A Trial Balloon Set of Relationships

Although some of the following chart is proven by documents, some is not. This is a hypothetical and conjectural set of relationships designed as what’s sometimes termed a “trial balloon” or “test balloon.” That means that you can feel free to shoot it down.

One would hope that if that occurs, it will occur on the basis of further research and documentation, not on the basis of dogged determination to maintain entrenched beliefs. The usefulness of this pedigree, although not entirely proven, is that it might suggest avenues for further research. If it can be demonstrated that some part of the following chart is untenable, this can save us time and labor by suggesting that we need to look elsewhere.

The children of a particular individual are not intended to be in any particular order. In addition, where known children are not discussed below, for purposes of simplification they are generally not included in the list. Almost all of the specific points touched on below were discussed at length in previous posts and, for the same reason, will not be elaborated on here.

The chart or listing below HYPOTHETICALLY places John (the Wilkes County, North Carolina planter) and Matthew (who evidently lost his land in Wilkes County and moved to Surry County, North Carolina) as brothers of the Samuel Phips who married Betty Reeves and who died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina.

This is only a possibility. Notice, however, that this introduces an entirely different scenario from the traditional “seven brothers” scheme which has been accepted as gospel for several decades. Also, nowhere in this scenario is there a Joseph (or Daniel, or Joseph Daniel as some would have it) suggested as progenitor of this Wilkes-Ashe-Surry Counties, North Carolina family.

One would think, based on the preponderance of written circumstantial evidence involving various recurring family relationships, that the John Phips or Fips below who died about 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia was probably descended from the immigrant surveyor John Phips who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1621. Of course, other scenarios are possible, however.

There could have been another lost (or temporarily misplaced) ancestor who shared at least some of the same family interconnections and relationships, but who enters the picture at some unknown juncture from another angle entirely.

We know, for example, that various Phipps or Phips individuals moved from one colony to another, even from one continent to another, and perhaps back again. A number of members of the Phipps or Phips family were mariners or merchants or both, and some were known for extreme mobility.

A direct-line ancestor could have been some elusive individual who served as a bridge between Virginia and England, or between Virginia and the Caribbean, or even between Virginia and Pennsylvania, or between Virginia and Maryland, or between Virginia and New England. With all the maritime and mercantile individuals in the family, with extremely high mobility, anything’s possible.

Traditionally, genealogists looking at the Phipps or Fips, etc. family in what became the United States have operated on the assumption that three separate and distinct groups existed, almost like three different species. These have been the New England Phips or Phipps families, the Pennsylvania Phipps families, and the Virginia/North Carolina Phipps, Fips or Phipps families.

The traditional genealogical stance has been that these are distinct species, and “never the twain shall meet.” We know, however, that, at best, this is an extreme overgeneralization. We have seen connections which directly involved Phipps or Phips individuals in the Caribbean, Virginia, and England. We’ve seen connections involving both the Caribbean and Pennsylvania. We’ve seen connections involving England, New England, and the Caribbean.

This blog has noted in the past that this is not an ordinary family. Ordinary families tended to arrive in America on the Mayflower or onboard some other specific ship at some specific point in time. Perhaps two or three brothers settled in the same area, and descendants gradually branched out a bit. Perhaps eventual descendants ventured into the Midwest or some other distant part of the country.

How many other families, on the contrary, were evidently zipping back and forth at times between Virginia and the Caribbean, between the Caribbean and England, between New England and Virginia, between Pennsylvania and the Caribbean, etc., etc., on and on?

