New Article About John Fips/Phips of Lunenburg/Charlotte Counties, Virginia

We’ve discussed the estate of John Fips or Phips, who appears to have died about 1769 in Charlotte County, Virginia, in various past posts. This John was living earlier in Lunenburg County. (Part of Lunenburg County became Charlotte County in 1764, and Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick County in 1746.)

Members of this family had direct connections to Brunswick County, Virginia, Ashe and Surry Counties, North Carolina, and Lawrence County, Indiana. Other connections appear to have involved Amelia County, Virginia and the North Carolina counties of Bute (now extinct), Warren, Wake, and Orange.

Research in this area has been pioneered through the efforts of the webmaster of a website devoted to the Witcher family. This is a family which connects through the son in law of John Fips/Phips, Ephraim Witcher. Thanks to the very thorough and groundbreaking work of this researcher, now a new article in that website details the Estate of John Fips. That article includes photos of vital original documents.

Where Did the Two Samuels Come From?

A couple recent posts (see here and here) concerned Samuel Phips, who was born about 1760-1763 according to his own testimony. He died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina, on his farm which today is in Alleghany County. (Ashe County did not exist until 1799, and Alleghany County did not exist until 1859.)

The earliest known record pertaining to this Samuel is an undated (about 1782) militia list from Montgomery County, Virginia. There he is listed with an older Samuel, listed as Sr. His eventual father in law George Reeves also shows up in Montgomery County, Virginia around the same time.

Later in the same decade, beginning with 1787 in the case of Samuel Phips, both Samuel Phips and George Reeves show up in Wilkes County, North Carolina records. Then beginning with the 1800 federal census, Samuel appears in Ashe County, North Carolina records and George Reeves in adjacent Grayson County, Virginia. These two latter locations sort of criss-cross in 1811 when Samuel becomes involved in Grayson County as an heir of his father in law George Reeves.

Due to changes in boundary definitions, it appears possible that Samuel could have lived in the same place throughout this period. So where were this Samuel and the older Samuel, identified as Samuel Sr., before the approximately 1782 militia list in Montgomery County, Virginia?

A problem which immediately enters into the picture is that various maps appear to show the location of the Samuel Phips farm, where he died in 1854, as located just past the limits of organized government in the early period. Readily accessible genealogical sources are often vague about this area, and sometimes appear to contradict each other.

Samuel, at least by the time he died in 1854, was living on a hilly farm located beside a loop of the New River as it meanders back and forth across what is now recognized as the Virginia and North Carolina state line. His gravesite, which is on what had been his farm, is within walking distance of the New River.

Various past posts have detailed outlaw involvement of some members of the family. Whether that sort of activity pertained to Samuel or not is not immediately clear. Records do suggest that it applied to at least a couple of his sons and certainly to some of his grandchildren.

Was Samuel deliberately residing out past the easy reach of the law? We’ve discussed records in Virginia, perhaps most prominently in issues of the Virginia Gazette, which suggest that the large-scale Virginia stealing and counterfeiting network utilized the Watauga settlement as a location for holding stolen “merchandise.” In those day, that could include people (slaves) as well as horses. This sort of activity, appears to have been why some individuals settled in this area. Did this apply to Samuel?

Various maps on the Internet and in print show the progression of county jurisdictions in this area of, more or less, northwest North Carolina over the years during the colonial period. By 1782, around the time of the Montgomery County, Virginia militia list, some maps show northwest North Carolina as dominated by Wilkes County with, to the west of Wilkes, Sullivan County (eventually Tennessee) around the present Virginia-North Carolina line, with Washington District mostly to the south of Sullivan.

We have to say “mostly” to the south, because the northern boundary of Washington made a strange sweep to the north in such a way that a sizable chunk of Washington actually hugged the Virginia line between Wilkes County, to the east, and Sullivan County, to the west.

Do these considerations even apply to Samuel, however? Samuel was in Montgomery County, Virginia about 1782. Various genealogical and historical sources say that Montgomery County, Virginia was earlier Fincastle County, Virginia. Some confusion seemed to exist, however, over the exact nature of the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina in this area. This seems to have resulted in the odd phenomenon of a number of Phips or Phipps individuals showing up as born in North Carolina in one record, born in Virginia in another.

Some modern-day sources seem to suggest that at least part of the area where Samuel Phips was living was, for a time, not clearly a part of any county. If Sullivan County does enter into the picture, that jurisdiction appears to have created in 1779 as a part of North Carolina. Then from 1784 to 1788, it was a part of the State of Franklin, an area which has been described as extra-legal. In other words, it had no official or legal status. Although some pushed for a new state to be admitted in this area, this never occurred.

The fact that a cluster of associated surnames appear in Montgomery County, North Carolina early in the 1780s and then in Wilkes County, North Carolina later that decade suggests that the same area may have shifted its jurisdictional definition during that period. But Wilkes County didn’t exist until 1777, just maybe 5 years or so prior to the Montgomery County militia list.

