The 1885 Phipps Controversy, Terre Haute, Indiana

Terre Haute, Indiana and Casey, Illinois were astir during the summer of 1885 over the disappearance of a Casey farmer, Edgar Williamson, also referred to in newspapers as Elmer Williamson. Evidence turned up which suggested that Williamson had been murdered, and that a certain Phipps family, living in Terre Haute at the time, were to blame.

Newspaper accounts jumbled the facts and are riddled with contradictions. Sometimes different articles contradicted each other. Sometimes one article would even contradict itself. The following, however, appears to have been the chronology as reported, at least more or less.

Williamson had been a farmer living near Casey, Illinois. Casey is located in Clark and Cumberland Counties. He came to Terre Haute in February 1885, and was seen in the city in the St. Clair House. Then he disappeared, and was not seen again until his body was found in the Wabash River, where it floated to the surface after ice broke up in the spring.

Williamson’s activities in the city were traced to the St. Clair House. This was described as a building “inhabited by the very worst elements of the city.” An illustration showing the St. Clair House appears in an 1874 Vigo County, Indiana atlas published by A.T. Andreas. Photos of the structure also appear on p. 76 of the book Terre Haute & Vigo County in Vintage Postcards. The St. Clair House was located at 204 Wabash Avenue, on the northeast corner of 2nd and Wabash. It later became the Stag Hotel.

Several women associated with the St. Clair House, including a certain Emma Morey, were taken into custody on suspicion, but were later released. Emma Morey’s name was also represented in newspaper accounts as Emma Mowery. She was known as Em.

In May 1885, around the time that Williamson’s body was found, a newspaper mentioned Emma Morey and Jennie Phipps “of the St. Clair flats.” The two women were said to have tried, “under alcoholic inspiration,” to “paint Gallatin street a beautiful cardinal red” on a Saturday night. A police sergeant then interrupted “their little amusement” and locked them up.

When the Williamson matter came up, it appeared that the matter would likely be dropped, since no evidence turned up. Then, however, rumors began to surface that suggested that a family named Phipps, who had been living in the St. Clair House, might have been responsible.

John W. Phipps, along with his daughters Emma and Jenny, had been living in the St. Clair House in Terre Haute but had since moved to a farm belonging to T.H. Riddle of Terre Haute. The farm was located 7 miles west of Casey, Illinois. John W. Phipps was said to have been “well-known” in Terre Haute for “a number of years,” and had been working for T.H. Riddle. Edgar Williamson, the man who disappeared, had also been living near Casey.

One of the Phipps “children,” as a newspaper put it, was overheard as remarking that his father told his mother that Williamson would “soon wash out of the river.” One of John W. Phipps’s daughters, a married woman referred to as Mrs. Patrick, entered into a squabble with her father. This was because she wanted to bring her husband to Phipps’s house, but John W. Phipps would not allow it, since he did not like him.

As a result, Mrs. Patrick supposedly no longer wished to hold the family’s dark secrets. In another version of the story, one of the Phipps girls “captured” a young man for a short time, but her sister “cut her out.” Her anger then prompted the confession. She then told a justice of the peace that a member or member of the Phipps family drugged Edgar Williamson in Emma Morey’s room at the St. Clair House. In yet another version, one of the Phipps girls, identified as a prostitute, told authorities about the murder, but her confession was said to have prompted by jealousy, and that there “nothing in it.”

According to Mrs. (Phipps) Patrick’s account, as reported, the intent was not to kill Williamson, but only to rob him. They gave him too much of the drug, however, and Williamson died. After he died, according to Mrs. Patrick’s story, Williamson’s body was carried into the cellar by John W. Phipps, referred to as “the old man” of the family. Then it was said that the body was later taken on a dark night to a sewer at the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets, where it was deposited. Evidently, the assumption was that the body would soon find its way to the river.

The story pointed the finger at the Phipps family, Emma Morey, and another Emma, presumably the one who was John W. Phipps’s daughter. Before they moved to near Casey, Illinois, Jenny and Em Morey (sometimes referred to as Mowery) had been sharing a room in the St. Clair House. Williamson was said to have died in this room.

A sergeant and deputy went to Casey, Illinois to make arrests. They returned at 1 pm on Wednesday, 5 August 1885 with John W. Phipps and Jennie, described as his blonde 18-year-old daughter, under suspicion of murder. John W. Phipps was said to be 59 at the time, which indicates that he was born about 1826.

Both John and Jennie (otherwise referred to as Jenny) Phipps were placed in jail, but in separate cells. They denied any knowledge of the matter, as did Emma Morey, who was also in jail. Even while these individuals were incarcerated, it was thought that there was not much of a case against them. That was because the sole evidence was said to be the testimony of Mrs. Patrick, who was described as being of “exceedingly bad character.” In addition, it was thought that Jennie did not “talk nor act” guilty, and that John W. Phipps looked like an “inoffensive old man.”

A contradictory account, however, appears to have Emma Phipps, not Emma Morey or Mowery, as in jail with John W. Phipps. In that version of the story, Emma Phipps, also called Em, admitted that Williamson had been drugged in an attempt to rob him. Supposedly the drug had been added to a beer which was given Williamson by Jenny. In another account, however, it was wine rather than beer.

Then, it is said, Jenny Phipps and “the Mowery girl” found that the dose was too strong, and that Williamson had died. They then consulted John W. Phipps, who, according to the story, decided to carry Williamson’s body into the cellar, where he covered it with boards. Before long, however, the body began to smell. Becoming concerned that the body would be discovered, on a dark night John then carried the body to the sewer, where because of melting snow and spring rains the body soon found its way to the river.

