A Cry from the Grave: Hints of a Buried Past

Since we know that some Phipps, Phips, Fipps, Fips, etc. individuals went by Phelps or Felps, would it make sense to reconsider the Phelps family of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Could they have been Fips, Phips, etc., even though they were also known as Felts?

Today, some think it’s odd that one man might spell his name Isgrig while a close relative – perhaps his own brother – might spell that same name Isgrigg. Or they may be baffled as to why one Hoelzel would place stress on the second syllable of the name, while another would emphasize the first syllable.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, however, (1) spellings appeared to be much more fluid, (2) many people could not read and write, and (3) people didn’t necessarily care how their name was spelled. Could the Phelps AKA Felts family of Wilkes County, North Carolina have been a part of the Fips, Phips, etc. family?

Wilkes County is the same county in which Samuel Phips, Jr., Samuel Phips, Sr., and Mathew Phips were living in the late 18th century. A William Felts is said to have been born in 1767 and to have married Susannah Oliver. He was supposedly the father of Elizabeth, Issom (Isom), Aaron, Nancy, Elijah, George, Daniel, and Susannah.

Aaron, presumably the same one, appears in the 1782 tax list in Wilkes County, according to a published abstract, as “Aron Felts.” Then he appears from 1784 to 1790 as Aaron “Phelps.”

Earlier, “Accquilla Phelps” appears in the 1759 tax list of Rowan County, North Carolina, with “Aventon Felps” listed there in 1761. This “Aventon” has been seen in records with various spellings which suggest that the name was actually Abington or Abingdon. Of course, this immediately brings to mind the southeast Pennsylvania Quaker connection. (See also here.)

One must notice the very Phipps-like names appearing in Wilkes County in the Phelps/Felts family: Aaron, John, William, James – even a Jesse. They interacted with the Cook family.

  • Lewellyn Phipps is supposed to have married Clare Cloe Cook, daughter of Clary (Payne) Cook who was born about 1762 and who resided in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
  • In 1767, John Phips of Charlotte County, Virginia sold land on the Pigg River in Halifax County, Virginia to William Cook.
  • Capt. James Cook sailed with Capt. Constantine John Phipps of England, with apparent Virginia connections, in his 1773 attempt to reach the North Pole.
  • In 1786, Matthew Fips of Wilkes County lost land to Thomas Cook. He is likely the Mathew/Matthew who later shows up in Surry County, North Carolina, perhaps because this land was deeded to Cook in 1788.
  • An 1822 Surry County, North Carolina case pitted Elizabeth (Fips) Witcher, daughter of John Fips of Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties in Virginia, against David Cook.

The Phelps/Felts family appears to have been in Rowan County before appearing in Wilkes County records. According to B.F. Nuckolls, borrowing from A.B. Cox writing in 1900,

Benjamin Phipps came from Rowan county, N. C.; settled on Bridle Creek; his brother, Isaiah, and the Hash family, came also about the same time. Benjamin Phipps married Miss Jane Hash, an excellent, good woman; she lived to be nearly one hundred years old; lived to see her children and grandchildren to the fourth generation.

Earlier, Cox had written that,

Benjamin Phipps came from Rowan County, N.C., settled on Bridle Creek. His brother Isaiah came about the same time, as did also the Hash family. Benjamin Phipps married Miss Jane Hash, an excellent good woman. She lived to be near 100 years old; lived to see her children and grandchildren to the fourth generation.

The Samuel Phips family of Wilkes and later Ashe County appears to have clearly originated from southeast Virginia. We should not rule out the possibility, however, of some sort of Virginia and Pennsylvania interaction involving different segments of the Fips, Phips, Phipps, etc. family. That seems especially true considering the family’s extremely highly mobile nature, coupled with their adventurous maritime and merchant orientation.

From what we know of this unique family, we could also say that it’s not only possible, but probable, that transatlantic voyages occasionally involved interaction between “Phipps” individuals in America and their relatives in England. In fact, we’ve found clear evidence that this was probably the case.

We should not rule out the possibility of a Phips or Phipps who remained in England having sons in two or more colonies – a factor which could have skewed genealogical claims even back into past centuries. Factors like that are not necessarily accounted for using conventional genealogical methods, not even today.

A deed in Anson County, North Carolina dated 12 February 1753 has Michael Miers selling land in Anson County to “Aventon Phelps.” Of course, Aventon can easily be surmised to be yet another spelling of Abington or Abingdon or whatever was intended.

This Aventon Phelps was a blacksmith, and the land in question was 357 acres on the Yadkin above the mouth of Reedy Creek. This, according to a published abstract, appears in Rowan County Deed Book 1, on pages 75 to 79.

Today, Anson County is in southern North Carolina, but the northern part of Anson became Rowan in 1753. In 1762 the western part of Anson became Mecklenburg. We’ve discussed Isaac Phips, also referred to as Fibbs, of Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties, who died in 1791.

