Another Word About the Sword

The last post concerned the pirate sword found by John Phips or Phipps. Another previous post which dealt with the sword was one titled “John A. Phipps of Owen Co., Indiana, Discoverer of Pirate Sword.” In addition, the sword is discussed in an article which appeared on the first page of the Columbus Republican on 9 December 1875:

Damascus Heard From.

A most satisfactory proof that this country had a prehistoric greatness was deposited a few days ago with Prof. Cox, for the benefit of the archaeological archives. It is an old sword, very rusty and minus a hilt, but undoubtedly a genuine Damascus blade. It speaks of a dim past, when mastodons, Frenchmen and Spaniards took turn about in depleting red skins and rooting around among fields and forest for the necessities of life. In Owen county there has been a tradition from time immmemorial in the neighborhood of Freedom about a mysteriously wonderful sword supposed to be hidden in the trunk of an aged oak. The story went that the legend was most firmly believed in by the Indians, whose superstitions had been worked on by some strolling band of Spaniards and who diligently interviewed all the oaks in a circuit of ten miles, hoping that it might turn out that the sword, when discovered, would either be found to possess remarkable properties, or else to point, like a needle, to some hidden heap of wealth. The oak in question was known to be located on a bluff above White river, and the sword had been dropped into its hollow heart through a knot hole some twenty feet from the ground. For many years the search was kept up, and the tradition passed down from father to son, but never had the slightest trace of the relic been seen. In July last, however, John A. Phipps had revealed to his inner consciousness, while he was ploughing a field in that immediate neighborhood, that it would be the thing for him to investigate the recesses of an old oak which had deposited its trunk in the ground and allowed it to go to inglorious riot [Error for “rot”]. He did so. Tearing away the decayed bark and reaching the core of the tree, imagine his surprise to find the sword of antiquity which had worried the denizens of that district for many generations. The sword bears the date of 1640, and as much of the inscription as can be deciphered, reads as follows: “No-Me-Salves-ason” – the first letters of the last word being erased beyond redemption, even by a steam doctor. Various attempts have been made to solve the riddle, but the most plausible one suggests a reading, Notice me, salves sine, which, being translated, means, “Know me (that is trust me) and you are safe without” – something to be imagined. Mr. Phipps, who did not happen to own the land on which he was ploughing, outraged all rules of archaeological propriety, by grinding up the venerable sword into a corn cutter, till he was prevailed upon by Prof. Corbett to make a donation of it to the State’s collection of relics.

Essentially the same article, with the same title, appeared in the Indiana State Sentinel in Indianapolis on 8 December 1875, p. 7. There, the word “riot,” found above in connection with the tree, is rendered “rot” instead, which makes far more sense. The inscription is there rendered as “No-Me-Salves-Sin-ason,” but with, again, no explanation as to what a “steam doctor” would be. In both articles, no explanation is given as to why mastodons would be roaming in the 16th century, or why the 16th century would be considered “prehistoric,” or who Professors Cox and Corbett were.


More on Indiana Pirates

An especially interesting comment was recently posted by one of our readers. That comment appeared in response to the earlier post titled “Freedom, Indiana: Flatboats, Pirates, and Buried Treasure.” The earlier post discussed a sword which was found by an unidentified John Phipps, and the suggestion was made in that post that perhaps this was John A. Phipps or Phips, son of Mathew Phips of Clay and Owen Counties, Indiana. Mathew was a son of Jesse and Jennie (Spurlin) Phips, who in turn was a son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Reeves) Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina.

The comment refers to this John as a son-in-law of a certain “Mr. Dyer.” That would make it seem more likely that John was indeed John A. Phipps (John Andrew Phipps), since the 2nd of his 4 successive wives was Mary E. Dyar, who he married in Owen County in 1871. John is pictured with one of his wives, probably his 4th wife Blanche E. (Morris) Phipps.

