More About Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia

Joseph Phips, Phipps, or Fips is also discussed in an old article which appeared in The Phipps Quarterly in 1990 titled “Lineage from Brunswick County, Virginia.” Information there largely dovetails with information presented by Mrs. Howard Woodruff in her 1972 book, The Descendants of Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia.

The basic genealogical structure in this book appears to be the same as one presented in an earlier post, before Mrs. Woodruff’s book was found. There, the following apparent pedigree was presented:

Generation 1: Joseph Phipps m. unknown
Generation 2: Siblings John Phipps, Mary Phipps (m. Woolsey), Benjamin Phipps
Generation 3: Benjamin Phipps (1761-1845, m. Lucy Turbeyfield or other spellings)
Generation 4: Siblings Winfield Phipps (1801-1860), James N. Phipps (1806- ), others

Mrs. Woodruff says that this Joseph Phipps married Sarah Williams about 1760, using her repeated phrase “relation to known dates” as the source. This would seem to indicate that the date is a very rough estimation.

Sarah Williams, she notes, was born 22 December 1736 and died 14 March 1826, at age 89. For this information, she cites a family Bible which, when Mrs. Woodruff wrote her manuscript in 1972, was owned by a specific individual who she cites.

This would appear to be a different family Bible from the one which also pertains to this family and which is housed at the Library of Virginia. That one pertains specifically to the family of Joseph’s apparent grandson Benjamin.

Mrs. Woodruff said that Sarah’s father was one William Williams of Meherrin District (presumably referring to Meherrin Parish in Brunswick County). She says that he wrote a will dated 16 January 1773 which was probated in 1775.

That will, she says, names a daughter of William Williams as Sarah Phipps. She cited Brunswick County, Virginia Will Book 4, p. 473.

The earliest record that Mrs. Woodruff was able to locate regarding Joseph was his name on a Brunswick County jury list. This list appears, she said, in Order Book, Volume 10, p. 100.

That volume covered the years 1765 to 1768, she noted, which presumably indicates that either the specific record was undated or that she did not find the specific date. (Sometimes in old court records, this involves paging through page after seemingly countless page until a date appears.)

A record she does not mention is where the name Joseph Phips appears in a list of Brunswick County, Virginia men who were polls and voters in 1768. This list appeared in a back issue of The Southside Virginian. The list is dated 2 December 1768 and was submitted 10 January 1769.

Mrs. Woodruff then notes a deed (apparently in Brunswick County) dated sometime in August 1777. At that time, Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County sold 100 acres to Robert Davis. (The Davis name recurs, and is referred to below.) She notes that Joseph signed with “his mark,” but that his wife Sarah wrote her name. Mrs. Woodruff cited Deed Book 12, p. 263.

Perhaps this is the same Joseph Phips who is the subject of a Brunswick County deed dated 16 September 1779. This deed was from Jesse Tatum to Joseph “Phips,” both of Brunswick County. Tatum is a name which recurs in connection with the Reeves and Epps families. Joseph’s name appears as Phips, Phippes, and Fips in the deed.

This was for land described as being “on the North side of cold water.” This would be Coldwater Creek. (There is also a Little Coldwater Creek.) At one point in the land description, Cold Water is referred to as “the said run.” The deed was signed by Jesse and Elizabeth Tatum and was both witnessed and proven by James “Fips.”

Interestingly, much later, an 1815 Directory of Virginia Landowners shows John Phipps on Coldwater Creek, living 7 miles southeast of the courthouse. Benjamin Phipps was living on Great Coldwater a bit further in the same direction, according to the same source. The county seat has been Lawrenceville since 1784.

Another witness was Robert Davis. Davis is a common name, but the name does recur at various points. The 1777 sale of land in Brunswick County by Joseph Phipps to Robert Davis was noted above. Other instances of the name occur.