Accuilla Phelps, as already noted, appears in Rowan County in 1759, and Aventon Felps in Rowan County in 1761. Understandably, both of these given names (what used to be called Christian names) took a variety of spellings. Additionally, a 1768 Rowan County tax list shows both John and Thomas Felps.

We’ve noted how the Jones name, although obviously common, has cropped up an unusually large number of times when researching the Phips family of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina. The Rowan County will of Samuel Jones, dated 6 April 1775, refers to Elizabeth, wife of William Felps, according to an abstract (Book A, page 202).

Then, in Book C, on page 317, appears the will of Thomas Felps, dated 4 April 1794. One of his sons was named Abbinton.

Regarding the Aaron Phelps mentioned earlier, an earlier Aaron Felts is said to have been born about 1737 and he was supposedly an “English Episcopal.” All that means is that he was a member of the Church of England, as appears to have been various Fips or Phips individuals of southern Virginia prior to the Revolution.

The story (and this is recounted in one of Mrs. W.O. Absher books on Wilkes County) is that this Aaron Felts was kidnapped at age 15 and forced to serve in the British Army. Supposedly he was so cruelly treated by the Army that once he ended up in America, he sided with Washington and served under him during the Revolution.

That story says that he married Mollie Collier about 1760. The marriage of Mollie’s parents, William Collier and Rebecca Rothchild, was supposedly scandalous because he was of the Church of England while she was Jewish. This is said to have resulted in Aaron and Mollie becoming disowned by their own parents, prompting their emigration to America.

The later William Felts who was born in 1767 and who lived in Wilkes County married a woman named Susannah Oliver. Supposedly her parents were Elijah and Susannah (Sharpe) Oliver, but one must pause a moment and wonder whether an old story about the Toliver could possibly fit here.

A very close connection existed between Jesse Toliver of Wilkes County, on the one hand, and Samuel Phips, Jr. of the same county, on the other. A persistent story which appears to have applied to multiple generations claims that a Toliver morphed into an Oliver.

The excellent Cheek Family of Alleghany County, North Carolina website refers to DNA evidence which suggests that descendants of this Jesse Toliver – with his descendants involved in intermarriages with descendants of Samuel Phips – genetically match supposed descendants of a certain Lancelot Oliver from Ulster, Ireland.

Samuel Phips testified on behalf of Jesse Toliver’s Revolutionary War pension claim, and Samuel’s grandson Mathew married one of Jesse’s descendants. As the Cheek site notes,

This evidence strongly suggests that there was an Oliver-Toliver name change, which may explain why so many researchers have hit a brick wall trying to connect Jesse Toliver and his brothers with the known Toliver/Taliaferro families in Virginia.

Why a name change, and why Ireland? We’ve noted earlier the Fibbs AKA Phipps etc. family in Ireland, along with supposed efforts by the British to eradicate the memory of this “warlike clan.” At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, we could say based on family stories and, actually, on a mounting collection of evidence, that it appears highly likely that the Fips, Phibbs, Phipps, Phips, etc. family had something to hide.

Here are some odd facts and claims – some more supported than others. Again, some of these are only claims, and might not be accurate. What, however, do they spell out or suggest?

  • Close association with a family which changed its name from Toliver to Oliver (or from Oliver to Toliver?)
  • A branch known as Phips but also as “Phrip” (another name change?) which appears likely associated with a family which definitely changed its name from Taylor to Tayloe and a family which apparently changed its name from Walker to Walke
  • An apparent growing reclusiveness and a mysterious side to the family, as they retreated from Virginia high society to the mountains of Appalachia
  • A story about a fight resulting in the death of someone of prominence in England
  • A claim that “The Phibbs clan joined with the English in the 1066 war and gained their nobility. Later when Ireland was fighting for their freedom, the Phibbs Clan sided with Ireland and nearly all records of Phibbs have been destroyed for they hated the Phibbs clan for the betrayal.”
  • Various stories and accounts of radical changes in financial and social status: It’s like a broken record, with legends about Sir William Phips and published accounts of the Phipps family which supposedly raised itself into nobility status by their own actions

No prior genealogists, evidently, have ever wanted to take this sort of thing seriously and to tackle this difficult and puzzling area. Prior genealogists haven’t want to face the reality that genealogy isn’t all just a matter of so-and-so marrying so-and-so and living “prominent” and predictable lives. Genealogists have not wanted to accept the reality of variant spellings – and understandably so, because that opens up a huge can of worms involving vast numbers of potential records which may or may not pertain.

But does a secret lie buried in records that acknowledge these aspects of the buried past? Perhaps it’s a bit like something that Brent Kennedy once said. Kennedy is a direct descendant of Samuel Phips of Wilkes and later Ashe County, and is the author of The Melungeons. In the video documentary Melungeon Voices, in a totally different context, he said something like, “It’s like hearing a cry from the grave, and then having to decide whether or not to answer it.”

