Copyright 1986 by John Phillips
Posted with permission from the author given March 2005
THOMAS H. PHILLIPS was bom in North Carolina, probably between 1790 and 1794. Time had obscured his origins and early years. His family probably had left Dorchester County, Maryland, about 1788 to settle on Carolina's once fertile Piedmont, that sprawling expanse just east of the Appalachians. Five of Philemon Phillips Sr's six sons-John, William, Thomas, James, and Ezekiel all had brought their families southward from Dorchester. Neighbors named Brannock, Busic, Ross, Mareign, Murray and Thompson had come, too. So did Joseph Phillips, apparently a nephew whose father was the sixth of the Phillips brothers, Philemon Jr., the one who had stayed in Maryland. And some of Joseph's brothers might have come, too.
During the Revolution, American and British armies had tramped back and forth
through the Piedmont. General Daniel Morgan had led the famous American retreat
across the Dan River. General Nathaniel Greene's Americans and Lord Comwallis'
redcoats had fought a bloody stalemate at Gilford Court House. Probably some
soldiers from Dorchester had carried home stories of Carolina's fine tobacco
crops and warm sunshine. But Americans didn't rotate their crops. Tobacco, year
in, year out, was ruining Carolina's soil, just as it had in Maryland's. In
1795 John and William Phillips sought the greener pastures of Kentucky, now
that the Indians had pledged they'd stay south of it.
Tom's father might have been John Phillips of Belew's Creek in present Forsyth
County or Joseph Phillips of Rockingham County, or one of Joseph's brothers.
Or it could have been Philemon Sr.'s son Ezekiel, who seldom tarried long anywhere.
John is the least likely to have been Tom's father - it's difficult mathematically
to fit him into the Dorchester group yet he is the only prospect known to have
named a son Thomas. On July 6, 1805, John had drawn up an unusual document:
for "natural love and affection," he had given livestock and household
items to his children, whom he identified as Daniel, Samuel, Milley, Nancy,
William and Thomas. Thomas got two yearling calves. Andrew Robinson and Roderick
Flynt witnessed the affair and Robinson had the deed registered at the courthouse.
John and his family continued to live on Belew's Creek until 1816.
In 1812, old Philemon's son Thomas headed for Kentucky, where he, wife Sally
and their family settled in dark County, within a few miles of where brothers
John and William lived in Montgomery County. They lived on land once owned by
Daniel Boone, and Thomas' son Nathan married Boone's niece.
In October 1812, someone named Thomas Phillips appeared in Superior Court records in Stokes County, North Carolina. Case 18 on the docket was Nancy Robinson v. Thomas Phillips, and clerk noted "no return on writ ipue alias." When the case came up on April 1813, the clerk noted: "alis executed and compromised. A. Robinson assumes costs. "Andrew Robinson, of course lived in Belews Creek then. (An "alias writ is a duplicate of an earlier one that had brought no results.)
Case 15 of May 1813 was Alvis Walker v. "Fermon Phillips." As no one named "Fermon Phillips" seems to reappear in any other records in that area, it would seem possible that the case involved Philemon Phillips of Guilford County, which then was adjacent to Stokes. Philemon almost certainly was closely related to Thomas H. Phillips. On October 20, 1814, the clerk noted that "Fermon Phillips was guilty of larceny for his fracas with Walker.
The only two things we know for certain about Thomas H.'s youth in Carolina
were that he never learned to write even his name and that on December 19, 1816,
he married Martha Pitts of Rowan County. (Carolinians call it "Roe- ANN"
not Ro-win" or Roe-n.") A justice of the peace, Solomon Davis, performed
the ceremony. Davis owned land on Abbotts Creek and attended Abbotts Creek Baptist
Church in present-day Davidson County, about a mile south of the present Forsyth
line. The half dozen or so families of the Pitts clan lived northward, just
into a comer of Stokes County that has since become Forsyth. So more than likely
Tom, Martha and their witness. Henry Pitts, crossed the county line southward
from old Stokes merely to find the nearest justice of the peace.
In the custom of the day, Tom and Henry signed a marriage bond. Henry scrawling
his signature and Tom his X. Such bonds were an English tradition and usually
nothing more than antiquated formalities. By signing, Tom and Henry, who probably
was Martha's young first cousin, pledged to pay the governor of the state 500
pounds if it ever turned out that the marriage had been unlawful.
