Warlike Proclivities

As noted in earlier post, there would appear to be no end to the articles and records pertaining to John Meshack Phipps and his twin brother Eli Shadrack Phipps. They were sons of Jesse Phipps and his first wife Jane (“Jennie”) Spurlin of Ashe County, North Carolina, then Owen County, Indiana, and, in the case of Jesse, later of Putnam County, Missouri. Jesse was a son of Samuel Phipps or Phips who was born in the 1760s, probably in Virginia, and who died in Ashe County, North Carolina in 1854.

Materials about John Meshack Phipps, in particular, are still turning up in great profusion and are being transcribed. Some of them will doubtless make their way to this blog in the future. In the meantime, the following might be of special interest. This is a statement which comes from one of the seemingly countless newspaper articles about him, this one being from an article titled “Aged Elk Avoids Liquor,” in the Daily East Oregonian, Pendleton, Oregon, 4 August 1916, p. 7. This was when John was 104 years old. He died later that year.

Mr. Phipps sprang from an English ancestry was noted for longevity, prowess and warlike proclivities. His grandfather on his mother’s side preached the gospel according to John the Baptist for 80 years in North Carolina, passing away after crossing the century mark in life.

The reference to his grandfather on his mother’s side would be to Zechariah Spurlin. One must wonder whether there might have been some sort of connection from him to the later “Spurlings” associated with the early formation of the Church of God.

The reference to “warlike proclivities” makes one wonder whether it could connect with several somewhat sketchy factors which have been discussed in previous posts: (1) The Phipps involvement in the Civil War during the 1649-1653 period, with Francis Phipps being imprisoned in Windsor Castle in 1643, (2) rumors and stories about the “Phibbs,” sometimes Phipps, family of Ireland, and/or (3) the so-called “Phipps temper” which has been discussed in connection with such figures as William Phips, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and a mysterious unnamed immigrant who supposedly killed someone of prominence before leaving England for America.


Two Men Named George Reeves

Francis Phipps, the patriarch who signed his statement to the herald during the Berkshire visitation of 1664, was buried 10 February 1667/8 at St. Mary’s in Reading. His will at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, according to Henry Ramsay’s article “Phipps Families of Berkshire,” named John Blagrave of Arborfield and Thomas Bullocke (Bullock) of Binfield as among the executors of his estate.

On 21 September 1675 George Reeves of St. Augustine in London obtained a license to marry Anna Phipps of Lee in county Kent. She entered into marriage “at the disposal” of the same two men who were executors of her father Francis’s estate, John Blagrave and Thomas Bullock. George Reeves and Anna Phipps were then married on 23 September 1675 at St. Margaret’s in Lee.

Ramsay noted that sometime after the marriage, George Reeves “deserted her & died in Virginia.” The Francis Phipps family of Reading in Berkshire seems related in some way to the later Virginia apparent family grouping which included John Phips, the Jamestown surveyor, Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, and Joseph’s apparent brother Benjamin Phipps of Albemarle Parish, Sussex County, as suggested by numerous records we’ve discussed in past posts.

In addition, this family appears to have been associated with the Jeaffreson AKA Jefferson family of the Caribbean and Virginia, with links from that family to the Epps family, with whom President Thomas Jefferson intermarried. Francis Phipps himself, according to heraldic sources, married Sarah, widow of Col. John Jeaffreson who had been living on St. Kitts in the Caribbean. We’ve also noted, in various posts, associations and links between the Epps and Reeves families.

We’ve also discussed a later George Reeves, the one who lived in Grayson County, Virginia while his son in law Samuel Phips lived in adjacent Ashe County, North Carolina. That Reeves was named as an Epps heir in Halifax County, Virginia while he was living in Wilkes County, North Carolina, although George Reeves does not appear to have himself lived in Halifax County, Virginia (as though that should matter).

After George Reeves married Anna Phipps in England and they separated, he remained in Virginia. She returned to England, where she lived with her sister at Lee in Kent, and where she died. Can we assume, based on all the associations and relationships that we’ve discussed in past posts, that this George Reeves was a relative of some sort to the later George Reeves who was the father in law of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina? And can we assume that this George and Anna (Phipps) Reeves are the George and Ann Reeves said to appear in Middlesex County, Virginia?

