  Coincidentally, of the fourteen other surnames on the list, three of them (Sharp, Starkey, and Hunter) intermarried with the descendants of Edward Scull in North Carolina (New Jersey Archives, vol. XXI, 1664-1703).      

   Another one of the purchasers of shares in the "Irish Tenth" was Thomas Budd, the Quaker merchant from Somerset, England who settled in West Jersey and sold 250 acres in Great Egg Harbor to John Scull. in 1695 (Pomfret, pp. 285-87)(William Ellis Scull, p. 811).  After skimming through the books of McCormick and Pomfret the colonial world of the Atlantic seemed much smaller than I had previously imagined.   In conclusion, I would like to propose the following genealogy, linking the Sculls of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina into one family.




 The town of Schull on the southwestern coast of County Cork in Ireland is pronounced "Skull" by the local Irish. The presence of this town in County Cork has helped perpetuate the theory that Nicholas Scull came from Ireland, but the Irish explain that the origin of the name of the town is that there was an Irish monastic school located there before the English conquest and that the Erse (Irish) word for "school" is pronounced "skull."  The area around Schull was one of the hardest hit during the potato famine of 1847.  In those days the town was spelled "Skull" and newspaper accounts about the unmarked burial pits that were necessary because of the famine made the town world famous for a while.  Perhaps they changed the spelling to avoid the unpleasant association.  (Sources: interviews with residents of Schull and books on the Irish potato famine that I thumbed through in a bookstore in Cork, Ireland in 1995). 

 I think it is more likely that the roots of Nicholas and John Scull are in the village of Bitton, a small.  

in Glouscester County on the road between Bath and Bristol It is only twenty miles from the village of Brinkworth in Wiltshire. The reason I say this is because of the popularity of the unusual name Abel Scull in both Bitton and in the New Jersey line of Sculls. The following entries suggest that the New Jersey Sculls originated in Bitton rather than in either Amsterdam or Ireland:


 Year 1649:  "a Child of Abell Sculls was buried April 6"

 Year 1653:  "Abell Scull was buried 15 of September"

 Year 1657:  "Abell Scull was buried."

 (Registers of Bitton, County Gloucester 1572-1674,

  by H.T. Ellacombe, issued by the Parish Register Society)


My reason for saying this is that the Sculls of New Jersey also had an unusual frequency of the name Abel Scull.  The second son of John Scull of Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey, was Abel Scull.  My index cards indicate that there were possibly as many as fourteen persons in New Jersey given the name Abel Scull between 1700 and 1868 and this does not include the Abel Sculls who were born in other states as the New Jersey Sculls immigrated westward.  

 Other first names of Scull in the Bitton Parish register for the Seventeenth Century also have a familiar ring:


 Year 1619:  "The 17 daie of Mar. was buried Nicholas Scull"

 Year 1650:  "Edward Scull was baptized Nov. 10"

 Year 1653:  "Joseph, sonne of Rebcheth Scull was baptized Feb. 4, 1654"

 Year 1657:  "John Scull was buried Jan. 14"

 (Registers of Bitton County Gloucester, 1572-1674).


The only other names of Sculls recorded in the Bitton Parish register were Elizabeth, Joan, Margaret, and William and each of these only appear once.   Nicholas, Edward, John, and Joseph were also the most common first names for the Sculls who settled in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.  For this reason I believe that Bitton is the origin of all the early Sculls who settled in Ireland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  For a generation or two the American Sculls must have been aware of the existence of cousins in the other states, but over time this knowledge would have been lost, just like the knowledge of their origin in England was lost.




 After Edward Scull, the second Scull to head south from Pennsylvannia and New Jeresy was Cantwell Scull, the first son of Joseph Scull the husbanman. For some unknown reason Cantwell Scull moved to the Bahamas and became the Clerk of Court in New Providence. I discovered this entire by accident while helping a friend look for records on her ancestors in the Clerk of Court's Office in Norfolk, Virginia.  Inside an old ledger book there was a record of a business transaction between merchants in New Providence, Bahamas and Norfolk, Virginia dated March 22, 1757. The signature "Cantwell Scull" jumped out at me, causing me to instantly loose interest in the original project.  Thumbing through the ledger, I searched for other references to the name, but this one signature was the only one to be found.  I photocopied the page and can therefore print it here in full:

 Received of Capt. William Chisholm this 22 March 1757 a bond dated the 3rd of March, 1757 conditioned for the payment of 530 six p. of light current money from the Bahama Islands to be paid by John Gambier, Nehemiah Duncome, and Edward Hiles on or before the third day of  September 1757 to William Bradley on this consignment which I promise to deliver to said Bradley.

