John Fips, Phips, Fipps, 1740s-1760s: Same Person?

As noted in an earlier post, the name of John Fipps appears in a list of land surveys from Amelia County, Virginia, dated 1746 to 1751. During that period, John Fipps had 400 acres surveyed:

John Fipps 1 Survey on the South Side of Appamattox River joyning Chiles, Morrow, Lee’s & Eweings’s lines

Right around this same period of time in the same county, on 16 March 1747, Edward Harris sold land in that county to Nathaniel Harris, according to an online page of abstracts. The deed can be found in Deed Book 3, p. 23.

We’ve discussed the odd presence of the Harris family in connection with the Phips or Fips family – odd in that the relationship seemed to continue long after the arrival of Phips and Harris together as early Jamestown surveyors in 1621.

Edward Harris was described in the same page of abstracts as being “of Raleigh Ph. Amelia Co.” This is presumably a reference to Raleigh Parish in Amelia County. Nathaniel Harris was of “same.” The deed was witnessed by John Fips, Robert Gresham, and Charles Harris.

This Edward Harris was likely the same one who sold land in another deed, dated a bit earlier (23 February 1747) but recorded 2 pages later, according to the abstract. There, he is referred to as a planter of Amelia County.

Notes in the same source then refer to other Amelia County deeds. Specifically, pages 36 and 37 of the same deed book are said to contain a couple more deeds, dated the 8th and the 18th of March, in which Edward Harris deeded slaves and personal property to Nathaniel Harris, who the notes say was Edward’s son.

Also mentioned in Unity Harris, said to have been wife of Edward. (This may be incorrect, however. A Unity Harris appears to have been administratrix and widow of John Harris in Surry County, Virginia.) The deeds were witnessed by Robert Gresham and Charles Harris, along with John Fips.

Then in 1749 in Amelia County, the name Jno. Phips appears under James Walker in a tithe list. Also listed together in the same listing unit (which was not necessarily a household) is Nathaniel Harro[?]son. This could have been the Nathaniel Harrelson who later shows up in Caswell County, North Carolina, adjacent to Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties in Virginia.

This James Walker was likely the one who also shows up later in Caswell County. As far as Robert Gresham is concerned, we’ve already noted how George Reeves or Reaves of Wilkes County, North Carolina and later Grayson county, Virginia, who was the father in law of Samuel Phips or Phipps of Ashe County, North Carolina, was an Eppes heir in a 1793 Halifax County, Virginia deed. He was heir along with a Gresham, that being Ambrose Gresham.

Earlier than most of this, back in 1751, a John “Phips” is mentioned in an Amelia County, Virginia road order. That order (see here, p. 67) is dated 26 September 1751. Not only does it mention John Phips, but also Robert Gresham, presumably the same individual who co-witnessed deeds with John “Fips” in connection with the Harris family.

Not only that, but John “Childs” is named, who appears to have been the Chiles who was an adjacent land owner when John Fipps had his land surveyed sometime between 1746 and 1751. Not only that, but several people named “Ewing” are mentioned in the road order, and the survey record referred to adjacent property owned by “Eweing” – same with Morrow.

Not only that, but the road order itself concerned making James Walker surveyor of a road. (Vaughan’s Creek is mentioned in the description.) James Walker was presumably the same one listed in the 1749 tithe listing and – and this should not be a surprise at this point, if you’ve been followed the posts in this blog – here he is identified in the road order as a surveyor.

Also listed in the road order is George Coock, who is probably a member of the same family as the Cocke (pronounced Cook) surname we’ve been discussing now and then.

