Wilkes County, North Carolina and Related Migrations

Researching the Phips/Phipps family of Ashe County, North Carolina, or at least Samuel Phipps who died there in 1854, has been greatly hindered by decades of dependence on unfounded legends. Researching the family in general, not just in that part of the world, seems to have been an unusual challenge. That’s because the family appears to have harbored deep secrets while its fortunes and social standing have risen and fallen like the tide.

As already mentioned, this is not your typical family with an American landing point followed by residence A, then residence B. Instead, this appears to have been an extremely enigmatic family, at least part of which achieved aristocratic stature in England at the very highest levels, only to fragment in various directions as a result of the social debates which rocked British and American society in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This family had ever-recurring Caribbean connections which even involved settlers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. Part of that family appears to have made a drastic about-face at some point. Part of this family, which had been at the pinnacle of power and position, found itself despised and hated. What happened?

With a family this unusual, looking for a local document in Ashe County, North Carolina spelling out relationships to ancestors and divulging all the family secrets is a futile goal. All one can do, it appears, is to look for clues. Sometimes those clues can lie hidden in relationships with other families. Other times they can come from the historical context in which they lived.

Revisionist history takes prior assumptions and tosses them out the window, preferring instead to opt for fresh beginnings. Where are the records? What do those records say? Putting those records together with family associates and historical contexts, where do they take us? Research then becomes a journey, a journey which can ever change and evolve. The destination may look radically different from the starting point.

This blog started out with the assumption that family legends and the assertions of prior genealogists must be true. The Phipps family of Ashe County, North Carolina must directly descend from Joseph Phipps, the Quaker immigrant in Pennsylvania, it was believed, and all the then-known Phipps contemporaries of Samuel in northwest North Carolina must surely have been Samuel’s brothers, since someone said they were.

Then the revelations of Brent Kennedy and other researchers began to suggest that there might be another picture, one having to do with undefined multiracial marriages. After that, an astonishing collection of documents proved that part of the family were outlaws, with some of their relatives constituting some of the least respected people in their respective communities.

After that, a bizarre assemblage of documents began to emerge which seemed to suggest that family members at the highest levels of British society began to tread on American soil, but while seemingly holding some sort of deep and perhaps dark secret. What was it? Through individuals named Phipps and Phripp and Phibbs and Fips and Phypps and so on we’ve seen an incredible network of people maintaining ties to the world of multinational seafaring trade, land speculation, and surveying.

That network, in large measure, seemed to fan out from southeast Virginia, with ties to early Jamestown and some of the most significant early families in the colony. Once family members had begun to move far from Virginia’s cradle of civilization, the Hampton Roads area, a different pattern began to emerge: Some parts of the family seem to have become increasingly enigmatic: prominent property owners, yet no longer community leaders, tight-lipped as though they had a secret to hide.

Another factor that seems especially enigmatic is that their migrations as they more or less followed the Virginia-North Carolina line west seem to have exactly paralleled those of undefined people often regarded as of mixed race. These people are sometimes explained as having been Melungeons – perhaps descendants of Portuguese who intermarried with Native Americans, other times as simply Native Americans or half-breeds, still other times as blacks or people with at least some sub-Saharan African roots.

All the heated debates and supposed proofs aside, a likely scenario is that we’re dealing with intermarriages with people who could not all be placed into just one of those categories. Some were without a doubt partly Native American, although a popular trend is to assert that all those who made such claims were simply denying African roots. Some may have actually been descendants of Portuguese or of those of some other part of Europe; some early historical accounts, as well as features noted in old photos, it would seem, cannot be explained any other way.

In the case of the Phips or Phipps family of Ashe County, North Carolina, countless records and associations seem to have created numerous figurative arrows pointing to southeast Virginia origins with an apparent British Isles ethnicity. Any Melungeon or Native American or Portuguese, etc. admixture, it would appear, likely came from intermarriages with those of mixed race or non-white ethnicity, and evidence suggests that this did indeed occur.

What’s important for our purposes is not so much who so-called Melungeons were in an ethnic or racial sense as much as why it was that the Phips or Fips or Phipps family seems to have eventually become so closely associated with them. And this is a factor which generally  is not directly referred to in documents. There are just clues here and there, clues which add up by the hundreds or perhaps the thousands.

Some of those clues are very indirect, the sorts of things that most people wouldn’t necessarily even notice. But when you see them repeatedly, over and over, countless times, they begin to have a residual effect. One has to begin to wonder what was going on.

