The Safeway Skaggs: Where did they come from?

A branch of the Skaggs family founded the Safeway family of stores, with names like Osco, Albertsons and Longs Drugs.  Sam Skaggs donated $100 million to the Scripps Research Institute. You can read about the family here and their genealogy here.  M. B. Skaggs was the first President of Skaggs United Stores.  It has been thought by many genealogists that the Safeway Skaggs family goes back to a James C. Skaggs who served during the Revolutionary War.  Could be, but I'm not so sure.
James C. Skaggs applied for a pension in 1834 for his military service.  Important information was provided in that application, including an attestation of birth date and location, military history and a history of his move from South Carolina to Tennessee.  He does not state his father's name, however, he does attest that "he never left his post during all this service unless when in the immediate neighborhood of his father's, when he made a visit of a few days and immediately returned," indicating that his father was still alive and kicking in South Carolina during the war.  James C. Skaggs has been a genealogical brick wall since we haven't been able to determine his parents and how they fit into the Skaggs family of the mid-18th century.

In the digital age, with the sharing of genealogical information on the internet, some additional evidence has come to light that may provide clues to the ancestry of the Safeway Skaggs'.  The 1912 book A History of Southern Illinois: A narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume 2) by George Washington Smith on page 889 provides a biography of Pryor Lee Skaggs, a proven descendant of Eli Skaggs of Knox County, Tennessee.  We know from deeds that James C. Skaggs and Eli Skaggs lived in the same area of Tennessee in the early 1800s and they were likely related since they deeded property to each other and their heirs during that time.  For example:
  • Between 1793-1812 Eli Skaggs bought 700 acres on Bullrun Creek, 965 acres on Flat Creek, and 200 acres on Chestnut Ridge bordering the Clinch River
  • In 1816 Eli deeded 150 acres on Bullrun Creek to his son James, out of affection only
  • Between 1792-1825, James C. Skaggs bought around 3,000 acres of land of which 1,150 acres he afterward sold
  • James C. Skaggs bought 170 acres at the foot of Comb Ridge in 1805 from what appears to be a close relative, Charles Skaggs Sr., and subsequently sold the land in 1825 to Eli Skaggs (likely Eli Jr., son of Eli)
  • Charles Skaggs Sr. Bought 640 acres from Joseph Beiard in 1793.
Deeds show that James C., Eli and Charles Skaggs Sr. were all early settlers in the Eastern Tennessee c. 1793 and likely were closely related.  The Safeway branch of the Skaggs family somehow passes through these guys.

The biography states that Pryor Lee was "a son of Stephen M. Skaggs, he was born August 6, 1829, in Knox county, east Tennessee. He is of pure English ancestry, his grandfather, Samuel Skaggs, having been born in England, although he spent the greater part of his life in Tennessee, where his children were born and reared."  Pryor Lee's grandfather was Eli Skaggs, father of Stephen M. Skaggs, so I believe when the author refers to "he is of pure English ancestry", the "he" referred to is Stephen M. Skaggs, not Pryor Lee.  If so, then Stephen M. Skaggs' grandfather, identified as Samuel Skaggs, was believed to have been born in England.  If so, this would make Samuel the father of Eli Skaggs and grandfather to Stephen M. Skaggs.

Let's cut away for a minute to colonial Maryland.  Aaron Scaggs and Susannah Hyatt of Prince George's County, Maryland had a son, Charles Scaggs, born in 1709 who died in 1749 in Frederick County, Maryland.  According to his will, this Charles had three sons, Charles, James and Samuel.  This Samuel was likely born between 1735 and 1742 based on the following:
  • His father, Charles, wrote his will in 1742 naming Samuel as an heir, showing Samuel was born prior to 1742
  • Samuel's older brothers, Charles and James, were named on a deed in 1755 for the property "Scaggs Delight" but Samuel was absent, possibly indicating that he was not yet age 21 in 1755, i.e. Samuel was born after 1734
The three brothers disappear from Maryland records after Charles and James were listed on the 1755 deed of "Scaggs Delight" to their mother, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was the executrix of husband Charles' estate.  

"Ordered by the Court that subpoena issue...for Elizabeth Scaggs, Executrix of Charles Scaggs, to countersecure Stephen Hampton and Joseph Beall, son of Ninian, her suretys who complain that the said estate is likely to be wasted."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a Charles and James Skaggs show up in South Carolina  during the French and Indian War c. 1760, Charles serving in the militia under Capt. Alexander Shaws and James attesting to the commandeering of horses for military purposes.  OK, so is there any evidence that a Skaggs who could be James C.'s father was in South Carolina at the time of the Revolution?