1820 Census, Ashe Co., NC

Something quirky about Phips listings in Ashe County, North Carolina in the 1820 census is that the census taker appears to have more or less alphabetized the entries by surname, intended to list them as “Fipps” or “Fips” (or some other spelling beginning with “F”), but ended up listing them as “Phips.” We can see that from the arrangement of the surnames on the page (stamped page 8):

  • Jacob Eller
  • William Elleson Jr.
  • Wm Elleson
  • James Dodson
  • Elezeberth Dier
  • Jno. Ford
  • Jacob Fouts
  • Joseph Fouts
  • Saml. Phips
  • Jno Phips
  • Ben. Phips
  • Jos. [or Jas.?] Phips
  • Jacob Faw
  • Jno Faw
  • Charls Francis
  • Eligah Francis
  • Elizeberth Gore
  • Jeremiah Gamble
  • etc.

The Phips names appear as follows:

  • Saml. Phips [no period after “Saml,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]
  • Jno Phips [neither dots, nor a raised superscript “o” which also would have indicated an abbreviation]
  • Ben. Phips [no period after “Ben,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]
  • Jos. [or Jas.?] Phips [no period after “Jos,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]

Assuming that the head of the household, as named, was probably the oldest adult male in the household, the following would be their ages based on this census:

  • Samuel Phips: 45+ (born about 1775 or earlier)
  • John Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)
  • Benjamin Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)
  • Joseph (or James?) Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)

The way in which these ages for John, Benjamin, and Joseph/James line up in a perfect column under Samuel, with his age older (and two columns away) suggests a high likelihood that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th men were sons of Samuel.

We know from his own somewhat wavering testimonies on the behalf of others’ pension applications, and from the 1850 census, that Samuel was born about 1760 to 1763.

We appear to know little about John. He apparently died before 27 November 1845, the date of an Ashe County administrator’s bond pertaining to the estate of John Phips, deceased, presumably him. He is said to have married Mary Cox and then Jemima Stamper, although this is unconfirmed.

Benjamin (who should not be confused with the Grayson County, Virginia Benjamin who served in the Revolution) appears to have been born about 1794-5 according to the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses. He married Rachel, said to be Rachel Burnie.

The other was presumably Joseph, who is said to have been born about 1797, but this is unconfirmed. He is discussed in Brent Kennedy’s well-known book The Melungeons, on p. 60. He is called the youngest son in his father’s 1837 will, which would explain his placement at the bottom of the census list.

Joseph is said to have married Patsy/Patcy White, who is presumably the “Patcy” in the same household as Samuel in the 1850 census in Ashe County. In the 1980s, John Mullins pointed out a mountain which he called “Patty Phipps Mountain” on what had been Samuel’s farm in Ashe (now Alleghany) County, likely named for “Patcy.”

Jeremiah and Aaron Phips, 1820, Jefferson Co., KY

The following is a census entry for two consecutive households in 1820 at a place called Shippingport in Jefferson County, Kentucky. As could be guessed by the name Shippingport, Jefferson County, Kentucky is located along the Ohio River and, in its current configuration, is adjacent to the Indiana counties of Clark, Floyd, and Harrison. The county is also adjacent to the Kentucky counties of Bullitt, Hardin, Oldham, Shelby, and Spencer.

Shippingport was simply a small settlement, and is today an industrial site. In 1820, the time of the census, it had reached its all-time population high of about 600. Shippingport went into decline in 1825 when the Louisville and Portland Canal caused ships to bypass the settlement.

Two Phips households appear at Shippingport in the 1820 census, those being the homes of Jeremiah Phips and Aaron Phips. Aaron was born about 1775 to 1794. No one else was in the household except for a woman of the same age range, presumably his wife, and two girls born around 1810 or later.

Jeremiah Phips, assuming that he was the oldest in the household, was also born about 1775 to 1794. In his household, two women appear of that same age range, plus two girls born about 1810 or later, and a number of males. In fact, the number of males would seem unlikely if the numbers were not clearly specified in the census.

In Jeremiah’s household, if he was born about 1775 to 1794, he was merely one of 10 men in that age range in the same household. In addition, 9 were born about 1794 to 1804, one was born about 1804 to 1810, and 4 were born about 1810 or later.

Since relationships were not stated in censuses this early, perhaps the individuals in this household were not all related. This could conceivably have been, perhaps, a small hotel or a boarding house for workers in local industry. That could explain the presence of 10 men aged 26 to 45 and 9 men aged 16 to 26, with 8(?) working in commerce and 4 in manufactures. Another household a short distance away, that of James A. Palmer, contained 9 men aged 16 to 26 and 12 aged 26 to 45.

From the 1820 federal U.S. census, Jefferson County, Kentucky:

[labeled “31” in upper right corner]

Schedule of the whole number of Persons Within the Division Allotted to Chs. L. Harrison

[The following has been reformatted from the original wide tabular form. In the margin appears “Name of the County &c Where the Family resides,” and in accordance with that, in the margin next to the two Phips names, the location name “Shippingport” appears. Personal names appear under the heading “Names of Heads of Families.”]

