James Phips: At the Blue Ridge by 1753?

After scrutiny, a seemingly insignificant Virginia land grant appears to hold great potential significance for those researching the Phipps family in the Southwest Virginia and Northwestern North Carolina region. Much of the importance of this document depends on the location of the land described in the grant, which was on “the meadow Creek,” which was “a North Branch of Pigg River.” The Pigg River can be readily identified, but where, exactly, was this Meadow Creek?

This grant is dated 1783, but was based on a survey 30 years earlier, in 1753. That grant gave land in Henry County to James Phips, but the grant refers to this land as having earlier been in Halifax County before county boundary changes.

The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia by Clement refers on page 73 to an expedition of the Halifax County militia into the frontier in the summer of 1758. Their purpose was to identify the whereabouts of unfriendly Indians.

An account of this particular “range” or expedition mentions reaching the foot of the “Blew Ledge,” or Blue Ridge, one evening. The following day they marched to Francis Eason’s place, where they spent the night, then the following day they marched to Richard Ratcliff’s plantation on Meadow Creek, where they spent the night.

This suggests that it must have taken them roughly around two days to march from the Blue Ridge to Meadow Creek. Is this the same Meadow Creek that is mentioned in the land grant? If so, where was it?

Although, again, the Virginia land grant to James Phipps is dated 16 June 1783, it’s based on a survey dated 5 May 1753. Both dates are clearly written. The grant refers to the land as being “in the County of Halifax now Henry.”

One would think that this means that the location of the land was based on the boundaries of Henry County as they were in 1783. Where was Henry County in 1783?

Actually, that’s what students would call a “trick question.” Henry County, per se, didn’t exist until 1790. In 1777, Virginia formed a new county from Pittsylvania County, called not exactly Henry County, but instead called Patrick Henry County. Then, in 1790, Patrick Henry County became two counties: Patrick County in the west and Henry County in the east.

In 1753, the time of the survey for James Phips, Halifax County was immediately west of Lunenburg County, which was west of Brunswick. (Brunswick had been far larger earlier.)

As far as Virginia counties which were situated along the North Carolina line, Halifax County in 1753 included the present day Virginia counties of Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry, Patrick, and Carroll. Halifax County in 1753 also included a slim majority of what’s now Franklin County, to the north.

In 1783, this had radically changed. Now Patrick Henry County took in what are currently Henry County, Patrick County, a small part of Carroll County along the NC line, and a majority of what’s now Franklin County.

In both 1753 and 1783, what’s now southern Carroll County represented extreme western Henry County. This means that in 1783, Henry County was adjacent to Grayson County, Virginia. The same was the case with Halifax County in 1753: The western end of Halifax County abutted Grayson County.

So somewhere in this land mass, designated Halifax County in 1753 but Henry (Patrick Henry) in 1783, was located the land of James Phips. Of course, it would have to have been in the portion of Halifax which later became Patrick Henry County.

This would also mean that the land would have to have been in what today is either Henry County or Patrick County. For a time, in between the time the land was designated as being in Halifax County and when that same land was in what was known as Henry County, it was located in Pittsylvania County.

This means that this James could potentially show up in records in Halifax County, Virginia, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Patrick Henry County, Virginia, Henry County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Virginia.

More research is needed in order to pinpoint the location of Meadow Creek. A Meadow Creek appears in the general region that doesn’t appear to connect to Pigg River. The same with a Round Meadow Creek. Perhaps Meadow Creek was in what is today Franklin County, Virginia, although Round Meadow and Pigg River both flow fairly close to the Blue Ridge near the state line.

And, because of the proximity to Grayson County, Virginia, he could have been one of those who moved into that area as well.

And that’s not all. We have another record referring to this same James Phips, and this same land:

A Henry County deed dated 1784 (the year after the land grant), as abstracted, refers to “James Phips (Feps)” of Brunswick County, Virginia. He sold land to David Barton of Henry County, Virginia.

This land was 335 acres on both sides of Meadow Creek, a north branch of the Pigg River. This is the same number of acres and the same location as the land in the grant the year before. In the abstract of the deed (Adams, Abstracts of Henry County, Virginia Deed Books III and IV August 1784-June 1792, published 1978)), the deed appears to refer to “James Phips,” yet was signed by “James Feps.”

This means that the year after James was granted this land in Henry County, he is referred to as being “of Brunswick County” – and was evidently moving away.

So here we have another link to Brunswick County, this time in a record dating from 1784, when Brunswick had shrunk considerably to a small county in Southeastern Virginia. No longer was Brunswick in the immediate area.

Remember that an earlier post referred to abstracts of deeds in, apparently, Bute County, North Carolina but recorded in Warren County, North Carolina. Those deeds, dated 1770 and 1772, referred to Joseph Fips/Fipps of Brunswick County, Virginia.


Where did James move to? Could it have been to nearby Grayson County? If so, then this would have thrown another James into the local mix. He would have represented an earlier generation than the James who is assumed to have been one of the so-called “seven brothers” of the Grayson/Ashe area.

Assuming that James had the land surveyed for himself in 1753, he would have been born too early to have been the James of the “seven brothers,” but could have been a father or an uncle.


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