Sarah Davis, for example, was a godparent of Amy Eps when she was christened in 1739 in Albemarle Parish (Surry and Sussex Counties). Benjamin Phipps or Phips of Albemarle Parish was believed by Mrs. Woodruff to be a brother of Joseph, and clear connections occur.

John Davis sold land in Brunswick County in 1750, witnessed by William Wyche. Joshua Poythress (James Phipps bought land from a Poythress in Brunswick County) advertised in 1763 regarding a runaway slave which had been bought in Brunswick County from Matthew Davis.

A Brunswick County, Virginia case, evidently a chancery case found in Order Book 15, p. 432, was dated 25 October 1790. (One source appears to date the same record as 25 November 1790, however.) This involved “Absolem” (Absalom) Bennett (discussed in the last two posts) against Benjamin Phipps, Robert Westmoreland, and Joseph Phipps.

In connection with that case, depositions were taken from Martha Duncan of North Carolina and Mary Wright of Wake County, North Carolina. (It isn’t clear from an abstract whether Martha Duncan was also of Wake County.)

The issue, whatever it was, was supposedly left to the determination of Thomas Edmunds and Joseph Mason “and their umpire,” whoever “their” refers to. An abstract further reads, “former order of court set aside, referred to Joseph Mason and Thomas Claiberne for judgment.”

This name transcribed as Claiberne was probably Claiborne, which name was associated with the Phips family since the days when the immigrant surveyor John Phips first entered Jamestown in 1621.

A bit later the same year, on 20 November 1790, a Brunswick County deed appeared in which Samuel Frances sold land to Owen Myrick. Myrick was of Brunswick County, but Samuel Frances was of Southampton County, Virginia. Witnesses included Joseph Phipps, Lazarus Williams, a man named Jesse Edwards, and a woman named “Dinna” Edwards.

The Williams family ties into the Joseph Phipps family in that Joseph married a Williams, as discussed by Mrs. Howard Woodruff. In fact, she devotes two full pages to this family in her Descendants of Joseph Phipps book. The Edwards name has come up repeatedly in Phips or Phipps research.

A Brunswick deed dated 29 March 1791 was from John Powell to James Powell, both of Brunswick County. This was land adjacent to Claiborne Lightfoot, someone named Mason, and someone named Phipps. The Lightfoot name recurs elsewhere (as does Claiborne as a surname), in addition to Mason.

Then on 24 August 1791 in Brunswick County, the “Absolem” Bennett matter is mentioned in court records, as abstracted, with the earlier court order set aside. Again, the matter being referred to Joseph Mason and Thomas “Claiberne” for judgment is mentioned.

Mrs. Woodruff said that she searched what she calls “Fothergill’s Taxlists 1782-85” for mentions of Joseph Phipps and didn’t find him. She did, however, examine what she terms was “the original tax book of Brunswick County” at the Virginia State Library, where she found his name “very much in evidence.” She doesn’t elaborate, unless her words which follow constitute the “much in evidence.”

She then refers to him having 230 acres in the 1782 land tax list. Then in the 1783 personal property tax list, she found him in District 4, which she said was present-day Powellton District. There he was shown with 2 tithables, who she said were himself and his son Benjamin. He also owned 7 horses and 16 head of cattle, according to her notes.

Then, in 1784, she found 3 tithables in his household. The 1787 list, according to Mrs. Woodruff, shows Joseph, Benjamin, and James Phipps as “white males above twenty one” as recorded on 19 April 1787. She said that the land tax for 1787 only showed that Joseph owned 230 acres.

Mrs. Woodruff then notes the addition of the name Jordon Phipps (as she spells it) to the list in what may have been 1794. (The date appears to have been struck over in the typed copy.) Jordan is discussed more fully below. She found John Phipps added in 1797.

Mrs. Woodruff then refers to “the above James Phipps,” who she believed was a younger brother of Joseph. The “above James Phipps” would refer, apparently, to the James she found listed in the 1787 tax list. She bases this, she said, on the fact that James is not listed as a son in the will of Joseph.