Jeremiah Phips

  • Free white males: 4 -10, 1 10-16, 9 16-26, 10 26-45
  • Free white females: 2 -10, 2 26-45
  • Occupations: [8? (overwritten)] under Commerce, 4 under Manufactures
  • Slaves: blank
  • Free Coloured Persons: blank

Aaron Phips

  • Free white males: 1 26-45
  • Free white females: 2 -10, 1 26-45
  • Occupations: blank
  • Slaves: blank
  • Free Coloured Persons: blank

John Phipps: A NC Pension Application

The following are excerpts from the Confederate pension application file of John Phipps, Ashe County, North Carolina. John was born about 1836. He was evidently the John Phipps who died on 24 March 1932 at West Jefferson, Ashe County, North Carolina, according to his death certificate.

His death certificate gives his occupation as “Horse trader.” His parents are identified on his death certificate as Samuel Phipps and Grace Doughton. That Samuel was born 12 September 1813 according to his tombstone. Samuel lived in Alleghany County in 1880, in Wautauga County in 1897, and is buried in Watauga County.

John and wife Frances had a son Samuel who was born in November 1859 according to the 1900 census. This later Samuel appears as a farm laborer in the household of his parents in the 1900 census. The later Samuel was the father of Grover Cleveland Phipps, who was presumably the G.C. Phipps of the letters below. Those letters are written on bank letterhead.

. . . On this 15th day of Aug. A. D. 1929 personally appeared before me, J. D. Stansberry, C. S. C. in and for the State and County aforesaid, John Phipps, age 93 years, and a resident at Jefferson, N.C. postoffice in said County and State, and who, being duly sworn, makes the following declaration in order to obtain the pension under the provisions of an act entitled “An Act to amend and consolidate the pension laws of the State of North Carolina,” ratified March 8, 1921, that he is the identical John Phipps who enlisted in Co. F. Jackson’s Reg., N. C. State Troops, on or about the 1st day of Sept. 1861, to serve in the armies of the late Confederate States, . . . Served in the Confederate Army during the entire time; furnished a supply team, Cavalry horse, and gave freely of all he had for the great Cause he served. . . . 15th day of Aug. 1929 [signed:] John Phipps his X mark. . . .

. . . On this 21st day of November, A. D. 1925, personally appeared before me, J. D. Stansberry C. S. C. in and for the State and County aforesaid, John Phipps, age 89 years, and a resident at West Jefferson postoffice, . . . That he is the identical John Phipps who enlisted in Co. The Alleghany Grays, Horton Doughton, Capt. Reg.; N. C. State Troops, . . . 1861 . . . this applicant enlisted in Alleghany County under Capt. Horton Doughton; was taken with pneumonia fever and did not reach camps for active service, but after recovery did service in transporting provisions to troops and served on the home-guard. . . . 21st day of November, 1925. [signed:] John Phipps . . . .

. . . This day personally appeared before me W. F. Doughton a Justice of the peace C. J. Taylor and made the following statement that he is personally acquainted with John Phipps anc that the said Phipps in company A. J Taylor A J Warden Theo. Canudy on the waters of Elk Creek in Alleghany County operated an Iron forge for the Confederacy without compensation for a period of about two years during the civil war, and also that he rendered service for the home guard. I am now in my Eightieth year and a Son of A. J. Taylor one of the company that opprated [sic; operated] the Forge
This Aug 27th 1929
C. J. Taylor
Sworn to and subscribed before me. This Aug 27th 1929
W. F. Doughton J. P. . . .

. . . West Jefferson, N.C.
August 27, 1929.
Honorable R.A. Doughton,
Raleigh, N. C.
Dear Sir:
Enclosed please find Affidavit telling a part of Grandfather’s services during the war. Grandfather enlisted in Company F, 22nd Regiment and he took the feaver and was sent home, and after a long spell of sickness, not being able for a regular soldier, he was drafted into other service and worked delivering supplies to the soldiers, worked in a forge, and later was called home and put in the Home Guard.
Very Respectfully,
[G.C?] Phipps.

. . . West Jefferson, N.C.
August 19, 1929.
Honorable R.A. Doughton,
Raleigh, N.C.
Dear Sir:
In answer to yours of the 17th inst., I have had my grandfather’s pension report fixed up and approved by the local board of Ashe County and mailed it on August 15th. All Grandfather wanted you to do was, if his report was acceptable to the State Board at Raleigh, to explain to them that he was sick at the time his papers should have been sent out, and if it isn’t contrary to rules and statue [sic; statute], he would like to get a pension this year. . . .
Yours sincerely,
[G.C?] Phipps.

John and Tabitha Fips/Phips Surface in Halifax Co., VA

Various posts during the last several months have noted the presence of a John Fips/Phips and wife Tabitha in records in Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties in Virginia, counties situated along the North Carolina line. Additional records regarding his estate were then generated in Pittsylvania County. It appears clear that the family had earlier ties to Brunswick County, Virginia and later ties to Surry, Wilkes, and Ashe Counties, North Carolina.