John A. Phipps and wife, probably his 4th wife

Thanks to our reader for posting the following:

My name is Michael Wentz and I live close to Freedom as a transplant Hoosier. I thought the story was interesting when researching my new home state, so I’ll add what I found about the sword:

From two 1875 Indianapolis newspaper articles I believe John Phipps was working on his father-in-law’s land, Mr. Dyer, when he found the sword and ground it down to harvest corn, not understanding his discovery. It would have been lost to history but the Indiana State Geologist assistant John Collett was preparing an 1875 survey of the White river in Owen County Indiana and must have met Mr. Phipps, who gave him the sword. . . .

I contacted the Indiana State Museum and received the following email in reply:

Hi Michael,

I got both of the articles you sent and read through them. I went and looked through our edged weapons collection and did not find anything that matches the description in the articles. Since we don’t have paperwork from the 1870s, I can’t even confirm if it was donated to us or just on display for a period of time. And I’m speculating here, but if it had been part of the collection, given the poor condition described in the article (covered in rust and missing the handle) I could see it having been deaccessioned (the process by which we remove artifacts from the collection) at some point in the last 100 years. Especially if the sword had been separated from its history, which can happen without paperwork. And record keeping was so very different back then there’s not going to be much of a paper trail, if any.

But now that it’s on my radar I’ll keep an eye out for any reference to it.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Take care,

Katherine Gould
Curator of Cultural History
Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites . . .

P.S. The sword was put on display for a time in the Indiana geologic room of the State House (no longer there), carried a Latin inscription and a date of 1640

Michael Wentz

Izah Phipps and the Cherokee Removal of 1838

Izah Phipps applied for bounty land because of his service during the Cherokee Removal of 1838. His application was rejected, apparently he was a teamster rather than a soldier. Teamsters tended to operate as non-military individuals under contract to the army. The issue appeared to be one of who paid such individuals. The application file includes a letter which evidently was from the firm which handled his application:

Washington D.C. Oct. 23, 1857

Hon. Geo. C. Whiting
C[?]t. of Pensions


In regard to the claim of Izah Phipps, Teamster, for service during the Cherokee removal in 1838, filed under Act of 1855. – No. 276.258. you state in your letter dated Oct. 21st that service as teamster during the Cherokee removal does not entitle to Bounty land. –

Would you be pleased to inform us – 1st Why Teamsters are not allowed for said service. – 2nd – Are not soldiers entitled for said service. – 3d. Why distinguish between the two classes of claimants. –

Yours respectfully
Tucker & [Sliza?]

The declaration form submitted by Izah Phipps was filled out in Murray County, Georgia on 30 May 1857. Izah Phipps was, at the time, 38 years old, so of course would have been born about 1819. The form says that he was a teamster in a company under Capt. Isaac Hicks in a volunteer regiment under Col. E.D. Lewis. He said that he volunteered at “Old Fort” in “McDowal” (McDowell) County, North Carolina, to serve for two years. He said that he was discharged at Ashville, North Carolina, and signed the form with an “X.” The form was witnessed by George Edmondson and William Latch, both of whom were living in Murray County, Georgia.

Who was this Izah Phipps? He appears to have been the “Isaah Phipps” referred to in a Murray County, Georgia marriage record dated 1868. A look at census records suggests that this was a second (or subsequent, anyway) marriage. The marriage record states that a marriage license was issued 20 April 1868 for the marriage of “Isaah Phipps and Harriet J. Phipps.” Then a minister named B.M. Hipp noted in the same record that he joined the two together in marriage on 3 May 1868. The record appears on p. 184 of a county record book labeled “Marriage License,” Vol. 2, 1860-1871.

Earlier, the census on 4 November 1850 in Murray County shows him as “Izaia Phipps,” age 32 (born about 1818), a farmer who was born in North Carolina. Nancy [S.?] Phipps, presumably his wife, is listed as born about 1826 in North Carolina. His three children listed were all born in North Carolina. They were William, born about 1844, Joseph, born about 1846, and Thomas, born about 1848. This indicates that the family moved from North Carolina to Georgia between about 1848 and 1850.

As already noted in an earlier post, another Phipps family appears further down the same page. This is the family of Abner and Fanney Phipps and their children, all of whom were born in North Carolina. Abner was born about 1804, and Fanney about 1794.