When Wilkes County was formed, it was created from parts of Surry County and Washington District. Various family and circumstantial ties appear to connect Samuel Phips of (eventually) Ashe County, North Carolina with John Fips or Phips who died about 1769 in Charlotte County, Virginia. John had been earlier living in Lunenburg County, Virginia, but this probably did not indicate an actual move, since part of Lunenburg became Charlotte in 1764.

Various records connect that family with the Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties, Virginia. We know that members of this family made multiple inroads into multiple North Carolina counties. They moved into the now-extinct county of Bute (later Warren) County, North Carolina, into Wake County, into Surry County, and into Wilkes County. In addition, this family appears to connect to the Phips or Phipps family of Amelia County, Virginia, with direct ties from there into Warren and Orange Counties in North Carolina.

It may seem unlikely that a single family could have connection to all of these locations. We’ve found, however, a clearly documented tendency for various Phips or Phipps or Fips individuals, who appear to have been connected, to demonstrate a remarkable mobility.

We’ve uncovered a number of records which refer to one of these individuals in one county, but described as being “of” some other county. A surprisingly large number of records even criss-cross the Virginia-North Carolina, referring to both colonies or states in a single record as involving a single individual.

Members of the family of John Fips or Phips of Lunenburg/Charlotte Counties, Virginia came into Surry County, North Carolina and, if we can count in-laws, even into Ashe County, North Carolina. Members of the Phips or Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties in Virginia seem, again, connected to family members in Amelia County, Virginia. Family members associated with Amelia County, Virginia migrated into Bute (Warren) and Orange Counties in North Carolina.

Then we have the approximately 1768 (although 1765 has been claimed) Orange County, North Carolina Regulator petition naming James, John, and Joseph Phipps. Shortly afterward (1771) part of Orange County became Guilford County. Then in 1774, just about 3 years later, James, John, and Joseph Phipps show up in a 1774 estate record in Guilford County.

Guilford County was formed, in part, from Orange County, but also from Rowan County. Benjamin Nuckolls, writing in 1914 in Pioneer Settlers of Grayson County, said that the family of Benjamin Phipps came from Rowan County.

So, to return to the original question, where would one look for earlier records pertaining to the two men named Samuel Phips? Again, the younger died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina, and the older Samuel, Samuel Sr., appears with the younger Samuel in the approximately 1782 record in Montgomery County, Virginia. Were they a part of one of the migration paths just described, or did they make their own trek into no-man’s land from some other part of Virginia or North Carolina? If so, from what part?

If they moved early into a sort of unofficial no-man’s land, the matter of where to search for records may be a moot point. They may have been living where there simply were no records. Surely if one goes back far enough, however, there must some sort of a record, somewhere, pertaining to at least Samuel Sr. in a location officially recognized. Where might that be?

According to Wikipedia, Ashe County, North Carolina, where the younger Samuel died in 1854, was considered a part of the State of Franklin in the 1780s. To ask where the records of the State of Franklin would be, appears to be a “trick question,” since it was not officially recognized. According to that same Wikipedia article, the State of Franklin consisted of three “counties,” as Wikipedia puts it. Presumably these were not officially recognized as counties per se at the time. These were Washington, Greene, and Sullivan, with Ashe considered as a part of Washington.

The Ashe area wasn’t considered to be a part of North Carolina at all until 1785, according to that same source. Even then, Ashe County didn’t yet exist as Ashe County. Presumably that would explain why Samuel Jr. appears beginning in the latter 1780s in Wilkes County. Another Wikipedia article explains that it was the northern and western regions of Wilkes County which eventually became Ashe County. That would have been in 1799, when Ashe was formed.

Following standard genealogical practice and standard genealogical references, the procedure would be to (1) look at the earliest known record pertaining to the two Samuels, which is from Montgomery County, Virginia. On that basis, one would see that Montgomery County was formed in 1777 from Fincastle County. One would then (2) look at earlier records from Fincastle County.

In the case of the two Samuels, however, that might be a waste of time. A more productive stance might be to consider earlier migrations into Surry and Wilkes County, or even earlier migrations into Bute (later Warren), Wake, and Orange Counties. (That’s not actually a bunch of different counties, because of the tremendous amount of overlap in records in addition to changing county boundary designations.)

It seems remarkably odd that only one record seems to have surfaced that clearly pertains to Samuel Sr. Could he be discussed earlier, somewhere else, as a Phelps, or as a Fibbs? Did he suddenly show up from the Caribbean, through the West Indies trade link?

Could he even have more or less sneaked into Virginia or North Carolina via a late immigration? There’s always the (so far) unsupported family legend that the immigrant killed someone of prominence in England and so fled to America. There are also persistent legends of Newport News, Virginia as the immigration point. If there was any truth to these stories, could he have already had relatives living in Virginia or North Carolina at the time of this purported immigration?

The Newport News legend could actually pertain to a known immigration.  which appears to clearly relate, through tons of circumstantial data, especially relationships with members of associated families of other surnames. That immigration was that of John Phips, the surveyor who arrived in Jamestown in 1621.

Through lots of circumstantial data, especially relationships with members of associated families of other surnames, it appears likely that the Phips or Phipps family in Brunswick, Sussex, Amelia, Lunenburg, etc. counties of Virginia likely ties back to this John Phips.

