Captain Joseph Ellsworth Skinner was born in Orange County, N. Y., April 14, 1809, a son of John and Sarah (Ellsworth) Skinner, and grandson of Joseph Ellsworth, whose name he bears. His father died when he was a child, and his mother afterward married James Schoonover. She died in Li Salle County in 1872. After the death of his father he was bound to Charles Buchanan, and lived with him till he was fourteen years old. In 1823 he went to Pennsylvania and was employed in the construction of the Hudson & Delaware Canal some time. In 1835 he went to Cass County, Mich., and in 1838 moved to Tazewell County, Ill., where he engaged in milling, and in 1840 came to La Salle County and was employed in the Dayton Mills a year. He then bought a mill on Indian Creek in company with a man named Currier, which they ran a few years. In 1846 he enlisted in the Mexican war in the First Illinois Volunteers and participated in the battle of Buena Vista. At the first call for troops in the war of the Rebellion he, in company with Mr. Gibson, raised Company I, Eleventh Illinois Infantry, of which he was commissioned First Lieutenant, and was stationed at Bird’s Point, Mo., the three months, when, their term being expired, they returned home. The following fall he recruited a second company, which was assigned to the Fifty-third Infantry as Company C, and he was commissioned its Captain. He participated in the battle at Pittsburg Landing and the first battle at Corinth, but on account of ill health was obliged to resign in 1862, and returned to his home in LaSalle County. Captain Skinner has been identified with the county forty-five years, and has assisted materially in its development, giving liberally of both time and money to further the advancement of any enterprise of public benefit. He is now living retired from the active cares of life in his pleasant home in Ottawa. He was married in 1827 to Sarah French, who died in 1833, leaving three children—William, of Minnesota; Martha, wife of Clinton Shaw, of Pennsylvania, and Oliver, of Elmira, N. Y. In 1836, in Michigan, he married Mary Louisa, daughter of Lyman Stephens. To them have been born eleven children, but four of whom are living—Charles J., Robert E., Hellena, wife of Charles McCully, and George I. Captain Skinner is a prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic.
History of La Salle County, Illinois, 2 vols. (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co.,1886), 2: 89.