Notes on Burke and Buncombe Counties, North Carolina

William H. Masterson, editor, in The John Gray Blount Papers, Vol. 3, 1796-1802 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1965), pp. 188-190, contains a letter from William Blount to John Gray Blount.

The letter is dated 28 Nov 1797 from Knoxville, Tennessee and appears to be concerned largely with surveying and settlement. Just the year before, the state of North Carolina had turned more than a million acres over to Blount.

Reference is made to “the lands sold to the Company,” to “the Commissioners line,” and to where people do and do not think it’s safe to settle without danger of Indian attack. Reference is also made to a “Mr. Harris.” The editor inserted the given name Edward here. One must wonder if he was related to the William Harris and the James Harris who accompanied the first two generations of surveyors named John Phips in Virginia.

Surveying was a lucrative profession, and one would think that sons might have followed in their surveyor father’s footsteps for several generations. This particular Harris appears to have been a lawyer, but is also described as aa woodsman, surveyor, and a “good bargain maker.”

All of those were traits which were needed as the lands discussed were opened for settlement. Reference is also made to a Claiborne; a Claiborne who was a surveyor brought the surveyor John Phips into Jamestown in 1621. Of course, this was far later, but it could have been a descendant.

The letter also refers to Phipps, without identifying him, mentioned in the same breath as “Jackson, Anderson & Claiborne.” This is in reference to “the threatened Impeachment” of William Blount.

Connected with lands derived from John Gray Blount, Josiah Phips received a 1796 land grant, evidently in Buncombe County, North Carolina. That information comes from a published abstract in a book on the history of Buncombe County.

Buncombe County, North Carolina is in the western part of the state. The county was formed in 1791 from parts of the counties of Burke and Rutherford.

The following are significant dates in this general area:

  • 1777: Burke County, North Carolina was formed from Rowan County
  • 1778, about: Jacob Phipps was born in Virginia, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses; see 1824, below
  • 1790: John Fips appears in the census in Burke County with 1 male 16 or older, 3 males under 16, and 7 females.
  • 1791: John Fips signed a road order in January from “Buck to head of the Adkin” in Burke County.
  • 1791: Buncombe County was formed from Burke and Rutherford.
  • 1793: John Fipps signed a petition 29 Jan 1793 to have a road built from Indian Grave Gap in Wilkes County to the iron works which were under construction on Gunpowder Creek.
  • 1796: Grant of over a million acres to John Gray Blount by the state of North Carolina.
  • 1796: Grant of 100 acres to Josiah Phips, 20 June 1796, in list of lands within an “annexed plat by permission” of John Gray Blount, who was first granted the land; reference the book A History of Buncombe County North Carolina
  • 1797: Isiah Phypps received land grant #355 on 2 Dec 1797 for 100 acres on Indian Camp Branch in Buncombe County; see Book 4, p. 487.
  • 1799: Quit claim deed for 100 acres acknowledged in Buncombe County court in January 1799, from John Strother to Isaiah Phipps.
  • 1800: The census in Burke County shows Josiah Phips, with only a male aged 16-26 in the household.
  • 1802: Deed 28 Mar 1802 for 100 acres on Indian Camp Branch from Isaiah Phips to Benjamin Phips in Buncombe County; see Book 7, p. 115; acknowledged in court the following month as deed for 100 acres from Isaiah Phipps to Benjamin Phipps.
  • 1824: Jacob Phipps sold land on Coxes Creek (Cox Creek) in Buncombe County, North Carolina to Jacob Honeycutt.
  • 1833: Parts of Buncombe and Burke Counties became Yancey County.
  • 1834: Case of “Jas. Greenlee vs. Jacob Phipps and Joseph,” dated 31 Dec 1834 in online abstracts of Yancey County court records.
  • 1838: State Supreme Court case of Jacob Phipps v. John W. Garland was appealed from Yancey County.
  • 1849(?): Jacob Phipps listed among “doubtful” or “dreadful bad” debts associated with the estate of Thomas Lee Ray, Jr. in Yancey County.
  • 1850: Jacob Phipps shows up in census in Yancey County.
  • 1860: Jacob Phipps shows up in census in Yancey County.

This, of course, suggests the presence of the following Fips or Phips or Phipps individuals, if the records associated with one name all pertain to the same individual:

  • Benjamin: in Buncombe County 1802
  • Isiah or Isaiah: in Buncombe County 1797, 1799, 1802
  • Jacob: in Buncombe County 1824, 1834, 1838, 1849, 1850, 1860
  • John: in Burke County 1790, 1791, 1793
  • Josiah:  in Buncombe County 1796, 1800

Of course, that, in turn, suggests the following, if these people were closely related:

  • John was in Burke County by 1790
  • Buncombe was formed from Burke in 1791
  • Josiah was in Buncombe by 1796, Isaiah by 1797, Benjamin by 1802
  • Jacob shows up in Buncombe records by 1824
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