Once he reached Virginia in 1621, he would have first reached what is now referred to as the Hampton Roads area. This is the area currently dominated by Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News. John Phips would have then made his way up the James River to Jamestown.

John’s entry point into Virginia would have been right around the area of Newport News. Could this be what the family legend pertains to? Was Newport News even known as such back then?

Again, John Phips arrived in 1621. Wikipedia refers to the area of Newport News as located near the mouth of the James River. The article also says that this point was “first referred to as Newportes Newes as early as 1621.”

That was the same year in which John Phips arrived. Did he stop at “Newportes Newes” before making his way up the James River to his new home of Jamestown? Is this the basis for the family legend? And, if so, did he come to America for reasons other than to simply enter the eventually lucrative world of Virginia surveying? Was there any evidence that he could have been pushed by circumstances into making a trip across the Atlantic that he never otherwise would have made?

1817 Grayson County, Virginia Deed to Benjamin Phipps

The following information is presented here despite obvious deficiencies in the document copies which were consulted. Three Phipps-related deeds appear in immediate succession in Grayson County, Virginia Deed Book 3.

Very faint and incomplete records of a deed which concludes on p. 491 refers to land sold, apparently, to Joseph Phipps. John Landreth and his wife Elizabeth are mentioned, along with concerns that Phipps be free from claims of Landreth.

This deed was witnessed by Joseph Field, Jonathan Thomas, and William Phipps. The land was adjacent to Stephen Ward and Daniel Jones. The deed was signed by John Landreth and Elizabeth Landreth.

This deed was followed by another. The 2nd deed is also from John and Elizabeth Landreth but to Benjamin Phipps. That deed appears to be nearly complete in the retrieved copies.

The Joseph “Field” who witnessed this and the previous deed was presumably the same person as the Joseph “Fields” who witnessed a deed to Isaiah Phipps in a recent post.

The following deed, then, comes from Grayson County, Virginia Deed Book 3, pp. 491-492. The deed is dated 24 May 1817.

[p. 491:]

This Indenture made this twenty fourth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventeen in the 41st year of the Commonwealth, Between John Landreth and Elizabeth his wife of Grayson County and State of Virginia of the one part and Benjamin Phipps of the [line missing in the copies consulted?]

[p. 492:]

hundred [blank] and twenty Dollars to them in hand paid by the said Benjamin Phipps at or before the ensealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained and sold and by these presents do and each of them do bargain and sell unto the said Benjamin Phipps his heirs and assigns part of a tract of land for [sic] fifty acres more or less part of a tract surveyed for Nathaniel Landreth on a branch of Saddle Creek the waters of New River lying in the County of Grayson Bounded as followeth to wit, Beginning on a white oak thence S. 20 [PP.?] to a conditional line made between William Wyatt & John Wyatt [binding?] to a branch running with the branch as it meanders to a [fork?] and [with?] the conditional lines to the old line and from th[ere?] to the beginning to have and to hold the said tract of land with its tenements hereditaments [to?] and all and singular [other?] the premises herein before mentioned or intended to be bargained and [sold?] with every part and parcel thereof appurtenance[s?] unto the said Benjamin Phipps his heirs or assigns for ever and the said John Landreth & Elizabeth his wife for them selves and their heirs the sd [i.e. said] land with all and singular the premises and appurtenances thereunto belonging unto the said Benjamin Phipps his heirs and assigns free from the claim or claims of them the said John Landreth and Elizabeth his wife or either of them their or either of their heirs and all and every person or persons whatsoever shall will and do warrant and forever define by these presents. In Witness whereof the said John Landreth and Elizabeth his wife have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written

John Landreth (Seal)
Elizabeth Landreth (Seal)

Sign’d, seal’d, and deliver’d in the presence of us [signed:]
Test [i.e. witnessed by] Joseph Field
Joseph Phipps
William Phipps

This deed is immediately followed by one from John Landreth to Benjamin Phipps.

The Two Wives and Unknown Daughters of Samuel Phips of Ashe County

The last post raised some questions – some apparently answered, some not – regarding Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina. He was born about 1760-1763 according to his own testimony, and died in 1854 in Ashe County (later Alleghany County). Here are some additional considerations, which may greatly alter the view of Samuel which has been presented by genealogists over the last several decades.

Going back about 30-40 years ago and even earlier in the 20th century, some genealogists believed that Jesse Phips or Phipps (born about 1786-88 in Ashe County), who we now know was Samuel’s son, was the immigrant ancestor. Others acknowledged that data clearly indicated that he was a son of Samuel, but various conjectural possibilities had been introduced as to who Samuel’s parents could have been.

At the time, it appeared that connecting to the Quaker Phipps line in early Pennsylvania represented the “holy grail” of Phipps genealogy. That may have been because, in that pre-digital era, only a limited number of compiled genealogies were readily available. The only ones which appeared to have substance seemed to be either from Pennsylvania or New England, and Pennsylvania is certainly closer to North Carolina and Virginia than is New England.