As an example, Samuel Phipps of Ashe County married a daughter of George Reaves or Reeves. Reaves was related to a family sometimes known as Eppes or Epps and sometimes as Evans, according to Heinegg’s well-known two-volume set on what he calls free African-Americans. That family, according to Heinegg, sometimes appears as white in records, sometimes not.

Then the Reeves family of Granville County, likely related, is discussed in Heinegg’s book. Members of this family appear to have been sometimes referred to as white, sometimes as black, sometimes as mulatto.  According to one source, Virginia and North Carolina records during the 18th century referred to people who were half-Indian, half-white as mulatto, while those who were over half-Indian were allowed to be listed in records as white. A descendant of Elizabeth Phipps, George Reeves’s daughter, supposedly referred to herself as “Portuguese Indian.”

Indications suggest that the Fips or Phipps family may possibly have become involved in Indian trading. Did that explain the associations and migration paths, or was it simply a matter of who their neighbors were as they pushed ever westward? Regardless, one factor which has become apparent in research is that such factors as ethnicity and the relative notoriety or importance or unimportance of Phips family members and their relatives and associates will not generally be stated in most primary source documents, if those are the sort of things which are referred to at all.

Migration Paths

First, there’s the matter of migrations. Why did Phips/Fips/Phipps migrations so closely pattern those of Melungeons or so-called Melungeons – whoever they were? Or is it simply that these were migration paths taken by people in general in those days, paths which are mentioned in Melungeon literature but which were not necessarily unique to them?

And what was the attraction to the New River?

Whites from eastern Virginia had made an expedition to the New River by 1654. The river was described shortly afterward as a place “where no English had ever been.” An early explorer of the New River area was Thomas Walker, who scouted out the region in 1750. Settlers soon arrived, after Walker and Col. James Patton established what became known as the Loyal Company.

The Loyal Company, which was formed in 1749 and 1750, was given 800,000 acres west of the Allegheny Mountains as a royal grant. Walker was expected to encourage settlement. It was Walker who found the Cumberland Gap and who gave the gap its name.

Then in 1763, Lord Granville’s land office closed its doors following Granville’s death. This made it impossible to gain legal title to land in Ashe County until the State of North Carolina began to issue grants in 1778.

The migration to Ashe County and nearby areas seemed, for at least some of the family, remarkably similar to the path trod by some of those who have been termed Melungeons and some of those who, on other occasions, have been labeled Saponi or Catawba or Eastern Siouan.  Various discussions show some of them as moving from southeast or central Virginia into areas like Lunenburg County, Virginia or Granville County, North Carolina (various sources cite the Flatt or Flat River area) as well as into Montgomery County, Virginia and to the New River. References are made to “Indian Lands” near the New River and Reed’s Creek.

Various Eastern Cherokee Applications submitted in the early 20th century by Phipps family members cite a relationship to Ned Sizemore. A recent post in this blog mentioned a claim of association of Ned Sizemore to what has sometimes been termed the Catawaba Reservation on the Catawba River. In addition, a Sizemore application for inclusion in the Cherokee roles claims that “Old Ned” Sizemore came from this location.

At least one source claims that Native Americans who were at Fort Christanna in Brunswick County, Virginia were the ancestors of people with Melungeon/Indian surnames like Collins and Sizemore in Wilkes County, North Carolina, who migrated to the New River and into Scott County, Virginia. Native Americans in the New River area were supposedly buying land from whites and living, for the most part, as whites.

This was said to be the case when Ashe County opened up, and a related move was made sometime around 1800 from the New River to the Clinch and Powell Rivers in what became Scott County, Virginia. Then people of mixed race are said to have moved into Wayne County, Kentucky.

To what extent all this information is completely accurate isn’t clear, and to what extent it was unique to those of mixed race or Native American or Melungeon ethnicity as opposed to people in general isn’t clear. Still, some of the migrations discussed sound interesting.

David Collins, for instance, shows up in Montgomery County, Virginia and Wilkes County, North Carolina records in the 1770 and 1780s, and ends up with land in Wilkes County next to a Sizemore. The Sizemores are associated with the Phips family in records, and a connection to the Sizemore family was, as already mentioned, claimed by various Phipps individuals in their Eastern Cherokee Applications.

This David Collins then acquired land on Elk Creek. Samuel Phips’s line is mentioned in a 1795 Wilkes County grant to Enoch Osborn for land on Elk Creek. Samuel Phips witnessed a sale of land on Little Elk Creek from Theophilus Evans to Jesse Reves in 1795 in Wilkes County. Note that the Eppes or Epps family of which George Reaves was an heir was, according to Heinegg, sometimes called Eppes and sometimes Evans, apparently because of a illegitimacy.