While in jail, “the Mowery girl” was said to sing, talk, and act happy. John W. Phipps’s bail was set at $1,000. Mrs. Patrick’s testimony came under scrutiny. She had said that the body was inserted into the sewer at 3rd and Chestnut. It was pointed out that because of grating and the design of the sewer at that point, the body would not likely have reached the river. At 2nd and Chestnut, however, the body could have easily been placed into the sewer, and would have traveled out into the river.

The police concluded that it appeared that the evidence was insufficient to “hold” a murder charge. In fact, a sergeant who had made the arrests near Casey, Illinois said that “if Phipps had not wanted to come to Terre Haute worse than they wanted him, he would not have been brought at all.” Supposedly he was anxious to come to Terre Haute to clear his name.

A local paper reported on 8 August 1885 that the “parties now in jail” were not guilty, and that Jennie Phipps and Emma Morey had been released. Then, in a one-sentence newspaper article on 13 August 1885, it was reported that John W. Phipps had been released “on his own recognizance.” It was added that this “practically ends” the case.

Was there guilt on the part of the Phipps family, or were the charges against them just a matter of fabrication prompted by jealousy? And who were these Phipps individuals, genealogically speaking?

A Terre Haute marriage record from later the same year, 1885, involves a Jennie Phipps, daughter of John Phipps. Was this the same family?

According to that record, Jennie Phipps of Terre Haute married George W. Bishop, a cook who was also living in Terre Haute. He was 25 and born in Illinois, a son of John and Sarah (Delap) Bishop. She was 20, so born about 1865, and born in Illinois. Jennie’s parents are listed as John and Nancy (Cooper) Phipps. Jennie Phipps and George W. Bishop were married 31 December 1885 in Terre Haute by a justice of the peace, according to Vigo County Marriage Book 1-M, pp. 284-285.


  • “Another Horror,” Terre Haute Express, 4 August 1885, p. 1.
  • “Edgar Williamson,” Weekly Gazette, Terre Haute, 6 August 1885, p. 4.
  • “Em. Mowery Arrested,” Terre Haute Express, 5 August 1885, p. 1.
  • “The Last of the Phipps Case,” Terre Haute Express, 8 August 1885, p. 1.
  • “Phipps Released,” Weekly Gazette, Terre Haute, 13 August 1885, p. 6.
  • “Phipps Released,” Terre Haute Express,/em>, 7 August 1885, p. 1.
  • Untitled, under “City in Brief,” Terre Haute Express, 26 May 1885, p. 4.
  • Untitled, under “Notes and Comment,” The Mail, Terre Haute, 8 August 1885, p. 1.
  • “The Williamson Mystery, Terre Haute Express, 6 August 1885, p. 4.

The Never-Ending Sir William Phips Saga

According to various apparently dodgy genealogical claims regarding William Phips (1651-1695), governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, he had 25 siblings. If this was the case, then why do abstracts of his will, dated 18 December 1693 and proved 29 January 1696, refer to only the following siblings: James, Mary, Margaret, Anne (deceased), and John (deceased)?

As notes in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register expressed it in 1884, Phips’s biographer Cotton Mather, the well-known church figure, wrote that William’s father James had 21 sons and 5 daughters, yet “Sir William mentions in his will but one brother and three sisters.”

A number of problems or potential problems can be seen with other genealogical claims which have persisted over several centuries regarding this William. Interesting and illuminating notes appeared in the April 1884 issue of the NEH&GR. Among the points raised in the notes is the statement that,

Sir William . . . was son of James Phips, a gunsmith, who came from Bristol, England, and settled near the Kennebec River.

Even just the statement that James worked as a gunsmith, as opposed to having merely gone through a gunsmith apprenticeship, might be suspect except that Stephen V. Grancsay, “The Craft of the Early American Gunsmith,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1947, p. 61, does refer to a “doglock fowling piece” in the collection. The gun is dated 1663 and is signed “by the gunsmith James Phips of Kennebec River.”

The notes focus on the claim that Sir William Phips was the father of Sir Constantine Phipps, who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1710-1714 and grandfather of the first Baron Mulgrave. Those notes then continue by observing that, with regard to this claim,

Cotton Mather states that James had twenty-one sons and five daughters. Sir William mentions in his will but one brother and three sisters, and having no child adopts his wife’s nephew, afterward known as Spencer Phips, who lived and died in New England. Sir Egerton Brydges copied the statement from Archdall and incorporated it in his celebrated edition of Collins’s Peerage (1812), but having noticed later the Life of Sir William Phips by Cotton Mather, corrects the statement in an appendix, so far as Sir Constantine was concerned, by suggesting that Spencer Phips, the adopted son of Sir William, was the true ancestor of Lord Mulgrave. Debrett, in his annual Peerage, carried the original story for years, but finally left it out entirely. Burke substituted “cousin” for “father,” still keeping Sir William Phips for the “figure-head” of the family by saying he was cousin of Sir Constantine. Savage (1861) Vol. iii. p. 422, calls attention to the “preposterous fable,” and quotes “Smiles’s Self-Help, p. 169,” as a present example of its continuance. The Heraldic Journal (1865), Vol. i, pp. 154-5, contains a full and interesting account of this “popular error.” The latest promulgation of the old story which has come to my sight is in an elegant volume purchased by the Boston Athenaeum during 1881, “Picturesque Views of Seats of Noblemen, &c.,” by Rev. F. O. Morris (no date) but evidently a very recent publication, Vol. ii. pp. 11 to 12, with a view of Mulgrave Castle, the seat of the Marquis of Normanby.