In the census on 25 July 1860 in Murray County, “Isah Phipps” appears at age 45 [born about 1815) with apparent wife Nancy E., born about 1824, both of whom were born in North Carolina. Birthplaces of children in this listing suggest that the family moved from North Carolina to Georgia about 1848 to 1851.

In the 1860 census, the next page shows the family of James and Elisabeth Phipps, along with their children. James was born about 1813 in North Carolina. Elisabeth was born about 1822 in Georgia. Their children, born about 1845 to 1858, were all born in Georgia.

One of the children listed in the household of James and Elisabeth Phipps in 1860 was Columbus Phipps, born about 1858 in Georgia. A book by Hampton and Starr titled Cherokee Mixed-Bloods, p. 344, refers to Columbus Phipps, son of James and Elisabeth, as marrying Amanda Ross in the Cherokee nation in Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). Amanda was listed in the Dawes Roll. This couple were discussed in earlier posts, here and here

On 22 June 1870, the census shows “Isiah Phipps,” born about 1820 in North Carolina, living with his subsequent wife Harriet. She was born about 1838 in South Carolina. One of their children living with them was James, as in James and Elisabeth, and another was Abner, as in the much older Abner mentioned earlier.

Both of the names Isaia Phipps and Abner Phipps appear in a Google Books “snippet” view of a 1981 book titled Official History of Whitfield County, Georgia. Whitfield County is adjacent to Murray County.

Nimrod Phipps of Iowa, Son of Eli Phipps

The Iowa death certificate of Nimrod Phipps refers to his parents as Eli Phipps and a woman whose surname was Young, both of whom were born in Kentucky. Nimrod was born 3 October 1857 in Wayne County, Kentucky according to the same source, and married a woman named Mary. Nimrod died 8 April 1934 in Rock Creek Township, Jasper County, Iowa, and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery. The death certificate informant, Mrs. Nimrod Phipps, gave her address as Grinnell, Iowa. Grinnell is located in Poweshiek County.

Nimrod was presumably the individual of that name who appeared in the federal census in 1860 in Wayne County, Kentucky, and in 1900 and 1920 in Rock Creek Township, Jasper County, Iowa. He also appeared in the 1895 Iowa state census in Jasper County. The 1860 census in particular shows him with his father Eli, and later censuses show him with his wife Missouri.

This Missouri Phipps, wife of Nimrod Phipps, was born with Phipps as her surname. The Iowa death certificate of Missouri Frances Phipps states that she was living at Grinnell, Iowa when she died. She died 2 January 1923 in the Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. The certificate states that her husband was N.I. Phipps, in other words Nimrod Phipps.

According to the same record, Missouri was born 22 September 1861 in Kentucky and was a daughter of a man named Andrew Phipps. Her mother’s maiden name was Cooper. The death certificate was N.I. Phipps, in other words Nimrod, living at Grinnell. The certificate notes that Missouri was buried near Grinnell.

As already mentioned, Nimrod’s death certificate refers to his mother as a Young. The census in Wayne County, Kentucky on 28 June 1860 shows the family of Edward and Jane Young listed next to that of Eli and Elizabeth Phipps. Eli was born about 1814 in Kentucky. His apparent wife Elizabeth was born about 1818 in Kentucky. Eli could not read and write.

Children listed with Eli and Elizabeth were James W., born about 1837 in Tennessee, Edward, born about 1842 in Kentucky (the rest of the children were also born in Kentucky), Matilda Jane, born about 1844, William H., born about 1846, Peter, born about 1848, Sarah A., born about 1850, John G., born about 1853, Melita C., born about 1855, Nimrod, born about 1858, and Thomas R., who was 7 months old on 28 June 1860, so evidently born in late 1859.

This data suggests, of course, that Eli Phipps was living in Tennessee about 1837, but moved to Kentucky by around 1842. An online photo of the tombstone shared by Nimrod and Missouri shows an inscription which refers to them as N.I. Phipps, 15 October 1857 to 8 April 1934, and his wife Missouri F., 22 September 1861 to 2 January 1923. They were buried in what Find A Grave calls Rock Creek Liberty Cemetery in Jasper County.