In 1791, George Reves received a grant on New River adjoining David Collins. Then, when he sold this land in 1797 (mentioning the same David Collins), he is referred to as George Reeves of Grayson County. The name of David Collins then appears in 1800 Ashe County land entries. Claims assert that the Collins family was associated with Fort Christanna and that they had Saponi roots.

Mullins is a name which has been closely associated with the Phipps family at times, and it is a name which is prominent in Melungeon discussions. Supposedly a Mullins line came from Pittsylvania County, Virginia into Burke County, North Carolina, then into Russell County, Virginia. Of course, a Witcher and Fips/Phipps migration seems to have involved movement from the Pittsylvania County area into the Surry and Wilkes Counties area of North Carolina.

Similarly, the Ridley family, also in Melungeon discussions, is supposed to have been in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. There they were listed as “Indian” in 1767, although they had been called mulatto in 1755. Various other supposed Melungeon families are said to have lived in central Virginia around the 1730s and 1740s and to have then migrated to the area of Flatt River in Granville County, North Carolina in the 1740s. Then this area became Orange County, North Carolina in the 1750s. Various other Melungeon families are said to have gone from Pittsylvania County, Virginia into North Carolina.

This, of course, is also an area where Phipps or Phips individuals appear. In 1769 Isaiah Phips signed an acknowledgement of pay for militia service in Granville County. An earlier Isaiah or Esaiah had left a will there in 1760. Before Isaiah left his 1760 will, George Washington surveyed for an Isaiah Phipps in Augusta County, Virginia in 1751. That was not that far from the Louisa County of the Melungeons. Nothing is being claimed or implied, except to ask whether there is anything to be made of these factors.

Granville County, North Carolina is adjacent to Halifax County, Virginia. Halifax is the same county from which Ashur Reaves (Asher Reeves) testified that he moved with his father to Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1778. Halifax County, Virginia is the county where George Reaves of Wilkes County, North Carolina and later Grayson County, Virginia had relatives. George Reeves or Reeves was associated with Samuel Phips in both places (with both men earlier in Montgomery County, Virginia, probably only due to boundary changes).

One source says that the Melungeons migrated from Virginia to Granville County, North Carolina, in an area which became Orange County, North Carolina in 1753. Those individuals are said to have listed as mulattos. Then they moved into the New River area, where they appeared in Montgomery County, Virginia records and later in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

This switch from Montgomery County to Wilkes County appears to have been the result of a boundary change or a change in what was recognized as being the boundary, since otherwise too many associated people appear to have moved too abruptly. This appears to be a subject that no one has adequately researched.

The moves claimed for Melungeons sound remarkably similar to moves involving the Phips family.

Neighbors and Associates

Various articles and materials pertaining to Melungeons or so-called Melungeons show Phips or Phipps family members surrounded by individuals with surnames which are the focus of Melungeon discussions. In some cases, records place them adjacent to the Sizemores, that enigmatic family which many of the Phipps family believed descended from a “full-blooded” Cherokee.

One Melungeon blog, for instance, shows Samuel Phips as witnessing a 1797 deed in Wilkes County, North Carolina. That deed was from George Reves of Grayson County, Virginia and William Reves. Samuel Phips and George Reves had appeared together in Montgomery County, Virginia earlier; now Samuel was witnessing this deed for his friend and, at some point, father in law George Reves, for 600 acres on the south side of New River.

This land was right next to land owned by Toliver family members, another family which intermarried with the Phips family. Samuel Phips testified on behalf of the Revolutionary War pension application of his friend Jesse Toliver. In the middle of it all, there is a Collins – one of the names prominent in Melungeon discussions. Lots of such names appear, however, in lots of records associated with the Phips, Toliver, and Reeves families.

A bit earlier, in 1791, George Reves received a grant of 600 acres on New River, presumably that same land. The grant refers to the conditional line between him and David Collins and Moses Toliver, the same line which is referred to in the 1797 deed. The grant also mentions Toliver’s mill dam.

Then a 1798 Wilkes County deed is from John Taylor to another Collins, this time Thomas Collins. This was for 70 acres on the south side of New River, the same side as Reves’s land. The deed refers to this land as adjoining land belonging to Samuel Phipps. One of the witnesses was a Baldwin, a member of a family which became closely associated with the Phipps family in Ashe County and in Indiana.

