Search billions of records on

Notes for John Thomas Phillips:

February 5, 1819 - John Thomas Phillips born in NC

1820 census Stokes Co., NC
Thomas Phillips 100010-10010
1 male 26-45 (Thomas, age 26)
1 male under 10 (John Thomas, age 1)
1 female 26-45 (Martha Pitts, age 26-30)
1 female under 10 (Betsy, age 3)

About 1827 - the family moved from North Carolina to Indiana

About 1829 - John Thomas' father Thomas left his mother Martha with woman Mary (later married?) and also took Betsy's siblings Easter & Greenberry with him.

1830 census

1831 - Robert "Robin" Smith signs John Thomas on as an apprentice and agrees to raise him.

1833 - John Thomas' mother Martha remarried John Stagg


October 20, 1842 - John T. married Emeline Courtney in Jefferson Co., IN

1850 census Jennings, Scott Co., IN Household #74 page 196
John T. Phillips, age 31, farmer, b. NC
Emiline, age 25, b. IN
James H., age 7, b. IN
William R., age 5, b. IN
John A., age 3, b., IN

1860 census Jennings, Scott Co., IN page 1071 Household 1181/1147
John T. Phillips, age 41, farmer, b. NC
Emeline, age 35, b. IN
James H., age 17, b. IN
William R., age 15, b. IN
John A., age 13, b. IN
George A., age 8, b. IN

1870 census Johnson, Scott Co., IN Household 504/502
John Redman, age 16, works on farm, b. IN
John T. Philips, age 51, farmer, b. NC
Emaline Redman, age 45, keeping house, b. IN
John Philips, age 22, works on farm, b. IN
George Philips, age 17, works on farm, b. IN
Mary Philips, age 3, b. IN

1880 census Johnson, Scott Co., IN
John T. PHILLIPPS Self M Male W 61 NC Laborer NC NC
Emeline PHILLIPPS Wife M Female W 55 IN Keeping House VA VA
Mary PHILLIPPS Dau S Female W 13 IN NC IN
Amanda COONEY Other S Female W 21 IN Servant NC IN

Excerpts from Phillips Family book written by John Phillips 1986 & Ken & Lucille Phillips 1994:

JOHN THOMAS PHILLIPS was born in North Carolina February 5, 1819 According to grandson Wilbur Phillips, John was born near Charlotte, although just how close seems to be a matter of confusion. John moved west with his parents when he was about seven years old and grew up near Deputy in Jefferson County, Indiana. He often signed his name "John T. Phillips," probably so he wouldn't be confused with Brannock Phillips' brother John, who lived nearby, or the two or three other John Phillipses in the area. John T.'s grandson Wilbur Phillips recorded that the T stood for Thomas but there's no other documentation of this. John seems never to have used his middle name, perhaps because his father was not revered by Indiana descendants. John T's grandson Ray Phillips remembers being called "John-Tom" occasionally as a boy, making one wonder if that might not have been John T.'s southern-style nickname. About 1830, John's parents split up. According to family tradition, Tom loaded John and two daughters into a wagon and headed west. Wife Martha, baby Martha and young Betsy and Isaac were left behind. Somewhere down the road, according to the family story, Tom rendezvoused with "the other woman," causing John to realize that this was no mere trip to town; he jumped from the wagon, saying, "No, I am staying with mother and the baby." Tom is said to have pleaded in vain; John went home to his mother. The story is at least partially inaccurate. Tom took son Green Berry with him and seems only to have taken one daughter, Easter. Details notwithstanding, 12-year-old John made a decision that made Hoosiers instead of Missourians out of dozens of descendants. But his mother, Martha, was unable to provide for her family; John is said to have worked in a general store in Old Paris, where he ran errands, did odd jobs, ate crackers instead of meals and slept on burlap sacks near a stove. No one remembers who owned the store. Brannock Phillips owned one in Old Paris about that time, although it might be unfair to infer that he owned the store John slept in. John and Brannock could have been no closer than first cousins, and, if the matter of neglect arises, we are left to wonder why Philemon Phillips or William Phillips didn't help John; they likely were his uncles.

One Christmas Eve, probably in 1831, a 41-year-old Kentucky-born farmer named Robert Smith rode into Paris to buy presents for his wife, daughters and young son. Smith, who was known as "Robin," lived south of town in Jefferson County. After Smith returned home, he mentioned to his wife that he had seen a poor boy in town who would have no Christmas. Mrs. Smith insisted that Robin return to town to fetch the boy. Robin did. Among the land deeds filed in Jennings County is an apprenticeship document dated two days after Christmas in 1831. Through this document, the wardens of the poor in Jennings County bound John T. Phillips to Smith. The papers noted that Thomas Phillips was not providing for his son, but made no mention of mother Martha. No one except the wardens of the poor consented. Smith agreed to raise John, to see that he learned to read, write and cypher as "far as the single rule of three," and to give John, on his 21st birthday, a new Bible, a suit of clothes and a horse worth $30. The clerk's copy of the document is on file at the courthouse in Vemon (and is reproduced herein), but some of John's descendants think a relative might have had the original document well into the 1900s. The text of the document, a masterpiece of frontier gobbledegook:

