Two factors seem to have polarized Phipps family members in England and can be expected to have caused some who were biologically related to treat each other as though they were not. Those two factors were closely linked.
One had to do with where one stood in the ongoing debate between royalists and parliamentarians. The other had to do with one’s stance in the related debate between the state religion, which varied depending on monarch, and “nonconformity.” The Quaker view, which involved some of the Phipps family, was a nonconformist stance which, early on, could result in imprisonment and which even much later was barely tolerated.
A similar debate arose later in America but had to do with the dichotomy between the views of the Loyalists or Tories, on one hand, and those of the Whigs or patriots on the other. Of course this dichotomy paralleled that involving the conservative Tories and the liberal Whigs in Parliament in England, with the latter sympathizing with the colonists’s views short of independence.
All of this appears to have impacted the Phipps (or Phibbs or Fips or Phripp, etc.) family tremendously. A related factor was the resultant impact that these sorts of debates would eventually have on the careers and social standings of family members.
Quakers or other early nonconformists might not have been able to hold positions of social and political importance in England, or even in America outside of nonconformist enclaves like Pennsylvania. A merchant depending on Caribbean trade could not maintain that trade in the face of British blockades. Shifting sentiments and legislation regarding the slave trade could directly impact economic level and social standing.
One almost has to wonder whether there might be some possibility that these sorts of issues could even have somehow impacted the spelling of one’s surname, as far-fetched as that might sound. We’ve seen how “Phipps” families, at times, have thought nothing of adopting variant spellings and even pronunciations of the surname. Why does it appear that a family that probably was a “Phipps” family in America decided to adopt the spelling “Phripp”?
Sometimes a particular “Phipps” family in a specific location has adopted a spelling like Fipps or Fips or even a pronunciation like Phibbs or Phillips. We’ve even seen where Phipps has changed to Fipps for a while, in one location, only to eventually revert to Phipps again later on.
Why, however, has one family, which appears to have been based in colonial Norfolk, Virginia, gone by Phripp – and that’s evidently in addition to Phrip, Phrit, Phips, Fipps, and Phipp. Although the name “Phrip,” or variants, does appear in British records as well, this family would appear to have connected in some way with at least some part of the “Phipps” family.
And why would this family have been closely associated with a Taylor family that appears to have likely been associated with a branch that began calling itself “Tayloe”? And why would the same “Phripp” family have also been associated with a family called Walker which began calling itself “Walke”?
And how did this family connect – or did it? – with the “Phips,” “Phipps,” “Fips” family which appears to have probably descended from John “Phips” (usually), the surveyor who arrived in 1621 at Jamestown, or at least from relatives of his?
And was this Phripp family a Loyalist family which redeemed itself from popular opinion in America and which later reinvented itself as a Patriot family? Did some members of the family abruptly leave America due to Loyalist beliefs? And were some members involved in multi-colony and even multinational business deals, and did some of those deals involve piracy as suggested by a Phips connection to John Blackmore, the suspected pirate with dealings in Jamaica and “Carolina”?
And was it possible that a decreasing viability of trade with the Caribbean – trade in molasses, rum, and slaves – resulted in a heightened emphasis on other endeavors, perhaps land speculation, perhaps Indian trading?
Here are a few facts to consider. Some of these have previously been mentioned. Some related facts as mentioned in earlier posts are not included, and some new facts not suggested before are added below.
- John Phips, the surveyor from Essex, England, was brought into Jamestown (James City) in 1621. Sir William Berkeley deeded him property in Jamestown in 1656. That John supposedly had a son named John.
- In the same immediate area was Surry County. Jamestown was on the north side of the James River. Surry County was formed in 1652 from the part of James City County south of the river. Jno. Phipps and William Harris, presumably his surveyor coworker of that name, are both listed together as having money (actually tobacco, presumably) due to them in a Surry County, Virginia record dated 1652. Surry County records refer to “Mr. Jno. Phibbs” in that county in 1652, “Jno. Philips” in 1662, and “Jno. Phillips” in 1663.