Other Wilkes County, North Carolina show the Collins family as closely associated with George Reaves (Samuel Phipps’s father in law) in addition to the Sizemores (who figure prominently in the Phipps Eastern Cherokee Applications) and the Cox family (a family closely associated in Ashe County).

The Bennett article on New River Gorge settlement listed below as “Early Settlement Along the New River Basin,” taken from the New River Symposium in 1984, includes a link to a very useful map at the end of the article. The related “Wilkes County Cherokee Melungeons,” also linked below, refers to George Reeves or Reaves as settling in 1767 in what is referred to as the Peach Bottom tract, near Peach Bottom Mountain. Jesse Toliver, Samuel Phips’s close associate, also settled near this mountain. This appears to have been in close proximity to other individuals with supposedly Melungeon surnames.

The map (pdf file, here) shows locations of settlers by number. (Of course, some may have owned land in multiple areas which were not adjoining.) George Reeves is listed as #34, near the state line just a short distance east of where Samuel Phips or Phipps would have been living, although the latter does not appear. (The article does refer to Benjamin Phipps.) The closest person to George Reaves on the map is Moses Toliver. A number of records connect the Tolivers or Tollivers with the Phips or Phipps family.

“Wilkes County Cherokee Melungeons” (linked below) refers to James Blevins marrying Lydia Sizemore. The Blevins family was very closely associated with the Phips or Phipps family and, again, Sizemore references abound in the Eastern Cherokee Applications filed by Phipps family members.

We’ve discussed John Fips or Phips of Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties, Virginia and his association with Peter Fontaine. The latter was presumably a relative of Rev. John Fontaine, described as a French Huguenot clergyman. References have this Fontaine as involved with the Saponi Indian school at Ft. Christanna in Brunswick County, Virginia.

Of course, we’ve referred to Brunswick County numerous times. One purpose of the fort was to provide schooling and protection for some of the Native Americans living southwest of the area settled by whites. For various reasons, one must wonder whether the Phipps family became involved with with the Saponi, perhaps through Fort Christanna.

Other sources refer to John Fontaine as a brother of Peter Fontaine (a father and son relationship has also been claimed). Peter Fontaine is supposed to have visited Fort Christanna a number of years before he wrote a 1747 letter in which he suggested that the white settlers should have more freely intermarried with the Indians. That, he thought, would have facilitated conversion to Christianity.

Peter Fontaine, it has been suggested, may have been the person who coined the term Melungeon. Both he and John Fontaine were supposedly fluent in French. Despite claims to other origins for the term, it is said that the word “melangeon” in French literally means “we mix.” The story that is more commonly heard is that the word Melungeon comes from the Turkish “melun can” (the “c” is pronounced like a “j”), meaning “damned soul.” The French connection seems perhaps more plausible, however, especially considering that the related word “malengin” appears in archaic English.

The 1764 tax list for Lunenburg County, Virginia (as abstracted), you will recall, seems to refer to John Fipps as an overseer for Peter Fontaine.

It will take a while to sort out some of the more prominent names that appear in connection with Fips or Phips or Phipps records as well as in Melungeon discussions in tracing migrations into Montgomery County, Virginia, Wilkes County, North Carolina, and nearby locations such as Surry County, North Carolina. One of those names, for instance, is William Nall.

The Gibsons figure prominently in Melungeon discussions, and a Gibson acquired land in Wilkes County, North Carolina adjacent to William Nall. A Rowland received a grant in Wilkes County of land that had earlier been occupied by William Nall and Micajah Bunch. Micajah Bunch comes up repeatedly in Melungeon discussions, and has been called the “king of the Melungeons.”

Regarding William Nall, a 1790 Wilkes County deed conveyed land from John Phipps, planter, to Alexander Smith. When the deed was acknowledged in court the following year, John’s name was spelled Fips.

This was for land on New River on the north side of Prater’s Creek. The deed was witnessed by William Nall, John Long, and Samuel Phipps. The Long family became extremely closely associated with the family of Samuel Phips or Phipps in Ashe County, North Carolina and later in Owen County, Indiana. The 1790 deed was signed by John and by his wife Elender.

Just the year before, John “Fips” was ordered by Wilkes County to oversee the route for a road from Prater’s Creek to Franklin’s Road. “All hands below Wm. Pennintons & John Fips” were to work thereon. The Pennington name is another name which has appeared repeatedly in discussions about Melungeons and Melungeon migrations, and the name surfaces repeatedly as a Phips neighbor.

