The Phips and Reeves Families, Wilkes County, North Carolina

A recent post listed a number of Phips, Fips, etc. events in Wilkes County, North Carolina from the 1780s and 1790s. One of the individuals involved was Samuel Phips (as the surname seems to have most often been spelled). He and his father in law George Reeves (sometimes Reaves or Reves or Rives, etc.) appear in Montgomery County, Virginia records, then records in Wilkes County, North Carolina prior to around 1800.

Then they appear in records in two adjacent counties – Samuel in Ashe County, North Carolina and George in Grayson County, Virginia. At one point, Samuel crosses the line and becomes named in Grayson County, Virginia records, but only as an heir of his father in law George Reeves.

A key element in tracing this family has been the relationship to the Reeves family. Some genealogical claims have, however, attempted to suggest that the George Reeves who was in Grayson County, Virginia was a different individual than the one who was in earlier records in Wilkes County, North Carolina and, prior to that, in what was then called Montgomery County, Virginia. That belief appears to ignore, however, the relationship between him and his son in law Samuel Phips or Phipps.

Part of the reason for wanting to distance this George Reeves from Wilkes County appears to be an unwillingness to view him as an Epps heir. A Halifax County, Virginia deed dated 6 September 1793 refers to George Reaves of Wilkes County, North Carolina, one of the legatees of John Eppes, deceased.

Various objections have been raised against identifying this individual as the same George Reeves or Reaves. One is that he is said to have never been known to have lived in Halifax County, Virginia, but of course one can become an heir of someone living in another county without himself having lived in that county.

At the same time, genealogists are claiming that Samuel Phips or Phipps married George Reeves’s daughter Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves, giving as her estimated or conjectural birthdate a time before the estimated or conjectural date that they typically cite for the marriage of George Reeves to Jane Burton, who is usually cited as Betty’s mother.

The identification of the George Reeves of Wilkes County, North Carolina as the same individual as the one who later shows up in Grayson County, Virginia appears clear, by his association both before and after 1800, in both locations, with his son in law Samuel Phips.

In addition, earlier links from the Fips, Phipps, Phips, etc. family of Virginia and North Carolina to the Reeves and Epps families have been noted in many records and have been discussed in many past posts. In fact, it’s been largely because of association with these two families and other families in the same circle that research has been facilitated in earlier decades in Virginia and North Carolina.

Samuel Phips can be seen to have been associated with George Reeves back when the two were in what was then called Wilkes County, North Carolina, in the 1780s and 1790s, and again after 1800, when they were living in what was then defined as Ashe County, North Carolina and Grayson County, respectively.

Samuel was not the only “Fips” or “Phips” or “Phipps” to be living in Wilkes County around this period. One of those individuals was Jordan Phipps, who was from the family of Joseph and Benjamin Phipps, apparent brothers, of Brunswick County and adjacent Sussex County in Virginia. Back in that part of Virginia, the Phipps family can be seen to have been very much a part of the same social and family circle as the Reeves and Epps families (however spelled).

In 1778 in Wilkes County, George Reeves entered land at Turkey Mountain. Then Mathew Phips received a land grant in Wilkes County on 22 February 1785, next to the Rowan County line. Then on 20 December 1791, Samuel Phips received two land grants in Wilkes County, at least one of which was at Turkey Mountain, the same place mentioned in connection with George Reeves in 1778.

Thomas Cook (likely the same as Cocke, a surname we’ve noted multiple times) sued Mathew Fips or Phips, for some reason, and ended up with Mathew’s land. The case is noted in Wilkes County court records on, for example, 27 July 1786.

An unidentified John Fips or Phipps then enters the picture in Wilkes County, who was identified at one point as a planter. John Fips appears on a road commission on 23 January 1787, along with Moses Toliver and Jesse Toliver.

This does not prove, but definitely seems to suggest, a connection with Samuel Phips (beyond the fact that they were residing in the same county at the same time). That’s because there were multiple intermarriages between the Toliver family and the family of Samuel Phips.

More significantly, Samuel testified in the Revolutionary War pension application of Jesse Toliver, who was also living in this same area at the same time. Presumably the Jesse Toliver who was Samuel Phips’s friend is the same one who was in the same road commission with John Fips.