The possibility of a direct-to-Virginia immigration seems to have never been seriously considered. A few Virginia Phips or Phipps immigrations were noted in standard reference works of the era, but in a genealogical world dominated by “snail-mailed” photocopies, along with dependence on little ads placed in Genealogical Helper magazine, those immigrations never seemed to seriously enter the picture.

During that era, the late John Mullins wrote a book about the Phipps family of Virginia and North Carolina. In that book, he introduced the idea that a certain Joseph Phipps might have been the father of seven Phipps men who had been assumed at the time to have been brothers. One of these supposed brothers was Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina.

Conversations with John suggested that he never meant for his Joseph Phipps identification to be anything other than a working hypothesis, something which might eventually be tweaked through future research. It represented his best idea of a likely scenario based on information available at the time.

Since that time, far more records have become far more accessible. Going back and re-examining known evidence, plus finding additional, never-before-seen records, suggests a picture which is radically different from that assumed in the past.

Some of the clues were always there, staring genealogists in the face. Hints of some kind of involvement on the part of some family members in some sort of outlaw network, for example, were always present, for those who wished to dig beyond the obvious. Virginia records had alluded to a vast network involving stealing and counterfeiting during the 18th century, both before and after the Revolutionary War. Later records surface in the Midwest in the 19th century, by the 1840s, pertaining to the same phenomenon as some family members and those of associated families headed west.

In a strange ironic contrast, other clues were always there which appear to connect the family with surveyors, ship captains, merchants, and with certain prominent early Virginia families and, ultimately, with the highest levels of British society.  Various connections also reach from there to lucrative Caribbean trade in sugar, rum, and slaves.

Other clues point back to a cluster of counties in southeast Virginia, especially to Brunswick and Sussex Counties and to association with families like Reeves and Epes (Epps). Such clues were always there (Samuel’s father in law was a Reeves, for a start), but such clues were useless until actual records were consulted instead of copy-and-paste “trees.”

Samuel and an older Samuel, most likely his father, suddenly emerge from out of nowhere in Montgomery County, Virginia around 1781 or 1782. The Samuel who later shows up in Ashe County, Virginia records was the one referred to in a Montgomery County militia list then as “Sammuwill Phips.” An older man is also listed there at the time, a “Sammuell Phips Sen.” Because of what we know about Samuel of Ashe County, he had to have been the younger of the two.

Who was the older man, then? Where did both of them come from? Where were they before about 1781-1782?

Here is a closer look at the two, especially the younger Samuel. The following view builds on information presented in the last post.

The above should not be construed as suggesting that those of the past knew nothing and that everything is now crystal clear. On the contrary, the scenario presented below is still conjectural in some respects. Even though it seems to be supported by hard documentary evidence, it also raises various questions for which there appear to be no answers – yet. Future research finds will no doubt greatly alter this picture even further.


He was listed as “Sammuell Phips Sen.” in a Montgomery County, Virginia militia list from apparently around 1781-1782 (probably 1782). This older Samuel is listed with “Sammuwill Phips” (without junior or senior designation).

Because we know that the Samuel who later shows up in Ashe County, North Carolina records was born about 1760-1763, it would be impossible for that Samuel to have a grown son in 1782. He could possibly have had a son, but certainly not a grown son.

“Sen.” did not necessarily denote a father and son relationship in records from this period, but this was the most likely scenario. For that reason, it’s most likely the case that the Samuel designated as “Sen.” (NOT a Joseph) was the father of the other Samuel.

The younger Samuel was born about 1760-1763 according to his own testimony. Assuming that “Sen.” was his father, we could therefore say that the older man was likely born, as a rough guesstimate, perhaps somewhere around 1730-1740.


According to his own somewhat wavering testimony when he testified for his friends to receive their Revolutionary War pensions, he was born about 1760 (Thomas Baker pension testimony), or about 1763 (Martin Gambill pension testimony). The 1850 census, which was the first federal census to list specific ages, says he was born about 1862 in North Carolina.

In the case of various families and persons who eventually become associated with the same area of Ashe County, North Carolina and adjacent Grayson County, Virginia, some records declare that they were born in North Carolina, but perhaps about an even number of records might just as emphatically claim that they were born in Virginia. Even though the 1850 census says North Carolina, a more likely scenario, based on a number of complex factors, is that Samuel was born in Virginia.

Despite the common impression, county and even state boundary changes in this area do not appear to have always been extremely well documented, at least in sources which are currently readily available. Sometimes old records such as deeds and pension testimonies do a better job of documenting these changes than sources specifically intended to focus on such changes. Samuel (Jr.) does not appear in any known records, anywhere, until the undated militia list from around 1781-1782, and then he is in what was then defined as Montgomery County, Virginia.

Various families of various associated surnames are also listed in Montgomery County, Virginia, including Samuel’s eventual father in law George Reeves, who later show up in Wilkes County, North Carolina and then in either Ashe County, North Carolina or the adjacent Grayson County, Virginia. For this reason, it appears possible that Samuel Phips was living in the same area, perhaps the same spot, throughout the period 1781 to 1854, with that location simply being redefined over the years. If so, part of the reason could doubtless be attributed to confusion about the New River, which somewhat tended to flow close to the state line, but which criss-crossed that line at various points.