The same notes continue by casting doubt on the claims of a connection to King James II. That is accomplished by bringing a certain James Graham into the picture:

This magnificent place was inherited by Constantine Phipps (a grandson of Sir Constantine previously mentioned) from his maternal grandmother, whose paternity was a question of historic doubt.

Catherine Sedley, created Countess of Dorchester for life, was the acknowledged mistress of James II.; the keeper of his privy purse, Col. James Graham, also had intimate relations with her. It happened that her daughter – Lady Catherine Darnley – bore an exact resemblance to his daughter, the Countess of Berkshire. Col. Graham was not inclined to deny the paternity, while the mother asserted that her daughter “need not be so proud, as she was not the King’s child, but Col. Graham’s.” (Jesse’s Lives of the Stuarts, Vol. iii, p. 508.)

Lady Catherine Darnley was married first to the Earl of Angleseyt, from whom she was divorced; she then married the Duke of Buckingham. From him she received Mulgrave Castle, and she gave it to Constantine Phipps, the son of her daughter by her first husband.

This Constantine Phipps was created Baron Mulgrave of the peerage of Ireland in 1768, but the titles have accumulated upon his descending line until the present head of the family is “Marquis of Normanby, Earl of Mulgrave, Viscount Normanby and Baron Mulgrave of Mulgrave, co. York, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom; Baron Mulgrave of New Ross, co. Wexford, in the Peerage of Ireland.” The armorial bearings are quarterings of those of James II.! and of Sir William Phips!

The exclamation points in the last sentence appear in the original article, as printed. We’ve noted amazing apparent connections involving armorial or heraldic bearings in past posts. The notes then continue by stating that,

Mr. Waters has found a father for a [“a” in italics] Constantine Phipps, and we hope the whole question of relationship to Sir William (if any existed) will be fully settled soon [Note: This was 1884.] Dr. Marshall in “The Genealogist,” Vol. vi., gave new material as to the marriages and children of the first Constantine. – J. C. J. BROWN.

From Hist. and Antiquities of Reading, by the Rev. Charles Coates, LL. B., London, 1802, p. 445, we learn that there was a tradition that Sir Constantine Phipps, the ancestor of the Mulgrave family, was born at Reading. – H. F. W.)

Isaiah Phipps of Jasper County, Georgia

Jasper County, Georgia was created in 1807 from Baldwin County. An Isaiah Phipps was there fairly early, as attested by deed records found by the webmaster of a website devoted to a related family. That website is titled A Witcher Genealogy, a site which has posted some groundbreaking information on the Phips or Fips or Phipps family.

He sent copies of 3 deeds from Jasper County, Georgia. All are dated 1815 or 1816. That may sound very early for Georgia, but Georgia was established as a colony in 1733.

  • 7 November 1815 | Isaiah Phipps to John Duke
  • 13 July 1816 | Isaiah Phipps to Joseph Crenshaw
  • 13 July 1816 | Isaiah Phipps to Samuel Mays

Since Isaiah Phipps was selling all this land in Jasper County, Georgia, we could wonder whether he was moving out of the area. If online census indices can be trusted, it doesn’t appear that Isaiah Phipps showed up in federal census records in Jasper County, Georgia. Secondary sources present contradictory claims about this Isaiah. One claim, however, is that he was born in Granville County, North Caorlina, moved to Jackson and Jasper Counties in Georgia, and later moved to Bibb County, Alabama and, later still, Perry County in Alabama.

A past post noted the presence of a Josiah or Isaiah Phipps, it wasn’t clear which, who some apparently think might have been the same person. His name wasn’t clear and his age wasn’t clear, but it appeared as though he might have been born about 1775 in North Carolina. He was living on Christmas Day in 1850 in Perry County, Alabama in the household of a William and Sarah Phipps. This William was born about 1823 in North Carolina, and his wife in Georgia.

We had already noted the presence of an Isaiah Phipps, born about 1780-1790, in the Perry County, Alabama census in 1840. Was this the same person? (Old censuses often varied a bit in terms of ages.) The last link also interprets the 1850 census entry as pertaining to a “Josiah,” but it really is hard to tell for certain. After applying a fair amount of photo editing to the copy in Family Search, the name looks like I or J, followed by an unclear letter (perhaps an “o”), then -siah. Theoretically, it could read Josiah, but also Issiah or Iasiah, or who knows.

Prior to the Jasper County, Georgia deeds, the name Isaiah Phipps appears in a record abstract. Apparently he was a witness to a will of a certain Alexander Reid, and as a result was one of those who proved the will on 4 January 1814 in Jasper County. That would make sense, since in the final deed below, one of the witnesses appears to have been John Reid (the text is rather blurry at that point). This John Reid seems likely to have been the John “Reed” to whom letters testamentary were issued in connection with this Alexander Reid estate.

The first deed is dated 7 November 1815. In that deed, Isaiah Phipps sold land to John Duke. Duke’s place of residence is not written clearly. The last part looks as though it might be “-burne,” which makes one wonder whether it could refer to Cleburne County. (The name actually looks something like “Jhe Jurne.”) Although Cleburne County is in Alabama, it’s a county which borders Georgia.

On the other hand, perhaps it was a reference to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. That might make more sense, based on an earlier post about a Phipps family (perhaps closely related) associated with Georgia and with Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. That post quoted from a 19th century biography in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana. That biography refers to a later Isaiah Phipps, who was born 9 December 1820 in Perry County, Alabama. His father, according to the bio, was John Phipps, who was born in Georgia. The clincher here is that this John Phipps married Mary Ann Crenshaw from Georgia. In the 2nd deed below, the earlier Isaiah Phipps sold land to a Crenshaw, that being Joseph Crenshaw.