She noted with a tone of certainty that Joseph “had a brother” named Benjamin, who was living in Sussex County in 1782. She discusses him in a separate section, and he is discussed below. She relegated James to the section headed “???????? PHIPPS” at the very end of her book. Evidently she was far more certain about the place of Benjamin as a brother than that of James.

Joseph, assumed by Mrs. Woodruff as the same individual, received a receipt on 27 February 1796, she says, for 300 pounds of beef. This was meat that he had contributed toward the Revolutionary War effort.

She said that he was “listed as Revolutionary War patriot of Brunswick County,” although it’s not clear what exactly that means, adding that he is listed in “the records” of the Virginia State Library. She claimed that descendants were eligible for DAR membership, and referred to an unidentified photostat.

Mrs. Woodruff also noted that Joseph Phipps and Caleb Manning were appointed to appraise the estate of Joel Manning in 1783 in Brunswick County. Caleb Manning was identified by her as a son of an unidentified daughter of Joseph Phipps who, Mrs. Woodruff said, married Joel Manning.

A 1744 will abstract of Margret Manning was filed in Dorchester County, Maryland. Perhaps just coincidentally, she named Arthur Phipps and John Phipps, neither of whom were identified.

The will of Joseph Phipps is dated 1 July 1803, and was transcribed by Mrs. Woodruff (or at least she provided a transcript in her manuscript). Items mentioned in his will sound very reminiscent of items referred to in the 1768 Clanton mortgage discussed two posts back.

There, he referred to a slave named “Patt,” livestock, furniture, and “working Tools of all Sorts.” In his will, he refers to a slave named Peter, livestock, furniture, and “plantation tools.”

The will reads as follows:


IN THE NAME OF GOD MAN, I, Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County being in reasonable health and of sound mind and memory calling to mind the uncertainty of life do make and ordain this my last will and testament. First, I commend my soul into the hands of God and my body to the dust to be buried at the discretion of my friends; and to my worldly estate my will and desire is as follows, VIZ; I give and bequeath to my son John Phipps the plantation whereon I now live, one negro man named Peter, two beds and furniture, four heads of hogs, two cows and calves, two heiffers [sic], and one yolk of oxen, all my plantation tools and all my household and kitchen furniture that is not hereafter otherwise disposed of to have and his heirs [sic; to him and his heirs?] forever. I give and bequeath to my Grand daughter Sally Manning one feather bed and furniture and one cow to her and her heirs forever. I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mary Woolsey twenty five pounds cash to be paid by Executor for her and her heirs forever. My will and desire is that out of the remainder of my estate my just debts be paid, and the balance of them be equally divided between my two sons, Benjamin Phipps and John Phipps. Lastly I appoint my son John Phipps my sole Executor to this my last will and testament. Given under my hand and seal this twenty first day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.

Signed and acknowledged

Joseph his X mark Phipps

In presence of:
Ira Ellis, Mittinton Simms, James Wyche


This last will and Testament of Joseph Phipps deceased was proven by the oath of Mittinton Simms a witness thereto and having been proven on the 27th day of February by the oath of James Wyche another witness thereto the same is ordered to be recorded.

Book 7:324 Teste: Herbert Hill CBC

Note that one of the witnesses to the above will was a Wyche – James Wyche. This would appear to be likely a variant form of Witch, Witcher, Wych, etc. which comes into play repeatedly in regard to the Phipps family and associated families in Brunswick County and elsewhere. That, assuming it’s the same family, is the family a member of whom married a daughter of John and Tabitha Fips or Phipps, perhaps the parents of Joseph.

Mrs. Woodruff believed that the reason why Joseph’s wife Sarah is not mentioned in his will is because there was, in her words, “no doubt an understanding” that son John would care for his mother in return for the plantation. Mrs. Woodruff says that Sarah died 14 March 1826 at age 89 according to the family Bible, and that she would have been 67 when the will was written.


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