Locations associated with Samuel Phips (Jr.)

The following do not represent all of the records which have been located regarding this Samuel Phips.

MC = Montgomery County, Virginia
WC = Wilkes County, North Carolina
AC = Ashe County, North Carolina

  • 1781-1782, MC (undated militia list)
  • 1782, MC (tax list)
  • 1787, WC (state census)
  • 1789, WC (tax list)
  • 1790, WC (witnessed deed; tax list; federal census)
  • 1791, WC (land grant; tax list)
  • 1792, WC (tax list)
  • 1793, WC (tax list)
  • 1794, WC (tax list)
  • 1795, WC (mentioned in land grant; on road commission, witnessed deed; tax list)
  • 1796, WC (tax list)
  • 1797, WC (deed; on road commission; tax list)
  • 1799, WC (tax list)
  • 1800, AC (federal census)
  • 1801, AC (mentioned in land entry)
  • 1810, AC (federal census)
  • 1811, no location (named as heir of George Reeves in Grayson County, Virginia deed; signed land survey and certificate petition in same)
  • 1813, AC (summons)
  • 1820, AC (federal census)
  • 1830, AC (federal census)
  • 1837, AC (will)
  • 1840, AC (federal census)
  • 1844, AC (witnessed deed, recorded later in Alleghany County)
  • 1847, AC (Jesse Toliver pension testimony)
  • 1850, AC (will; Martin Gambill pension testimony; federal census)
  • 1852, AC (Thomas Baker pension testimony)
  • 1854, AC (death)

Marriages and children of Samuel Phips (Jr.)

The last post included information which could potentially greatly alter the view of Samuel which has been commonly held by genealogists. We could add to that information by combining data from the 1787 state census and the 1790 federal census. Those sources, or at least the latter of the two, appear to add daughters into the mix, a factor which was only hinted at in the last post.

These daughters appear to have gone completely unnoticed by genealogists. The last post suggested that the younger woman present in Samuel’s household in the 1800 census could have been a daughter in law, but that she also could have been a daughter. The presence of females in the 1787 and 1790 records, especially the 1790 census, when considered against the data in the 1800-1850 censuses, reveal that Samuel seems to have most likely had a previous wife as well as daughters who have been previously unaccounted for.

The state census in Capt. Nall’s District in Wilkes County, North Carolina on 12 July 1787, as abstracted, lists the Samuel Phips household with 1 male 21-60 (presumably Samuel himself), 2 males under 21 or above 60 (presumably 2 of his sons, under 21), and 1 female. This female could have been his 1st wife or, in theory, a daughter. Most likely, it would seem, it was his wife. That’s because he had 2 sons in the household, who would have been very young at the time, with apparently more to come.

The 1790 federal census in Wilkes County lists the “Sam Fips” household with 1 white male over 16, 2 under 16, and 4 females. This would presumably be him (over 16) with 2 of his sons (under 16, likely William and Jesse, or perhaps John and William).

Of the 4 females, one could have been his wife, but that would leave 3 who were most likely daughters. One of these might have been the young woman who then appears in the same household in the 1800 census.

Combining this information seems to suggest the following likely, but not completely established, picture:

1st marriage of Samuel Phips (Jr.), to unknown

Samuel appears to have married an unknown woman – NOT Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves – sometime in the 18th century (by the 1780s), by whom he had at least the following children:


  • John Phips
  • William Phips
  • Jesse Phips
  • Isaiah Phips
  • Benjamin Phips
  • Joseph Phips


  • Probably at least 3 unknown daughters

This 1st wife appears to have died or divorced by the time of the 1800 federal census.

2nd marriage of Samuel Phips (Jr.), to Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves

Based on the federal census data (see the last post) coupled with the 1811 Grayson County, Virginia deed which names Samuel Phipps and his wife Elizabeth as heirs of George Reeves, it would appear likely that Samuel married Elizabeth Reeves between the 1810 census and the 1811 deed.


  • Apparently no children

Elizabeth (Reeves) Phipps appears to have most likely died between the 1840 and 1850 censuses.

Implications of the above

If correct, this has far-reaching implications for the genealogy of this family. If correct, it would mean that descendants of sons of Samuel Phips (Jr.) who have been assuming that they have direct Reeves ancestry through George Reeves, Samuel’s father in law, don’t have Reeves ancestry at all. It would also suggest that there were daughters – at least 3 of them – who are not listed in Samuel’s 1837 will and who no one has ever accounted for.

If Elizabeth Reeves was the mother of the children of Samuel referred to above, then where was she in the 1800 and 1810 censuses (see the last post), after these children were born? No one appears to be listed in Samuel’s household in those years who could possibly have been her. Then she reappears in the 1820-1840 censuses? That hardly sounds likely.

Unanswered questions regarding Samuel Phips (Jr.)

