Oklahoma’s Oldest Man

There would seem to be no end to the newspaper articles regarding John Meshack Phips or Phipps and his twin brother Eli Shadrack. They were sons of Jesse Phips, who was born about 1786-1788 in Ashe County, North Carolina, son of Samuel Phips who died in 1854 in Ashe County.

This article is from the Woodward Daily Democrat in Woodward, Oklahoma, and is dated 28 February 1910. It’s clear from other sources that the twins were born in 1812. For some reason, however, some sources refer to Eli has having been born in 1803. In addition, place names are garbled in this account. Added notes are placed in brackets.

Eli Phipps No Doubt the Oldest Man in the State of Oklahoma.

Thursday, February, 28. – St. Valentine’s day – was Eli Phipps’ birthday and he was one hundred seven years old – no doubt the oldest man in the state and also in many other states. The state of Iowa has right to claim another man of his age for Mr. Phipps has a twin brother, John, living, in Sehnandoah [error for Shenandoah], Iowa.

Eli and John Phipps, two brothers, were born February 14th., 1803, in Angton [said in other sources to have been Abingdon], Washington County Virginia. Their parents’ names were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Phipps. The twins had one sister, Nancy Taylor, who died in California of the fever after marriage.

The Phipps family moved westward from Virginia, when Eli was 17 years of age, and traveled by wagon as far as Kentucky where they were forced to lay over three months on account of an epidemic of cholera. They then located on a farm near Bloomington, Indiana, in 1820. [This appears to have been Owen County, Indiana about 1832.] Mr. Phipps has a good memory and can relate many stories of killing game, such as bear, deer, turkey, etc., while he lived in that state.

It was at this place that his mother [Jane (“Jennie”) Spurlin, according to tradition] died at the age of ninety-three from old age and general breakdown of health. The Phipps family then moved onto a farm in Putnam County, Mo., in the year 1853 at which place Mr. Phipps’ father died of the small pox at the age of one hundred and eleven years [He was actually in his late 70s]. So you can see longevity was a characteristic of the Phipps family.

Mr. Phipps was united in marriage in the year 1835 to Nancy Ward in the state of Indiana. This union was blessed with three children, two daughters and a son: Patia Winters, Frasier, Iowa; Emily Phipps, Alton, Mo.; and David Phipps, Fay, Oklahoma. His first wife died in 1845 and in 1860 he was again united in marriage to Rebecca Griffith, at Marysville, Mo. To this union were born seven children, one dying in infancy and the remainder are: Mrs. Jennie Hyatt, Hennessey; William Phipps, Boone, Iowa; Mrs. Cora Stinson, Hennessey; Mrs. Minnie Stinson, Hennessey; Chas. Phipps, Boone, Iowa and Lewis Phipps, Hennessey.

After living in Missouri about six years Mr. Phipps and his family moved to Boone County, Iowa, where they resided on a farm until fifteen years ago last March when he moved to Oklahoma locating four miles south [“of” missing?] town with his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Stinson, with whom he now resides.

In relating some of the incidents of his life, Mr. Phipps says that during one of the western gold fever times he took a partner, Judge Wyatt, and went to Colorado with the first steam power saw mill ever operated in that state, and for nine months he and his partner sawed lumber which was used in the first buildings where the city of Denver now stands. He also can relate with accuracy many interesting stories of the early days, which we are unable to introduce into this sketch.

Mr. Phipps has been a strong, healthy and hard working man all his days. His brother was also of the same nature and is at the present time very spry, and able to harness and hitch a horse to a buggy and drive to town. Mr. Phipps was very temperate in his habits and did not use tobacco until 1849, from which time he used it very moderately. He was never so ill at any time during his life as to confine him to bed and never had a physician prescribe or attend him. When asked if he believed in doctoring, he said that physicians were all right for those who thought they needed them.

Mr. Phipps is now able to walk down town and is a familiar character on the streets. He has very remarkably retained his strength, and mental, seeing and hearing faculties, and no doubt was a very powerful man in his best days. He is a christian [i.e. Christian] and attends church as regularly as possible. He says the only way to live long and happy is to follow out the teachings of nature as you see it presented [to? or for?] you every day through life. – Hennessey (Okla.) Clipper.

The above article was taken from the Hennessey Clipper, and the persons referred to are known to O. C. Tice of this city, who has known them for many years.

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