This later Isaiah, according to the biography, married a woman named Mary Veazey, born in Alabama. Is it significant, then, that an Alfred Veazey was administrator of an estate in Orange County, North Carolina in 1864 involving Ambrose Phipps? We would have to say “involving,” since although the estate file is labeled Ambrose Phipps, it seems to have been generated before he died.

Regarding the John Duke who bought land from Isaiah Phipps in the 1st Jasper County, Georgia deed, one must also wonder whether this John Duke could have been related to John Duke Sr. who died in 1755 in Granville County, North Carolina. That’s according to unconfirmed secondary sources, such as this one. That family is said to have made inroads into Georgia. John Duke, Sr. is supposed to have married Mary Myrick. The Myrick name is one we’ve noted on multiple occasions as associated with the Phipps family of Brunswick County, Virginia.

A Jasper County, Georgia marriage record shows “John M Duke” as marrying Charity Waldrope 10 February 1814.

[p. 86-87:]

Jasper County

This Indenture made this twenty Seventh day of November in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred & fifteen between Isaiah Phipps of the County of Jasper of the one part and John Duke of [unclear] County and state [state not identified] of the other part – Witnesseth that the said Phipps for and in Consideration of the Sum of two hundred and [“fifty” was crossed out] forty dollars to him in hand well and truly paid by the said Duke at and before the Sealing [page break] and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath granted bargained Sold delivered and by these presents do grant bargain sell & deliver unto the said Duke his heirs and assigns all that part or parcel of land lying and being in the County formerly Baldwin now Jasper County in the thirteenth district of said County therein and distinguished in the plan of said district by part of lot No. 2 bounded as follows to wit beginning on a Beach Corner thence N 40 E 30: 10 to a post oak stake thence [S?]50. E 18 to a red oak thence N 50 [S?]20. W40. to a white Oak on the branch and thence bounded by the branch untill the said branch falls into falling Creek at the beginning Corner Containing Fifty five acres more or less it being the north east tract of said lot Together with all and Singular the rights [members?] and appurtenances thereof belonging or in any wise appurtaining thereunto forever to have and to hold the said part [or?] parcel of land unto him the said John Duke his heirs and assigns forever from me the said Isaiah Phipps my heirs Executors Administrators and assigns unto the said Duke his heirs Executors Administrators and assigns forever and I do warrant & forever defend the said parcel of land aforesaid from me my heirs Executors & Administrators unto the said Duke his heirs Executors Administrators and assigns from all and every other person or persons whatsoever – In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal the day and year above written

[signed:] Isaiah his P mark Phipps (Seal)
Record. 18 Decr. 1815
Henry Walker clk

Signed Sealed & delivered in the presence of [witnessed by:]
M. Burney
Chas. [Branford?]
Hi[ram?] Cl[?] JP

The next two deeds are both dated the same, 13 July 1816. In the next deed, Isaiah Phipps sold land in Jasper County, Georgia to Joseph Crenshaw. Unconfirmed secondary sources refer to a Joseph Crenshaw, Sr. who appears to have died about 1757-1758 in Lunenburg County, Virginia. Some of his children migrated into Georgia, including Jasper County, and he did have a son, Joseph Crenshaw, Jr. We’ve extensively discussed Lunenburg County, Virginia, of course, in connection with John Fips or Phips who died in Charlotte County, which was formed from Lunenburg.

At least one secondary source appears to connect this Crenshaw family with the Duke family. (Again, the above deed was to John Duke.) Another secondary source refers to a Joseph Crenshaw who died in Lunenburg County, likely the same one already mentioned, whose daughter Priscilla married a Robert Duke.

This is interesting, since in the 2nd deed below, Isaiah Phipps sells land to a John Duke. Some of the secondary source material about the Crenshaw family in Virginia refers to a Micajah Crenshaw, and a Georgia Archives preliminary inventory lists documents pertaining to a Jasper County, Georgia case of Micajah Crenshaw and Joseph Crenshaw v. Benjamin Fudge (date not indicated). The name Joseph Crenshaw also appears as one of the winning drawers in the Cherokee land lottery (see p. 109).

[pp. 436-437:]

This Indenture made this thirteenth day of July in the year Eighteen hundred and sixteen between Isaiah Phipps of Jasper County and State of Georgia of the one part and Joseph Crenshaw of the same state & County of the other part Witnesseth, That the said Isaiah Phipps for and in consideration of the sum of Three hundred and fifty Dollars to him in hand paid by the said Joseph Crenshaw the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath bargained & sold unto the said Joseph Crenshaw all that tract or parcel of land situate lying and being in Jasper County in the thirteenth district and known by part [page break] of No. Sixty three and laid off, and marked as follows to wit, Beginning at a Buck eye stake running thence N. 45. E. 45 Chain to a cucumber corner thence SouthE. 20 Chains 79 links to an Iron wood corner thence S. 40. W. 45 chain to a Hickory thence at 50 W. 20 C 79 links to the beginning supposing to contain ninety three and a half acres more or less To have and to hold the said tract or parcel of land with all and singular the rights, members & appurtenances thereunto belonging. And the said Isaiah Phipps his heirs, executors and administrators doth hereby warrant and forever defend the tract of land aforesaid unto the said Joseph Crenshaw his heirs and assigns against all other claims whatever in fee simple. In witness whereof he the said Isaiah Phipps hath hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year above written

[signed:] Isaiah his P mark Phipps (L.S.)