  • Who was the John Phipps, planter, with wife Elender, for whom Samuel witnessed a Wilkes County, North Carolina deed in 1790? (This could not have been Samuel’s son John, because that John would have been too young.) A close relationship can be assumed, but who was he and where did he come from?
  • Why did Samuel Phips not mention any of his daughters in his 1837 will? Did he simply figure they were taken care of via their husbands and their husbands’ estates? Could they have moved away so that he didn’t even know where they were? (When Samuel’s son Jesse’s estate was settled in Putnam County, Missouri after Jesse’s death in 1865, not all of his sons’ locations were known.)
  • Why did Samuel, in his 1837 Ashe County, North Carolina will, mention sons who had already moved west, into Indiana? Some records suggest that direct communication between these locations may have been more common than most present-day genealogists might think, but even so, how could slaves be transferred this far? What is going on here? One newspaper account appears to have (presumably) Samuel’s grandsons, John Meshack Phips and Eli Shadrack Phips (identified only as twin brothers named Fipps from Indiana) as arrested in Smythe County, Virginia in connection with a “fatal affray” (New Albany Daily Ledger, New Albany, Indiana, 11 February 1856, p. 2). This was presumably in connection with their outlaw gang activity. Edward Bonney, in his circa 1850 account, specifically discusses John Meshack Phips (as “Shack Phips”) and portrays the members as extremely highly geographically mobile, constantly traveling all over the country like outlaw businessmen, in blatant defiance of modern-day genealogical preconceptions.
  • Why did Samuel Phips not refer to his wife Elizabeth (Reeves) Phips in his 1837 will? She appears to have been living with him in the 1830 and 1840 censuses.
  • And the “biggies:” Where was Samuel for the 1st 20 or so years of his life, from around 1760-1763 to around 1781-1782? Numerous circumstantial factors appear to associate his family with the Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties, Virginia, but what was the actual connection? Who was this older Samuel? Where is ONE other record pertaining to him?

Was Betty Reeves Samuel Phips’s 2nd Wife?

Samuel (“Sam”) Phips, as it was usually spelled, was born about 1760-1763 (according to his own testimony; he always varied it a bit) and died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina. His wife has generally been represented by genealogists as Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves, daughter of George Reeves of Grayson County, Virginia (adjacent to Ashe County, North Carolina).

Although no one seems to know when or where they married, this claimed marriage appears to have actually occurred. When the heirs of George Reeves, Sr., as identified in an 1811 deed, deeded to John Reeves some of the property arising from George’s estate, “Samuel Phipps and Elizabeth his wife” are listed among those heirs (Grayson County, Virginia Deed Book 3, p. 59, 15 November 1811).

But does it logically follow, then, that this Elizabeth Reeves was the mother of all the known children of Samuel Phips? And when did she die?

The 1837 Ashe County, North Carolina will of Samuel Phips refers to the following sons. Several of them are referred to in terms of their birth order, and the rest can be assumed to probably fit into order as listed here, since that’s how they’re listed in Samuel’s will:

  • John Phips – “my oldest son”
  • William Phips – “my Next Son”
  • Jesse Phips
  • Isaiah Phips
  • Benjamin Phips
  • Joseph Phips – “my youngest son”

Of these sons, we have clear dating evidence for the birth of, first of all, William. From the 1850-1870 censuses, we know that he was born about 1784-1786. Jesse, the next son, was born about 1786-1788 according to the 1850-1860 censuses.

So, how does Elizabeth (Reeves) fit in as the mother, or presumed mother, of these sons?

First of all, there is the matter of the 1800 census. In that year, only heads of households were specifically named. While Samuel and his father in law George Reeves had been showing up in Montgomery County, Virginia records, then in Wilkes County, North Carolina, with the advent of the new century in 1800 Samuel shows up in Ashe County, North Carolina and George Reeves in the adjacent Grayson County, Virginia.

The 1800 census, then, lists the household of Samuel Phips as follows:

  • Free white males: 3 under 10, 2 10-16, 1 16-26 [born about 1774-1784], 1 26-45 [born about 1755-1774]
  • Free white females: 1 16-26 [born about 1774-1784]
  • Slaves: 1

Note that Samuel would have had sons born by this time. If Elizabeth (Reeves) Phips was the one female in the household, she would have been born about 1774-1784. Son William was born about 1784-1786, according to the 1850-1870 censuses. Son Jesse was born about 1786-1788 according to the 1850-1860 censuses. This would mean that, if the woman in Samuel’s household was Elizabeth, she would have been a very young child when William and Jesse were born.

In other words, the woman listed could not possibly have been Elizabeth.

Obviously Samuel was the oldest male in the household, born about 1755-1774 (more specifically about 1760-1763). The younger male in the household (born about 1774-1784) was likely one of Samuel’s sons. The woman could have been that son’s wife, or it could have been a daughter of Samuel who was not named in his will (no daughters are named in his will).

The 1810 census shows “S. phips” (indexed by Family Search as “Phelps,” even though it doesn’t look anything like “Phelps”). The entry is a bit difficult to read, since lines are not straight. It appears, though, that Samuel is again in the oldest age category, but that this time (following the 5th line up from the bottom among the undulating wavy lines), no female is in the household.

The 1820 census shows Saml. Phips, still in Ashe County, as age 45-plus (born about 1775 or earlier). The oldest female in the house was in the same age bracket. Was this Elizabeth? If so, then where was she in 1800 and 1810?