We can thank the efforts of Wayne Witcher of the Witcher family blog for his efforts in excavating early records of this family. His tireless efforts have paid off again as he has uncovered the same family earlier in Halifax County, Virginia. This is the county where we had earlier noted that a “–hn Phips” (with two letters missing in the original record, presumably John Phips, was listed in the 1782 Halifax County, Virginia tax list. This is also the county in which John Phips of Charlotte County sold land to William Cook in 1767. It’s also the very same county where James Phips had land surveyed for himself in 1753, with that land not granted to him until 30 years later, when the same land was considered part of Henry County. It’s also the county where George Reaves (Reeves) of Wilkes County, North Carolina, father in law of Samuel Phips of the same county, became an Eppes heir.

Speaking of the Eppes or Epps family, Moses Epps of Halifax County, Virginia served in the Revolutionary War under Capt. Joshua Powell, and that Joshua Powell would appear to be the same individual who is mentioned in the newly-found records in Halifax County.

The following are transcriptions from records found by Wayne Witcher. Various associated individuals of other surnames were discussed in previous posts concerning records involving this family in other counties, and it would be too tedious to recount all of that here. Note also that “Phips” or “Fips” etc. is spelled in a variety of ways – but never as “Phipps.” We see Phips, Fipps, Fips, and – last but not least – Phelps, the latter proving once again that it just doesn’t make sense to ignore Phelps, Philps, Fibbs, Phillips, etc. references when it comes to this family.

Plea Book 6, Halifax County, Virginia, p. 48:

February Court 1768 – . . .

On the Motion of John Hamilton a Witness for Joshua Powell in his Suit against Terry it is Ordered that the said Joshua pay him for ten Days Attendance and three times travelling Thirty Miles and five times Travelling forty Miles, According to Law. –

On the Motion of Mary Mackendree a Witness for Champness Terry at the Suit of Powell it is Ordered that the said Champness pay her for Twenty one Days Attendance, According to Law –

On the Motion of John Phips a Witness for Champness Terry at the Suit of Powell it is Ordered that the said Champness pay him for twelve days Attendance and twice travelling Thirty Miles and eight times travelling Eighteen Miles, According to Law –

On the Motion of Moses Terry a Witness for Champness Terry at the Suit of Powell it is Ordered that the said Champness pay him for Twenty Days Attendance According to Law –

Joshua Powell. plaintif
Champness Terry Defendant
In Case

This day came the Parties by their Attornies and thereupon came also a Jury, to wit, Abraham Shelton, Thomas Hope, John Brown, Benjamin Dickson, Filmer Wells, John Douglass, Thomas Douglass, William Powell[,] Robert Farguson, William Watkins [unclear, word evidently smudged out and replaced with what looks like “Blaint[?]” or something similar] Black and Joseph Terry who being Elected, [tryed?] and Sworn [?] [for?] [plaintif?] to [?]y [the? or tho?] [joyned?] in this [Cause? or Court?]

Plea Book 6, Halifax County, Virginia, p. 469:

[In margin: “Fipps Admrs. v. Wilson”]

Tabitha Fips Administratrix and Francis Barnes
Adm[s?] For [Ye? or &c?] of John Fips deceased Plaintifs
Harris Wilson Defendant
On a Petition

This day came the Plaintifs by Paul Carrington their Attorney and the said Defendant being duly Summoned and not appearing altho Solemnly called and the Plaintifs Account for [Four?] pounds Eight shillings being duly proved to be just Therefore it is ordered by the Court that the Plaintifs recover against this Defendant their debt[s?] foresaid together with their Costs by them [? (tape repair)] [th]eir Suit in this [or their?] behalf expended –

Paul [Car]rington Assignee of Moses Terry Plt
John Phelps Defendant
In Debt

On the Motion of John Phips a Wtness for Champness Terry at the Suit of Powell it is Ordered that the said Champness pay him for twelve day’s Attendance and twice travelling Thirty Miles and eight times travelling Eighteen Miles, According to Law

[continued on page 470:]

September Court 1769

This day came as well the Plaintif by Isaac Read his Attorney as The said Defendant in his proper Person and the said Defendant saith that he cannot deny the Action of the sd. Plaintif thereof against him, [? (looks like “norbut”)] that he doth owe to him the sd. Plaintif the Sum of Forty pounds Current Money in manner and form as the said Plaintif above against him hath alledged Therefore it is considered by the Court that the Plaintif recover against the said Plaintif [sic; should say defendant] his debt aforesd. by the Defendant in form aforesaid confessed together with his Costs by him about his Suit in this behalf expended and the sd. Defendant in Mercy for But this Judgment (Except as to the Costs) is to be discharged by the payment of Fourteen pounds [three?] shillings and Six pence with Legal Interest thereon from the Twenty fifth day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and Sixty eight until the same shall be paid –

Plea Book 6, Halifax County, Virginia, p. 527:

July Court 1770 . . .