Instead of trying to prove past conjectural views as though they are absolute truth, let’s just look at what additional records we can find, and see where this journey will take us. There will no doubt be some surprises along the way. And no doubt new records will change, or at least greatly add to, the following partly factual, partly conjectural, list or chart:

    • I – Unknown progenitor, likely a descendant of John Phips who arrived in Jamestown 1621
      • A – John Fips or Phips (perhaps born, say, 1690, died about 1768 Charlotte County, Virginia)
        • 1 – Joseph Phips or Phipps (perhaps born, say, about 1735) of Brunswick County, Virginia
          • a – John Phips or Phipps (appears to have stayed in Brunswick County, at least through 1840)
        • 2 – Benjamin Phips or Phipps of Sussex County, Virginia (died 1797-1801)
          • a – Jordan Phips or Phipps (born 1769, died 1826-1827 Williamson County, Tennessee)
          • b – Richardson Phips or Phipps (born about 1761-1770, died 1842-1846 Davidson County, Tennessee)
          • c – John Phips or Phipps (he was to receive his father Benjamin’s plantation in Brunswick County, Virginia according to Benjamin’s will after the death of Benjamin’s wife Ruth)
        • 3 – Samuel Phips, Sr. (perhaps born, say, about 1735, PERHAPS died about 1782-1799, Wilkes County, North Carolina)
          • a – Samuel Phips (about 1760-1763 to 1854) of Ashe County, North Carolina
          • b – John Phips (the planter who married Elender) PERHAPS fits here
          • c – Matthew Phips or Phipps (born about 1774 or earlier) PERHAPS fits here
        • 4 – Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Fips or Phips, married Ephraim Witcher
          • a – Taliaferro Witcher

Benjamin of Sussex County, Virginia

As noted in other posts, Benjamin Phipps of Sussex County, Virginia appears to have been closely related to Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia. This is the case to the point that some believe them to have been brothers. Benjamin had two sons, Richardson and Jordan.

John Phipps, Wilkes County, North Carolina planter

A John Phipps or Phips and his wife Elender appear in Wilkes County, North Carolina alongside Samuel Phips. This is evidently Samuel, Jr. (about 1760-3 to 1854, below, who married Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves). Without knowing his age, it’s hard to even hypothetically place him. Perhaps he was another son of the enigmatic Samuel, Sr., also discussed below.

In 1787, John Fips appeared on a road commission in Wilkes County along with Moses and Jesse Toliver. Jesse Toliver was a close friend and associate of the Samuel Phips, Jr. who married Betty Reeves, with descendants of both the Phips family and the Toliver family intermarrying. Then in early 1789, John Fips was made overseer of the road

Samuel Phipps, presumably the one we’ll call Samuel Jr., based on the Montgomery County, Virginia militia list from about 1782, discussed below, witnessed a Wilkes County, North Carolina deed for this John and Elender. That was in 1790, acknowledged 1791.

Another witness was John Long. This would presumably be the one who shows up in later Ashe County records. He was the father of Anna Long who married John Toliver.

Their daughter Mathursa Toliver married Mathew or Matthew Phips or Phipps who “died” (disappeared) in 1841 after running a store in Clay County, Indiana and living on a farm in adjacent Owen County, Indiana. Matthew’s father was Jesse Phips, born in Ashe County, North Carolina, and Jesse’s father was the Samuel Phips, Jr. of our discussion.

John Long was also the father of Jesse Long who moved from Ashe County, North Carolina to Owen County, Indiana. Jesse was the father of Mary (“Polly”) Long who married John Meshack Phips, son of Jesse and grandson of Samuel, Jr.

John Long was also the father of Owen Long who was the father of John and Aaron, the notorious outlaw gang members. John Meshack Phips was in the same gang. Detective Edward Bonney posed as a gang member and gained the confidence of John Meshack Phips, from whom he learned information which led to the arrest of John and Aaron Long, who were both hung for murder in Rock Island, Illinois in 1845.

In 1792, John Fips, the Wilkes County, North Carolina planter, resigned as road overseer. A replacement was found.

In the same year (1792), George Reeves, Samuel Phips, Jr.’s father in law, received a land grant in Wilkes County adjacent to John Toliver, with John and Charles Toliver acting as chain carriers.

Obviously this planter John Phipps or Phips or Fips must have been closely related to Samuel Jr., but who was he? Conjecture suggests that PERHAPS he could have been a brother of Samuel, Jr.