- A 1652 record refers to the sale of a cow and calf from John Medmore to John Phipps. In 1662, a detailed and elaborate Surry County deed records the sale of cattle from William Phillipps, referred to as a carpenter, to “Lt. Ro. Spencer.” Perhaps this was the same William Philips who left a 1721 Surry County will although, if so, why a carpenter would own several plantations is not clear. He married a Swann, and the Swann family was closely connected to the Harris family of Surry County, likely the same family associated with the 1621 surveyor’s coworker Harris. We’ve earlier discussed a Phillips family in Halifax County with Swann connections, along with various other reasons why they were likely “Phipps.” Much later, so late that it might not mean anything, a Swann was the administrator of the estate of James Phipps in Craven County, North Carolina in 1859.
- Of course, another Surry County record is the one dated 1657 in which Elizabeth Harris binds her son John Phipps as an apprentice to James Murrey, a Surry County planter.
- A 1664 Surry County record refers to William Reeves “Marriner of black Island in New England.” Was he related to the local Reeves or Reaves or Rives family? If so, could the Phipps or Phripp family have also had direct New England connections? We’ve discussed earlier how it appears quite possible that Capt. Samuel Phripp of Norfolk was the same individual as Capt. Samuel Phipps of Charlestown, Massachusetts.
- A John Phillops appears in a 1669 Surry County tithables list, along with “one Indian,” apparently living with a Mr. Edwards. He also appears in a tithables list in 1670 for the area from Sunken Marsh to Lower Chipoakes. We’ve discussed Sunken Marsh in connection with “the orphant” before.
- In the same immediate area was Norfolk. Capt. John Phrip or Phripp and his son, Capt. Matthew Phrip or Phripp, also Phipp, Phips, etc., were propertied residents and slaveholders of the Norfolk, Virginia area.
- The 1718 Norfolk will of Daniell Phillipps (signed Danl. Philips) may possibly refer to a member of the family otherwise referred to as Phripp or Phips. The will mentions Saml. Boush, Jr., as friend. The Samuel Boush name also appears in connection with Phripp documents. In the will, Daniell Phillipps gives a plantation to his son John Phillips. Samuel Boush was to have the “Said Sonn” when he comes of age. The plantation is later referred to in the same will as “Lying in North Carolina.”
- Capt. John Phrip or Phripp was a sea captain and a Norfolk merchant. He was a business partner with Preeson Bowdoin. John was also closely associated with Col. Robert Tucker, another merchant. Anna, who was a daughter of Capt. John Phrip married Stephen Wright.
- Capt. John Phrip of the Norfolk area was involved with Richard Brown in exchanging slaves. Apparently after John Phrip died, his son Matthew continued this practice with Richard Brown.
- The 1722 Norfolk County will of Robert Tucker, in a somewhat cryptic abstract, appears to be mentioning a sloop which was, at the time, being built for him, with the notation “Capt. John Phripp will bidd for and purchase.” Here is yet another sea trade connection. Somewhat later, the 1731/2 Norfolk County will of John Tucker mentions the Cookes and Walkers, associated with the Phripp family, as well as money “to be raised out of my Westindie goods.” This indicates that this was yet another family involved in Caribbean sea trade. The same will mentions “my sloops” and “my friend John Phripp.”
- The 1734 Norfolk County will of Richard Joell was witnessed by J. Phripp and refers to Joell’s friend “Capt. Nathaniel Tatum.” This was likely another sea captain, and the Tatums were closely connected to the Reaves or Rives or Reeves family which, at least eventually, became closely associated with the Phipps family.
- John Ellegood’s 1740 Norfolk will refers to his “Sea Sloop” and all his other “Water craft,” along with his rum and dry goods and all other “wares & Merchandize.” Not only does this place him in the sea trade/merchant class, but the reference to rum would suggest a Caribbean trade connection. Executors included his brother Jacob Ellegood and Capt. John Phripp. Around the time of the 1775 burning of Norfolk, Jacob Ellegood was suspected of Loyalist sympathies and was imprisoned, while Matthew Phripp was suspected of the same.