           As witness my hand

     SIGNED Cantwell Scull, Clerk of Ct.

     Endorsed William Bradley

     Registered Sam Bousch

  (Ledger Book, Clerk of Court Office, Norfolk, VA.)

 Other entries in the ledger book clarified that Sam Bousch was the Clerk of Court in Norfolk at the time. This meant that Cantwell Scull had to be the Clerk of Court in the Bahamas, a British colony on the fringes of the Caribbean that was part of the jurisdiction of the government of the colony of Carolina from 1670 until 1729.  I knew I had seen the name "Cantwell Scull" before, somehow associated with the Sculls of Pennsylvania.  The reason I remembered it was because there had also been a "Mary Cantwell" listed as one of the seven servants who had come over on the Bristol Merchant with the "gentleman" Nicholas Scull in 1685.  When I got home and looked over the genealogical chart on the descendants of Nicholas Scull I could see that Cantwell Scull was the oldest son of Joseph Scull, the husbandman. Born on April 14, 1726, he would have been forty-one years old at the time the document was signed. This was certainly the same person for there could not have been more than one "Cantwell Scull" of the appropriate age in the New World in 1757.  I also could see that there were no known descendants of Cantwell Scull in Pennsylvania.  The fact that Cantwell's nephew, Joseph Scull (also known as Jose Scull Berry), later married a Cuban named Luisa Rosa Audouin before 1820 and settled near Matanzas Ciudad, Cuba added credibility to the connection in the Bahamas, for the Bahamas were a notorious center of piracy in the early 1700s and a jumping off point for the illegal trade with the Cubans after the Navigation Acts were passed prohibiting any trade with the Spanish (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1963, vol. II, pp. 1039-40)(Scull Genealogical Chart in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library)(IGI Batch #5001763, L.D.S. Genealogical Service).

 Also of interest in this ledger book entry is the name of the merchant, John Gambier.  No doubt, this was the origin of the name John Gambier Scull, the ensign from Wilmington, North Carolina who achieved the rank of captain during the course of the American Revolution. Soon after discovering this ledger entry I picked up a book on the history of the Bahamas and read that between the years 1758 and 1760 that Samuel Gambier was the Admiralty Court Judge and that John Gambier was the "acting governor" of the Bahamas.  As the Admiralty Court Judge Samuel Gambier was supposed to be prosecuting the violators of the Navigation Acts, but evidently he was looking the other way.   John Gambier was dismissed upon the arrival of Governor Shirley in 1760 because the Gambiers were violating the Navigation Acts by allowing direct trade in sugar between the Bahamas and Cuba.  Despite the "salutary neglect" of the Gambiers, Samuel Gambier continued to stay in the Bahamas until his death in 1789. The record of the administration of his estate by Eleanor Gambier shows that he owned 4000 acres in the Bahamas on Cat Island, where at that time there was a place called Gambier's Bluff. John Gambier's son, Admiral James Gambier, was commander of the fleet sent to New York to assisted Lord Howe against the Americans in 1778.  On two occasions he was actually placed in temporary command of Howe's army, so despite their salutary neglect in the Bahamas the Gambiers appear to have remained loyal to the British crown throughout the American Revolution (History of the Bahamas, by Michael Craton, 1962)(Will and Administrations, Bahamas, LDS Genealogical Service, film #223157)(Dictionary of National Biography, London, vol. VII, p. 833).

 These bits of information led me to wonder if Cantwell Scull had married a daughter of John Gambier and named his son after his father-in-law. I could find no record of marriages in the Bahamas for the period in question in the LDS Genealogical Service, but when I shared this information on the phone with Commander Walter Gambier Scull, USN, a direct descendant of John Gambier Scull who is the leading genealogist of the Texas branch of the Scull family, he read to me from a Brunswick, North Carolina deed of Eleanor Neal, dated 1798, that had been found by Sharon Shaw, a genealogist in Los Angeles, California.  I later found a copy of this deed in the Brunswick County, N.C., Courthouse:.

