Benjamin Phipps: Alabama or Virginia? Or Both?

A reader posted a very interesting comment to the earlier blog article title Wilson Phipps, Son of Benjamin Phipps. The comment has to do with the claim that Benjamin Phipps died in the mid-1840s in Madison County, Alabama, while maintaining some sort of Brunswick County, Virginia direct ties.

Mrs. Howard Woodruff, as noted in the earlier post, believed that Benjamin died by 1844. The earlier post referred to an obituary, however, which suggests that he did in early 1845, unless it’s a different individual. That obituary appeared in the Richmond Enquirer on 11 February 1845.

As noted in the earlier post, the obituary says that Benjamin Phipps died at his home in Brunswick County, Virginia, not in Madison County, Alabama. The odd factor, however, is the tag line at the end: “The Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama papers will please copy.”

“Please copy” notices were very common in older obituaries, especially back in the era when newspapers freely copied from each other, with little or no concern for copyright. This was a common practice and is of genealogical significance, because it always signified some sort of connection to the other location named. In this case, 3 locations are named, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. This suggests that Benjamin himself, or close family members, had some sort of connection to all 3 locations.

It’s possible that this Benjamin Phipps may have been subject to the same sort of unusual genealogical phenomenon that we’ve found in other Phipps or Fips, etc. individuals. Strangely, sometimes they show up in two or more counties – or even two or more colonies or states – simultaneously or close to simultaneously.

This has been rather pronounced in the case of the “of Brunswick County, Virginia” records we’ve noted in locations outside of Brunswick County, Virginia. In the case of Benjamin Phipps, an earlier blog post referred to a second-hand reference to an 1847 Madison County, Alabama deed naming Benjamin Phipps there but using the “of” Brunswick County, Virginia catch-phrase. Why this phenomenon was so common among family members is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

As our reader noted,

Per the first part of the above post, I have not read Mrs. Woodruff’s book (although I would like to find a copy and do so), but I really don’t think that Benjamin Phipps lived or died in Madison County, Alabama. There is a lawsuit between Benjamin Phipps and Claxton Lightfoot, and an index shows that it is case number 5017, but from 1827. I’ve ordered this file, and I’ll share my findings. Perhaps Benjamin lived in Madison County for a short time, but he can be found in both the 1830 and 1840 census in Meherrin Parish, Brunswick County, Virginia, which is the same parish as the above mentioned 1820 census. Maybe he lived in Madison county for a short time between 1820 and 1830, but I really don’t think he died there. Perhaps he had business interests there and that is the reason for the lawsuit, and request for the obituary to be published there.

I feel like his daughter Martha moved there between 1834 and 1836. The 1850 and 1870 census indicate that her daughter Lucy was born in Virginia in 1834. The 1860 census states that she was born in Alabama in 1834. It is possible that Martha moved there sooner than 1834. In 1836, Martha G. Phipps signed a document in Madison County.

Speaking of which, this is interesting…. The document she signed, she signed in May of 1836. It appears to be a kind of I.O.U. It says:

“$40.00 on or before the first day of January next we or either of us promise to pay John C Grayson est of John Grayson dec. Forty dollars for the benefit of the legatees to the said decedents estate, for value rcvd as witness our hands and ???, this 20th day of May 1836.”

Here is the interesting part, it is signed by John R. Inman, who Martha will marry in 6 months later in January of 1837; also signed by Thomas Hungerford (I think that is what the last name is – I don’t know who this is); and also signed by Martha G. Phipps. So, the 3 of them all signed this note separately on their own line.

I only have a brief idea of how the laws for women worked, but it seems like Martha was financially independent, which I think is somewhat unusual. She married John R. Inman in January 1837. He died just a few weeks later, without a will and in debt, but Martha seems to come through this financially unscathed. When she marries Lazarus Vann just about 2 years later, they had a prenuptial agreement that was mentioned in Martha’s probate record. It appears that Lazarus had no claim on her estate when she died, and her estate was split between her daughter Lucy Tuberville Phipps Cross and son Robert Stanfield Phipps.

Also, in the deed that is transcribed in the post on this site titled “Slaves of Benjamin Phipps”, 1824-1826″, the second deed indicates that the enslaved person Reuben was “purchased” with Martha’s money by her father Benjamin. Reubin was deeded to Benjamin from Thomas Jones in 1824. By 1824, Martha had two children born in 1819 and 1820, so was likely married by this time, but perhaps widowed or divorced by 1824.


2 thoughts on “Benjamin Phipps: Alabama or Virginia? Or Both?

  1. I just noticed something else that I find interesting. In the 1830 US Census for Meherrin, Brunswick County, Virginia there is a Benjamin Phipps, who I am pretty sure is the Benjamin Phipps that is being discussed in the “Benjamin Phipps: Virginia or Alabama? Or Both?” post. In that census record, in addition to 9 free white people, and 19 slaves, it shows 3 Free People of Color living in the household… a women between the ages of 24 and 35, and 2 girl children under the age of 10. Does anyone know who this Free Woman of Color and her children were?

  2. Thanks to the wonderful folks at the Madison County Record Center in Huntsville, here is another record that sheds light on the subject of Benjamin Phipps’ residence. It is a record from the Chancery Court in Madison County, Alabama that refers to Benjamin “of the County of Brunswick in the State of Virginia, deceased defendant.” It appears to be a recording in the Alabama court of something that was decided in the Virginia court. I have received several records that appear to be photocopies of low-res microfilm. They are very hard to read. I am experimenting with scanning as jpegs and trying to enhance their readability, but without much luck yet. BUT, this one record is easier to read. Here is a transcription of the text. ??? = a word I couldn’t read. (?) means I’m not sure if I have transcribed a word correctly:

    From Chancery Court; Record Book O; 1846-1847 – Madison County, Alabama.

    Jan(?) Term 1847
    Of the County of Brunswick in the State of Virginia, deceased defendant. It was by said Court amongst other things, ordered adjudged & decreed that the distribution share of said Martha G. Vann, in the estate of her father Benjamin Phipps deceased ?? vested on a Trust(?) for her sole & separate use & maintenance, & the support of her family, free & discharged from the debts, encumbrances & ??? of any & every ???, of said Lazarus Vann her husband, & that Robert S Phipps, ??? is hereby appointed Trustee(?) of the aforesaid separate estate of said Martha G. Vann in the sum of four thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful performance of his duties, and that said Trustee(?) do ??? ??? will good & sufficient security payable to Martha G Vann in the sum of four thousand dollars, conditioned for that faithful performance of the duties as ??? as aforesaid.
    Now the condition of the above obligation is such that if the said Robert S Phipps shall not faithfully perform all the duties which as so may be required of him as such ???, then the ??? able ??? into be made, otherwise to be & remain in full force & ???
    Signed, sealed & delivered on
    ??? of J. Dill(?)
    Approved June 3rd 1847
    (Signatures on the right side of the page)
    Robert S. Phipps
    Jackson See(?)
    ??? S Ruford
    (underneath all)
    ??? W. Madsen(?), chancellor

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