Selah Schoonmaker Family Papers (1841-1917)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, September 16, 1999
Volume: 0.5 cu. ft.
Acquisition: The papers were donated to the Huguenot Historical Society by Mrs. John. L. Schoonmaker on January 3, 1985.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Special thanks to Amanda Nelson for her assistance in processing this collection.

Biographical Note

Selah Schoonmaker G-203 [1] was born on April 7, 1854 to Abraham S. Schoonmaker and Cornelia DuBois and baptized on December 16 of the same year. On June 15, 1881 he married Magdalene LeFevre (1861-1929) at Guilford, Ulster County, New York. Together they had five children. Selah died on February 13, 1939. From Selah Schoonmaker's obituary, we learn that he owned and operated the Bonny Brook Farm in Gardiner, New York, where he lived all his life. He also apparently dealt in horse-trading. Selah was also a member of the Shawagunk Reformed Church and is buried in the New Paltz Rural Cemetery [2].

Collection Description

The papers primarily document the Schoonmaker and DuBois families of Gardiner and Libertyville in Ulster County, New York, and Myra, Nebraska from the 1850's to the 1890's. Records chiefly include diaries, family letters, legal correspondence, and military papers pertaining to Peter W. DuBois (1819-1896) and Jonathan Deyo DuBois (1808-1870), and Selah Schoonmaker and his brother William DuBois Schoonmaker (1862-1889), raiser of livestock in Mira, Nebraska.

The majority of the collection is made up of diaries and letters of Selah Schoonmaker and close relatives. The diaries kept by Selah Schoonmaker from 1890-1917 mainly relate to work done on the family farm at Gardiner. Selah wrote consistent but brief entries about the weather, visits to and by family and friends, errands, illnesses, and visits to church, borrowing tools, and farm cash accounts and expenditures. Other examples of information in the diaries are addresses, business cards, and newspaper clippings of obituaries. Although Selah probably kept diaries for every year, diaries for several years appear to have been lost. One other diary dates from 1865 and apparently belonged to Jennie Schoonmaker contains similar information as Selah's diaries, but also contains a story entitled "The Belfry of Burges." Almost all of the entries were written faintly in pencil and are somewhat difficult to read.

In contrast to the diaries, which document only a few subjects, the letters in the collection discuss a variety of different topics. Although organized strictly by date, the content of the letters can be roughly divided into three distinct groups: letters of Peter W. DuBois and Jonathan DuBois dating from 1850-1869, Civil War letters from friends of the Schoonmaker family from 1861-1865, and letters from and concerning Selah's brother William DuBois of Myra, Nebraska during the 1880's and 1890's. The DuBois letters most likely came into the possession of Selah Schoonmaker after the death of Peter W. DuBois in 1896, since Selah is listed as one of the heirs in DuBois' will. This first group primarily includes letters between Peter DuBois of Libertyville, and his brothers Jonathan DuBois of Richmondale, Ohio and Mathusalem DuBois of Fulton County, Indiana. The letters discuss family news such as health issues, weddings and visits; and business and speculation in the farming, mining, and timber industries in Illinois. Occasional letters from John Quigg of Mount Rose, CA, to Jonathan DuBois discuss the Washoe silver mines and the 1861 Presidential election. One letter from Maria DuBois to Jonathan Dubois mentions a quilt made for a relative.

The second group of letters includes letters written to Abraham S. Schoonmaker from friends serving in the Civil War. Soldiers Henry Hess, William Hess and Samuel Hoppenstedt write of life in the military camps such cities as Baton Rouge, Petersburg, Fairfax, and Savannah. Topics discussed include soldiers' hopes for furloughs, prices of food and supplies in the South, the need for shoes, receiving of gift boxes from home, and descriptions of "cowardly behavior" by soldiers, such attempts by some soldiers to receive medical discharges by shooting off their own fingers.

The third group of letters relates to Selah Schoonmaker's brother William of Myra, Nebraska, who raised horses and other livestock there. Most of these letters concern the settlement of William's estate after his death in 1890. In particular, letters from A. Ward and attorney A.A. Laverty concern Selah's attempts to sell a medically impaired horse that had belonged to William.

Other records include military orders, rosters, and notices pertaining to the 92nd Regiment, 34th Brigade, 5th Division of Infantry in New York State, in which Peter DuBois served as Lieutenant; and miscellaneous receipts, advertisements and other materials belonging to various Schoonmaker family members. One item of interest is a recipe of "W. DuB Schoonmaker" dating from 1887 for a "cholera tincture" which includes opium, red pepper, rhubarb and peppermint as ingredients. There is also an undated poster for a public sale in Myra, Nebraska.

In addition to the Selah Schoonmaker Family Papers, the Huguenot Historical Society also retains two other Schoonmaker family collections. These include the Effie Schoonmaker Laws Family Papers (ca. 1850-1974) and the Papers of Alida Mary Schoonmaker, Countess von Krockow (1874-1894). The Society also maintains a mathematical workbook kept by Hendricus Schoonmaker from 1781-1785 in the Huguenot Historical Society Ciphering Book Collection, and several Schoonmaker family Bibles in the Huguenot Historical Society Bible and Religious Book Collection.

Series Descriptions

The collection is divided into two series: Diaries, and Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers.

Series 1: Diaries (1865, 1890-1917)
Diaries of Selah Schoonmaker from 1890-1917 containing brief entries pertaining to weather and work at the family farm in Gardiner, NY. Also, a diary of Jennie Schoonmaker dating from 1865. Most of the entries are written faintly in pencil and are somewhat difficult to read. Diaries are organized chronologically.

Series 2: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers (1841-1899)
This series includes letters of the Schoonmaker and DuBois families, military papers of Lieutenant Peter DuBois of the New York State Infantry (1843-1846), receipts, advertisements and other items of the Schoonmaker family. Records are organized into folders by type and thereunder chronologically.

Box and Folder List

Box 1
Series 1: Diaries (1865, 1890-1917)

Diaries (1865, 1890-1917) 11 volumes

Box 2
Series 2: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers (1841-1899)

(1869-1891 and undated)

Military Papers (1843-1846)

Miscellaneous (1841-1899 and undated)


[1] Heidgerd, William, and William Mercer Schoemaker II. The Schoonmaker Family: Descendants of Hendrick Jochemsz Schoonmaker 1624-1683, Part 4. Published by the Schoonmaker Family Association, Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz, NY (1981).

[2] Obituary of Selah Schoonmaker. New Paltz Independent and Times (February 16, 1939).