Crisp (Visitation of England Wales, Notes, Vol. 8, 1909, pp. 156-161) says that the George Reeves who married Anna Phipps was still living in 1695. Other evidence, however, suggests that he may have been the George Reeves who appears to have died in 1688 in Middlesex County, Virginia. A genealogy web page seems to suggest that George Reeves and his wife Ann appear in county court records there on 9 October 1682, although the details are not clear.

Is this the same George Reeves, and if so does it suggest a possibility that researching Middlesex County, Virginia might turn up additional Phipps connections? We’ve discussed the enigmatic John Phripp family of Norfolk, Virginia, with multiple indications that they may have been a “Phipps” family who went by Phrip or Phripp for who knows what reason.

This “Phripp” family was very closely associated with the Corbin family. As one of the wealthiest men in America, Henry Corbin, born in Virginia in 1629, maintained his primary residence in Richland County, Virginia, and built a banqueting house in Westmoreland County, but had additional estates in Middlesex County, the same county as associated with the earlier George Reeves.

Henry Corbin’s daughter Anne married William Tayloe. (Some indications suggest that they may have been Taylor, and changed the name for, again, who knows what reason.) The godfather of Betty Tayloe Corbin, born 1764 in Virginia, was Constantine John Phipps, the one who attempted to reach the North Pole by sailing ship in 1773. Constantine was a grandson of an earlier Constantine, who was the brother of Anna Phipps who married George Reeves in England, with that George later dying in Virginia.

The Phripp family appears likely to have been connected to the Phipps family, and may have been the same family. This has been discussed in past posts. If so, the reason for the name change is unknown, although families named Phelps in Virginia have also surfaced, with again multiple indications that they are likely related in some way.

The Phripp family and the family of the earlier George Reeves were extremely wealthy. By the time we get to at least a couple of the sons of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina and some of Samuel’s grandchildren, however, fraud and criminal activity seem to be in evidence. What happened?

We know that some Phipps family members and some of their close associates were extremely, outrageously mobile, involved in multiple trips between England and America or the Caribbean and America, because of their trade endeavors and high political and/or social status. We also know, however, that Caribbean trade dried up due to the Revolution. We also know that John Phripp and some of the Phipps family were either accused of being tories or loyalists, or were simply outright supporters of England during the Revolutionary years.

Some Phipps family members served in a notable ways during the Revolution on the American side, others on the British side. Constantine John Phipps was, again, the grandson of the Constantine who was the brother of the Anna Phipps who married George Reeves. He lived in England, but brought the dreaded tax stamps of the Stamp Act crisis to North Carolina. Col. Pownoll Phipps of England married Sophia Matilda Arnold, the daughter of the infamous (according to the American view) Benedict Arnold.

We also have the family story which asserts that an immigrant ancestor came to America because he killed someone of prominence in England during a fight. Could that (if it really did even occur) have happened in Virginia rather than England? At some point, some family members appear to have become involved in the extensive counterfeiting, slave stealing, and horse stealing network in Virginia.

Could that have happened after a family member’s economic and social status plummeted in Virginia, for whatever reason – murder during a fight, being labeled as a tory, who knows? Could that explain the move of Samuel Phips to, according to maps with modern-day interpretations, just beyond the reach of the law in what became the State of Franklin and then Ashe County, North Carolina? Perhaps some day we’ll know the answers.