"This indenture made this 27th December one thousand eight hundred and thirty one. Between Dennis Wiley and James S Smith overseers of the poor of Montgomery Township Jennings County Indiana of the one and Robert Smith of Graham Township Jefferson County Ina, of the other part. Witnesseth that the said overseers of the poor have and by these presents do place and bind out John Phillips a poor boy aged 12 years 5 months and 23 days son of Thomas Phillips who has neglected or unable to support his son, as an apprentice to the said Robert Smith to be taught the art of trade mistery & occupation of a Farmer which the said Robert Smith now used to live with and serve him as an apprentice for the term of eight years six months and eight days from the date of these presents that is to say until he the said apprentice arives to and be of the age of twenty one years which the said overseers are informed and believe will hapen on the fourth day of July one thousand eight hundred and forty if the said John Phillips so long lives and the said overseers do by these presents give unto him the said Robert Smith all the authority power and rights to and over the said John Phillips and his service during his said Term which by the laws of this State a — Master hath to and over a lawfully and Indentured apprentice and the said Robert Smith on his part in consideration there of doth promise covenant and agree to & with the said overseers and each of them their and each of their successors, for the time being and with the said poor boy each by himself — respectfully to teach and instruct the said John Phillips as his apprentice or otherwise cause him to be well and sufficiently instructed and taught in the art [some scratching out] Mistry trade and occupation of a Farmer after the best way and manner that he can and to teach and instruct him the said apprentice of cause him to be taught and instructed to read write and Cypher so far as the single Rule of three and also to learn the habits of obedience industry and Morality and provide for and allow to him meat drink washing lodging and appearal for summer and winter and all other necessaries proper for such an apprentice — during the time of service as aforesaid and at the Exieration thereof shall give to the said apprentice a new bible a good suit ofCasinett clothes and ahorse worth thirty dollars In witness where of the said parties have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and
year first above written Denis Willey (seal} and James S Smith (seal) Robert Smith (seal)

Dennis Willey, a preacher who ran a slaughterhouse six days a week in Old Paris, knew Brannock Phillips well enough to have been partners with him in a land deal. John's tombstone, of course, shows that he wasn't bom on the Fourth of July. It seems likely he had remained at the Smith home while Robin went to Vernon to tackle the legalities. Robin probably forgot to ask John his birthday. Lacking a specific day, it would seem that someone fastened on the next best thing, the national birthday. Robin and Eleanor Smith had been born in Kentucky, Robin in 1789 and "Nellie" about the same year. Perhaps they were the Robert Smith and Elizabeth Lockhard who had
been married in Clark Co, Indiana, April 12, 1823, but that seems unlikely. Robert's sister Margaret had married Steven Stewart, which wasn't important to John then but would become so years later. Besides Robin and Nellie, John's new family included youngsters named Minerva, Elzina (about 9), Evelyn (about 8) and Milton (about 4). Robin seems to have had some dealing with Brannock Phillips in October 1826. When Brannock was made administrator of Nathaniel Hutchion's estate, a Robert Smith and Samuel Harrod did the appraisal. Robert McClanahan, who had witnessed Ezekiel Phillips' will, was surely with William Wilson, Wilson had married Brannock's sister Mary.

Strange as it seems, John and the Christmas Eve that changed his life became matters of national note many tears later, simply because rural Jefferson County became a hothouse of literature. (The county's most famous author, David Graham Philtips, wrote, among many other novels, "Susan Lenox: Her fall and rise," but is best remembered as the muckraking journalist who wrote "The Treason of the Senate." Graham Phillips' grandfather Robert Phillips had lived in Jessamine County, Kentucky, when Brannock Phillips and his parents had lived there, but it's questionable if the families were related.) One of Louise Smith's daughters, Eleanore Hoyt Brainerd, became a relatively well- known writer of the 1910s. In 1914, the Saturday Evening Post serialized her stories about life in rural Indiana. Then in 1919, Doubleday published the stories in book form as "Our Little old Lady." The last chapter was titled, "The Christmas Gift," and tells how a poor orphan boy found a home one snowy Christmas Eve. The book isn't without its fictional aspects, making it difficult to sort fact from poetic license. In that final chapter Robin tells Nellie ""When I went into the store he was there, sitting on a soapbox in a corner — the thinnest raggedest, dirtiest little scrap of a fellow, with big miserable eyes in a white face. Belden from down Morris way, had brought him — taking him up to the poorhouse at Madison, but his horse went lame . . . the boy was to sleep alone in the back of the store. Seems he'd been living with his mother in a little woodsman's cabin since his father ran away and left them last year . . . they starved along until she got pneumonia and died Saturday." Nellie responds: "Robin King . . . Go get that boy for me. Go get him at once. . ." The book uses the surname "King" instead of Smith and gives the "gift's" age as five. John T., of coarse, was about 12. And the boy's mother had not died.
The author quotes her mother, Louise, as saying: "we live in a big red brick house beside the state road; all the travel between Louisville and Indianapolis went that way. There wasn't a railroad, you know, and most of the travelers rode, unless they were movers or peddlers with wagons. ... A great deal of the world went by us — and most of it stopped with us. Everybody knew our house and knew that Uncle Robin Smith never refused lodging and food to a traveler, and, if travelers didn't know, someone was sure to tell them." Little else is known for certain about the rest of John's already-eventful childhood. He did learn to read and write, which put him one-up on Tom. About 1834 the Smiths had another daughter, Julia Ann, and they probably had Louise not long after. With such a predominantly female family, Robin must have welcomed having an extra farmhand such as John. But according to Phillips family tradition, Robin and Nellie raised John as a son and some of the Smith daughters grew up thinking he was their brother. The Smith home is said to have been on the "underground railroad."

Note from Kari: There is a great deal more in the Phillips book about this family. I am condensing it into a few notes

John went to visit his father sometime between 1840-1842. According to family story they were cool to him, and he never went back. John married Emeline Courtney, daughter of Archie Courtney, on Oct 20, 1842. John & Emeline were fervent Methodists. They probably were not tall, as two of their sons were 5'6". Sometime in the 1840's the family moved to Scott Co., IN. They are in Scott Co., on the 1850 census, and bought land there in 1854. His mother died in 1856 and he bought more land at that time. They are in Scott Co in 1860, 1870