Signed Sealed & delivered in presence of [witnessed by:]
John Reid
R. Carter J. P.

The 3rd and final deed is one in which Isaiah Phipps sold land to Samuel Mays.  This deed is dated 13 July 1816. An 1808 Oglethorpe County, Georgia deed was from John Cocke to Samuel Mays. We’ve noted various Cocke (Cook) connections in Virginia in previous posts. Oglethorpe County is fairly close to Jasper County. A Samuel Mays was one of those who won land in Oglethorpe County in the Cherokee land lottery in 1805 (see p. 12).

[p. 513-514:]

This Indenture made this thirteenth day of July in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and sixteen between Isaiah Phipps of the County of Jasper and State of Georgia of the one part and Samuel Mays of the same County and State aforesaid of the other part witnesseth That the said Isaiah Phipps for and in Consideration of the sum of Four hundred & fifty Dollars to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged by the said Isaiah Phipps have granted bargained and sold and by their presents doth grant bargain and sell unto the said Samuel Mays all that tract or parcel of land it being part of that lot of land situate[d?] in the thirteenth District in the County of Baldwin now Jasper distinguished in the plan of said District by the number Sixty three containing one hundred and nine acres be the same [not grammatical, but formulaic] more or less and bounded as follows to wit, beginning at a corner Hickory in John Greens line running with said line South forty five East to [a?] Corner white oak [post?], thence North forty [page break; from here the text is very blurry] . . .

The rest of this last deed is, as noted, extremely blurry. The text appears, however, to refer to Richard Carter’s line, and to conclude with the standard promise to defend the deed in the future. The deed is signed by Isaiah Phipps with the same “P” mark. Witnesses appear to have been John [Reid?], a name which might be Saml. Owen or something which looks similar, and Richard Carter, J.P. [Justice of the Peace]. This John Reid may have been the one who, according to secondary sources, was born in Rowan County, North Carolina, but died in Warren County, Georgia.

Samuel Phips of Wilkes County, North Carolina: Some Connections

A past post referred to the connections involving Samuel Phips of Wilkes and later Ashe County, North Carolina, as well as the family of his father in law George Reeves of Wilkes County, North Carolina and later Grayson County, Virginia. (See also this earlier post.) That first post referred to a deed (Deed Book D, p. 54) in Wilkes County, North Carolina dated 30 November 1795. In that deed, Theophilus Evans sold 400 acres on Little Elk Creek to Jesse Reves. This was land was adjacent to Enoch Osborn. The deed was witnessed by Samuel Phips, John Taylor, and William Baldwin.

Then the next year, on 4 May 1796 in Wilkes County, Samuel “Fips” appeared on a road commission with two of the men associated with the 1795 deed, John Taylor and Jesse Reeves. Another road record, apparently dated a bit earlier, 5 May 1795, lumps together Samuel Phips with William Baldwin and John Taylor, both of whom had witnessed the Theophilus Evans deed, and Stephen Baldwin (presumably related to William Baldwin), as well as John “Harsh” (doubtless Hash), in addition to Owen and George Sizemore. We’ve discussed the Hash and Sizemore connections in relationship to the Phipps Eastern Cherokee Applications.

We’ve discussed how Samuel Phips and his wife Elizabeth (Reeves) Phips, then of Ashe County, North Carolina, appear in an 1811 deed in Grayson County, Virginia as heirs of George Reeves. We’ve also discussed how back in 1793, around when both Samuel Phips and George Reeves were showing up in Wilkes County, North Carolina records, a Halifax County, Virginia deed refers to George Reaves of Wilkes County, North Carolina as a John Eppes or Epps heir. We’ve also discussed how this Epps family is said to have also gone by the surname Evans because of an illegitimacy.

Part of Wilkes County eventually became Ashe County. Barnabus or Barnabas Evans of Ashe County is believed to have been a son of Theophilus Evans, the man who sold the land to Jesse Reves in 1795. After the death of Barnabus Evans, an auction of his personal estate was held in 1855. Among the buyers, as noted in an earlier post, were a couple men named Evans (Abram and David), along with Enoch and George Reaves (Reeves). This George Reaves was a later George, likely the one who was of Grayson County, Virginia and who was born about 1820. (The older George had a son George, but he would have been deceased by this time.)

In addition, Wilborn Phipps was one of the buyers. This would appear to be the one who was born about 1828-1829 in, apparently, Ashe County. Wilborn was the brother of Mary (“Polly”) who married John Wesley Swindall. He would probably be the Wesley Swindall who was another of the estate auction buyers.

Theophilus Evans, who again is believed to have been the father of Barnabus Evans, is said to have appeared in Montgomery County, Virginia records for a time (1787, 1788, and 1792). Both Samuel Phips and George Reeves or Reaves also showed up in Montgomery County, Virginia for a time.

In 1780, Thomas (as abstracted, but possibly Theophilus) Evans was granted a license to keep an ordinary in Wilkes County. This was on Elk Creek. In fact, Samuel Phips settled on Elk Creek in Wilkes County (later Ashe, later still Alleghany).

Note that the 400 acres which Theophilus Evans sold to Jesse Reves in 1795 was adjacent to Enoch Osborn. A land grant, dated 3 January 1795 (the deed was dated 30 November of the same year) gave 300 acres on Elk Creek to Enoch Osborn. The grant specifically refers to this as being adjacent to Samuel Phips. The 1795 grant is transcribed here.