In the same cemetery appears the tombstone for Eli Phipps, as the name is given in the inscription in a photo. The stone is worn and difficult to read in a Find A Grave photo, but appears to indicate that he died 17 (or 7?) June 1882 at the age of 68 years, 7 months, and 21 days. This would suggest a birthdate of around 1814, which matches the 1860 census listing. Oddly, the inscription of the tombstone for Eli’s son Edward claims that Eli was born in 1813. It reads “IN MEMORY OF FATHER – ELI 1813-1882 MOTHER – ELIZABETH 1817-1886.”

Eli Phipps was killed in a storm in Rock Creek Township. This was a major cyclone which left six dead and a number injured. Missouri was sitting in a rocking chair during the storm, holding their granddaughter Ada Belle. Reportedly, the wind picked her up, carried her over a tree, and left her lying in a field, badly bruised. The baby was gently placed by the wind in a gooseberry bush and suffered no injuries. (See the Newton Daily News, Newton, Iowa , 10 August 1957, p. 52). Eli Phipps, on the other hand, is said to have died a painful death during the cyclone.

Unconfirmed claims, without any sources cited, assert that Nimrod’s middle name was Ingram. Eli Phipps is claimed to have been a son of Peter Phipps of Wayne County, Kentucky. Unconfirmed claims also assert that Missouri Phipps, who Nimrod Phipps married, was a daughter of Andrew Phipps, who was a son of the same Peter Phipps.

James Phipps of Russell County, Virginia, Born About 1795

James Phipps was born about 1795 and was drafted in 1813 in Russell County, Virginia during the War of 1812. The application of James Phipps for bounty land based on his War of 1812 service was rejected, evidently because he had deserted. He was living in Mahaska County, Iowa when he made his application in 1851.

One of our readers recently scanned the Phipps bounty land applications at the National Archives and made them available as a volunteer by posting them in the National Archives website. (Go to the records section and type “Phipps bounty land” in the search box.) Here is an excerpt from the file for James Phipps:

State of Iowa
Mahaska County, ss.

On this Fourteenth day of February A D One thousand Eight hundred and fifty one, personally appeared before me, Micajah [T.?] Williams, Clerk of the District Court within and for the County and State aforesaid James Phipps, aged Fifty-Six years, a resident of Mahaska County in the State of Iowa, who being duly sworn according to Law, declares that he is the identical James Phipps who was a private in the Company Commanded by Captain John Hammons in the (He does not recollect the number of the Regiment) of the Virginia Militia, Commanded by Colonel Boothe until his promotion & then by Col. McClanahan in the War with Great Britain declared by the United States on the 18th day of June, 1812, That he was drafted at Russel County Virginia under Capt. Fuget, on or about the 20th of October, A D 1813, but remained at home until the 4th day of August 1814, before being Called into actual service – That he was drafted for the term of Six months, and Continued in actual service in said war for the term of six months and was honorably discharged at Ft. Nelson on the 12th or 13th day of February 1815, as will appear by the muster rolls of said Company That he received a Certificate of discharge about the time of the term of his service expired, but that he has long since lost the same so that he cannot present it herewith – From the fact of his inability to state the No. of his Regiment, he states in lieu thereof, that his Reg. was under the Command of Genl. Porter, and that the 1st Lieutenant of his Company [page break] was Robt. Dickerson – (or Dickison) –

He makes this declaration for the purpose of obtaining the bounty land to which he may be entitled under the “Act granting bounty land to certain officers and soldiers who have been engaged in the military service of the United States,” passed September 28th 1850.

James his X mark Phipps

Sworn to and and [sic; word repeated] subscribed before me the day and year above written –

And I hereby Certify, that I believe the said James Phipps to be the identical man who served as aforesaid, and that he is of the age aforesaid –

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said District Court, this 14th day of Feby. af[?d [for aforesaid?] –

Micajah [T.?] Williams,
Clerk Dist. Court.
Mahaska Co.

Since Mahaska County, Iowa is not that far from Lee County, could this James have been the one who shows up twice in the 1850 census, in both Lee and Decatur Counties in Iowa? That James is discussed in past posts as married to Tamer. (See here, for instance.)

