Some Virginia Resources for Phipps Researchers

Robert Phipps was one of the individuals who signed a diploma, apparently to Thomas Jefferson, dated 21 July 1819. The item is noted as “Rowland Reynolds, Hampton, to Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, 1819 July 21,” in a research calendar of the Jefferson Papers of the University of Virginia. The collection is located in Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library in Charlottesville.

The papers of Lewis Preston Summers (1814-1947) are at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, in Special Collections. Summers is known for his books Annals of Southwest Virginia and History of Southwest Virginia.

Some useful materials might possibly be found at Wytheville Community College in the Kegley Library Manuscript Collections. In fact, as a part of the W.R. Chitwood Collection there, can be found something called the Phipps Family Papers, although it looks as though it might be late material. The Kegley Library is named after F.B. Kegley, well known for Kegley’s Virginia Frontier, and houses his manuscripts.

The Hugh McGavock Papers (1763-1923) is one of the manuscript collections in Special Collections at the Kegler Library at Wytheville Community College. Included in Series-folder 3:7: “Folder 7. Collector of the Revenue Records – Registration of Distillers, L-R, 1798-1801,” are registrations for distillers. Among the names is that of William Phipps.

Special Collections at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) houses a number of manuscript collections pertaining to Montgomery County, Virginia. Some date from the 18th century, and could yield some useful finds. Other collections concern other parts of Southwest Virginia.

Several Preston family-related collections at Virginia Tech might be useful, since the Preston name does appear as a given name or middle name among some of the Phipps family. Virginia Tech also has various Appalachia collections.

Some of the Draper manuscripts are relevant to this area of the country, and can be accessed on microfilm in some libraries (including the St. Louis County Library).

Some Southwest Virginia manuscript collections can be found at the John Cook Wyllie Library at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. One of their collections is the collection of the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia. They also house the Melungeon Collection compiled by N. Brent Kennedy. Kennedy discusses the Phipps family in some detail in his 1997 book The Melungeons. Also included are the collections of Elihu Jasper Sutherland, who is perhaps best remembered for his “Pioneer Recollections” oral history interviews.

At Duke University in Durham can be found the John Warfield Johnston Papers (1778-1890). This is yet another collection that ties into the Preston family. The collection deals with various Southwestern Virginia pioneers and can be found in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

In addition, there’s the Southwest Virginia Museum at Big Stone Gap. From their website it doesn’t appear what manuscript collections or other materials they may house. If you recall the old NBC Who Do You Think You Are TV series, however, you might recall that country singer Tim McGraw used this museum as one of his research destinations when researching Southwest Virginia.

The History Museum of Western Virginia is in Roanoke and is operated by the Historical Society of Western Virginia. the Museum houses thousands of documents and manuscripts.

The Settler’s Museum of Southwest Virginia is at Atkins is an open-air living history museum which might help provide a feel for what Phipps pioneer life was like. The same could be said for the historic structures at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, Tennessee.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill houses the Southern Historical Collection, although its emphasis seems to be on digitization. As a result, a large digital collection is online.

For Appalachian studies in general, the Appalachian Studies Association might be helpful, in addition to the Appalachian Cultural Museum at Appalachian State University in Boone. The Archive of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University includes about 18 million manuscripts, 85,000 audio recordings, and 250,000 images. The online Digital Library of Appalachia includes a few Phipps items.


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