The 1811 Grayson County, Virginia deed mentioned above makes it clear that Samuel Phips of then Ashe County, North Carolina, and his wife Elizabeth, were heirs of George Reeves of Grayson County, Virginia. Genealogists have, for years, been copying and pasting the claim that this Elizabeth was a daughter of George Reeves by his marriage to a Jane Burton, oftentimes while asserting that Elizabeth’s birth was before the claimed marriage date of George Reeves to Jane Burton. The 1795 deed mentioned above appears to suggest that George Reaves (Reeves) was likely earlier married to an Eppes or Epps.

It has been claimed that this couldn’t be the same George Reeves as the one who later shows up in Grayson County, Virginia records. He maintained a proximity and relationship with Samuel Phips, however, throughout the tumultuous era during which very close and contiguous areas were defined and redefined as Montgomery County, Virginia, Wilkes County, North Carolina, Ashe County, North Carolina, and Grayson County, Virginia, depending on the time period. George “Reves” appears in a Wilkes County deed in 1797, referring to him by that time as being of Grayson County, Virginia. There is no reason to assume that these are different persons named George Reeves or Reves just because of shifting county boundary designations.

In fact, on the same date as the deed just mentioned, 28 January 1797, another Wilkes County deed shows William “Reves” as selling land on New River to James Chesser. This deed was witnessed by George Reves, Jr., Jesse Reves, and Samuel Phips. Then on 3 April 1798 in Wilkes County, Samuel Phips bought land from John Taylor. We can assume that this was the same John Taylor who witnessed the 1795 deed referred to earlier, when Theophilus Evans sold land to Jesse Reves, with that deed also witnessed by Samuel Phips.

The fact that, at least according to tradition, George Reeves, Sr. married a Burton seems highly significant considering all the many Burton connections we’ve noted in earlier posts pertaining to Virginia. An older discussion forum post pursues a Burton rabbit trail which appears to take the family west toward Ashe County, North Carolina from destinations further east in North Carolina, with ultimate ties back to Virginia. (Of course, all of this was subject to numerous major county boundary redefinitions.)

Interestingly, that post begins with Goochland County, Virginia, This is where Joseph and Benjamin “ffipps,” who were orphans, were ordered bound as apprentices to Josiah Burton, a carpenter, in 1742. This Josiah Burton, according to unconfirmed secondary sources, fits right into the Burton line discussed in the discussion post just mentioned as well as into the Burton line into which George Reeves supposedly married. That same discussion post refers to a George Reeves (however spelled) as involved further east in North Carolina prior to the Wilkes County records discussed above. Could this have been the same George?

One of those records cited, for instance, refers to George “Rivers? (Reaves?)” as a Johnston County, North Carolina planter in 1762. Then a 1764 Johnston County deed has George Reeves of Johnston County, presumably the same one, buying land from a man of Granville County. The deed was witnessed Richard Burton, the same name as the claimed father in law of George Reeves of Wilkes County, North Carolina and later Grayson County, Virginia. Also thrown in is a Ray – Thomas Ray – which is a surname which has been heavily involved with the Phips or Phipps family in Brunswick and Sussex Counties, Virginia.

That Phipps family clearly had multiple connections from Brunswick and Sussex Counties in Virginia into Wake, Bute, and Warren (formed from Bute) Counties in North Carolina. Wake County was formed, in part, from Johnston County and Orange County. We’ve discussed various Orange County, North Carolina records in great detail in various posts.

We’ve noted in a number of posts a close relationship, with multiple connections, between the Phips or Fips or Phipps family of (eventually) Ashe County, North Carolina on the one hand, and the Rives or Reeves or Reaves, Epps or Epes or Eppes, and Burton families on the other. We know that some of the Phips or Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties in Virginia came into North Carolina via moves and/or business deals in Wake, Bute, and Warren Counties, with connections into Orange and then Guilford Counties. If the migratory path of some of the Reeves and Burton families was south into these North Carolina counties and then west, might that describe how the two Samuels (Samuel Phips who died 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina and the older Samuel, apparently his father) migrated as well?

Even so, however, why do there appear to be no known mentions of any relevant Samuel Fips or Phips or Phipps anywhere earlier? Is there something buried in untouched records in a North Carolina county like Wake or Johnston?

Catharine (Phips) Hartman of Rowan County, North Carolina

A Rowan County, North Carolina marriage bond, dated 30 September 1843, pertains to the marriage of George W. Hartman to Catharine Phips. The bond also names David Wood[?], apparently Woodson, as security.

The federal census shows the couple in that county on 29 August 1850, listed as George W. and Catharine Hartman. According to that census, he was born about 1822 in North Carolina, and she was born about 1811 in North Carolina.

The 1862 Rowan County, North Carolina estate file of George W. Hartman lists in detail various items from his personal estate. The file refers to a year’s allowance being allotted to Catharine Hartman, his widow, on 27 February 1863. The allotment was signed by four men including a Reeves – Saml. Reeves Sr.

A little slip of paper dated 31st January 1863 was signed “Catharin hartman.” In that document, she relinquished her right to administer the estate, and asked that Caleb E. Peeler be made administrator.

Earlier, on 27 December 1862, a bond obligated Caleb E. Peeler, Daniel Peeler, and John Glover in the matter of Caleb E. Peeler serving as administrator. A similar bond is dated 2 February 1863, and obligated the same men in the same matter, except that the name of John Glover is replaced by that of John W. Fisher.

A sale of the estate was filed in the May term in 1863. Not surprisingly, the sale list refers to an individual named Reeves. This was G or Y Reeves (also Rieves), apparently G. Reeves.

Items which were sold were, for the most part, standard farm tools and equipment, with a bit of livestock. Also in evidence, however, were various carpentry tools and one auction lot of cooper’s tools.