Francis Barnes and Tabitha Phips Administrators [?] of John Phips deceased Plaintifs
Champness Terry Defendant
On a Scire Facias

Th[is] day came the Plaintifs by Paul Carrington their Attorney and the said Deft. being duly warned and not appearing (altho Solemnly called) Therefore it is considered by the Court that the Plts. have Execution against the sd. Deft. for Six hundred and Six pounds of Tobacco According to a former Order of this Court together with the[ir?] Costs by them in this behalf expended [looks like perhaps “expanded”]

Land Grants: Samuel Phips, Wilkes Co., NC

Below are transcriptions of two sets of records. Each pertains to a land grant to Samuel Phips in Wilkes County. The first is dated 1791 and is based on a 1779 land entry. The first grant shows him as adjacent to Enoch Osborn, a name which has come up repeatedly in later Ashe County records in direct or indirect association with Samuel Phips.

Enoch Osborn or Osborne (the surname frequently appears as “Orsborn” or something similar in Ashe County records) has been called a New River Valley longhunter, but whether that’s accurate or not might be another matter. He supposedly was born in Rowan County around 1741-1745 and died in or about 1818 in Grayson County, Virginia, with estate settlement in 1826.

Enoch Osborne is supposed to have married Jane Hash. The couple are discussed on page 58 of Brent Kennedy’s book The Melungeons. Jean Hash married Benjamin Phips, who was born about 1761-1762 in what later became Grayson County, Virginia.

Benjamin Phips appeared in the same Montgomery County as Samuel Phips around the late 1770s and early 1780s. For years, he had been assumed to be a brother Samuel, although that might not be the case.

Various Phips or Phipps individuals submitted Eastern Cherokee Applications in the early 20th century from in and around the Ashe County area. Claims based on descendancy from James and Marjory Hash were cited in those applications.

Philip Gaines, the surveyor mentioned below, is said to have operated as some sort of land or warrant broker. He was likely the same Philip Gaines who seems to have gotten into some sort of trouble in Augusta County in 1787. That was supposed to have been because of his attempting to bring a slave from Maryland into Virginia in violation of a slave importation law passed in 1785. He is also presumably the Philip Gaines of the 1811 Grayson County, Virginia legislative petition discussed earlier.

Speaking of slave importation, the introduction of laws against it may have been a factor that contributed to what appears to have been a steady decline in the social status and income of at least some members of the Fips, Phipps, etc. family in Virginia and North Carolina.

Numerous 18th century records refer to family members as slaveholders. Still other records, dating back into the 17th century, refer to various family members as being directly involved in the slave trade, especially involving the Caribbean, along with trading in rum and molasses.

A change in the legality of slave importation, coupled with the loss of Caribbean trade beginning with the Revolution, could have had a profound impact on the family, both economically and socially. This could account for circumstantial evidence suggesting a possibility of Indian trading, plus the more than apparent drift into criminal activity on the part of some family members, by the early 19th century.

Here are transcriptions of the first of the two Wilkes County land grants to Samuel Phips:

Transcription of index card:

No. 1022
County Wilkes
Name Phips, Samuel
Acres 200
Grant No. 1214
Issued 20″ Dec. 1791
Warrant No. [blank] Entry No. 612
Entered 1″ April 1779
Book No. 75 Page No. 354
Location On Rockey Creek [evidently misread from Rock Creek]
Remarks: [blank]

Transcription of grant:

State of North Carolina No. 612

Benjamin Herndon Entry Office of Claims for Lands in the County of Wilkes

To the Surveyor of the Said County Greeting You are hereby Required as soon as may be to Lay off & survey for [ye?] Samuel Phip[ink blot] a tract of parcel of Land Containing two Hundred acres Lying in the County Afforesaid Lying on Rockey [evidently misreading of Rock] Creek Begining on the East Side of the Said Creek at the Lower End of the Turkey Mountain Runing South then the other Courses to Include my Improovment for Complement

Observing the Direction of the act of Assembley in Such Case Made & provided for Runing Lands Two Just & fair plans of such Survey With a proper Certificate Annexed to Each you are to Transmit With this Warrant to the Secretary’s Office Without Delay

Given Under my Hand at Office this first Day of April Ann. Dom. 1779

Benj. Herndon

Transcription of back of grant:

[No. (ink blot)] 612
Samuel Phips
200 Acres

Transcription of survey:

[inset map showing rectangular tract of land labeled “Samuel Phips plan of 200 Acres of Land.” What looks like a ridge or stream appears to meander more or less north and south along the west end of the tract and appears to be labeled perhaps “[Dark? (presumably it should say Rock] Creek.” Measurements in poles surround the rectangle.]

No. 612

Land down by a Sale [obviously Scale was meant] of 100 pole to the Inch

State of North Carolina Wilkes County – March 10th 17[8?]9
Surveyd. Samuel Phips a Tract or parcel of Land Containing two Hundred acres Lying on Rock Creek of New River Begining [at?] a Bunch of B[ede?] Saplins & a Ches nut Tree Runing thence two Hundred & fifty [Seven?] pole Crossing sd. to a Hickry Saplin & two Red Oaks thence South one Hundred & twenty Seven pole to a [Red?] and white oak on Enoch Osborn Line thence [East?] two Hundred & fifty two pole to a Stake thence North one Hundred & twenty Seven pole Crossing [sd.?] to the first Station

[? (looks like perhaps Jame)] Philip Gaines
[for?] Joseph Herndon C S

[Tavilton?] Woody &
[Fraces?] Ross

Transcription of back of survey:

No. 612
Samuel Phipes plan for 200 Acres of Land
Wilkes County
April 1st. 1779

The following is a series of transcriptions pertaining to another North Carolina land grant to Samuel Phips in Wilkes County. This one is dated 1787. Notice that this 2nd grant was witnessed by John Long. He was likely the same individual as the John H. Long discussed in the last post.