- A 1741 Norfolk will of James Giles was proved by Samuel Boush, Charles Smith and John Phripp. Then later, the 1773 will of Charles Smith mentions “my Friends Matthew Phipp Anna Phipp other ways Wright.”
- The 1746 Norfolk County will of Eleanor Britt, who was a slaveholder, names Capt. John Phripp as one of her executors. The will was witnessed by Edward Hack Moseley. Later, in 1775, both Edward Hack Moseley and Matthew Phripp petitioned the Revolutionary convention that they be released from confinement on suspicion of being Loyalists (see below).
- Matthew Phrip/Phripp was a sea captain and prominent Norfolk merchant. He was a partner in the merchant firm of Phrip and Bowdoin, and in Phripp, Taylor & Co. along with Dr. James Taylor. James Taylor, apparently the same one, was a son in law of Charles Smith. As already mentioned, the 1773 Norfolk County will of Charles Smith mentioned “my Friends Matthew Phipp Anna Phipp other ways Wright.” These “Phipp” individuals were otherwise known as “Phrip” or “Phripp.”
- Looking at Matthew Phrip’s pedigree (see here, for instance), it becomes clear that he was interrelated with various other families of importance in early southeast Virginia, including merchant families. He was related to the Tatums, a family which was very much a part of the social/family grouping involving the Reeves (Rives, Reaves) and Epps (Eppes) families, with the Samuel Phipps who died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina having married a daughter of a Reaves who was an Eppes heir.
- In 1761, Stephen Wright married Ann or Anna Phripp or Phipp. She was a daughter of Capt. John Phripp and a sister of Matthew Phripp or Phrip or Phipp. Several weeks later, James Taylor married Alice Smith, daughter of the Charles Smith whose will mentioned Matthew and Anna “Phipp,” as mentioned above. The marriage bond was signed by Jno. Phripp, Jr.
- Blacks were brought to the port of entry at Yorktown and the Naval Office on the Lower James River in 1725 and 1726 from ships licensed in Williamsburg. Those ships were owned by Jeffrey Flowers, Dudley Digges, John Hutchings, and John Phripp. The Hutchings name appears repeatedly in direct association with the Phripp family in general, and Matthew “Phipp” was executor of Joseph Hutchings’s will in 1776. These blacks were imported from Barbados, Jamaica, Anguilla, and Africa, showing yet more evidence of Caribbean trade.
- In the spring of 1775, white residents of Norfolk and the surrounding areas were concerned about the danger of slave insurrection. Several blacks were accused and arrested. One was a slave named Emanuel (not to be confused with Emanuel de Antonio, who was also accused). He was the property of Matthew Phripp, who was Norfolk County’s militia lieutenant.
- Various sources refer to slaves of Matthew Frip, Phips, Phripp, etc. of Norfolk. Three blacks named “Frip,” described as formerly of Norfolk, Virginia, appear to have arrived in Nova Scotia on the ship Danger in 1783.
- The Burning of Norfolk occurred on 1 January 1776, but is sometimes referred to as a 1775 fire. A significant number of Loyalists had been living in Norfolk, but they had fled. The city became occupied by Revolutionaries from North Carolina and from elsewhere in Virginia. Lord Dunmore ordered a fleet of 6 ships to destroy the town. The fleet sailed up the James River and then Hampton Creek, and the British Navy began shelling the town. Some Navy personnel came into the city and began burning certain properties. The Revolutionaries (Whigs or patriots) largely kept the landing parties at bay, but this didn’t stop the flames from spreading. In fact, the Revolutionaries encouraged the flames, because they didn’t want the British to use the city. Most of the city was destroyed. Lord Dunmore left in August.
- After the Norfolk fire of 1775/1776, Matthew Phrip and his relative and associate John Willoughby were suspected of Loyalist tendencies, but both were eventually cleared. Was that because he actually wasn’t Loyalist, or because he was a rich and influential businessman? Matthew Phripp claimed loss of over £2,000.