We know that Samuel Phips was married to Elizabeth Reeves by the time of the 1811 deed referring to heirs of George Reeves. Had he just first married her around that time? Was Elizabeth the second wife of Samuel Phips?

In the 1830 census (listed clearly as Samuel Fips but indexed by Family Search as “Fps”), only two individuals are in the household. These were a 60-70-year-old man (born about 1760-1770) and a woman of the same age.

The 1840 census shows the “Saml Phips” household in Ashe County, with one man aged 70-80 (born about 1760-1770), and one woman aged the same.

The next federal census, the 1850 census, was the first year in which everyone in the household was listed by name. By that time, however, “Saml Phips” was living in the household of “Patcy Phips.” We know her from other records to have been Samuel’s daughter in law, the widow of Samuel’s youngest son Joseph.

Samuel was 88 (born about 1762) in the 1850 census, but with no Elizabeth in sight. We can assume that she probably had died by this time.

To summarize, this appears to give us the following data for Elizabeth (Reeves) Phips in the household of Samuel Phips:

  • 1800: No such person in household
  • 1810: No such person in household
  • 1820: Woman born about 1775 or earlier is present
  • 1830: Woman born about 1760-1770 is present
  • 1840: Woman born about 1760-1770 is present

This 1760-1770 birth range would have made it possible for Elizabeth to have been of the right age to have been the mother of William and Jesse Phips, and even of their older brother John. If she was born in, say, 1760, she could have been in her early 20s when they were born.

But if she was their mother, then where was she in the 1800 and 1810 censuses? Could it be that she wasn’t their mother at all? Could the following have occurred instead?

  • Perhaps by around the mid-1780s, Samuel married an unknown woman who became the mother of her sons, the last son being Joseph with a CLAIMED birthdate of 1797
  • Perhaps between the birth of Joseph and the 1800 census, this unknown woman died
  • Perhaps Samuel then remarried between the 1810 census and the 1811 Grayson County, Virginia deed, to Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves, daughter of George Reeves
  • Perhaps Elizabeth then died between the 1840 and 1850 censuses

All that would be well and good, if it wasn’t for yet another hitch: If that was the case, then why wasn’t Elizabeth mentioned in Samuel Phips’s 1837 will?  And if she had died by 1837, then who was the woman with Samuel in the 1840 census? We could expect her to not be mentioned in his 1850 will rewrite, but what about 1837? And no tombstone seems to appear for her in the little blackberry patch where Samuel is buried in Ashe (now Alleghany) County, isn’t that correct?

Internet claims abound regarding this Elizabeth, many of them blatantly contradicting each other. What was the truth about her.

Phipps Versus Phipps, 1842

Here’s even more from the settling of the estate of Matthew Phipps or Mathew Phips of Clay and Owen Counties, Indiana in 1842. In this case, the administrators were suing Jesse and David Phipps, presumably the persons of these names who were brothers of Matthew.

They also sued someone named George Wise. Another brother of Matthew was George Phipps, who lived in Owen County before heading to California as a part of the 1849 Gold Rush. George and his wife Nancy Hall had a daughter Nancy Jane Phipps who was born 22 October 1841 according to Reed’s 1923 history of Sacramento County, California. She married Joseph Lincoln Wise, who was born at Cape Girardeau, Missouri according to the same source.

Was there a connection between this Joseph Wise and the George Wise of the document below? Blanchard, in his 1884 county history, refers to a George Wise and Jack McKee as having been the first mechanics at Freedom. Freedom is a little Owen County town on the river which has been very closely associated with the Phips or Phipps family of the area. In fact, this is where Mathursa, Matthew’s widow who later married Alexander McBride, was buried.

From Owen County, Indiana Civil Court Book 4:

[p. 26:]

Mathursa Phipps, Admrx. & Samuel Miles & Levi H. Toliver, Admrs., of the estate of Matthew Phipps, decd.
Jesse Phipps, George Wise, and David Phipps:

Be it remembered that heretofore to wit: on the 22nd day of August in the year A. D. 1842, The plaintiffs by Eckles & Hanna, their attys file in the office of the clerk of the Owen Circuit Court a declaration herein which is in the following words and figures to wit: “State of Indiana, Owen County ss. Owen Circuit Court September Term 1842. Mathursa Phipps, administratrix and Samuel Miles, & Levi H. Toliver, administrators (of the estate) of Matthew Phipps, deceased (plaintiffs), complain of Jesse Phipps, George Wise, & David Phipps, (defendants) in custody of a plea that they the said defendants render unto said plaintiffs the sum of fifty dollars and ninety three and three fourth cents which to said plaintiffs they (said defts.) owe and from them unjustly detail: for that whereas the said defendants, heretofore to wit: on the 19th day of August 1841, at and in the county aforesaid made their promisory [as spelled] note in writing bearing date the day & year aforesaid, and then and there delivered the said note to said plaintiffs by which said note the said defendants, for value received promised to pay to said plaintiffs on the 19th day of May next after the date of said note (which time hath long since elapsed) the sum of fifty dollars, & ninety three & three fourth cents, which is the sum above demanded: & the said note is in these words and figures to wit: “Due Methursa Phipps, Admrx. & Samuel Miles, & Levi H. Toliver Admrs. of Matthew Phipps, decd. on the 19th day of May next fifty dollars, and ninety three & three fourth cents, value Recd. August 19th, 1841, Jesse Phipps, George Wise, David Phipps.”