New River Land Grants

Virginia land grant:

  • Grantee: Benjamin Phipp (as written)
  • Survey date: 15 December 1774
  • Grant date: 2 July 1792
  • Acreage: 104 acres
  • Land description: In Wythe County on waters of Bridle Creek, a branch of New River

[p. 534:]

[in margin:]

Benjamin Phipp
104 Acres
Wythe County

[body of text:]

Henry Lee Esquire Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. to all to whom these presents shall come Greeting Know ye that in consideration of the ancient composition of ten Shillings sterling paid by Benjamin Phipp into the Treasury of this Commonwealth, There is granted by the said Commonwealth unto the said Benjamin Phipp, a certain tract or parcel of Land containing one hundred and four Acres by Survey bearing date the fifteenth day of December one thousand seven hundred and seventy four, lying and being in the County of Wythe on the waters of Bridle Creek, a branch of New River and being part of an order of Councel granted to the Loyal Company to take up and Survey eight hundred thousand Acres which Order of Councel was established and confirmed by a Decree of the Court of Appeals made in the City of Richmond on the second day of May one thousand seven hundred and eighty three, and bounded as followeth, to wit, Beginning at a black oak and white oak on a ridge and running thence South twenty degrees West thirty [four?] poles to two white oaks at the foot of a spur; South eighty eight degrees West two hundred and seventy six poles crossing four Branches to a crooked white oak and hickory sapling north forty degrees West ninety seven poles to a Black oak, white oak and hickory sapling by a path on the side of a Ridge, thence South eighty five degrees East three hundred and fifty one poles along said Ridge to the Beginning With its appurtenances to have and to hold the said tract or parcel of Land; With its Appurtenances to the said Benjamin Phipp and his Heirs for ever. In Witness whereof the said

[p. 535:]

[line cut off in digital copy] Henry Lee Esquire Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia hath hereunto set his hand and Caused the lesser seal of the said Commonwealth to be Affixed at Richmond on the second day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety two, and of the Commonwealth the Sixteenth.

[signed:] Henry Lee

The land was described as being on the waters of Bridle Creek of New River, in what was then Wythe County, Virginia. Bridle Creek joins New River in what is today Grayson County, more or less between Mouth of Wilson and Independence. The Benjamin “Phipp” of the grant was presumably the person more commonly known as Benjamin Phipps.

His land was a very small distance upstream from the location where Samuel Phipps or Phips located on the New River. Eventually, Benjamin’s land would be defined as being in Grayson County, Virginia and Samuel’s in Ashe County, North Carolina, although one could walk the distance between them.

Wythe was created in 1790 from Montgomery County. From looking at various early records, it would appear that county boundaries in this general area were relatively undefined for some time. Genealogical reference works do not appear to always document all of the changes in what were considered at various times to be the actual colony line or state line, as well as county boundaries.

“Sammuwill Phips” and “Sammuell Phips Sen.” appear on an undated (about 1781) Montgomery County, Virginia militia list. Assuming that they were father and son, then the Samuel Phips who later lived in what was defined from 1800 on as Ashe County, North Carolina would have to be the younger man. That’s because in 1781 the Samuel who later shows up in Ashe County would have been too young to have a grown son.

Records, as detailed in past posts, show Samuel Phips Sr. or Jr. as entering land in what was then termed Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1779. Samuel Jr. was born about 1760-1763, according to his own somewhat wavering testimony. If 1763, he would only have been 16 in 1779. More than likely, the land which was entered was entered by his apparent father, Samuel Sr.

Then about 1781 the two show up in Montgomery County, Virginia. Samuel (presumably Samuel Jr. by this time) then appears in Wilkes County again, in the 1780s and 1790s. This was, of course, prior to 1799, which was when Ashe County, North Carolina became an official county for the first time, after being a part of the State of Franklin.

From that time on, beginning with the 1800 census, Samuel Jr. appears in the census as living in Ashe County, North Carolina. Presumably his father Samuel Phipps, Sr. died sometime between about 1781 and 1800, probably closer to the earlier date, and seems likely to have been buried somewhere in what later became Ashe County, North Carolina but which is currently Alleghany County, North Carolina, although no one knows for sure.

George Reeves or Reaves, father in law of Samuel Phips or Phipps, Jr., seemed to have followed a similar course in that he appeared in Montgomery County, Virginia for a short time, but otherwise shows up in Wilkes County, North Carolina records. Unlike Samuel, however, who later consistently appeared in Ashe County, North Carolina until his death in 1854, George Reeves later appears across the county/state line in Grayson County, Virginia. Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina at one point is referred to in Grayson County, Virginia records, however, as an heir of George Reeves.