An Iowa death certificate for Clara May Reynolds, who died 21 February 1931 in Decatur County, refers to her parents as James Phipps, born in Kentucky, and Tamar Ann Doan, born in Tennessee. Clara was born 14 April 1840 in Missouri. Errors in birthplaces of parents are common in death certificates, and represent someone’s best guess.

The earlier post explains that Tamer (or Tamar, etc.) has often been represented by genealogists as though Rosengrant was her maiden name, while it appears more likely that her maiden name was Doan (or Doane, etc.) Again, as just noted, Clara’s death certificate asserts that her mother’s maiden name was Doan. Censuses refer to the James who married Tamer as born in Virginia around 1795-1800, and Tamar as born in Virginia, Canada, or Ohio about 1796-1808.

Phips Trading Token

Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, published in Exeter, Devon, England on 10 May 1855, published a list of “antiquities,” specifically old coins, which were found when an old house was demolished near the Baptist Chapel. One was a trading token from the mercantile family of A. Phips or Phips. The newspaper explained that the family lived at a place referred to as Reeves’ and Linscott’s. The Phipps family maintained close associations with the Reeves family both in England and in America, as noted in earlier posts.

The article associated the token with Robert Phips or Fips, who was described as a wealthy loyalist who died in 1678. He was fined by the Parliament commissioners, presumably for being a loyalist, to the tune of £80. He owned various properties, including land below Northernhay and a house on Paris Street. In an earlier era, it was customary for funeral attendees to drink after the funeral, and when this Robert died it is said that 10 gallons of claret, 9 gallons of sack from the Canary Islands, and 4 quarts of cedar were consumed.

Iowa Land Patents to John M. Phipps

As noted earlier, it would appear that there’s literally no end to the records pertaining to John Meshack Phipps or Phips, who was born in 1812 in Virginia. He was a son of Jesse Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina and later Owen County, Indiana and finally Putnam County, Missouri, and a grandson of Samuel Phips of Wilkes County and later Ashe County, North Carolina. In at least a couple of the numerous newspaper articles about John, he testified that he left Virginia when he was 18, in 1830. He came to Indiana, and stayed in Sangamon County, Illinois for about four months, then moved to Iowa. He lived eight or nine years, according to his own testimony, in what was at first known as Kishkush County, Iowa (later Monroe) before moving to Decatur County, Iowa. In Decatur County, he said, he bought 800 acres before moving to Jackson County, Missouri. He then returned to Iowa and settled in Harrison County, then returned to Missouri.

This testimony only accounts for some of his travels. Some of his meanderings are accounted for in an earlier post in particular, in addition to various other posts. That earlier post doesn’t account for the land patents issued to him in Iowa, which are listed below. Presumably he was the John M. Phipps mentioned in all of the patents listed. John had said in a newspaper interview that he bought 800 acres in Decatur County. The list below accounts for 640 acres of that land, plus an additional 60 acres in Union County, assuming that the John M. Phipps there was also him.

  • 5 October 1852: Patent issued to Benjamin F. Dooley for military service, 160 acres in Decatur County, reassigned to John M. Phipps
  • 10 March 1854: Patent issued to Jesse Philips for War of 1812 service, 80 acres in Decatur County, Iowa, reassigned to John M. Phipps
  • 1 May 1855: Patent issued to John M. Phipps of Decatur County, Iowa for 40 acres in same
  • 15 May 1855: Patent issued to John M. Phipps, assignee of John of John Branner of Lucas County, Iowa, 40 acres in Decatur County, Iowa
  • 15 May 1855: Patent issued to John M. Phipps of Decatur County, Iowa, 80 acres in same
  • 15 May 1855: Patent issued to John M. Phipps of Decatur County, Iowa, 40 acres in same
  • 1 December 1855: Patent issued to Robert Elsey for War of 1812 service, 60 acres in Union County, Iowa, reassigned to John M. Phipps
  • 3 June 1856: Patent issued to John M. Phipps of Decatur County, Iowa, 40 acres in same
  • 15 September 1875: Patent issued to Samuel H. Cain for military service, 160 acres in Decatur County, Iowa, reassigned to John M. Phipps