  • 1746-1751 | Amelia Co., VA: John Fipps had 400 acres on the Appomattox River surveyed, adjoining Chiles
  • 12 Mar 1747 | Amelia Co., VA: Edward Harris sold land to Nathaniel Harris, witnessed by John Fips, Robert Gresham, and Charles Harris
  • 8 and 18 Mar 1747 | Amelia Co., VA: Edward Harris sold personal property and slaves to Nathaniel Harris in 2 deeds witnessed by John Fips, Robert Gresham, and Charles Harris
  • 1749 | Amelia Co., VA: Jno. Phips in tithe listing under James Walker and with Nathaniel Harro[?]son
  • 1751 | Amelia Co., VA: John Phips mentioned in road order, along with Robert Gresham

Putting these records together, it would appear that they probably all pertain to the same John Fips or Phips or Fipps. Assuming so, here is how he is named in these records:

  • 1746-1751: John Fipps
  • 1747: John Fips
  • 1749: Jno. Phips
  • 1751: John Phips

That’s 3 spellings within a period of just a very few years, and all in the same county. There’s something else to note about this, however. The 1749 tithe list in Amelia County, Virginia shows Jno. Phips listed with James Walker, as has already been noted:

—–
James Walker . .
Jno. Phips. Nathaniel
Haro[?]on. C[asf?]ar. Jammy
& Lucey . . . . . .
—–

In 1748 in Lunenburg County, Virginia, the following tithe listing appears, associating the same name – John Phips – with a Walker:

Negros: Hector:
Dick.: Lucy:
John Phips
Tandey Walker…5

Then in the same county in 1749, the following appears, with Tandey Walker’s name appearing some distance away in the margin:

Jo., Harry, Peter, Cate
Peter Rollins, Jno. Phips
Jos. Miner – 7

Then in 1750, the following names appear together in a single listing:

[Hec?]tor. Lucy:
John Phips
Tandey Walker

Was it simply coincidence that the name John Phips or Fips or Fipps appears with a Walker in 1748 and 1750 in Lunenburg County, but with a Walker in Amelia County in 1747 and 1749? And was it coincidence that James Walker was a surveyor, and that the John Fips who was associated with Tandy Walker was also associated with Peter Fontaine, who was a surveyor?

James Walker and Henry Chiles – also known as Childs, and who also was a surveyor – were named together, along with a couple of others (one of whom was yet another Walker) in what appears to have been a land patent or grant of 10,000 acres in Brunswick and Amelia Counties. Then Henry “Childs” received 1,800 acres on the Appomattox River in Goochland County.

Here were surveyors amassing large quantities of land. Here was a John Fips or Phips or Fipps – or 2 perhaps 2 people of that name – who was closely associated with surveyors and who was also closely associated with people named Harris, the same surname as the co-worker who surveyed with the immigrant surveyor John Phips beginning much earlier, in 1621 in Jamestown, the same surname as the somewhat later mother (Elizabeth Harris) of the enigmatic Surry County, Virginia “orphant” we’ve discussed at length.

The possibility that we have been dealing with two individuals named John Fips, etc. who were related – one in Amelia County and the other in Lunenburg County – has been discussed in A Witcher Family Genealogy. But is it possible that both of these individuals named John were the same individual?

The thing is, around this period of time Amelia and Lunenburg were adjacent counties. We know from various sources that some of Virginia’s early major landowners held plantations in multiple counties simultaneously, often a great distance apart, and yet Amelia and Lunenburg were adjoining counties.

Also to be noted is the fact that records associated with the estate of John Phips or Fips, in 1768 and 1769, were found by the webmaster of the Witcher site (to whom this article owes much gratitude) in not just one county, but in the counties of Charlotte, Pittsylvania, and Halifax (so far!). If his estate could involve multiple counties, could his presence have been in two adjacent counties, even if listed in the same year?

Sometimes the products from one plantation were used, in part, to service another plantation. Such landowners made the rounds, entertaining in one plantation, then taking care of business in another plantation. Did John Fips or Fipps or Phips make the rounds, for some reason, whatever that reason might have been?

And could the Phips family, in the person of this John, have still been involved in the surveying profession in at least some small manner, to at least some extent? So far, multi-county estate records do not seem to suggest that he had great wealth.

Various pieces of circumstantial evidence, too complex to pull together here, suggest that at least some member or members of this family – or at least a branch which appears derivative a bit later in Ashe County, North Carolina – had likely intermarried with Melungeons and/or Native Americans by around this time.

