The Phips/Phipps/Fips and Burton Families

A Phips, Fips, Phipps, Phripp, etc. family appears to have originated in southeast  Virginia, perhaps through the immigration of the surveyor John Phips from the London area to Jamestown in 1621. Later members came into North Carolina at several points, and some into the Wilkes/Surry/Ashe Counties area.

They seem to have maintained ties with several associated families at various points and at various times ever since 1621. One thing that seems a mystery, however, is why the family seems to appear in records so sparsely compared to those associated families.

One factor, however, could be variant surname spellings. We’ve noted one Phillips family, which looks as though it could have been Phips or Phipps. (See also here.) We’ve also noted the Phripp family in a number of posts, which is apparently the same family as Phips/Fips/Phipps and which was evidently centered around Norfolk and Williamsburg. They are said to have also gone by Phreep and even Streep.

Another factor is that they sometimes seem to be in multiple places either over a very short period of time, or more or less simultaneously. They were associated  at times with very wealthy planters who not only owned plantations in multiple locations, but who were actively involved with those multiple locations. They were also associated at times with individuals who, for reasons not always specified, were acquiring large parcels of land in multiple locations. They were also associated at times with surveyors, who seemed to have the inside track on where and how to obtain land in multiple locations inexpensively or without cost.

Clear connections, both direct and indirect, have been established with families like Burton, Eppes, Poythress, Rives/Ryves/Reeves/Reaves etc. The fact that frequently the same surnames keep popping up as relatives, neighbors, business associates, deed or will witnesses, and the like – either directly or indirectly – and sometimes involving the same given name, not just surname, must surely suggest something.

Clearly, they moved within a social and family grouping, but why do they manifest themselves so rarely, comparatively speaking? And how does one sort out the various sightings of people with the same name in different places at the same time?

It would be hard to know, in some cases, if we even could possibly be dealing with the same person in multiple places without knowing what they were doing. If we could determine what they were up to, perhaps the high mobility would make sense. Perhaps even the odd “of Brunswick County, Virginia” designations in other places would then make sense.

Sometimes the connections involving associated families seem a bit convoluted, yet they strongly suggest that we’re dealing with the same family. Here’s an example, involving the Burton family. It should be emphasized that the following is not entirely proven, but is partly based on what various unconfirmed secondary sources say. Here is a widely established view, however, of part of the Burton family:

  • 1. Robert Burton, b. abt 1660 Henrico Co., VA, m. Mary Nowell in Charles City Co., VA. Children:
    • 1. Nowell Hunt Burton, b. 1692 Henrico Co., became planter of Goochland Co., VA, d. 1766 Mecklenburg Co., VA. Children included:
      • 1. Josiah Burton, b. abt 1718 Henrico Co., d. aft. 1766 Northampton Co., NC, likely the Josiah Burton who Fipps orphans were bound to in 1742 in Goochland Co.
    • 2. Hutchings/Hutchins Burton, b. 1694 Henrico Co., d. 1763 Mecklenburg Co. Children included:
      • 1. Richard Burton, b. 1739, m. Mary Pleasants, d. abt 1779 Wilkes Co., NC. Children included:
        • 1. John Pleasants Burton, b. 1758 VA, res. Ashe Co., NC then Lawrence Co., IN, d. 1836 Lawrence Co., IN
        • 2. Jane Burton, m. George Reeves as his 2nd marriage, father in law of Samuel Phips, Jr. of Ashe Co., NC by apparently George’s 1st marriage
    • 3. John Burton, b. 1699, d. 1776 Amelia Co., VA, m. Catherine Cocke (we’ve commented on the Cocke connection)

George Reeves or Reaves and Samuel Phips or Phipps or Fips were both living in Wilkes County, North Carolina prior to the 1800 census. Then Samuel appears in Ashe County, North Carolina records and George in records in adjacent Grayson County, Virginia, except when Samuel Phips appears as an heir of George Reeves in Grayson County.

Samuel Phips was George Reeves’s son in law, apparently by Reeves’s first marriage, which appears to have been to an Eppes. Then Reeves remarried to evidently Jane Burton, although no one appears to have found a record. This Jane Burton appears to have been the sister of John Pleasants (or Pleasant) Burton, who lived in Ashe County, North Carolina but then moved to Lawrence County, Indiana.