 John G. Scull pays 150 to Eleanor for all that was left them by their father Cantwell Scull, negro  woman called Mool, girl named Sarah, girl named Lovena, girl named Moriah, boy named Sam, the rest taken to pay for debts of the step-father, George Belume, deceased

       William Robinson, witness

Therefore it can be proven that John Gambier Scull was the son of the Clerk of Court, Cantwell Scull, the eldest grandson of the husbandman, Joseph Scull, and the great-grandson of the "gentleman," Nicholas Scull (Book of Deeds, Brunswick County, N.C., vol. D, p. 152).  

  After the American Revolution, John Gambier Scull became a leading politician in Brunswick County.  He was elected to be a representative in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1791 and was elected Sheriff of Brunswick County in 1800.  He served in the North Carolina House of Commons again in 1801, 1802, and 1803.  The descendants of John Gambier Scull soon broke into two branches: one that stayed in the area around Wilmington, North Carolina and a second that moved to Texas by way of Alabama.  Today there are Sculls directly descended from Cantwell in Virginia, Texas, and Cornwall, England. (Senate Record, North Carolina, 1790, 1791)( House Journal , 1791, 1795, 1801, 1802, 1803)(Descendants of William Drue Scull, by Cmdr. Walter Gambier Scull, USN).


 Altogether there were about seventeen Sculls who are recorded to have served in military units against the British in the Revolutionary War. Considering the fact that there were only eleven Scull households listed in the 1790 Census (which does not include the lost New Jersey Census records), this was a very high turn out. From Pennsylvania there were seven Sculls who enlisted:

Edward Scull of Haller's Battalion, Flying Camp, Pennsylvania

Captain Edward Scull of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment

Nicholas Scull, a military surgeon

P. Scull, of the 1st. Regiment of Continental Troops

Major Peter Scull of Patton's Regiment of Continental Troops

William Scull, a wheelwright for the Commissioner of Military Stores

Captain William Scull of the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment.

From New Jersey there were five Sculls who enlisted:

Daniel Scull of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment

Daniel Scull of the 4th New Jersey Regiment

David Scull of the 4th New Jersey Regiment

Lieutenant John Scull of the 3rd Battalion of the Gloucester Militia

Philip Scull of the 9th New Jersey Battalion

From New York there was one Scull who enlisted:

 James Scull of the 2nd New York Regiment

From North Carolina there were five Sculls who enlisted:

Alexander Scull of the 2nd Battalion of the Continental Army (under Col. John Patton)

Joseph Scull, who received 640 acres in 1784 for 84 months on service in an unspecified unit

Lieutenant John Scull, who served in Thomas Brown's Company in 1777

Captain John Gambier Scull, who enlisted as an ensign in June, 1776 and served until the close of the war, receiving 1,127 acres for 37 months of service.

 (Registers of Enlistments in the Revolutionary War, National Archives, Washington, D.C.)  (Soldiers From North Carolina in the American Revolution, pp. 46, 56, 161, 200, 231, 259, 291, 353, 555, 557, 353, 604, 610)


It has been estimated that among the thirteen colonies only about one-third of the people really supported rebellion against the British. The Continental Army never included more than 32,000 men out of a colonial population of 2,500,000 people.  Support for secession from the British Empire was strongest in New England, an area where no Sculls lived. Secessionist sentiment was especially weak in the South, where British bounties subsidized the growing of indigo, and the production of ship masts and spars, tar, pitch, and turpentine industries.  There was no draft in the American Revolution.  The fact that the Sculls in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina all enlisted in large numbers to fight the British, in spite of their pacifist roots as Quakers, supports the thesis that they were all related and shared a common dislike for British rule.  Perhaps there was some remembered injury or insult form their past, the same incident that led a common ancestor to flee from Bitton or Brinkworth to Ireland at some time before 1685, that made them all especially receptive to the anti-British propaganda of the 1770s  (The National Experience, by John Blum, pp. 32). 


 All other records indicate that New Jersey should have been the state with the highest number of Sculls in the 1790 Census, but the New Jersey portion of the 1790 U.S. Census record has not survived. Nonetheless, a total of 12 household headed by a Scull were were counted that year, including 90 persons. This included 12 probable male Sculls over the age of sixteen, 17 probable male Sculls sixteen-years-of-age and younger, and 39 probable female Sculls of all ages.  The reason I call this count "probable" is because the record only gives the name of the head of the household. The other residents did not necessarily share the same surname.  The complete record is very brief. In alphabetical order by state, the eleven Scull households counted that year that have survived are the following: 


Edward Scull of Hertford County -  residing with 2 white males under age 17, and 3 white females.

