John Fips, Tandy Walker, Benjamin Phipps, and the Sizemores

Some points about the Fips family and Tandy Walker:

  • John Fips of Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties, Virginia appears to have been an overseer for Tandy Walker in Lunenburg County with both men appearing together in the tax lists of 1748 and 1750.
  • Tandy Walker, Sr. died 1750 or 1751. Since John Fips doesn’t seem to appear in records with Tandy Walker past that point, one would assume that his association with the elder Tandy Walker.
  • Sylvanus Walker, Jr., evidently the grandson of Tandy Walker, Sr., is said to have bought land from a Burton – James Burton – in Lunenburg County in 1760; we’ve discussed the Burtons a number of times.
  • Sylvanus Walker, Jr. also is said to have bought land from Henry Blagrave, Sr. in Lunenburg County in 1779; Tandy Walker, Sr. and his wife Judith sold land in Lunenburg County to Henry Blagrave of Caroline County in 1750.
  • Several unconfirmed secondary sources refer to Tandy Walker, Jr., evidently the same Tandy who was a son of the Tandy Sr. (above), as having been an Indian trader. One such source calls him “an Indian trader and scout” who had “served under General Claiborne.” We’ve discussed the hypothetical Fips or Phips or Phipps Indian trading possibility, as well as the connection to the Claiborne family. This Claiborne reference might be too late and distant to be of significance, however.

These Indian trader references seem to borrow wording from an article which appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, July 1923, p. 220. The article is titled “The Polks of North Carolina and Tennessee.”

That article refers to what would apparently be Tandy Walker’s son Tandy Walker, Jr., who resided in Alabama in 1803. There it is said that this younger Tandy “was an Indian trader and scout, and served under General Claiborne.” The Claiborne reference might not be of any relevance, since so much time and distance had elapsed since the 1621 Phips and Claiborne association in Jamestown. Tandy Walker, Jr., however, must have picked up his Indian trading and scouting skills from somewhere. Could this have possibly come from a family involvement in this area?

Tandy Walker, Jr.’s location in Alabama is said in various sources to have been “St. Stephens,” but without saying whether a town, township, district, parish, or county is meant. Another source which refers to Tandy Walker, Jr. is the 1857 book by A.B. Meek titled Romantic Passages in Southwestern History. Events in the area of St. Stephens are mentioned on page 102, where reference is made to the “fearless and adventurous” Tandy Walker. There he is described as “an old and astute Indian trader.” He is discussed as being able to gather valuable information from the Creeks that evidently would not have been otherwise known.

Robert V. Haynes, in The Mississippi Territory and the Southwest Frontier, 1795-1817 (2010), pp. 297-298, refers to Tandy Walker, presumably (or at least perhaps) the same one, as “a former government blacksmith living among the Creeks.” James P. Pate, in The Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 1998, p. 181, calls Tandy Walker “an Indian countryman” who lived in Alabama.

A web page about the Riddle family discusses Tandy Walker as a blacksmith “written about in many histories of Alabama and the Creek War.” The Historical Atlas of Oklahoma (2006) refers to a location that was named for “the Choctaw chief Tandy Walker.” Was that the same person, and if so, was that just confusion? Some Indian chiefs have been whites.

Can we assume that the alliance between John Fips and Tandy Walker involved the elder Tandy Walker, and that it ceased with his death in 1750 or 1751? The widow of Tandy Walker, Sr., by the way, remarried on 24 October 1751 to Cornelius Cargill. She was described at the time, according to marriage abstracts, as the widow of Tandy Walker. He is referred to as being of Lunenburg County, Virginia.

Earlier, on 5 May 1745, the new county Lunenburg was formed. Those who took the oath of justice of the peace included Cornelius Cargill, but also John “Phelps,” according to Clement, The History of Pittsylania County, Virginia, p. 48 (1929, 1973, 2001). Could this have been a Fips/Phips?

Perhaps not so incidentally, the book The Beginner’s Guide to Using Tax Lists by Carroll (1996), p. 16, includes excerpts from two Lunenburg County tax lists taken by Cornelius Cargill, one in 1748 and the other in 1750. Both excerpts focus on the presence of members of the Sizemore family.

While the 1750 list only includes George and Ephraim Sizemore, the 1748 list includes William, Ephraim, James, Henry, and Edward Sizemore. This could potentially be significant for several reasons:

  • The Sizemore family have been at the forefront of many discussions having to do with late 18th to early 19th century families suspected of having Native American or Melungeon connections, with many conflicting claims and controversies.
  • A number of Eastern Cherokee Applications were submitted in the early 20th century by Phipps family members and their relatives, all centering primarily on claimed connections to the Sizemore family and on the apparent assumption that the Sizemores were either Cherokee or of some sort of undefined Native American descent.
  • The Cargill lists show that Sizemores were present in Lunenburg County, Virginia at the same time as the Fips or Phips family.
  • We have the presence of the Sizemores and the Fips or Phips family in the same area at the same time, coupled with the enterprising nature of the Fips/Phips family, plus the emergence of Tandy Walker, Jr. as an Indian trader, with either himself or his father, presumably his father, having been very closely associated with John Fips. All of this suggests a hint of a possibility that the Fips or Phips family might possibly have at least dabbled in Indian trading.