Tom was probably between 22 and 26 then. Martha, was three days past her 27th
birthday. She had been bom there in Carolina December 13, 1789; she was considered
a spinster long before she married Tom. There is some evidence that, like most
Marthas, she was called "Patsy."
Solomon Davis, one of the so-called "founding justices" of Davidson County, performed marriages for no other Phillipses. But in 1818 he did perform a ceremony for Levi Pitts and Mary Salisbury. David Hendricks was bondsman for that wedding, just as he had been October 5, 1816 when a man named Aaron Phillips had married Mary Pegg up in Stokes County.
"Martha" and "Elizabeth" were favorite girls' names among
the Pittses and most of old Andrew Pitts' sons had given daughters those names.
Old Andy had settled many years before on the headwaters of Deep River, just
about where modem Forsyth abuts Guilford County. Son Samuel and daughter-in-law
Elizabeth Jones probably were the parents of the Martha who married Tom, but
Pitts descendants today are confused about which Martha was which. Sam Pitts
had died in 1812, leaving "my daughter Martha one feather bed and furniture
and one cow when married."
Starting in 1816, tax lists in Stokes County show that a man named Thomas Phillips
owned 45 acres worth $135; no deed had been recorded, though.
Across the mountains, neither the Indians nor the white men had honored their promises to keep the Ohio River between them, and, about 1818, John and Ezekiel Phillips turned up in the new county of Jefferson in the new state of Indiana, where they helped found a Methodist Church called Pisgah. John apparently was a grandson of old Philemon and a son of John and Sarah Phillips of Montgomery County, Kentucky. Ezekiel's relationship is unknown. He was past his mid-40s and apparently had started a second family with a younger wife named Margaret.
Back in Carolina that year, Tom and Martha had their own Elizabeth but she
usually was called "Betsy," then the common nickname for Elizabeth.
A year later they had a son, John Thomas. According to a descendant, John was
born "near Charlotte," but this is unsubstantiated.
In 1818, Thomas's 45 acres were still worth $135. Aaron Phillips, who lived nearby, owned 115 acres worth $150. By 1820, Tom apparently had lost or sold his 46 acres, but Aaron still had his 115.
When the federal census was taken in 1820, a Thomas Phillips and his family
were counted in Stokes, not far from where the Pitts families lived. The census
taker listed the approximate ages and sexes of those in the home and the data
seems to match Thomas H. and his family.
The county tax list that year showed that Thomas Phillips had somehow obtained 115 acres on Abbotts Creek, obviously from Aaron Phillips.
About that same year, Martha had a second daughter, Easter, whose name probably was pronounced "Esther." A second son, whose name is unknown, probably was born one to five years later.
On May 15, 1821, the Thomas Phillips in Stokes mortgaged his 115-acre farm;
he had to pay merchant Andrew Lindsay $80 by March 1, 1822 to keep the sheriff
away. Lindsey's store, just across the line into Guilford County, sold seed,
farm supplies and probably most anything else. According to the deed, Thomas
had bought Aaron's land although he hadn't registered the deed.
Apparently Phillips paid the $80, then August 7, 1822 sold the land to neighbor
John Kinnaman for $160. Lindsay, whose store was a hub of community affairs,
too, was one of the witnesses. Thomas Phillips didn't appear on the tax list
of 1823 and didn't appear thereafter.
In mid-October 1824. Ezekiel Phillips died in Jefferson County, Indiana. His
will, apparently hastily drawn, mentioned wife Margaret, sons John and Rueben
and daughters Rhoda, Polly and Lurana. The children were "all young and
unable to provide for themselves," the will said; but it didn't mention
any grown children.
And across the Ohio River in Kentucky, old William Phillips died in Montgomery County leaving a sprawling family. But brother Thomas was still ready to seek fortune further west; he pushed across the Ohio into southern Illinois, and, with sons Nimrod, Nathan and Thomas Jr., helped settle Pike County, Illinois. Thomas, a church elder, performed marriages sometimes, but mainly farmed. Nimrod operated a ferry across the Illinois River. Nathan was a doctor.
And also in 1824 a spinster named Sarah Jones died down in Stokes County. Sally,
a sister of the late Sam Pitts' wife, left a will in which she carefully distributed
her pewter plates, handkerchiefs and household items to her sisters and nieces.