Elisha Scull of Hertford County residing with 4 white females, and 11 slaves.

John Scull of Hertford County  residing with 2 white males under 17, 6 white females, and 3 slaves.

John G. Scull of New Hanover Co. residing with 1 white male under age 16, 1 younger white male, 5 white females, 8 slaves, and 1 other free person

Alexander Scull of Wayne County living alone.


John Scull of Allegheny County living with 4 white males under the age of 17, and 2 white females.

Anna Scull of Berks County living with 1 other white female.

Ann Scull, Sr. of Berks County living with 3 other white females.

James Scull of Berks County living with 4 white females.

Benjamin Scull of Philadelphia Co. living with 3 other white males over 16, 7 white males under 17, and 2 white females.

Joseph Scull of Phildadelphia Co.  living with 2 white males under the age of 17, and 2 white females.

 Other records indicate that four Scull households in Hertford County and Wayne County, North Carolina were all descended from Edward Scull the carpenter/joiner who moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvannia, following his apprenticeship in Ireland. His son, Elisha Scull, is my ancestor. Alexander, Edward, and John were all soldiers in the American Revolution; their distant cousin John G. Scull is clearly the war veteran Captain John Gambier Scull, the son of the clerk of court, Cantwell Scull of the Bahamas. At the end of the American Revolution John Gambier received 1127 acres for his service, but he lost the patent when he fell overboard on the Cape Fear River in 1790. A record of his appeal to get a second copy has survived.  He served in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1791.  In 1800 he was elected Sheriff of Brunswick County.  In 1801, 1802, and 1803 he was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons.

 John Scull of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania is believed to have been one of nine children of Jasper Scull the blacksmith. In 1786 he moved to the frontier town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Before the Seven Years War, this site had been the location of the French trading post, Fort Duquesne.  General Edward Braddock was defeated and killed by the French and Indians in an ambush while trying to cut a road accross the mountains during the Seven Years War.  Thirty years later John Scull crossed the mountains with a printing press and founded the Pittsburgh Gazette, which was the first newspaper to be established west of the Allegheny Mountains. He married Mary Irwin, the daughter of Colonel John Irwin.  According to four consecutive census records, John and Mary Scull maintained a large household, consisting of many adults, as well as children.  One of their sons was John Irwin Scull, who later edited his father's newspaper and died at the homestead of Colonel Irwin.  (Autobiography of Charles Biddle, p. 389)(Gen. Source 9:1 of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania)(Colonial Dames chart).

 The origin of the Sculls in Berks County, Pennsylvannia can be traced back to the descendants of Nicholas Scull of Philadelphia County. James Scull was born to the the surveyor and mapmaker, Nicholas Scull II in 1730 and had nine children. One of his sons, Peter Scull, was the Peter who served as Major Peter Scull in the Revolutionary War.  In 1779 he was serving as the Secretary of the Board of War and is listed as having died at sea that same year. (Herbert C. Gearheart Collection, Genalogical Society of Pennsylvannia)(Historical Register of Officers in the Continental Army) 

 Edward Scull was born to the surveyor and mapmaker, Nicholas Scull II in 1716 and married to Abigail Heap in 1738.  That same year he was involved in the surveying of the famous Mason-Dixon line, which marks the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. He moved to the settlement of Reading in Berks County in 1750 where he also continued to work as a surveyor until sometime after 1752.  In his father's will of 1767 Edward Scull the surveyor was already dead. His son, William Scull, was appointed sheriff of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1775 and served as a captain in the llth Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line during the American Revolution.  He left a will in Berks County in 1783 and died in 1784. The will indicates that one of the Anna Sculls headed a households in Berks County 1790 Census was his widow. The younger Anna Scull may have been a daughter or a daughter-in-law. (Herbert C. Gearheart Collection, Genalogical Society of Pennsylvannia)(Pennsylvania Magazine, vol. 18, p. 278, vol. 38, p. 243,  vol 73, pl 17)(Historical Register of Officers in the Continental Army).