Like Samuel Phipps, Jr. and Samuel Phipps, Sr., there appear to have been a Benjamin Phipps, Sr. and a Benjamin Phipps, Jr. The older Benjamin Phipps told in 1832, when he testified for a pension, that tories captured him about 1779 or 1780. This was while he was living in what he termed in his pension testimony “Montgomery County Virginia, now Grayson County Va.”

A 1786 Montgomery County, Virginia road order refers to the home of “Little Benjamin Phipps.” This suggests that there was a Benjamin Sr. and a Benjamin Jr. at the time, despite claims that Benjamin, son of the Benjamin who was captured by tories, wasn’t born until about 1803. Of course, perhaps the Benjamin who was captured by tories could have been, in turn, a son of an even earlier Benjamin.

Relationships among the Phipps or Fips or Fipps or Phips individuals in this area have been difficult to sort out, primarily due to decades of undocumented claims. Some of those claims are untenable, some even bizarre.

This Benjamin was just a short distance upriver from Samuel Phips, Jr., and common sense would suggest that they were probably related. A certain Matthew or Mathew Phips or Phipps comes into the picture as well. He entered Wilkes County, North Carolina and acquired land by 1785, but then lost that land as the result of a lawsuit or debt in 1788.

In addition, a planter named John Phipps, along with his wife Elender, was selling his land in Wilkes County in 1790. He was probably the John “Fipps” who bought land there earlier, in 1783.

Jordan Phips or Phipps also came into Wilkes County slightly later. He appears to have been the Jordan or Jourdon who was christened in 1769 in Sussex County, Virginia, a son of Benjamin and Martha Phipps of Albemarle Parish in Sussex County. That Benjamin is sometimes referred to as a probable brother of Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia.

That Benjamin left a will in 1797, naming Jordan and his brother Richardson. Jordan shows up in Wilkes County in 1799, 1800, and 1805 records before moving on into Tennessee with his brother Richardson. A recent post noted a 1799 Wilkes County, North Carolina deed which refers to Jordan as being “of”¬†Surry County, North Carolina while he was buying land in Wilkes County. Note that Matthew, as already noted, appears to have moved from Wilkes to Surry when he lost his Wilkes County land.

While he was in Wilkes County, Jordan Phipps was bondsman for the marriage of Thomas Davis to Frances Robins. Jesse Toliver was a close friend of Samuel Phips of Wilkes and later Ashe. Samuel testified on behalf of Jesse when the latter applied for a Revolutionary War pension. Descendants of Jesse Toliver intermarried with descendants of Samuel Phips.

Again, Jordan Phipps was bondsman for a marriage of a Robins. Jesse Toliver had a child out of wedlock with Lucy Robins in 1780 in Wilkes County. Moses Toliver was one of the securities on a bastardy bond in 1780 regarding this child.

These and other records which we have been discussing appear to associate Samuel Phips or Phipps of Ashe County, North Carolina and Benjamin Phips or Phipps of adjacent Grayson County, North Carolina with the family of Benjamin Phipps of Albemarle Parish, Sussex County, Virginia and that Benjamin’s apparent brother, Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia.

We already knew from documents transcribed in previous posts that Joseph Phipps’s family in Brunswick County, Virginia clearly connects with that of John Fips or Phips, who lived in Lunenburg County, Virginia before leaving a Charlotte County, Virginia estate in 1769.

We also know from documentation that John’s daughter Betsey married Ephraim Witcher, and that they moved into the same Surry County, North Carolina as was associated with Jordan Phipps and Matthew Phipps, as discussed above.

We also know from documentation that Ephraim and Betsey’s son Taliaferro (pronounced Toliver) Witcher moved into Ashe County, North Carolina, where Samuel Phips was living, where Taliaferro became involved in the estate of Joseph Phips, Samuel’s son.