John was made road overseer, then, about a year later in Wilkes on 29 January 1789. “All hands” living below William Pennington and John Fips were to work on this road, which went from Praters Creek to Franklin’s Road.

From a 1790 deed, we know that John had land on the north side of Praters Creek. This creek is today known as Prathers Creek, and is located in Alleghany County (formed from Ashe, with Ashe formed from Wilkes), near where Alleghany joins the present-day Ashe County.

Then on 24 July 1791 in Wilkes, John and Elender Fips sold land to Alex Smith. Presumably in the original record, there would have been a period after “Alex” indicating that it was an abbreviation for Alexander. Then on 23 April 1792, a replacement was selected for John Fips as road overseer, since John was noted as having resigned. Perhaps he had moved out of the area by that time.

Then on 28 November 1792, George Reaves received a land grant in Wilkes County, adjoining John Toliver, with John Toliver and Charles Toliver acting as chain carriers. This associates the Tolivers with both Samuel Phips and George Reeves.

On 7 May 1794 in Wilkes County, Samuel Fips was on a road commission with Moses Toliver.

One of Samuel’s 1791 grants was adjacent to Enoch Osborn. On 28 November 1795 in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Enoch Osborn is identified in a deed as being of Grayson County, Virginia. In other Wilkes County deeds, he simply appears as Enoch Osborn.

At that time, Enoch Osborn sold land to Samuel Phips. The deed was witnessed not only by two Reeves individuals – William Reeves and Jesse Reeves – but by a Burton, that being John Burton.

George Reeves married, evidently as his 2nd wife, Jane Burton. In addition, by accepting the 1794 Epps deed at its face value, we have come to see not just one or two, but numerous connections and associations with the Reeves and Burton families earlier in Virginia, which involve the Phips or Phipps family.

Then on 30 November 1795 in Wilkes County, Theophilus Evans sold land to Jesse Reves (Reeves) adjacent to Enoch Osborn, the same person whose land was adjacent to Samuel Phips’s 1791 land grants. Heinegg’s well-known 2-volume study of those he terms free African-Americans includes a section on the Epps family in which he refers to John Epps as also known as Evans, since he was “apparently the illegitimate son” of member of both these families, Epps and Evans.

Samuel Fips then appears on a road commission on 4 May 1796 in Wilkes County, along with John Taylor and Jesse Reeves. Also included were Owen and George Sizemore, who are objects of controversy today about Native American and Melungeon connections.

On 1 November 1796 in Wilkes County, Daniel McDaniel submitted an administrator’s bond in connection with the estate of William McDaniel. A bondsman was, as abstracted, Samuel Fife. Could “Fife” have possibly been a misreading of “Fips,” with the “p” read as an “f” and the “s” read as an “e”?

Then on 28 January 1797, a Wilkes County deed refers to George “Reves” of Grayson County, Virginia who sold land to William Reves on the south side of New River. This was land adjacent to Moses Toliver, the same person (presumably) who John Fips served on a road commission with in 1787. The deed was signed by George Reves and witnessed by George Reves, Jr., as well as Jesse Reves, presumably the one who had bought land from Theophilus Evans in 1795.

On the same date, 28 January 1797, William Reves sold land in Wilkes County, on the south side of New River, to James Chesser. This might have been part of the land he had just bought from George. This deed was witnessed by George Reves, Jr., Jesse Reves – and – by Samuel Phips.

A Wilkes County estate inventory dated January term 1798 for the estate of John Johnson then mentions that the one of the appraisers was Samuel “Fyfe,” as abstracted. Could this have been a misreading of “Fyps”?

On 3 April 1798, John Taylor sold land in Wilkes County to Samuel Phips. This was presumably the same John Taylor who Samuel Fips served on a road commission with in 1796, along with Jesse Reeves. This 1798 deed was witnessed by Jesse Reves and John McMillan. This was presumably the same John McMillan whose daughter Nancy is said to have married Joseph Phipps.

Then on 4 April 1798, John Taylor, presumably the same one who sold land to Samuel Phips the day before, sold land in Wilkes to Thomas Collins on the south side of New River. This land was adjacent to Samuel Phips. The deed was witnessed by Jesse Reves and John McMillan.


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