Samuel Phips’s son Isaiah also moved to Lawrence County, Indiana. In the 1840s, Samuel Phips’s grandson John Meshack Phipps (son of Jesse), who was then living in Owen County, Indiana, told detective Edward Bonney that he had relatives in “Spice Valley,” which was in Lawrence County, Indiana. (This is discussed in Bonney’s book Banditti of the Prairies).

Another person who went to Lawrence County, Indiana was Littleberry Fips, who earlier lived in Surry County, North Carolina, near Ashe County. Littleberry named one of his children John Witcher Phipps and another Benjamin Potter Phipps. The Witchers and Potters were closely connected, and Ephraim Witcher of Surry County married Elizabeth (“Betsey”) Fips, daughter of John Fips who died in 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia.

That John Fips who died in Charlotte County, Virginia appears to have been the same one who earlier shows up in records in Lunenburg County, Virginia. In the 1764 Lunenburg County tithables list, John Fipps is listed, apparently as an overseer for the surveyor Petter Fountain (Peter Fontaine). In the same list appear “Hutchens” Burton and John Burton.

Was this the same Hutchins Burton who is listed above, and was this John Burton the same one who was associated with the 1769 estate of John Fips? Genealogists’s posts make it sound as though it was the same Hutchins or Hutchens. That Hutchins was supposed to have also come through Halifax County, Virginia, which is where an Eppes deed surfaces mentioning George Reeves or Reaves as an heir.

So, again, it would appear that the Jane Burton who married George Reeves was the sister of the John Pleasants Burton (also represented as John Pleasant Burton) who moved to the same Lawrence County, Indiana as did some of the Fips or Phips family. Further, however, it would appear that the father of this John and Jane was a first cousin of the Josiah Burton to whom the enigmatic Fipps orphans of Goochland County, Virginia were bound in 1742.

Those orphans were named Joseph and Benjamin Fipps. These orphans were ordered by the Goochland County Court on 19 October 1742 to be bound to Josiah Burton. One deed from around the same period and in the same county shows Josiah Burton as receiving land from Nowell Burton, apparently his father.

The orphans were bound by the order of parish church wardens. According to the Library of Virginia, guardians for minors were only appointed if there was an estate to protect. “Poor orphaned children did not have guardians and were bound out to learn a trade.” During the period prior to the Revolutionary War, when the parishes either disappeared or became of diminished importance, “this was handled by the vestry of each Anglican parish.”

Goochland County was created in 1728 from the shire of Henrico. St. James Parish and Henrico Parish were located in Henrico County prior to the formation of Goochland. The vestry book of Henrico Parish notes various Burton connections with the Rawlings/Rollins etc. family, which is the same surname as was closely associated with the Phips/Phipps family in Sussex County. At one point Hutchins Burton was “keeping” a Rollings.

The vestry book even refers to a Benjamin Burton living adjacent to Capt. Francis Eppes. Here is not only yet another reference to the Eppes family, but yet another reference to Capt. Francis Eppes, the name that has come up multiple times in other contexts.

A family named Ward appears to have been very closely associated with the Burton family in the Henrico area. Something that appears striking is a connection between this Ward family and “Mr. John Knowles” in a 1682 record. In 1655, a John Knowles purchased 120 acres from John Phips, the surveyor who arrived in Jamestown in 1621. John Phips also sold the “brick house” in Jamestown to Capt. John Knowles by 1665.

The Wards were, again, very close to the Burtons – so close that Richard Ward, who appears to have had some issues, beat up John Burton in 1724 in Henrico County. Even the Wards seem to have made geographical moves similar to those of the Phips family, since members later show up in Lunenburg County, Virginia and in Granville County, North Carolina. Numerous actions were brought against Richard Ward, by the way, for all sorts of things: blocking a road, trespass, theft, assault and battery, not appearing when summoned, debt, attempted murder, etc.

Many of the same names we’ve discussed before in connection with the Fips or Phips family surface when looking at the Ward family: Clement Read, Paul Carrington, the Bookers, the Blevins… We could find this sort of thing forever. The point is, these people were connected. But where are the Phipps or Fips records?

Richard Burton, who apparently fathered John Pleasants Burton and Jane Burton, appears to have died in Wilkes County, where Samuel Phips was living. Samuel was a son in law of Richard Burton’s son in law. The Fipps orphans in Goochland County were apparently bound to Richard Burton’s first cousin. Burton records abound. Eppes records abound. Fips or Phips records are certainly there, but by comparison are extremely scarce. Why?


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