If that had characterized this John, could it explain why he was involved with surveyors, and yet was not a “big name” surveyor on his own? That’s only a wild guess, and the truth might be entirely different. Only time – and more research – will tell. For now, could the following possibly pertain to the same person?

  • 1746-1751 | Amelia Co., VA: John Fipps had 400 acres on the Appomattox River surveyed, adjoining Chiles
  • 12 Mar 1747 | Amelia Co., VA: Edward Harris sold land to Nathaniel Harris, witnessed by John Fips, Robert Gresham, and Charles Harris
  • 8 and 18 Mar 1747 | Amelia Co., VA: Edward Harris sold personal property and slaves to Nathaniel Harris in 2 deeds witnessed by John Fips, Robert Gresham, and Charles Harris
  • 1748 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips appears with Tandey Walker in tithe list
  • 1749 | Amelia Co., VA: Jno. Phips in tithe listing under James Walker and with Nathaniel Harro[?]son
  • 1749 | Lunenburg Co., VA: Jno. Phips appears with Peter Rollins and Jos. Miner in tithe list (Peter Rollins was almost certainly of the same family as “Rawlings;” we’ve noted a Phips-Rawlings connection that goes at least as far back as in connection with the Surry County “orphant” John Phips; he is discussed in various web pages, such as this one)
  • 1750 | Amelia Co., VA: John Phips in tithe list
  • 1750 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips appears with Tandey Walker in tithe list
  • 1751 | Amelia Co., VA: John Phips mentioned in road order, along with Robert Gresham
  • 1751 | Amelia Co., VA: Jno. Phips in tithe list
  • 1751 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips listed under Mary Barnes in tithe list
  • 1752 | Amelia Co., VA: Jno. Phips in tithe list
  • 1752 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips listed under Mary Barnes in tithe list
  • 1753 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips listed as “Overseer” under Mary Barnes in tithe list
  • 1754 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips listed under “Mrs. Barnes” in tithe list
  • 1755 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips listed under what looks like “Jackerbus Christopher” in tithe list (Jacobus Christopher was apparently married to Susannah Stokes; Sylvanus Stokes was a neighbor of John and witnessed the gift of the slave girl Sall, to John’s daughter Betsy, as discussed in Charlotte County probate records, assuming it was the same John)
  • 1756 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phips, listed as “Overseer” under Col. Peter Fontaine in tithe list; also listed on his own as John Phips in another district, unless another person of the same name
  • 1757 | Lunenburg Co., VA: John Phipps (as spelled), listed as “Overseer” under Col. Peter Fontaine (well known as a surveyor who had patented huge tracts of land for himself)
  • 21 May 1767 | Halifax Co., VA: John Phips of Charlotte County sold land on the Pigg River in Halifax County to William Cook (likely same name as Cocke, which surname we’ve discussed in past posts) of Halifax County
  • 1768-1769 | Charlotte Co., VA, Pittsylvania Co., VA, and Halifax Co., VA:  Records associated with settling the estate of John Fips, deceased

One factor which isn’t clear is the specific relationship between John and the persons he’s listed with in Lunenburg County tithables lists. One article about tithe lists points out that two persons living in the same house might be listed independently if each paid taxes separately. Further, two persons might be listed together although living in separate households.

The same article suggests that where multiple names appear in a single listing, the first person listed can be assumed to be the “master or mistress of a family.” So what was going on when John was listed first, then Tandey or Tandy Walker? Was he the “master” of the household? If so, then why at other times was he listed as “Overseer,” which sounds like a slave overseer? Was he an overseer in a different sense?

The article about tithe lists says that the “master” (or mistress) was listed first, then the taxable persons (by name or number) for whom that person was paying tax. Was John listed at times just because someone was paying taxes for him, and not because he was actually living in the same household? John was specifically listed as “Overseer” at least a couple of times.

The article says that in the 18th century, the tax on an overseer was paid by the master. Could it be that John wasn’t even there all the time, even though listed?

See relevant record images and a great article here.

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