Martin Gambill enlisted in William Nall’s militia company in Wilkes County. Later, after the formation of Ashe County, both men appear in records there. Martin Gambill appears then in the Chestnut Hill area, which might be the same area. Still later, part of Ashe County became Alleghany County, and “Prathers” Creek is one of Alleghany’s township names. Prathers Creek Cemetery is near the town of Laurel Springs in Alleghany County.

Various 18th century deeds show the Sizemores in connection with this same Prater’s or Prathers Creek. One 1798 Wilkes County deed refers to land on “Prators” Creek near “Phipses Mill.”

The 1790 deed, again, was witnessed by both Samuel Phipps or Phips and William Nall. Samuel Phips testified on the behalf of Thomas Baker and Martin Gambill when both applied for Revolutionary War pension benefits. The service of both was associated with William Nall.

At one point William Nall, if the same one, was sheriff of Ashe County. Serving under Nall when he was militia captain in Wilkes County from 1777 to 1780 was Ashur Reaves (Asher Reeves). He was likely closely related to George Reaves. Asher said in his Revolutionary War pension application that he moved with his father from Halifax County, Virginia to Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1778.

Suggestions have been made that some of those who were associated with the Indian trade in South Carolina (if that did involve the Phips or Phipps family) were outlaw types. If this is who the family became involved with, this might explain the extreme direct involvement in outright criminal activities by some descendants of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina.

Where members of the Phips or Phipps family involved in Indian trading? No record has surfaced specifically mentioning this. We know, however, that they were directly involved with various families which come up in discussions about Indian trading, with those traders typically passing through South Carolina and especially Sandy Bluff. This would include the Long family, prominent in that activity, as well as other families we’ve discussed over and over, including Turberville/Turbyfield, etc. and Poythress.

Some Longs were clearly involved in the Sandy Bluff Indian trade. Whether they connect with the Longs associated with Samuel Phipps is not clear. It was the Long and Phips association in Owen County, Indiana in the 1830s-1840s, however, which was at the forefront of discussion and investigation regarding the infamous “Banditti” gang which operated throughout much of the Midwest.

This factor alone could account for the eventual tight-lipped, reclusive, and mysterious  nature of some of the Phipps or Phips family. Coupled with this, however, would be the stigma white society applied to those with mixed-raced associations. In 1810 in Baxter County, Arkansas, for instance, a certain Jacob Mooney is said to have been ostracized for associating with “Lungeons,” who were termed “foreigners.”

And yet the Phips family in Ashe County was constantly surrounded with people of surnames which come up repeatedly in discussions of Melungeons. The family was constantly interacting with them. What was going on?

And what was going on that the outlaw aspect doesn’t seem to figure in the records (except for various issues involving trespassing, assault, etc.) at all until some members of the family leave Ashe County, North Carolina for Owen County, Indiana? Then, it seems, outlaw activity seems to show up in records literally immediately, beginning with the apparent land fraud perpetrated by Samuel Phips’s son William as he sold his land and moved west.

That part of the family can hardly be assumed to have converted from law-abiding to outlaw tendencies the moment they left Ashe County, North Carolina. In Owen County, Indiana, various records at the county level and at the state level strongly suggest that they and other associates, some of whom had come from the Ashe County, North Carolina and Grayson County, Virginia area, had local politics sewn up in their portion of Owen county.

This appears to have been true even to the point that members of the Phips or Phipps and associated families in Owen County were operating as justices of the peace, trying cases and even imprisoning people, but not necessarily in accordance with recognized law. Indications more than suggest that these activities were, in at least some cases, viewed as illegal oppression on the part of a gang of thugs, directed against local law-abiding citizenry.

Eventually, a concerted move forced them out. The claim has been made that Grayson Township in Owen County, Indiana, which derived its name from settlers from Ashe County, North Carolina and adjacent Grayson County, Virginia, was then renamed Marion Township in an attempt to rid the area of even the memory of these settlers.

Once he arrived in Owen County, Jesse Phips or Phipps, who was a son of Samuel of Ashe County, North Carolina, was at the center of a gang of outlaws. This could not be reasonably expected to be the result of a sudden personality change which only happened once the family reached Indiana.

The fact that this sort of activity is not mentioned in Ashe County or Grayson County records only suggests that there might have been a tight enclave of associates who supported this type of activity. One fact that becomes obvious when browsing page by page through loose county court records in Ashe County in the early 19th century is that nearly all, if not literally all, records pertaining to the Phips or Phipps or Fipps family involve members of the same several associated families. If the record focuses on other unfamiliar surnames (unless as a victim, as in an assault case), you can safely bet money that no Phips will appear anywhere in the record.

