Something quirky about Phips listings in Ashe County, North Carolina in the 1820 census is that the census taker appears to have more or less alphabetized the entries by surname, intended to list them as “Fipps” or “Fips” (or some other spelling beginning with “F”), but ended up listing them as “Phips.” We can see that from the arrangement of the surnames on the page (stamped page 8):
- Jacob Eller
- William Elleson Jr.
- Wm Elleson
- James Dodson
- Elezeberth Dier
- Jno. Ford
- Jacob Fouts
- Joseph Fouts
- Saml. Phips
- Jno Phips
- Ben. Phips
- Jos. [or Jas.?] Phips
- Jacob Faw
- Jno Faw
- Charls Francis
- Eligah Francis
- Elizeberth Gore
- Jeremiah Gamble
The Phips names appear as follows:
- Saml. Phips [no period after “Saml,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]
- Jno Phips [neither dots, nor a raised superscript “o” which also would have indicated an abbreviation]
- Ben. Phips [no period after “Ben,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]
- Jos. [or Jas.?] Phips [no period after “Jos,” but two dots under the name, indicating that it was an abbreviation]
Assuming that the head of the household, as named, was probably the oldest adult male in the household, the following would be their ages based on this census:
- Samuel Phips: 45+ (born about 1775 or earlier)
- John Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)
- Benjamin Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)
- Joseph (or James?) Phips: 16-26 (born about 1794-1804)
The way in which these ages for John, Benjamin, and Joseph/James line up in a perfect column under Samuel, with his age older (and two columns away) suggests a high likelihood that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th men were sons of Samuel.
We know from his own somewhat wavering testimonies on the behalf of others’ pension applications, and from the 1850 census, that Samuel was born about 1760 to 1763.
We appear to know little about John. He apparently died before 27 November 1845, the date of an Ashe County administrator’s bond pertaining to the estate of John Phips, deceased, presumably him. He is said to have married Mary Cox and then Jemima Stamper, although this is unconfirmed.
Benjamin (who should not be confused with the Grayson County, Virginia Benjamin who served in the Revolution) appears to have been born about 1794-5 according to the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses. He married Rachel, said to be Rachel Burnie.
The other was presumably Joseph, who is said to have been born about 1797, but this is unconfirmed. He is discussed in Brent Kennedy’s well-known book The Melungeons, on p. 60. He is called the youngest son in his father’s 1837 will, which would explain his placement at the bottom of the census list.
Joseph is said to have married Patsy/Patcy White, who is presumably the “Patcy” in the same household as Samuel in the 1850 census in Ashe County. In the 1980s, John Mullins pointed out a mountain which he called “Patty Phipps Mountain” on what had been Samuel’s farm in Ashe (now Alleghany) County, likely named for “Patcy.”