An administrator’s bond for the Joseph Phips estate is not only signed by Taliaferro, but also by Patcy Phips. Samuel Phips was living with her in the 1850 census, not long before Samuel died in 1854. We also know that Taliaferro Witcher appears to have married into the Reeves family, the family of Samuel Phips’s father in law.

Taliaferro Witcher also evidently was born in Surry County, North Carolina, where Littleberry (“Berry”) Phipps was from. Berry moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, the same location where children and relatives of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina also located.

Putting all of this together, along with all the other factors which have been discussed in previous posts, makes it clear (barring a large number of extremely unlikely coincidences) that Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina was connected in some way with the families of Joseph Phipps of Brunswick County, Virginia and Joseph’s apparent brother, Benjamin Phipps of Albemarle Parish, Sussex County, Virginia.

Further, as a number of other circumstantial factors have demonstrated again and again, a preponderance of family associations suggest a likely connection of some sort between that family and John Phips, the Jamestown surveyor who arrived in 1621. In addition, a preponderance of evidence suggests various connections and associations with the Reeves, Epps, and Burton families, with Samuel Phips’s father in law having been a Reeves who appears to have married an Epps before marrying a Burton.

An argument cited against the latter is that George Reeves was not known to have lived in Halifax County, Virginia, where a deed refers to him as being of Wilkes County, North Carolina and an Epps heir. Of course, no one ever claimed that he did, however, and one does not have to have lived in a certain county in order to be an heir there.

Even without the controversial deed, plenty of other connections and associations to these families abound, with evidence of at least indirect connections to the Jeaffreson and Jefferson family, with ties from them to England, the Caribbean, and Virginia, and with connections from that family back to the Epps family and from there back to the Reeves and Burton families.

Various connections to the Burton family in particular have been noted, including the binding of the Goochland County, Virginia “ffipps” orphans to a Burton. That Burton, apparently, just happened to be related to the wife of George Reeves, Samuel Phips’s father in law.

Looking at huge numbers of records without any particular aim in mind and without attempting to prove or disprove anything has turned up references to these same few families over and over. Never, however, has one record turned up which suggests in any way any connection to Pennsylvania or to some mythical Joseph Phipps (or Daniel Phipps, or Daniel Joseph Phipps, or Joseph Daniel Phipps).

It is claimed that he supposedly made a sudden magical leap from Chester County, Pennsylvania to the New River area of Western Virginia and North Carolina. Nor has any record surfaced which pertains to any Mary Romal, or Mary Fields, or Mary Fields Romal, or Mary Romal Fields, as the supposed wife of this supposed Joseph or Daniel.

Some additional sources:

Samuel Phips of Dearborn County, Indiana

19th century newspapers often printed lists of “letters remaining” at the local post office. These were letters which had not been picked up, and which would be regarded as “dead letters” if not picked up by a certain point. These lists can be genealogically valuable in that they can provide evidence that a given individual was in a location, perhaps briefly. Oftentimes the reason the letter was not claimed was because the individual to whom the letter was addressed had moved.

Such a list appeared in the Political Beacon of Lawrenceburgh (now Lawrenceburg) in Dearborn County, Indiana on 2 July 1841. Listed were unclaimed letters in the post office at Lawrenceburgh on 1 July 1841. Among the letters was at least one addressed to “Sam’l Phips,” or Samuel Phips. Dearborn County is in southeastern Indiana.

The 1840 census shows Samuel “Fips” living in Dearborn County, Indiana, and he was presumably the person whose letter was unclaimed. He may have simply been neglectful, or hadn’t ridden into a town in a while. Another possible scenario was that he could have moved on by 1841.

1840 census, Dearborn County, Indiana:

Samuel Fips

  • Free white males:
    • 1 5-10
    • 1 10-15
    • 1 30-40 [born about 1800-1810]
  • Free white females:
    • 2 under 5
    • 1 5-10
    • 1 30-40 [born about 1800-1810]

This appears to indicate that Samuel Fips or Phips was born about 1800-1810 and that his wife (presumably) was of the same age range. Dearborn County, by the way, is adjacent to both Ohio and Kentucky.