A late 19th century (1884) history of Owen County, Indiana discusses a son of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina in terms that are hardly flattering:

An early comer, whose reputation was none of the best, was Jesse Phipps, who settled on what is now the Baumgartner estate, which land he entered as early as 1833. He was a man of considerable property, and kept a house which for a number of years was the general resort of a class of roughs who set at defiance the laws of both God and man.

He continues with the statement that, with regard to Jesse and his relatives, they, “outside of their immediate associates[,] were but little respected in the community.”

Blanchard had much more to say about Jesse and his relatives and associates, and of the concerted effort to rid the county of them. So did other writers. Some of that discussion involves close Long relatives, two of whom were hung for murder. Were these descendants of Robert Long, the Indian trader of Sandy Bluff?

This extreme family characteristic as seen in Samuel’s son surely did not begin in 1833. In fact, one would think that it likely involved Jesse’s father Samuel as well, to at least some extent. Genealogists have worked for decades on trying to solve the enigma of this Samuel and his family. Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that he seems to have descended from the most unlikely origins: a British family with connections to the highest levels of society.

Could another part of the problem stem from how Blanchard characterized later incarnations of what appears to be the same family? Again, they, “outside of their immediate associates,” were “but little respected in the community.” This was the same family in which a grandson of Samuel, Matthew Phips of Clay and Owen Counties, Indiana, appears to have faked his own death, resulting in a probate mess which reached the state legislature and the Indiana Supreme Court.

What secrets did this family hold?

In closing, it must be emphasized that no connection is being asserted or even implied between mixed race ethnicity, on the one hand, and outlaw tendencies on the other. Certainly there was nothing wrong or deficient in the eventual association of part of the Phips family with those of other races.

It has been suggested, however, that in the particular case of the Indian traders of mixed race associated with Sandy Bluff in South Carolina, some outlaw tendencies may have existed, for whatever reason. No suggestion is being made that this was a natural consequence of race.

Mixed-raced associations, however, may have resulted in some degree of ostracism on the part of the mainstream dominant white culture. Perhaps this might explain the extreme “stand-offish” stance seen in a number of later descendants of Samuel Phips of Ashe County.

Some relevant New River area records:

Of course, those listed below are just a few select records. Associated individuals mentioned may appear in numerous other records. Not all names of genealogical importance which appear in the records are included below.

Some associates might warrant more study. Zachariah or Zechariah Wells, for instance, who comes up in such records as area deed records, also comes up in interesting Revolutionary War records, as does his associate Captain Riddle. Riddle appears to have been hanged along with two Reeves men in Wilkes County, all of them believed to have been Tories.

Why has the Tory (Loyalist) vs. Patriot (Revolutionary) issue turned up multiple times in references to the Phipps, Phripp, Phips, etc. family? Matthew Phripp of Norfolk, Virginia was strongly suspected of being a Tory. William Phipps’s house was burned by Tories in 1779 in the part of Montgomery County, Virginia which became Wythe County. Accusations surfaced in 1780 in Montgomery County that George Reaves or Reeves was a Tory, resulting in loss of his property. Matthew Phripp was cleared, but doubts remained. George Reaves was cleared, but doubts probably remained.

Other records from around the same time period and the same area as were discussed above are listed below. Other similar records were included in other posts in the past.

