Colonel William Skinner (c.1730-1780), resident of London, England, was a distinguished officer in the English Army. Skinner's father, Reverend William MacGregor, left Scotland for America after taking part in the unsuccessful Jacobite Rising of 1715, and changed his family name from MacGregor to Skinner. In America, Reverend Skinner settled in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and became rector of St. Peter's Church, a position he held until his death. In Perth Amboy, Rev. Skinner married Elizabeth Cortlandt, daughter of former New York mayor Stephanus Van Cortlandt. The Skinners had five children, of whom William Skinner, Jr., was the fourth. Skinner's eldest brother, Cortlandt Skinner (1728-1799), rose to fame as the Attorney General of New Jersey before the Revolution, and commanded a corps of loyalist soldiers during the war.
Col. William Skinner, like his younger brother John, sought a career in the Army. Skinner joined Col. Schuyler's regiment in 1755 and took part in the Seven Years War in North America. In 1756 Skinner was taken prisoner by the French following the surrender of Fort Oswego, and he was sent to France. However, he was soon released on parole and sent to England in 1757. Skinner continued his service in the Army, gaining promotions as he took part in various actions throughout Europe. He eventually earned the rank of colonel, a title he would keep for the rest of his life.
In 1767 Col. Skinner married Susanna Warren (d. 1772). Susanna was the daughter of Sir Peter Warren, a noted naval officer, and granddaughter of Anne Van Cortlandt, who was a sister of Skinner's mother Elizabeth. Skinner and Susanna had one child, a daughter named Susanna Maria, who in 1789 married Henry Gage, later 3rd Viscount Gage. Skinner died in 1780, leaving his estate to his daughter.