New Article About John Fips/Phips of Lunenburg/Charlotte Counties, Virginia

We’ve discussed the estate of John Fips or Phips, who appears to have died about 1769 in Charlotte County, Virginia, in various past posts. This John was living earlier in Lunenburg County. (Part of Lunenburg County became Charlotte County in 1764, and Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick County in 1746.)

Members of this family had direct connections to Brunswick County, Virginia, Ashe and Surry Counties, North Carolina, and Lawrence County, Indiana. Other connections appear to have involved Amelia County, Virginia and the North Carolina counties of Bute (now extinct), Warren, Wake, and Orange.

Research in this area has been pioneered through the efforts of the webmaster of a website devoted to the Witcher family. This is a family which connects through the son in law of John Fips/Phips, Ephraim Witcher. Thanks to the very thorough and groundbreaking work of this researcher, now a new article in that website details the Estate of John Fips. That article includes photos of vital original documents.

Where Did the Two Samuels Come From?

A couple recent posts (see here and here) concerned Samuel Phips, who was born about 1760-1763 according to his own testimony. He died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina, on his farm which today is in Alleghany County. (Ashe County did not exist until 1799, and Alleghany County did not exist until 1859.)

The earliest known record pertaining to this Samuel is an undated (about 1782) militia list from Montgomery County, Virginia. There he is listed with an older Samuel, listed as Sr. His eventual father in law George Reeves also shows up in Montgomery County, Virginia around the same time.

Later in the same decade, beginning with 1787 in the case of Samuel Phips, both Samuel Phips and George Reeves show up in Wilkes County, North Carolina records. Then beginning with the 1800 federal census, Samuel appears in Ashe County, North Carolina records and George Reeves in adjacent Grayson County, Virginia. These two latter locations sort of criss-cross in 1811 when Samuel becomes involved in Grayson County as an heir of his father in law George Reeves.

Due to changes in boundary definitions, it appears possible that Samuel could have lived in the same place throughout this period. So where were this Samuel and the older Samuel, identified as Samuel Sr., before the approximately 1782 militia list in Montgomery County, Virginia?

A problem which immediately enters into the picture is that various maps appear to show the location of the Samuel Phips farm, where he died in 1854, as located just past the limits of organized government in the early period. Readily accessible genealogical sources are often vague about this area, and sometimes appear to contradict each other.

Samuel, at least by the time he died in 1854, was living on a hilly farm located beside a loop of the New River as it meanders back and forth across what is now recognized as the Virginia and North Carolina state line. His gravesite, which is on what had been his farm, is within walking distance of the New River.

Various past posts have detailed outlaw involvement of some members of the family. Whether that sort of activity pertained to Samuel or not is not immediately clear. Records do suggest that it applied to at least a couple of his sons and certainly to some of his grandchildren.

Was Samuel deliberately residing out past the easy reach of the law? We’ve discussed records in Virginia, perhaps most prominently in issues of the Virginia Gazette, which suggest that the large-scale Virginia stealing and counterfeiting network utilized the Watauga settlement as a location for holding stolen “merchandise.” In those day, that could include people (slaves) as well as horses. This sort of activity, appears to have been why some individuals settled in this area. Did this apply to Samuel?

Various maps on the Internet and in print show the progression of county jurisdictions in this area of, more or less, northwest North Carolina over the years during the colonial period. By 1782, around the time of the Montgomery County, Virginia militia list, some maps show northwest North Carolina as dominated by Wilkes County with, to the west of Wilkes, Sullivan County (eventually Tennessee) around the present Virginia-North Carolina line, with Washington District mostly to the south of Sullivan.

We have to say “mostly” to the south, because the northern boundary of Washington made a strange sweep to the north in such a way that a sizable chunk of Washington actually hugged the Virginia line between Wilkes County, to the east, and Sullivan County, to the west.

Do these considerations even apply to Samuel, however? Samuel was in Montgomery County, Virginia about 1782. Various genealogical and historical sources say that Montgomery County, Virginia was earlier Fincastle County, Virginia. Some confusion seemed to exist, however, over the exact nature of the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina in this area. This seems to have resulted in the odd phenomenon of a number of Phips or Phipps individuals showing up as born in North Carolina in one record, born in Virginia in another.

Some modern-day sources seem to suggest that at least part of the area where Samuel Phips was living was, for a time, not clearly a part of any county. If Sullivan County does enter into the picture, that jurisdiction appears to have created in 1779 as a part of North Carolina. Then from 1784 to 1788, it was a part of the State of Franklin, an area which has been described as extra-legal. In other words, it had no official or legal status. Although some pushed for a new state to be admitted in this area, this never occurred.

The fact that a cluster of associated surnames appear in Montgomery County, North Carolina early in the 1780s and then in Wilkes County, North Carolina later that decade suggests that the same area may have shifted its jurisdictional definition during that period. But Wilkes County didn’t exist until 1777, just maybe 5 years or so prior to the Montgomery County militia list.

When Wilkes County was formed, it was created from parts of Surry County and Washington District. Various family and circumstantial ties appear to connect Samuel Phips of (eventually) Ashe County, North Carolina with John Fips or Phips who died about 1769 in Charlotte County, Virginia. John had been earlier living in Lunenburg County, Virginia, but this probably did not indicate an actual move, since part of Lunenburg became Charlotte in 1764.

Various records connect that family with the Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties, Virginia. We know that members of this family made multiple inroads into multiple North Carolina counties. They moved into the now-extinct county of Bute (later Warren) County, North Carolina, into Wake County, into Surry County, and into Wilkes County. In addition, this family appears to connect to the Phips or Phipps family of Amelia County, Virginia, with direct ties from there into Warren and Orange Counties in North Carolina.