Not that I can find.  However, there is a transcript of the 1790 census record for three interesting persons in Spartanburg County, South Carolina:

SPARTANBURG, 96 District, SC   1. Free Males Over 16 Years.
1790 CENSUS INDEX              2. Free Males Under 16 Years.
INDEX By LAST NAME             3. Free White Females.
Revised:  9/29/95              4. Other Free Persons.
                               5. Slaves
Pg#  Col Ln# L Name          F Name           1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
---- --- --- --------------- ---------------  -- -- -- -- --
087    3  33 SEAGES          James             1  0  1  0  0
087    3  41 SAGES           Charles           3  2  1  0  0  
090    1   8 STAGS           Samuel            1  0  2  0  0

This might be the Samual Skaggs we are looking for, since there is also a census record in Spartanburg for a James Seages and a Charles Sages. I don't have the original handwritten census record at hand to confirm, but it wouldn't surprise me if census takers wrote James and Charles Scaggs and Samuel Scags and the transcript misinterpreted those letters, it's happened before. We know from James C.'s pension attestation that he was still in South Carolina for the 1790 census, so this may be him and either Charles or Samuel may be his father.  Regardless, we now have some evidence indicating that these Skaggs' were together in South Carolina prior to moving to Eastern Tennessee.  And we have Pryor Lee Skaggs' biography claiming that he was a descendant of Samuel Skaggs.  What it all boils down to is that now I believe it is likely that the Safeway Skaggs family and James C. Scaggs are all descendants of the Charles Scaggs who died in 1749 in Frederick County, Maryland.


  1. I don't know if you missed this, but Charles Sages in the 1790 Spartanburg Co. Census is next to a Wm Brishers. If I'm not mistaken, Charles Skaggs who died in 1749 in MD married an Elizabeth Brashears. This makes the connection with the Maryland Skaggs stronger. Also, you may have also missed that Eli, Thomas, Charles Sr., Charles Jr., James Sr., James Jr. are all listed in a post Rev War company together in 1792-3 (probably for Indian protection as that was an issue then).

    U.S. Compiled Service Records, Post-Revolutionary War Volunteer Soldiers, 1784-1811 (Found on
    Eli Scaggs
    in the U.S. Compiled Service Records, Post-Revolutionary War Volunteer Soldiers, 1784-1811
    Name: Eli Scaggs Pvt Beaird Co. Same unit as Thomas, James Sr., James Jr., Charles, William)
    State or Territory: Territory South of the Ohio River
    Military Unit: Knox County Regiment, Hamilton District Militia
    Service Year: 1792
    served from May 31 to Jun 14 1793
    Amount of pay $11.25 (15 days at 75 cents per day)

    served from 13 Aug to 23 Aug 1794
    Amount of pay $8.25 (75 cents a day for 10 days

    served from 20 Oct to 3 November 1794
    Amount of pay $11.25 (15 days at 75 cents per day)
    James Skaggs Jr. Pvt Same unit as Eli, Thomas, James Sr., Charles, William)

    Served From 13 Aug to 23 Aug 1794
    Amount of pay $8.25 (75 cents per day)

    served from 27 Aug 1794 to 2 Sep 1794
    Amount of pay $5.25 (75 cents per day)

    served from 20 Oct to 3 November 1794
    Amount of pay $11.25 (75 cents a day for 15 days)

    Thomas Scaggs Pvt (Same unit as Eli, James Sr., James Jr., Charles, William)

    Served from 31 May 1793 to 14 Jun 1793
    Amount of pay $11.25 (15 days at 75 cents per day)

    Served from 23 Jul 23 to Aug 1793
    Amount of pay $3.10 ($3 per month)

    Served from 20 Oct 1794 3 Nov 1794
    Amount of pay $11.25 (15 days at 75 cents per day)
    James Skaggs Sr. Pvt(Same unit as Eli, Thomas, James Jr., Charles, William)

    served from 13 Aug 1793 to 23 Aug 1793
    Amount of pay $8.25 (75 cents per day)
    Charles Scaggs Pvt(Same unit as Eli, Thomas, James Sr., James Jr., William)

    served from 20 Oct 1794 to 3 Nov 1794
    Amount of pay $11.25 (75 cents per day)
    William Skeggs Sr. Pvt (Same unit as Eli, Thomas, James Sr., James Jr., Charles)

    served from 27 Aug 1794 to 2 Sep 1794
    Amount of pay $5.25 (75 cents per day)

    1. Thanks, these militia payments are important in establishing this family's presence in Tennessee prior to statehood.


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