Mathias Steelman (c1723-1793): Working Immigrant Ancestor Down to Possible Parents: Part 3: Candidate for Father

It has been seen in the previous Steelman posts in this series that Ella Stille Mansson had about sixteen grandsons. “About” is certainly an indefinite term since the father of Matthias Steelman could be among the unknowns and a man who left little in the way of a paper trail.

However, since Mathias Steelman is first found in Kent County, Delaware, it makes sense that he might be closely related to the other Steelmans in Delaware – namely Charles Steelman who died in 1708 in New Jersey and his widow,  one son and two daughters.

Charles’s survivors left New Jersey and settled in New Castle County, which happens to share its southern boundary with the northern border of Kent County.

There are two issues with this theory, though. First, the other Steelmans lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Gloucester and Burlington Counties, New Jersey.

With land becoming more scarce and costly, it isn’t unreasonable to think that Mathias Steelman might have migrated from either of those colonies to Delaware.

As a quick recap, Ella Stille and Hans Mansson had five sons who might be the line to Mathias Steelman:

  1. John who married Maria Stalcop – 2 sons, maybe more children
  2. James who married Susannah Toy – 6 sons
  3. Peter who married Gertrude Keen – at least 4 sons
  4. Christiern who married Mary Cann. No known children.
  5. Charles who married Anna Nilsson – 1 son; their one son, Charles Jr., reportedly married once in 1737, so he couldn’t be the father of Mathias.
  6. Eric who married Brigitta (MNU) – As Eric was born in 1681 and had two known sons – Hans and James – it is unlikely that this line is Mathias’s. Hans and James would be too young to have a son born c1722/23.

Of the three remaining sons, I think there is one who is most likely to be the ancestor of Mathias and that is Peter Steelman.

Peter Steelman and Gertrude Keen married c1693, probably near Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey. They are said to have had four sons among their five children:

Peter Jr., born c1693 and died in 1720, apparently unmarried, Charles, born c1697 and died in 1779 leaving a will (no mention of a son Mathias),
John, born c1700 and died 1764 or later
Mathias, born c1705 and died 1772 leaving a will (no mention of Mathias of North Carolina)

There is one important detail about the Keen family that drew me to Peter Steelman. Gertrude Keen had several brothers, one of whom was named Mathias. This branch of the family is the only one where I have come across the given name of Mathias.

Yes, it is a common Swedish name, but most family names of that era were given to children to honor or remember another family member with the same name.

Now of these sons of Peter and Gertrude (Keen) Steelman, Peter Jr.’s early death in 1720, apparently unmarried, closes him off as a line to Mathias of North Carolina.

Peter’s sons Charles and Mathias both left wills with neither mentioning a son Mathias living in North Carolina.

That leaves one known son, whose descendants are unaccounted for – John, born c1700 and who reportedly died in 1764. Other than these unverified dates, there seems to be little information to be found about him.

Now, let’s look at the names of Mathias’s and Ruth’s children, particularly their sons, named in his 1793 will in Surry County, North Carolina – Selah Cain, William Steelman, John Steelman, Charles Steelman, Rachel Creson, Ruth Speer, James Steelman, George Steelman, (Mathias Steelman died 1782 and his father administrated his estate)and Elizabeth Speer, based on the order named in their father’s will.

William is not a name found among any of the early Steelmans, so he may have been named for someone in his mother Ruth’s family. He has been identified as Mathias’s and Ruth’s oldest son.

In birth order, the next son is John. Could that be because Mathias named his second son after his father? It’s a definite possibility.

Next comes the million dollar question – what records might document the life and family of John Steelman?

First, the diary of Swedish Pastor Andreas Sandel includes multiple mentions of Peter Steelman and his family. Some of the later entries are more pertinent to this research question.

In 1720, there are two entries –

January 5: Death of Peter Steehlman, son of Peter Steehlman
April 19:  Raccoon Creek Swedish Church, donation book:

Hans Steehlman – 1 shilling for Bible
Olof Steehlman – 3 shillings for Psalm Book
Peter Steehlman – Bible & Psalm Book, 1 shilling each

1720: List of those who subscribed for the purchase of the parsonage in Pilesgrave and gave them bonds:^^

Hans Steehlman, Junior 0.6.0
Eric Steehlman 1.0.0
Peter Steehlman 1.0.0
Hans Steehlman 1.0.0 (Senior?)

The fact that Peter Steelman is recorded in the congregation of Raccoon Creek Swedish Church is extremely important because Great Egg Harbor is on the eastern side of New Jersey, while Raccoon Creek Church is in Swedesboro, 60 miles northwest of Great Egg Harbor.

Swedesboro is almost on the Delaware River and is but a stone’s throw from New Castle County, Delaware.

Notice, also, in the church notes that two Hans Steelmans are listed – one identified as Junior, which by deduction means the other is Senior.

Johan, Johannes and Hans are all variations of the given name John and one of these men, probably Hans Junior who would have been around 21 years old, is the son of Peter and Gertrude.

There is a problem with John, or Hans, Steelman, as John who married Maria Stalcop also named a son John Jr., born c1697 and who reportedly died in the 1760s.

The two Hans Steehlmans on the 1720 parsonage list above are likely the two cousins.

However, I am not sure how later records can distinguish between them since I haven’t found them in land, tax or probate records.

Unfortunately, New Jersey and Delaware records are mostly locked on FamilySearch and I think I will likely need the expanded resources found in books in the Family History Library.

In spite of these limitations, my current belief is that Mathias Steelman of Surry County, North Carolina may well have been the son of John Steelman and grandson of Peter Steelman and Gertrude Keen.




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