Tarlton or Taulton Woodie, also mentioned in this 2nd land grant, appears to have married a Loggins. Both surnames appear frequently in Ashe County records. (Again, the grant was in Wilkes County.)

Transcription of index card:

No. 1037
County Wilkes
Name Phips, Samuel
Acres 50
Grant No. 1229
Issued 20″ Dec. 1791
Warrant No. [blank] Entry No. 150
Entered 11″ July, 17873
Book No. 75 Page No. 359
Location On branches of Rock Creek New River.
Remarks: [blank]

Transcription of grant:

State of North Carolina No. 150
James Fletcher
Entrey offier [officer intended] of [Claimer?] for Lands in the County of Wilkes

To the Surveyor of Said County of Sd. County of Wilkes
Greeting You are hereby Requiard as soon as may be to Lay off Lay of [sic] & Survay for Samuel phipes a tract of Land Containing fifty acres Lying and being in the County afore Said – on Some of the warters of New River Begining at or Near the head of the horseford Branch & Runing the Varouses Courses [for?] Compt

Obsearving the Directions of the act of assemble [assembly intended] in Such Case mad [made intended] & provided for Runing out Land two Just & fair plans of Such Surveys with a proper Certificate annaxed to Each You are to transmit with this warrant to the Secrtareys office with out Delay Given under my hand at office the Forth Day of July anno 1783 –

James Fletcher

Transcription of back of grant:

No. 150
Samuel Fips
50 Acres

under late act [presumably meaning under a recent legislative act]

Transcription of plan:

[Inset map consisting of rectangle labeled “Samuel Phips plan of 50 acres of Land,” with measurements around the perimeter in poles and with two vertical squiggles, presumably creeks or streams, one starting at the top edge and one at the bottom edge, each terminating somewhere in the rectangle with a loop but without meeting]

Laid down by a Scale of one Hundred pole to the Inch

State of North Carolina Wilkes County March the 10th [ano? (for anno?)] 17[8?]9

Surveyed for Samuel Phips a Tract or parcel of Land Containing fifty acres Lying on a branch of Rock Creek of New River Begining at a [? (looks like “Syany”)] Oak & Locust Saplin Runing thence West one Hundred & twenty Six pole Crossing a branch to [the first Station? (smudged, perhaps intended as crossed out)] South Sixty four pole to a white oak thence East one Hundred & twenty Six pole Crossing a branch to a white oak thence North Sixty four pole to the first Station

[? (looks like “pr. Mc”] Philip Gaines A.S. [Assistant Surveyor?]
for Joseph Herndon C. S. [County Surveyor?]

Taulton Woody
John Long

Transcription of back of plan:

No. 150
Samuel Phips Plan
50 Acres of
Wilkes County
Under Late
July 4-1787

Mathew Phips of Wilkes County, NC: A 1785 Land Grant

A 1788 Wilkes County, North Carolina deed, as abstracted, refers to property of Matthew Fips which was lost to satisfy Thomas Cook. The case of Thomas Cook v. Matthew Fips was heard in Wilkes County on 27 July 1786

Then in 1790, a Matthew Phipps appears in Surry County, North Carolina in the census. Was this the same person? An index to Surry County land entries from 1778 to 1795 shows Matthew Phipes/Fipps.

This Mathew or Matthew should not be confused with the later person of that name, born about 1810-1811, a son of Jesse Phips/Jane (“Jennie”) Spurlin of Ashe County, North Carolina. Jesse was a son of Samuel Phips, Jr. of Wilkes and later Ashe County. In both cases, it appears that the name was generally spelled with one “T.”

This Matthew has been suspected of possibly having been a son of the John Fips who died in 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia. Regarding the Thomas Cook who sued Mathew or Matthew and apparently received his land as a result, it might be relevant to note that in 1767 in Halifax County, Virginia, John Phips of Charlotte County sold land in Halifax County to William Cook. This was land on both sides of the Pigg River near the mouth of Hatchet Run.

Survey Map

Survey Map

Mathew Phips received a land grant in Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1785. The records pertaining to the grant refer to him as Mathew Phips and as Marthew Phips. A small survey “plan” map accompanying the survey record shows a more or less rectangular tract of 200 acres with a stream flowing horizontally across it. The land description refers to the headwaters of Coleys Creek and “some of the waters” of Hunting Creek. The angle of flow of the creek in the map looks identical to that of Hunting Creek. In addition, the survey description refers to the county line. From the wording of the property description, it sounds as though the southern boundary of the property followed the county line.