- Various accounts all present essentially the same account of how Matthew Phripp was more or less coerced into taking Lord Dunmore’s loyalty oath. One source even goes so far as to say he was “forced” into it. Most of these sources link this to pressure from an unidentified aging parent. Then, in the next breath, the oath is overlooked because, as was pointed out, he had supposedly attempted to get the locals at one point to arm themselves against the British, but he couldn’t get them to comply. One must wonder if the truth could have been that he did attempt to get the locals to organize militarily, but not necessarily against the British. He was also, however, said to have performed a significant role in Patriot councils at Norfolk before Dunmore’s occupation. Was this the case, or just a spin?
- One source, Eckenrode’s book The Revolution in Virginia, lists “the chief men of Tory inclinations in Virginia.” In this brief list are Matthew Phripp, merchant of Norfolk, Jacob Ellegood, who was held as a prisoner, John Tayloe Corbin, son of “a large landowner,” and Richard Corbin, Virginia’s receiver-general, along with his sons Francis and Thomas. What this list doesn’t point out that is that Matthew Phripp was a close associate of Jacob Ellegood, and we have discussed the Phipps connection to the Corbins, with links to the Turbeville/Turbyfield etc. family and to Constantine John Phipps, on various occasions. We’ve also discussed the very real possibility that the Tayloe family, which we know was originally Taylor, was related to the James Taylor who was an extremely close associate of Matthew Phripp. Note again that the list is not simply of some people who were suspected of being Tories. Instead, this is a list of “the chief men of Tory inclinations” in Virginia.
- Shortly before Christmas of 1775, three suspected loyalists were sent to the Revolutionary convention associated with the Committee of Safety. These were Matthew Phripp, Edward Hack Moseley, and Moseley’s son. All three were confined. Moseley was a close associate of Phripp and both Moseley and Phripp submitted a petition to the convention on 19 December 1775. They complained about “very unfavourable and injurious reports” which had “prevailed” against them.
- When Matthew Phripp died in 1780, his death was reported in the Williamsburg newspaper the Virginia Gazette. Records from his estate appear to be housed at Colonial Williamsburg.
- When, in 1783, blacks were listed in a “Book of Negroes” as having departed from the port of New York, three of them were referred to as “formerly the property of Matthew Phips of Norfolk, Virginia.”
- A writer in 1853, in referring to a Norfolk area association of patriot descendants, noted that the Phripp surname “exists within the four counties,” without specifying what those counties were. Certainly Norfolk, Isle of Wight, and Princess Anne were mentioned in context. The apparent lack of records outside the immediate Norfolk area using the “Phripp” spelling causes one to wonder whether some other spelling – presumably Phipps, Phips, Fipps, or Fips – was in the writer’s mind.
For more information:
- The Book of Negroes – Transcript (Black Loyalist site)
- British Naval Fleet Attacks Norfolk, Virginia (This Day in History)
- Burning of Norfolk (Wikipedia)
- Capt. John Phrip (Black Loyalist site)
- Eckenrode, H.J., The Revolution in Virginia, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916, pp. 70, 130, 131, 133
- Forrest, William S., Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Norfolk and Vicinity, Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1853, pp. 70-71
- Gilroy, Marion, Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia, Baltimore: Clearfield, 2009, p. 112
- Holton, Woody, “Rebel Against Rebel:” Enslaved Virginians and the Coming of the American Revolution,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 105, No. 2, Spring 1997, pp. 157-192, at p. 168 (pdf)
- Matthew Phrip [Frip] (Black Loyalist site)
- Matthew Phripp, Sometimes Phipp: Jamaica & “the Orphan”? (this blog)
- McCartney, Martha W., A Study of the Africans and African Americans on Jamestown Island and at Green Spring, 1619-1803, Williamsburg, Virginia: National Park Service and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2003, pp. vii, 61, 120 (pdf)
- Petition from Edward Hack Moseley, of Princess Anne, and Matthew Phripp, of Norfolk (American Archives)
- Phrip Surname Ancestry Results (The Original Record site)
- Robertson, Cornelius, Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia: Tracing the History of Tracadie Loyalists 1776-1787, Nova Scotia: History Section, Nova Scotia Museum, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture, 2000, p. 79 (pdf)