As has been noted earlier, the Phipps/Phips connection to the Sizemores is directly stated in their Eastern Cherokee Applications (ECAs) generally stemming from Ashe County, North Carolina. In order to understand those applications, however, it’s necessary to compare them to a document attached to the ECA of George Washington Plummer of Ashe County.

That document looks as though it was not originally part of his application, but somehow eventually ended up filed with it. The document is headed “Applicants Claiming through the Sizemores,” but with this title crossed out. Information that pertains to all the claims that the government began to call “the Sizemore claims” is contained in this document. Assessment of testimony, as excerpted in the document, seems to have served as sort of blanket appraisal of the Sizemore claims as a whole.

The government seems to have rejected the claims for multiple reasons, but one reason was that it appears that no one knew how to precisely place the Sizemores in terms of ethnicity. The Sizemores were believed by applicants to be “Indian,” but only some wanted to try to identify them as being specifically Cherokee. The Cherokees were fairly nearby and prominent, but no records and very little precise oral testimony could connect the Sizemores with the Cherokees.

The assumption that if the Sizemores were Native American, they must have been Cherokee is what appears to have been the primary mistake which resulted in rejection of the Sizemore claims. One individual, William H. Blevins of Washington County, Virginia, seems to have been most responsible for promoting the ECA claims. That was true even to the point that he declared to the government, “I am chief of the White Top Band of Cherokee Indians.”

The document attached to the Plummer file certainly focuses on the Sizemores, and all attempts at submitting a viable claim were focused on declaring that the Sizemores were Cherokee. Of course the ECAs were exclusively Cherokee claims. If the option to submit a claim based on other Native American ancestry, not specifically Cherokee, had existed, and if the Phipps family and their kin had submitted applications on that basis, the outcome might have been different.

Blevins said that he remembered a couple people having said that “old Ned Sizemore” came “from the Catawba River, or the Catawba Reservation, as he called it.” The Catawba River originates in the Appalachian Blue Ridge area of western North Carolina, but flows into South Carolina. Because the people providing the testimony lived near where the river originated, one would think they were referring to some spot closer to its terminus than to its point of origin.

The Catawba currently flows into the Lake Wateree reservoir in Kershaw County, South Carolina. It then flows past Camden, South Carolina and joins the Congaree to form the Santee River. This area should sound familiar to anyone who has studied the Revolutionary War pension application of Benjamin Phipps, as he discusses his march through South Carolina and his attempts to reach his undefined relatives in South Carolina.

The ECA testimony referred to “the Catawba River, or the Catawba Reservation.” The current Catawba Reservation, which may or may not have anything to do with what was mentioned in the testimony, is in York County, South Carolina. That’s in northern South Carolina, but it’s near where the Catawba flows.

The document added to the Plummer file appears to focus on those parts of testimonies which either spoke against clear indications of Native American ancestry, or which were at least ambiguous. Joseph Sizemore is referred to as being “pretty dark-skinned” but capable of passing as a white man. One woman claimed that she had heard John Sizemore say he was an Indian, but that he “belonged to the white complexion Indians.”

Eli J. Phipps was evidently a son of Benjamin Phipps/Rutha Phoebe Hash, and Benjamin a son of William Phipps/Nancy Grifith, and William a son of Benjamin Phipps/Jean Hash. Eli testified, saying that he had lived in Ashe County, North Carolina all his life. He also said, “I have always been a recognized white man in the community and have always voted. I have always been taught that I am a descendant of an Eastern Cherokee Indian.”

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2 thoughts on “John Fips, Tandy Walker, Benjamin Phipps, and the Sizemores

  1. Hi, I believe you referenced my web page talking about Tandy Walker the blacksmith who resided in Washington County territory Alabama. I don’t descend from this family but have family members that do so I still am trying to figure them out.

    I found deeds from Sarah Walker to her sons Tandy (the blacksmith) and John Walker giving slaves in Washington county, Alabama in 1804. John Walker the son is the one who married into the Choctaw nation (Mary Riddle, my ancestor’s sister) and had a son TAndy Walker who was Chief during the Civil War. His uncle, Tandy Walker settled in Texas.

    I know that Sylvanus Walker of Georgia did buy land in the area also, but I don’t see that these Walkers are his descendants, most likely they are relatives. Sylvanus Walker’s daughter had moved there. It may be that is the reason that the Walker’s I am looking into moved there.

    I know some folks that research this family think that John and Tandy are sons of Joel Walker. By my estimatation these brothers were born in the early 1780’s. Tandy Walker, the blacksmith during the Creek War is mentioned in H.S. Halbert and Ball’s creek war and I think also in Hawthorne’s letters. He’s also mentioned in George S. Gaines Remininsces.

    I am positive that Tandy and John are grandsons of Tandy Walker you refer to as Senior. I think they may be sons of a William Walker though and not Joel. I believe this William Walker came to the Mississippi Territory.

  2. Fort Stephens was an actual Fort where the Choctaw Trading house was located. It’s location is in current Sumter County, Alabama.

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