If so, then this would suggest, would it not, that the property must have been along the southern end of Wilkes County. In 1785, Wilkes County was bounded on the south by Burke County toward the southwest and Rowan County toward the southeast.

We know where Hunting Creek is today, but where was this Coleys Creek? There is a Coley Creek in Gaston and Transylvania Counties, but that is far to the south. There is evidently also a Coley Creek around Raleigh, and a Coley Branch in Stanly County.

More immediately relevant, apparently, are references to Hunting Creek. This is a name that appears in various North Carolina counties, but one of those counties is present-day Wilkes. A “historical” place, in other words it doesn’t show up on modern maps otherwise, is a settlement named Hunting Creek in Wilkes County, which appears in the Gilreath quadrangle U.S. Geological Survey topo maps. Hunting Creek Cemetery and Hunting Creek Church appear in the same quadrangle.

A large tiff file of that map appears here. Note that the file might take a while to load on some devices, and might not show up as anything other than unintelligible blotches on some devices. On an iPad, it’s best to first import it into Goodreader or some alternative app.

The map shows both Hunting Creek and Little Hunting Creek. Interestingly, the southern edge of the present-day Wilkes County appears nearby, to the south of this creek. Using the scale on the map, the distance from the county line to Hunting Creek (which varies, of course) appears to be, very roughly, maybe about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 miles or so. The southern edge of Wilkes County, on this present-day map, borders the counties of Alexander and Iredell.

In the same general area as the historical community of Hunting Creek, the map shows Vannoy Ridge, apparently on or near Brushy Mountain. Francis Vannoy appears in a Wilkes County bond in October 1798. Susannah Vannoy is supposed to have married John R. Long. Their daughter Anna married John H. Toliver and fathered Mathursa Toliver who married the later Mathew Phips (Matthew Phipps), who moved to Clay and Owen Counties, Indiana. John R. Long and Susannah (Vannoy) Long also were the parents of Jesse Long, who was the father of Mary Elizabeth Long who married John Meshack Phips, son of Jesse Phips/Jane (“Jennie”) Spurlin. John R. Long also fathered Owen Long, who moved to Owen County, Indiana and fathered John and Aaron Long, both of whom were hung in 1845 for the murder of Col. Davenport, for whom Davenport, Iowa is named. They were in the same outlaw gang as John Meshack Phips, with John’s father Jesse apparently being in association with the gang.

By the way, Libre Map Project is a great resource for genealogists. Here are links to North Carolina searches and Virginia searches.

The following are transcriptions of the North Carolina land grant records pertaining to Mathew Phips in Wilkes County in 1785:

Transcription of index card:

No. 737
County Wilkes
Name Phips, Mathew
Acres 200
Grant No. 733
Issued 22″ Feb 1785
Warrant No. [blank] Entry No. 1816
Entered 20″ Jan, 1785
Book No. 59 Page No. 342
Location On a ridge that divides the head waters of Coleys Creek & some of the waters of Hunting Creek
Remarks: [blank]

Transcription of grant:

State of N Carolina

James Fletcher
Entry Office of Claims for Lands in the County
Of Wilkes

To the Surveyor of sd. County Greeting
You are here by Required as soon as may Be to Lay [or Levy?] Off &c Survey for Mathew Phips A Tract or parcel Of Land Containing Two hundred Acres Lying in sd. County Beging. On the Ridge that Divides the head of Coleys Creek & Some Of the Waters of hunting Creek & [Runs?] The Various [for?]


Observing the p[rovit?]ions of the Act Of Assembly in Such Case made & Approved & for Running [Out?] Lands [Two?] Just [& for?] [?] of Such Survey With a proper Certificate Annexed to [Each?] You are to Transmit with this Warrant the Secretaries Office With [?] Given Under my hand [at Office?] This 20, Day of January
1785 James Fletcher

Transcription of back of grant:

Nr. 1816

Transcription of survey:

The plan Laid [& Drawn?] By Scale Of 100 pole To an Inch

Survey Map

Survey Map

[Inset map labeled “Area 200 Acres,” with “B” in lower left corner and “A” in lower right corner]

Surveyed April [of? or ye?] Anno 1785 for Marthew Phips A Tract Of Land Containing Two Hundred Acres Lying On the Ridge that Divides the head Waters of Coleys Creek & Some Of the Waters Of hunting Creek Begining On A Hicory in [or? or ye?] Roan [“Roan” appears clear] Line & Runs East Two Hundred poles to A Silverwood then South fifty Two pole to A Red Oak then East forty pole To A Hicory then South Ninety pole to A Chesnut on the Dividing Ridge Then West With sd. Ridge Along the County Line Two hundred & forty pole to A Stake then North one hundred & forty Two pole to the Begining [Pr. M.?]

[(abbreviation?)] Johnson [(abbreviation?)]
[Jos.?] Cerndon C S.

Job Coal
Jno. Combs

Transcription of back of survey:

Plan &
Jan. 20 – 1785