It may seem unlikely that a single family could have connection to all of these locations. We’ve found, however, a clearly documented tendency for various Phips or Phipps or Fips individuals, who appear to have been connected, to demonstrate a remarkable mobility.

We’ve uncovered a number of records which refer to one of these individuals in one county, but described as being “of” some other county. A surprisingly large number of records even criss-cross the Virginia-North Carolina, referring to both colonies or states in a single record as involving a single individual.

Members of the family of John Fips or Phips of Lunenburg/Charlotte Counties, Virginia came into Surry County, North Carolina and, if we can count in-laws, even into Ashe County, North Carolina. Members of the Phips or Phipps family of Brunswick and Sussex Counties in Virginia seem, again, connected to family members in Amelia County, Virginia. Family members associated with Amelia County, Virginia migrated into Bute (Warren) and Orange Counties in North Carolina.

Then we have the approximately 1768 (although 1765 has been claimed) Orange County, North Carolina Regulator petition naming James, John, and Joseph Phipps. Shortly afterward (1771) part of Orange County became Guilford County. Then in 1774, just about 3 years later, James, John, and Joseph Phipps show up in a 1774 estate record in Guilford County.

Guilford County was formed, in part, from Orange County, but also from Rowan County. Benjamin Nuckolls, writing in 1914 in Pioneer Settlers of Grayson County, said that the family of Benjamin Phipps came from Rowan County.

So, to return to the original question, where would one look for earlier records pertaining to the two men named Samuel Phips? Again, the younger died in 1854 in Ashe County, North Carolina, and the older Samuel, Samuel Sr., appears with the younger Samuel in the approximately 1782 record in Montgomery County, Virginia. Were they a part of one of the migration paths just described, or did they make their own trek into no-man’s land from some other part of Virginia or North Carolina? If so, from what part?

If they moved early into a sort of unofficial no-man’s land, the matter of where to search for records may be a moot point. They may have been living where there simply were no records. Surely if one goes back far enough, however, there must some sort of a record, somewhere, pertaining to at least Samuel Sr. in a location officially recognized. Where might that be?

According to Wikipedia, Ashe County, North Carolina, where the younger Samuel died in 1854, was considered a part of the State of Franklin in the 1780s. To ask where the records of the State of Franklin would be, appears to be a “trick question,” since it was not officially recognized. According to that same Wikipedia article, the State of Franklin consisted of three “counties,” as Wikipedia puts it. Presumably these were not officially recognized as counties per se at the time. These were Washington, Greene, and Sullivan, with Ashe considered as a part of Washington.

The Ashe area wasn’t considered to be a part of North Carolina at all until 1785, according to that same source. Even then, Ashe County didn’t yet exist as Ashe County. Presumably that would explain why Samuel Jr. appears beginning in the latter 1780s in Wilkes County. Another Wikipedia article explains that it was the northern and western regions of Wilkes County which eventually became Ashe County. That would have been in 1799, when Ashe was formed.

Following standard genealogical practice and standard genealogical references, the procedure would be to (1) look at the earliest known record pertaining to the two Samuels, which is from Montgomery County, Virginia. On that basis, one would see that Montgomery County was formed in 1777 from Fincastle County. One would then (2) look at earlier records from Fincastle County.

In the case of the two Samuels, however, that might be a waste of time. A more productive stance might be to consider earlier migrations into Surry and Wilkes County, or even earlier migrations into Bute (later Warren), Wake, and Orange Counties. (That’s not actually a bunch of different counties, because of the tremendous amount of overlap in records in addition to changing county boundary designations.)

It seems remarkably odd that only one record seems to have surfaced that clearly pertains to Samuel Sr. Could he be discussed earlier, somewhere else, as a Phelps, or as a Fibbs? Did he suddenly show up from the Caribbean, through the West Indies trade link?

Could he even have more or less sneaked into Virginia or North Carolina via a late immigration? There’s always the (so far) unsupported family legend that the immigrant killed someone of prominence in England and so fled to America. There are also persistent legends of Newport News, Virginia as the immigration point. If there was any truth to these stories, could he have already had relatives living in Virginia or North Carolina at the time of this purported immigration?

The Newport News legend could actually pertain to a known immigration.  which appears to clearly relate, through tons of circumstantial data, especially relationships with members of associated families of other surnames. That immigration was that of John Phips, the surveyor who arrived in Jamestown in 1621.

Through lots of circumstantial data, especially relationships with members of associated families of other surnames, it appears likely that the Phips or Phipps family in Brunswick, Sussex, Amelia, Lunenburg, etc. counties of Virginia likely ties back to this John Phips.

Once he reached Virginia in 1621, he would have first reached what is now referred to as the Hampton Roads area. This is the area currently dominated by Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News. John Phips would have then made his way up the James River to Jamestown.

John’s entry point into Virginia would have been right around the area of Newport News. Could this be what the family legend pertains to? Was Newport News even known as such back then?

Again, John Phips arrived in 1621. Wikipedia refers to the area of Newport News as located near the mouth of the James River. The article also says that this point was “first referred to as Newportes Newes as early as 1621.”

That was the same year in which John Phips arrived. Did he stop at “Newportes Newes” before making his way up the James River to his new home of Jamestown? Is this the basis for the family legend? And, if so, did he come to America for reasons other than to simply enter the eventually lucrative world of Virginia surveying? Was there any evidence that he could have been pushed by circumstances into making a trip across the Atlantic that he never otherwise would have made?