She also included a bequest to a woman whose relationship, if any, was unspecified:"
... " give to Patsey Phillips my old saddle, two cotton [tablets?) ..."
By then, wagon after wagon was leaving Piedmont Carolina every day; no longer could farmers live off the land. In the Deep River area of Stokes, 21 men, including Aaron Phillips, made the county's "list of insolvents." (In the 1840s Aaron moved to Randolph
About 1826, Tom went to southern Indiana, not a surprising place to go considering
that he probably had one or more brothers and several cousins there. Even Martha
seems to have had an Uncle Andrew Pitts in Washington County.
According to Phillips tradition, Tom left his family in North Carolina and
moved to a cabin in Jennings County, just northwest of Commiskey. Great grandson
Wilbur Phillips claimed to have found the cabin years later. Some descendants
believe Tom abandoned his ,^
family in North Carolina; some believe that he merely went ahead to find or build a,cabin for Martha and the children. Whichever, she and the children either joined him later by prearranged plan, or "found" him, depending on how you interpret the story.
But Arbuckle descendants believe that the whole family made the trip together,
arriving in Jennings County in late March 1829. If this was so, then it wasn't
the family's first trip to Indiana. This wouldn't have been unusual as many
families went back east temporarily.
Martha had son Isaac about 1826; one census shows he was born in Indiana, another
in North Carolina. And about 1828, she had son Green Berry in Indiana. Then
in February 1829, she and Tom had daughter Martha. It's not clear where baby
Martha was born. But the various stories notwithstanding, Tom and wife Martha
lived together in Indiana at least about 1828, when Green Berry was born. One
unidentified son, apparently the boy born after John, died there, drowning in
a stream while he was playing or fishing.
Soon, probably in the spring of 1830, Tom and Martha split up. He and another
woman - some say his housekeeper - gathered John, about 11; Easter, about 10;
and Green Berry, about 2, into a spring wagon and headed out. No one knows what
wife Martha said or did about this. Nor can anyone explain why Tom took some
children and not others. Perhaps he and Martha agreed on the separation and
divided up the children; per- haps she didn't learn about it until after it
happened. Somewhere down the road, young John jumped from the wagon and returned
to his mother. Family stories say that Tom pleaded in vain for John to get back
into the wagon. Finally, John was left in poverty with the others; Tom had left
no good reputation behind him.
Tom is said to have been "lost" to his wife and children in Indiana,
yet subsequent events show that they knew where he was at least part of the
time. Although they might not have know it then, he and his makeshift family
were in Illinois two years, where son Annanias was born in 1830 and son Ebenezer
in 1832. Just where in Illinois the family lived is unknown: it could have been
Schuyler County or Montgomery, where families of the appropriate name and approximate
statistics lived in 1830. Or it could have been Pike County. Tom wasn't recorded
in Pike's census, but he could have been traveling that summer. Pike, after
all, was where old Phileman's son Thomas lived. Thomas Jr. was recorded in Pike
and his data approximates Thomas H.'s.
Martha was left with Betsy, about 12; John, about 11; Isaac, about 4, and baby
Martha. They were listed in the 1820 census of Jennings County. A widow named
Margaret Phillips apparently lived adjacent. She was slightly older than Martha
and probably was Ezekial's widow. A William Phillips, about the same age as
Tom, lived nearby. Just exactly where they lived, near Paris at the southern
end of the county, or near Zenas in the northeast corner, is uncertain.
On Christmas Eve 1831, Robert Smith of nearby Jefferson County saw John T. working at a store in Paris and took him home to celebrate Christmas with the Smiths. Three days later, the overseers of the poor in Jennings County signed apprenticeship papers; John grew up at the Smith home.
On January 31, 1833, Martha, then 43, and John Stagg got a marriage license
in Jennings County. On February 2, they were married by David Elliott, a justice
of the peace near Zenas in the northeast corner of the county. Stagg, who had
grown-up children, was 72. His previous wife, the former Sarah Turner, had died.
Records don't reveal if he formally adopted Elizabeth, Isaac or young Martha.
He probably didn't, but, judging by the 1840 census of Jennings, took Martha
and her family into his home. The census lists one male aged 80 to 90, one female
50 to 60, one male 10 to 15 and one female 10 to 15. John J. Stagg lived nearby.
He and the woman of the house were 20 to 30 and had no children.