Yet the said plaintiffs say that said defendants, altho often requested so to do have not as yet paid the sum above demanded to said plaintiffs or any part thereof, but they said defts, so to do have heretofore wholly failed and refused and yet fail and refuse so to do the damage of said plaintiffs twenty five dollars, and therefore they sue &c.
Eckels, & Hanna, p. q.”

And afterwards to wit: at the September Term of our Owen Circuit Court in the year A. D. 1842,

“The plaintiffs appear by Eckels, & Hanna, their attorneys and the defendants, although three times called comes not but make default

[p. 27:]

and it appearing to the satisfaction of the court that said defendants have been duly served with process more than ten days before the first day of this term of this court and the evidence being seen and the court being sufficiently advised of the premises,

It is therefore considered by the court here that the plaintiffs recover of the defendants, the sum of Fifty dollars, ninety three & three fourth cents debt and one dollar twelve cents damages making together the sum of fifty two dollars five and three fourth cents, and costs of suit taxed at.”

Debt to the Estate of Matthew Phipps, 1842

“Samuel Miles and the Death of Mathew Phips” were discussed in a very recent post. Here’s more from the settlement of the estate of Mathew or Matthew Phips or Phipps of Clay and Owen Counties in Indiana, who was presumed dead in 1841. The estate matter became a huge mess, with eventual requests for state intervention.

The record below refers to Mathursa (Toliver) Phipps or Phips, Matthew’s widow. Samuel Miles is also once again named.

From Owen County, Indiana Civil Court Book 4:

[p. 24, 26 September 1842:]

Mathursa Phipps, admstr. & Samuel Miles & Levi H. Toliver, Admrs. of the estate of Matthew Phipps, decd.
Richard Ask[i?]en, Joseph T. Mason, John Moore, & John Ellis.
In Debt.

Be it remembered that heretofore to wit: at the September Term of our Owen Circuit Court in the year of our Lord one thousand

[p. 25:]

eight hundred and forty two, “The plaintiffs appear by Eckles, & Hanna, their attorneys and file the writing obligatory herein and thereupon Henry Secrest, a license attorney of this court appears for said defendants, and files a warrant of attorney executed to him by said defendants, (which is in the following words and figures to wit)

“Know all men by these presents that we Richard Ask[i?]en, Joseph T. Mason, John Moore, and John Ellis, do hereby authorize and appoint Henry Secrest, an attorney and counsellor at law of the Owen county circuit court in the State of Indiana or any other attorney and counsellor at law of the said court at the next term thereof hereafter to be holden or at any subsequent term thereof & on the first or any subsequent day of said next term or of such subsequent term, to appear in said court and confess for us and in our names and behalf an action in favor of Methursey Phipps, Administratrix & Samuel Miles, & Levi H. Toliver, administrators of the estate of Matthew Phipps, late of said County decd: a debt, & damages and costs evidenced by a writing obligatory bearing date August 26, 1841, as reads as follows to wit: “$382.50, On or before the 25″ day of December 1841, we or either of us promise to pay to Methursey Phipps, administratrix and Samuel Miles, and Levi H. Toliver, administrators of the estate of Matthew Phipps, decd. the sum of three hundred and thirty two dollars, & fifty cents, with interest thereon at the rate of ten percentum per annum, from date til paid for value received August 26th 1841,” and sealed by each of us and attested by D. R. Eckels, and in said court waive the filing of a declaration or any other paper than the said writing obligatory, and the issuing and service of any sort of process, and in our names or for us Confess a Judgement in an action of debt for the sum of three hundred and thirty two dollars, and fifty cents, as also the sum of [blank] dollars and [blank] cents, in damages being the amount of the interest due on said sum up to the time of confessing said Judgement according to the tenor and effect of said writing obligatory as also the costs, of said action waiving and releasing all errors at law in said action and every act in the premises of said attorneys or any of them shall be as obligatory upon [(looks like “us” overwritten as “as;” both are needed)] if in proper person, we had done the same Richard his X mark Ask[i?]en, (seal) Joseph T. Mason (seal), John Moor [sic; Moore] (seal) John Ellis, (seal) Test. [i.e. witnessed by] Samuel P. Mason.” by virtue of which he waives the filing of a declaration & the issue and service of process herein & confesses, that the said defendants, are indebted to the plaintiffs in the sum of three hundred and thirty two dollars, & fifty cents debt, & thirty [six?] dollars, & two cents, in damages:

It is therefore considered by the court here that the plaintiffs recover of the said defendants, the said sum of three hundred and thirty two dollars, fifty cents debt, and thirty six dollars, and two cents in damages making together the sum of three hundred and sixty eight dollars, & fifty two cents, and costs of this suit taxed at.”