Phipps Brothers Made Rich

The following refers to gold found in Colorado by “the Phipps brothers,” but without identifying them. Eli Shadrack Phipps and his twin brother John Meshack Phipps come to mind, since it is known that at least Eli was in Colorado.

Eli made the trek to California in 1849 in search of gold. Then at some point, with a certain Judge Wyatt as partner, he went to Colorado and introduced the earliest steam-powered sawmill in “that part of the country.” His lumber was used to construct Denver’s first buildings. (“A Pioneer of Many States,” The Hennessey Clipper, Hennessey, Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, 2 March 1911, p. 1).

The following article is from the Colorado Transcript, Golden, Colorado, March 10, 1897, p. 4:


Where Men are Being Made Rich in a Day.

The rich strikes in the Red River country are exceeding even the fondest hopes of those interested in that camp. It is no longer necessary to talk about prospects and what the camp will prove to be, for the gold has been found in large quantities, and hardly a day passes but some man strikes a rich vein of ore and is raised from poverty to riches, as nearly all the men in that camp are comparatively poor, although of late men of means have been taking a decided interest in that section and are anxious to invest their money.

Word has just reached this city that ore running $260 to the ton has been found within a couple of hundred yards of Red River City by the Phipps brothers on ground that has been tramped over by nearly every prospector in that camp. This vein was opened up while they were doing the assessment work.

It has been often said that this district would eclipse Cripple Creek, and it now looks as if this is not idle talk, but that this statement will prove true. This is not to detract from the glory of that wonderful camp of Cripple Creek but to give some idea of the possibilities of the camp.

This is good news to Trinidad and the Gulf Road. – News, Trinidad.

Judith Phipps Searches for Info on Her Murdered Brother

From the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, January 26, 1881, p. 4:

A Murdered Brother.

[EDS.?] TRIBUNE – I wish to know if you have any knowledge of a man in your section of country by the name of George Phipps, as he lived somewhere in Utah, and is supposed to have been murdered by his partner on their cattle ranch, in that Territory. He has been a stock trader for many years, and I thought perhaps you might have had some knowledge of his whereabouts. If such is the case you will confer a great favor by informing me of it. He was supposed to have been murdered in the year 1879, about July or August. He was formerly a resident of Ohio, and afterwards of Iowa, but of late resided in Utah, and was supposed to be worth a considerable amount of property. He was about 52 years of age. If you have any knowledge of him please inform me of it at an early date. I am a sister of his.

[CURRYVILLE?], Wells Co, Indiana

From the above, it would seem that George Phipps was born about 1827. His sister, Judith Taylor, does not seem to appear in Wells County, Indiana in the 1880 census (the newspaper article is dated 1881), but a Judith Taylor is listed in that year in Adams County, Indiana.

Adams County is adjacent to Wells County, and the Judith Taylor listed there was born about 1826, which makes it seem all that more likely that this was George’s sister. Further, Judith mentioned that George had lived in Ohio, and all of her children listed in the 1880 census were born in Ohio. Judith was born in North Carolina.

From the 1880 census, Kirkland Township, Adams County, Indiana, 3 June 1880, #57:

  • Christian Taylor, white male, 61 [born about 1819], married, farmer, born Ohio, his parents born Maryland
  • Judith Taylor, white female, 54 [born about 1826], wife, married, keeping house, born North Carolina, her parents born North Carolina
  • George Taylor, white male, 34 [born about 1846], son, single, farmer, born Ohio, his father born Ohio, his mother born North Carolina
  • William Taylor, white male, 32 [born about 1848], daughter, single, farmer, born Ohio, his father born Ohio, his mother born North Carolina
  • Susan Taylor, white female, 26 [born about 1854], daughter, single, born Ohio, her father born Ohio, her mother born North Carolina
  • Jarome Taylor, white male, 20 [born about 1860], son, single, farmer, born Ohio, her father born Ohio, her mother born North Carolina
  • John W Taylor, white male, 12 [born about 1868], son, single, born Ohio, her father born Ohio, her mother born North Carolina