 Benjamin Franklin Scull of Philadelphia was one of the numerous sons of Joseph Scull, the husbandman. He was also a godson of the scientist, statesman, and ambassador to Paris, Benjamin Franklin, who was a personal friend of his uncle, Nicholas Scull the surveyor. Benjamin married a Quaker woman, Elizabeth Berry and is known to have had eleven children.  During the American Revolution he served in the militia.   According to the 1790 Census which listed occupations in the city of Philadelphia, he was employed as a manufacturer of beaver hats. Some of the receipts for his hats have survived in the Genalogical Society of Pennsylvania.  The second Joseph Scull in Philadelphia County in 1790 was probably also a descendant of Nicholas Scull, but it cannot be determined who his father was or what became of him, for he cannot be matched with other records.  (Herbert C. Gearheart Collection, Genalogical Society of Pennsylvannia)(Charles Biddle, Autobiography of Charles Biddle, p. 389)(Hinshaw Meeting House Records, Vol. II, p. 717)(Pennsylvania Marriages, vol. I, p. 227).


 The 1800 Census of the United States also suffered the loss of the New Jersey portion, but the record of all the other states survived from that year.  This limited source indicates that the number of Scull households actually declined from the twelve listed in 1790 to only nine listed in 1800. Within this limted sample, the number of  probable white male Sculls increased by only one from 29 to 30. The number of probable white female Sculls added up to the exact same number as ten years earlier: 39. However, the number of slaves owned by Sculls increased from 22 to 46.  This entire increase took place in North Carolina, where the number of slaves owned by John Gambier Scull increased from 8 to 24 and the number of slaves owned by Elisha Scull increased from 11 to 22.  It should be pointed out that the 1800 Census marks a peak in slave ownership by Sculls in North Carolina. In alphabetical order by state, the nine Scull households counted that year that have survived are the following: 


John G. Scule of Brunswick Co. residing with 2 other white males, 5 white females and 24 slaves.

Elisha Scull of Hertford County residing with 2 other white males, 6 white females and 22 slaves.

Elizabeth Scull of Hertford County residing with 1 white male and 3 other white females.


John Scull of Allegheny County residing with 4 other white males and 7 white females.

James Scull of Berks County      residing with 3 other white males and 2 white females.

Jasper Scull of Berks County       residing with 2 other white males and 3 white females.

Isaac Scull of Delaware County residing with 2 other white males and 4 white females.

Benjamin Scull of Philadelphia residing with 7 other white males and 5 white females.

Percilla Scull of Philadelphia residing with 2 other white females.


 In North Carolina John G. Scull and Elisha Scull are clearly the same men who showed up in the previous census. The identity of Elizabeth Scull in this census is less clear, but she is probably the widow of Edward Scull from the previous census. 

 In Pennsylvannia the appearance of the Sculls in Allegheny, Berks, and Philadelphia Counities are of no surprise.  Delaware County is immediately south of Philadelphia County; so all of these households appear to be descendants of Nicholas Scull.

 A rough number of New Jersey Scull households during this same period can be determined by looking at the surviving tax records in that state, which list the following names of property owners with the surname Scull between 1800 and 1810:


Benjamin Scull     Cumberland County

Daniel Scull       Gloucester County

David Scull        Cape May County

Ebenezer Scull     Cape May County

Enoch Scull        Cape May County

Gideon Scull       Gloucester County

Jacob Scull        Cape May County

James Scull        Gloucester County

John Scull         Cape May County

John Scull Jr.     Cape May County

John Scull         Gloucester County

John Scull Jr.     Gloucester County

John Scull, Sr.    Gloucester County

Joseph Scull       Cape May County

Mark Scull         Gloucester County

Patty Scull        Gloucester County

Samuel Scull       Gloucester County

Although there may be some duplicates, it nonetheless can be concluded that the descendants of John Scull of New Jersey were more numerous than the descendants of Nicholas Scull of Pennsylvania during this period. Although some of the New Jersey Sculls may have been migrated from Philadelphia, the fact that all of them had settled within the same two counties close to Egg Harbor indicates that they probably were descendants of the original John Scull.  For the same reason, it is unlikely that some of them were recent immigrants from England or Ireland.  In fact, after Nicholas and John Scull came over in the 1680s there are no records of additional Scull immigrants to the United States until the 1850 Census.

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