The Phillips Family of Halifax Co., Virginia: Fips/Phipps?

Perhaps the reference to a John “Phillips” in Halifax County, Virginia in the last post is nothing, but perhaps not. One thing to keep in mind is that in earlier eras, a very loose attitude toward surname spellings often prevailed.

Often, as can be demonstrated from numerous records, Phipps etc. families settled on a particular spelling in a particular part of the country, then adopted a new spelling when they moved somewhere else. As a result, we’ve run into a wide range of spelling variations. Could Phillips, in this case, possibly have been one of them?

Based on Halifax County records – some primary and some unconfirmed and secondary – pertaining to the Phillips family in Halifax County, Virginia, consider the following:

  • The John Phillips of the 1773 Halifax County will appears to be associated with the Matthew Marable who was sued by Tabitha Fips in adjacent Lunenburg County in 1770.
  • Also mentioned in the will was a “Rawlins,” and the Rawlins/Rollins/Rawlings and Fips/Phipps families were closely associated in the Albemarle Parish and Lunenburg County areas.
  • A Cabbiness is also mentioned in the will, and a Caviness was associated with John and Jacob Phipps in the Jamaica/North Carolina will of Rebecca Shute in 1732.
  • Richard Blanks is also mentioned in the will, and was presumably the one sued by Tabitha Fips in Lunenburg County in 1770.
  • A Bond might be mentioned as well; an online abstract makes it impossible to tell. This could, however, have involved the Wright Bond who was also sued by Tabitha Fips.
  • A 1766 Halifax County deed refers to land joining John Philips, with the deed witnessed by Isaac “Turbevill.” We’ve discussed the connection to this family in past posts. (See “Phipps, Turberville: Random Notes,” “Capt. Phipps, The Turbervilles, and the History of Barbecue,” and “Virginia/England: Possible Connections” in this blog, in addition to other posts, as well as “Littleton Phipps 1803 Brunswick County Virginia” in GenForum. The latter declares that there could be no connection to Grayson County, Virginia, but doesn’t say why.)
  • A later John Phillips of Halifax County, Virginia enlisted in Revolutionary War service from Amelia County, Virginia, which would seem a likely location for someone descended from a James River area southeast Virginia environment.
  • In fact (regarding the last point), that later John’s family is believed to have come from Surry County, Virginia. This is the same county that would seem to link the family of the surveyor John Phips, who arrived in Jamestown in 1621, with the later Phipps family in the Sussex and Brunswick Counties area of Virginia, with links from there to Lunenburg, Charlotte, and Pittsylvania Counties. (Lunenburg was created in part from Brunswick.) The family is believed to have settled in Edgecombe and Halifax Counties, North Carolina (not Virginia at this point). Much more about their Surry County connection is discussed  in “Genealogical Notes and Anecdotes: Antecedents and Descendants of Whitmell Phillips (Abt 1772-1822).”
  • That same John (the later one) was related to the Swann family. The Swann family was connected closely with the Harris family in Surry County, Virginia, and was also connected with the Claiborne family of, apparently, King William and Hanover Counties. We’ve discussed the Harris/Phips direct connection in past posts, including the Elizabeth Harris who apprenticed her son John Phips in 1657 in this same county, Surry County, Virginia. (This is where, also, the Rawlings/Rawlins family, discussed in the last post, comes into play; see “Widow of John Phips, Early VA Surveyor: Quaker?” and “John Phips: A Plantation in Early Jamestown” and  “George Blow and the Orphan John Phips” among various other earlier posts.) The Claiborne name has also come up at various times in various records: William Claiborne, for instance, is the person who received a patent for transporting both John Phips and William Harris as surveyors to Virginia, both arriving in 1621. There was supposed to have also been a second-generation Phips-Harris surveying team with extensive work in northern Virginia, after the original two were brought into the colony by Claiborne.
  • For what it’s worth, some of the Phillips family went to Wilkes County, Georgia, the same county mentioned in the previous post as the destination of Elams and Marables.
  • One member of this Phillips family, Joel Sr., might have come into North Carolina, but may have then left because of being on the wrong side in the 1771 Alamance battle between the Moderators and Regulators. This could possibly have some importance or relevance, since we know of Phipps involvement in the Regulator controversy in Orange County, North Carolina, adjacent to Alamance County. Some of this Phillips family appear to have moved into South Carolina and from there into Georgia; could there be any possibility that they could have constituted the mysterious South Carolina relatives of Benjamin Phipps’s Revolutionary War pension application?
  • One member of this Phillips family died in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in 1802. This places a John Phillips right in the same area where the “Fips” family had been observed to be a few years earlier (and where perhaps some of them still were). Also, a John Phillips moved from Loudoun County, Virginia to Rowan County, North Carolina, the county which Benjamin Floyd Nuckolls said in 1914 that the Phipps family of Grayson County, Virginia had come there from. An online discussion says that no relationship between these two individuals named John Phillips is likely, based on DNA, but who knows whether the pedigrees of those tested are authentic, or whether the data is being properly interpreted?
  • That same discussion refers to a claim that at least one of these two came from Ireland to Pennsylvania, to Rowan County, North Carolina, to South Carolina. We’ve discussed claims that the Phipps family of the Ashe County, North Carolina area came from Ireland.
  • Elizabeth Reeves, who married Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina (he died 1854), was a daughter of George Reeves/Reaves of Wilkes County, North Carolina and Grayson County, Virginia. He was related to a Halifax County, Virginia family as shown in a 1793 deed.
  • A John Phillips from Amherst County, Virginia, likely the Revolutionary War soldier (since he married a Penelope) is said in that same discussion to have married a Penelope Evans. Heinegg’s 2-volume study of what he terms free African-Americans says that the Epps family of the deed involving George Reaves was sometimes referred to as Epps (Eppes), sometimes Evans, apparently because of an illegitimate birth.
  • A 1759 will of a John Phillips in Halifax County refers to land in Carolina County. This is, of course, the same county where John Fips died about 9 years later. The same will also mentions “a negro” and land in Lunenburg County. That’s the same county where John Fips appears to have been before he shows up in Charlotte County records. Of course, John Fips was also a slave owner.
  • That will also mentions a Jones. The Jones name is, of course, a very common name, yet it seems to come up with greater than expected regularity in connection with this family and the “Phipps” (or however spelled) family.

Put this all together, and what does it spell? Who knows. It would seem inevitable, however, that at some point, at least, a “Phipps” family would have gone by the name Phillips or Philips. Is this an example?

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