A Scottish Psalter and Transatlantic Trade

Old pension files sometimes contained original pages torn out of the family Bible which contained a handwritten family record. In that day and age, such records were considered proof of dates and relationships. This was, of course, before the days of photocopies.

In the case of the Revolutionary War service of Benjamin Phips of Grayson County, Virginia, an original family record contained in a psalter (a printed volume of the Biblical book of Psalms) was mailed to the Pension Bureau.

Some individuals kept their originals of such records and simply wrote out a copy and had it notarized. In Benjamin’s case, however, the record was torn out of the printed volume and mailed from Grayson County, Virginia to Washington.

Genealogists researching the family of Benjamin Phips have referred to what was mailed in his case as the “flyleaf.” Without examining the original document at the National Archives in Washington, it would appear that, much more likely, it was simply the title page, with the family record handwritten on the back of that page. A faint image of the text of the title page can be clearly seen on the back, where the family record appears.

The psalter was “Allowed by the Authority of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland.” The “Kirk” or Church of Scotland was based largely on the teachings of John Calvin and John Knox. That church had become a Presbyterian Church by the latter part of the 16th century. The reformed Church of Scotland became Scotland’s national church in 1690, two years after William and Mary had ascended to the throne.

The psalter was printed in Edinburgh, Scotland, but there is no reason to attach genealogical significance to the fact that this book was printed in the British Isles rather than America. The psalter was printed in 1750. Prior to the Revolutionary War, books in America were commonly imported.

That’s because printing was expensive and the market for books in America, where most of the territory was sparsely populated, was relatively small. Importing books rather than printing them in America often made more financial sense. All of that changed, of course, with the Revolution.

In fact, the Revolutionary War must have radically affected whatever was left, at that point, of two primary facets of the power, prestige, and wealth that at least some elements of the Phips, Fips, Phipps, etc. family had enjoyed previously. Those elements were:

  • Caribbean trade
  • Trade between England and the North American coast

Both of these were, of course, completely disrupted by the war. The British Navy began blockading major ports on the American coast. By this time, however, a number of family members had begun moving west, away from coastal cities dominated largely by maritime trade. By this time the dependence on trade with England and trade with the Caribbean obviously had to give way to other endeavors.

The title page of the psalter reads as follows:

THE
PSALMS
OF
DAVID
In METRE:

Newly Translated, and diligently Com-
pared with the Original Text, and for-
mer Translations.

More plain, smooth, and agreeable to the Text,
than any heretofore.

Allowed by the Authority of the General Assembly of
the Kirk of Scotland, and appointed to be sung in
Congregations and Families.

EDINBURGH
Printed by ADRIAN WATKINS His
MAJESTY’s Printer. M.DCC.L.

The other side of the title page is partly obscured by what looks as though it could be something attached. That object looks as though it might be some sort of seal, part of which has come loose and has become folded over and creased. What looks as though it could have been some sort of adhesive strips attaching the top of the seal, where it has come loose, are visible at the top of the item, where the top is folded over.

That’s only a guess, however, and one wouldn’t think it was an official seal, since no text or signature accompanies it. Perhaps it was some sort of memorial or commemorative seal connected with either the marriage or the funeral documented in the record.

The only part of the text which is obscured, evidently, is what must have been formulaic wording which duplicated the “hour Lord” as found in the phrase “in the year of hour Lord” above it. “Hour Lord” was, of course, a variant of “our Lord.”

Some controversy surrounds the claim that Benjamin’s wife was a Hash. The psalter record notes that shortly after the marriage of Benjamin and Jean, a certain John Hash died. As a result, one would think he had to have been a close relative, and most likely her father.

Some evidently undocumented claims, however, have a certain James Hash as her father, with apparently some question as to whether there ever was such a person. You can read about that in an old online forum post here.

Could the James Hash claim possibly been because of confusing James Hart – not Hash – with the Hash family? The Eastern Cherokee Application of Margrey Phipps of Grayson County specifically refers to a James Hart as having been her great-grandfather, but as the father of a Hash. This James Hart would have been her great-grandfather.

Whether that was the case or not, it is true that some of the early 20th century Eastern Cherokee Applications submitted by members of the Phips or Phipps family include claims of Hash descent. Margrey Phipps, who was born in 1844 in Grayson County, Virginia, lived in the same county as Benjamin Phips and was, herself, a Hash by birth.

She declared, “I have always been regarded as of Indian descent. It has been thrown up to me many a time. I am of Cherokee Indian blood, which comes through my mother, Sarah Hash.” We’ve discussed in the past how these claims involved association with the Sizemores, and how the claims appear to have been grounded in actual family lore of Native American ancestry, although probably not specifically Cherokee.

In Margrey’s case, she said that her parents were Robert and Margrey Hash, both born in Grayson County. When asked to provide her ancestry going back to 1835, she declared that she was

Margrey Phipps a daugter [sic] of Sarah Hash who was a daugter of Margrey Hash who was a daugter [sic] of James Hart who was a son of Dollie Sizmore [Sizemore] Who was a daugter of Ned Sizmore who was a full Blood Cherokee Indian.

Similarly, Eli J. Phipps was born in 1844, the same year as Margrey Phipps. He, however, was born in Ashe County, North Carolina, adjacent to Grayson County, Virginia. He said his parents were born in Virginia. Eli referred to himself as

Eli J. Phipps a son of Benjaman Phipps and Rutha Phipps who was a Daughter of Margera Hash who was a Daughter of James Hart and his wife Dollie Hart who was a Daughter of Ned Sizemore who was a full Blood Cherokee Indian

In the case of Jean Phips, widow of Benjamin Phips of the Revolutionary War pension application, genealogists have traditionally treated her as a Hash. Here is how the handwritten text of the family record reads:

Bengiman Phips and
J[ea?]n Phips was maried
the 5 Day of july in
the year of hour Lord
1782
[divider line]
John hash Died
Apiril thirteenth
Day in the year of
[obscured by seal (?)] 17[86? or 84?]

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