An earlier post wondered aloud whether this John could have been the one who was Jordan’s brother, but that doesn’t appear to have been likely. Evidently the John who was Jordan’s brother remained in Brunswick County, where he presumably inherited his father’s plantation as mentioned in his father’s will.

Jordan, son of Benjamin:

Jordan Phips or Phipps married in Sussex County, Virginia in 1793. He then appears to have entered Wilkes County, North Carolina sometime during the period 1778 to 1795. He presumably was the Jourdon Fips who then appears in the 1800 census in Wilkes County, North Carolina. According to that census, he was born about 1755-1774.

Then in 1805, he served as bondsman in a Wilkes County marriage. The bride was a Robins. This was Francis Robins.

Jesse Toliver, the close friend and associate of Samuel Phips, Jr. (below) of Ashe County, supposedly fathered a child out of wedlock through his relationship with Lucy Robins, as mentioned in various sources. Samuel Phips testified for Jesse Toliver when he applied for a Revolutionary War pension, and descendants of both families intermarried.

Jordan then moved into Tennessee. He had an unclaimed letter waiting for him in the post office in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee in 1807. Later, in 1826, Jordan wrote his will in adjacent Williamson County. His brother Richardson wrote a will in 1842 in Davidson County.

Matthew, of Wilkes County and later Surry County, North Carolina

Whether all of the following pertain to the same Matthew is unclear, but it appears likely if not probable. His relationship with Samuel Phips (1760-3 to 1854) of Wilkes and later Ashe County, North Carolina, who married Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves, suggests that if Samuel Sr. (discussed below) really was Samuel’s father, then Samuel, Jr. and Matthew may POSSIBLY have been brothers.

Matthew entered Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1780, according to abstracted information. Then in 1788, as Matthew “Fips,” he lost land there in order to satisfy a claim against him brought by Thomas Cook. He then (assuming it’s the same person) appears in the 1790 census in Surry County, North Carolina.

That census shows him as born about 1774 or earlier. In 1790, Surry was adjacent to Wilkes, and Ashe didn’t exist yet. Then in 1800, Ashe was adjacent to both Wilkes and Surry.

Surry is where Ephraim and Betsy (Fips or Phips) Witcher migrated from Virginia. Betsy was a daughter of the John who is in the chart above and who died about 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia. Taliaferro Witcher, son of Ephraim and Betsy, then moved into Ashe County, North Carolina.

“Taliaferro” is the same surname as Toliver, and pronounced identically. Samuel Phips who died in 1854 in Ashe showed close affinity with the Toliver family, with intermarriages involving his descendants.

A Sumner County, Tennessee loose (unbound) marriage bond dated 24 September 1816 concerned the marriage of Matthew “Phibs” to Elizabeth Wallace. Sumner County is adjacent to Davidson County, where Jordan (above) and Richardson (below) lived.

This marriage bond has been indexed as Phips, for some reason. Could it be that a bound copy reads Phips instead of Phibs? In addition, a typescript Sumner County record reads as follows:

Matthew Phips & Elizabeth Wallace | 24 September 1816
James Hutchinson [sic; Hutchison in the loose bond], Bondsman

Is this referring to the same loose marriage bond, which very clearly reads “Phibs” and not “Phips,” or is this typescript taken from a bound record which does read “Phips”? At any rate, should it matter anyway, since surnames at the time were so fluid in terms of spelling? Many could not read or write anyway.

Who was this Matthew, and why did he move to around the same part of Tennessee as Jordan and Richardson?

Richardson, son of Benjamin

Richardson Phips or Phipps was born about 1761-1770 according to the censuses of 1830 and 1840. He married in 1790 in Sussex County, Virginia, then appears in the 1800 census in Wake County, North Carolina. He had an unclaimed letter in the Raleigh post office in 1802.