  • 1760-1763 | Samuel Fips, Phips, Phipps, etc. was born according to his own testimony, although the location is unknown. The claim has been made that this was “probably” Orange County, North Carolina, but there is not the slightest shred of evidence of this. The claim was based on the assumption that he was a brother of others who have not been shown to have been his brothers.
  • 26 Sep 1760 | Brunswick County, VA | Land patent to Geoge Reaves for 54 acres, likely the one who later became Samuel Phips’s father in law based on a number of other records.
  • 1767, VA | George Reeves or Reaves is said to have settled at the Peach Bottom tract (see above) with George Collins.
  • 26 Dec 1778, Wilkes Co., NC | George Reaves (George Reeves, who became Samuel Phipps’s father in law) entered 200 acres on “Rockey” (presumably Rock) Creek at the lower end of Turkey Mountain; note that Samuel Phips received a land grant in 1791 (below) for land on Rock Creek of New River at the lower end of Turkey Mountain.
  • 5 June 1779, Montgomery Co., VA | Tories fired into the home of William Phipps and set the house on fire. Apparently he was accused by Tories, who had control in the area, of having Revolutionary sentiments. This appears to have been in a different part of the county from that of Samuel Phips, however, with this occurring in the part which became Wythe County.
  • 8 Nov 1780, Montgomery Co., VA | Property seized which had belonged to George Reeves was ordered restored. He had been accused of Tory loyalties.
  • About 1781, Montgomery Co., VA | An undated militia list included Sammuwill Phips and Sammuell Phips Sen. (Sr.) Based on connection to other records, one of these men would have to be the one who died in Ashe County, North Carolina in 1854. That Samuel, born about 1760 to 1763, would not have married until, say, perhaps the 1780s. Obviously he could not have fathered another Samuel who could have been a grown man in 1781. As a result, assuming that these two were father and son, the Samuel “Sen.” would have to be his father.
  • 1782, Montgomery Co., VA| The personal property tax list included Ephraim Witcher, who married Betsey Fips and who came from Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Also listed are George Reeves, David Reeves, John Reave, in addition to Benjamin, James, Samuel, and William Phipps (not necessarily spelled that way, and not necessarily listed together).
  • 21 Oct 1782, Montgomery Co., VA | Benjamin Phipps was referred to as an assignee of William Hash, assignee of Enoch Osburn, assignee of James Nowell, assignee of Frederick Edwards in connection with a warrant for 100 acres on Meeting House Branch of Mill Creek.
  • 2 Dec 1782, Montgomery Co., VA | Wm. Fips was mentioned in a warrant to another man for land on the headwaters of the South Fork of Reed Creek.
  • 26 Jan 1783, Montgomery Co., VA | William Phipps received a certificate for 190 acres on Reed Creek. This is presumably the William listed above who later shows up in Wythe County.
  • 1 Oct 1783, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from James Mulky to John Phips for 10 acres on or near Prater’s Creek including a mill site.
  • 1785, Montgomery Co., VA | Ephraim Witcher of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, husband of Betsey Fips, purchased 230 acres on “the west of” New River.
  • 22 Feb 1785, Wilkes Co., NC | Grant to Mathew Phips for 200 acres on a ridge dividing the headwaters of Catey’s Creek and Hunting Creek. This was adjacent to what was then the Rowan County line.
  • 27 July 1786, Wilkes Co., NC | The case of Thomas Cook v. Matthew Fips was heard.
  • Late 1786 or early 1787, date unclear, Wilkes Co., NC | A group of men was ordered to view the route for a road from a location on New River; the men included John Fips, a couple Tolivers (Moses and Jesse; Samuel Phips later testified for Jesse’s Revolutionary War pension application), and others of genealogical note.
  • 12 July 1787, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Phips was listed in the state census.
  • 1789, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Fipps with 50 acres in the tax list.
  • 1790, Wilkes Co., NC | Sam Fips listed in the census below several Tolivers and above Jno. Long.
  • 1790, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Fips with 50 acres in the tax list.
  • 2 Oct 1790, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from John Phipps, planter, to Alexander Smith for 100 acres on waters of New River on the north side of Prater’s Creek (see above for Prater’s Creek). This was witnessed by William Nall (see above), John Long (see above regarding the Long family), and Samuel Phipps. It was signed John Phipps and Elender Phipps.
  • 20 Dec 1791, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Phips received two grants, one for 50 acres on Rock Creek of New River at the lower end of Turkey Mountain, and the other for 200 acres on branches of Rock Creek of New River. On the same day, George Reeves received a grant for 600 acres on New River adjacent to David Collins (see David Collins above).
  • 23 Apr 1792, Wilkes Co., NC | Wm. Boid was made road overseer to replace John Fips who had resigned.
  • 1794, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Phips in tax list with 400 acres.
  • 3 Jan 1795, Wilkes Co., NC | Grant to Enoch Osborn for 300 acres on Elk Creek adjoining Samuel Phips.