Then in 1812, he shows up in a tax list in Davidson County, Tennessee. He then appears in that county censuses of 1820, 1830, and 1840. He left a will in Davidson County in 1842, and was referred to as deceased by 1846. His brother Jordan had written a will in 1826 in adjacent Williamson County.

Samuel, Jr., son of Samuel, Sr.

This is the Samuel who died in 1854 in Ashe (now Alleghany) County, North Carolina. He was an heir of his father in law George Reeves of adjacent Grayson County, Virginia through his marriage to George’s daughter Elizabeth (“Betty”) Reeves.

Traditionally, for several decades, this Samuel was assumed to have been one of seven brothers – Benjamin, John, Samuel, Isaiah, James, Joseph, and Aaron – with a hypothetical Joseph as their father. Other than a 1919 family “sckech” (which suggests that the father was a Daniel) there is no proof of this relationship. In fact, there appears to be little evidence, if any, of this as a possibility.

According to the 1800 census in adjacent Ashe County, North Carolina, Samuel Fips or Phips of that county (who died there in 1854) was of exactly the same age group as Jordan Phipps. In other words, Samuel was also born about 1755-1774. According to Samuel’s own wavering testimony on two separate occasions, he was born about 1760 or about 1763.

Samuel had been showing up in Wilkes County records up until the 1800 census. Then, presumably due to boundary redefinition, he consistently showed up in Ashe County records. This is the case except when he appeared in records in Grayson County, Virginia (also adjacent) as an heir of his father in law George Reeves.

Before appearing in Wilkes County, North Carolina records, both Samuel Phips and George Reeves had appeared in Montgomery County, Virginia records, again evidently due to boundaries being redefined. In one militia list, Samuel appears as the younger man along with a Samuel, Sr. about 1782, according to published transcriptions.

If father and son, then the Samuel who died in 1854 had to have been the younger man. He would not have been old enough to have fathered a grown man named Samuel by that time.

Was this Samuel Sr. actually the father of Samuel (our “Jr.”) who later shows up in Ashe County records, or is this a red herring? We haven’t seen the actual record, and no other record has been found which indicates the existence of any such person anywhere else. Still, the transcriptions appear sufficiently detailed that there must have been an older Samuel, based on the published transcriptions of the militia list.

Samuel was of roughly the same age as Benjamin’s sons Jordan and Richardson. He lived in the same area of North Carolina as Jordan. Samuel and Jordan were evidently not brothers, however. That’s because not only do we have the militia list placing Samuel with a Samuel, Sr., but Benjamin does not list Samuel in his 1797 Sussex County, Virginia will, although he does not Jordan and Richardson.

Samuel, Sr.

The ONLY known mention of this person’s existence at this point is the undated militia list from about 1782 in Montgomery County, Virginia. As already noted, the Samuel who was born about 1760-1763 and who died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina would not have been old enough to be the Samuel Sr. in the militia list. That’s because he would only have been roughly 20 or so years old at the time, too young to have fathered a grown son.

This means that unless something’s very much awry with the transcriptions, there was someone named Samuel, presumably a relative and most likely the father, who was older than the Samuel who lived from about 1760-3 to 1854.

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One thought on “A Trial Balloon Set of Relationships

  1. Looking for the father(s) of Isaac and James Lane who appear in the 1790 Bern County NC census under Isaac. They are listed along with William Phipps. In 1780s and 1790s, they married two Phipps sisters, daughters of William and Mary Phipps, named Sarah and Mary Ann (Polly) Phipps respectively, bond witness was George Lane. The entire group moved in the late 1790s to Sumner Co TN, along with children. William was an elder in the Baptist Church in Sumner co. Isaac seems to have stayed there while James and family moved to Hamilton Co. IL, where the Lane/Phipps dais. died and are buried. Isaac’s daughter, Mary Lane, moved to IL with them and there married Ichabod Mitchell.
    Some descendants from there attempt too say Joel Lane,
    revolutionary Patriot, was the parent of James but it had been proven untrue. One descendant believes from DNA etc that those Lanes were New England Lanes. Any help appreciated.

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