  • 5 May 1795, Wilkes Co., NC | A group of men was ordered to determine the route for a road from Zacheriah Wells’s road into John Glossup’s road to the Virginia line. That road was to cross the New River at “horse ford,” which could either be a proper place name or a generic reference to a place for fording horses. One of the men was Samuel Phips, two were Sizemores, Owen and George Sizemore, and one was an Evans (see 30 Nov 1795, below), that being William Evins. Regarding this “horse ford” (or Horse Ford), an 1800 land grant to Jesse Phips in Ashe County, North Carolina is for 50 acres on the south side of New River “running down the hors Ford branch.” That land was entered 10 Oct 1800 and the grant was issued 27 Nov 1801. Who this Jesse was is not entirely clear; Samuel Phips’s son Jesse would only have been 12 or 14 years old when this land was entered, if we can believe his age in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.
  • 28 Nov 1795, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from Enoch Osborn of Grayson County, Virginia to Samuel Phips, 180 acres on the south side of New River. This was witnessed by William Reeves, Jesse Reves, and John Burton. Note that George Reeves or Reaves is said to have married a Jane Burton as his 2nd wife.
  • 30 Nov 1795, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from Theophilus Evans to Jesse Reves for 400 acres on Little Elk Creek. This deed was witnessed by Samuel Phips. Note that according to Heinegg’s 2-volume set, the Eppes family of which George Reeves or Reaves was an heir in Halifax County, Virginia appears to have been sometimes known as Evans due to an illegitimacy. Samuel Phips married a daughter of George Reeves and the two men were associated in Montgomery County, Virginia, then Wilkes County, North Carolina, and then when Samuel appeared later in Ashe County, North Carolina records and George in records in adjacent Grayson County, with Samuel of Ashe County referred to as a Reeves heir in Grayson County.
  • 1796, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Phipps with 400 acres appeared in tax list.
  • 28 Jan 1797, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from George Reves of Grayson County, Virginia to William Reves for 600 acres on the south side of New River. This mentions adjacency to David Collins (see above) and Moses Toliver, and mentions Toliver’s mill dam; the deed was witnessed by George Reves, Jr., Jesse Reves, and Samuel Phips.
  • 31 Jan 1797, Wilkes Co., NC | Several men were ordered to view the route for  a road from Prater’s Creek. One of those men was Samuel Phips. Another was Jesse Reeves, and two others were Owen and George Sizemore.
  • 31 Jan 1797, Wilkes Co., NC | An earlier deed was acknowledged in court, that being from George Reeves to William Reeves for 600 acres. It was acknowledged by the oath of Samuel Phips. On the same date, a deed from Enoch Osborn to Samuel Phips for 180 acres was acknowledged by the oath of William Reves. This was presumably the deed listed above, dated 28 Nov 1795.
  • 1797, Wilkes Co., NC | Samuel Phipps with 400 acres appeared in tax list.
  • 3 Apr 1798, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from John Taylor to Samuel Phips for 30 acres on Rock Creek. One of the witnesses was Jesse Reves.
  • 4 Apr 1798, Wilkes Co. NC | Deed from John Taylor to Thomas Collins for 70 acres on the south side of New River, adjacent to Samuel Phipps. One of the witnesses was Jesse Reves.
  • 1800, Ashe Co., NC | Samuel Phips appeared in the census.
  • 9 Mar 1801, Ashe Co., NC | Land entry by Thomas Collins adjacent to Samuel Phips.
  • 10 July 1802, Wilkes Co., NC | Deed from Jordan “Fipes” to William Robeson for 20 acres on Long Branch. The name was spelled “Fipes,” but the deed was signed Jordan “Phipps.”
  • 15 Nov 1811, Grayson Co., VA | Samuel Phipps and wife Elizabeth and others, as heirs of George Reeves, sold their interest in 384 acres on the west side of New River
  • 8 June 1812, Grayson Co., VA | Samuel Phipps and wife Elizabeth and others, as heirs of George Reeves, conveyed 100 acres on the north side of New River to John Reeves.

For further reading:

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2 thoughts on “Wilkes County, North Carolina and Related Migrations

  1. I highly recommend that any Phipps researchers read “Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People'” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/melungeon-dna-study-origin_n_1544489.html

    “Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.”

    Note that Jack Goins, who has researched Melungeon history for about 40 years, was the driving force behind the DNA study. Also note that the article appears in peer-reviewed, scientific journal.

    DNA is one more tool that we have to unravel some of our family mysteries.

    Pamela Brett, 4th Great granddaughter of the infamous Jesse Phipps

    • The study is old news, and does not include or concern the Phipps family. In addition, the study ignored a host of families which traditionally have been viewed as having potential Melungeon roots, including families which intermarried with the Phipps family. As noted in the blog posts, there were interracial marriages involving the Fips or Phips family. Families involved in those marriages were completely outside of the bounds of that study. Those of mixed race who intermarried with the Phipps family were not necessarily Melungeon, and others would not define Melungeon as narrowly as did the study. The study appears to have looked at families with civil records specifically referring to them as Melungeon. That excludes a number of families of non-white ethnicity who associated with the Phipps family.

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