Stagg had been born in Bergen County, New Jersey. In August 1776, when about
15 and living near Haverstraw, New York, he had enlisted in the army as a private.
He had served until the next January under Major Abraham UnderDunk and Captain
Van Houton, officers who are unlisted in Heitman's Register, indicating that
they probably had commanded militia units. Stagg had been marched to Peekskill,
New York, then had served out his time at Redhook Fort on Long Island.
Next he'd enlisted under Captain Bell probably in a militia company and marched about the New York City area for nine months, from Tappan to Kings Ferry to White Plains, then back to Kings Ferry and Tappan. (Kings Ferry was on the Hudson River about 25 miles north of New York City and about 12 miles south of West Point. Tappan is in Rockland County.) It was a dull tour of duty except for one thing John never forgot; when his outfit had rendezvoused with the main army at White Plains, he had seen General Washington.
A private citizen again, he'd moved back to Bergen County. About September
1780, he'd enlisted in Colonel Israel Shreve's 2nd New Jersey Regiment of the
Continental Army in time to see British Major John Andre hung October 2 as a
spy, or at least to hear enough about it to remember it the rest of his life.
Nothing much else happened this enlistment, which included a dull winter camp
in New Jersey.
Then, after the shooting had stopped, he enlisted again in 1783 under Captain
Peter Ward at Hackensack. New Jersey. The scouting parties were what John remembered
of this term. By the time he got home, he had spent a total of two years and
eight months in the army, a relatively long and relatively dull hitch. If anything,
though, he had been a persistent patriot.
After continuing to live in New Jersey and New York City, he'd moved first
to Ohio, then Indiana. In August 1832, he had applied for pension in Jennings
County under the law passed that June 7. He was 72 and it was his first pension
claim; he had not applied earlier,
when only invalids and indigents had been pensioned. He said he lived near William Hanley, David Eliot Esqr., John Walker Esqr., Wm. A. Bullock Esqr. and "John Vauter, late marshal of the district of Indiana and many others."
When pressed for names of old friends with whom he had served, he remembered
John Post, "who if still living now resided in New Jersey," and Albert
Wilson, "who if living resides in the city of New York." John signed
his document by mark. On November 23, 1832, his certificate was issued and he
was put on the pension roll retroactive to March 4, 1831. He was to get $80
a year, plus $160 in arrears. Five weeks later he had married Martha, apparently
saving her and her family from poverty.
On August 24, 1835, Betsy Phillips married John M. Arbuckle. That same year,
her father turned up in Cole County, Missouri, on the south banks of the Missouri
River near Jefferson City. Land records show that a T.H. Phillips bought land
in township 43 of range 13. Among other buyers in that township in that era
were Hugh Gartin, Abram Murith, Thomas H. Taylor, Jacob Hale, W.C. Porter, James
Thompson, Xeveryhure B. White and William Daughtery, and families named Warfield,
Merrit, Howard, Strong and Hinds.
Two other men of Tom's generation, Green B. Phillips and Moses Phillips, lived
in the county and might have been kin, considering Tom had named a son Green
Berry. That December 17, daughter Easter married Robert Reed Feaster in Cole
County. She was an extremely young bride - not much more that 15 - and probably
the youngest bride in the family. Tom seems to have gained a son, though, rather
than lost a daughter. And soon, he had gained two real daughters: Mary Jane
in 1836 and Malinda in 1838.
On August 26, 1839, Tom bought 160 acres in Greene County, Missouri, near the
town of Bois D'Arc, about 10 miles west of Springfield. He got the land from
the federal government, so he probably had lived on it three full years prior
to 1839, making payments each year. Obviously, the land was uncleared. It was
the southwest quarter of section 5 of township 29 of range 24. He cleared it
and farmed it for 13 years. Robert and Easter Feaster bought land nearby.
The 1840 census of Greene County shows Thomas aged 40 to 50. There were two boys aged 10 to 15 and one five to 10. There were three females, one aged 40 to 50, one five to 10 and one under five. Robert and Easter lived adjacent. The 1843 personal tax list of Greene County shows Thomas H. Phillips and Robert Feaster.
Back in Indiana, John Stagg died July 9, 1846, and Martha surrendered his pension
certificate. His will left everything to her. That December 31, daughter Martha
married Alexander H. Arbuckle, her brother-in-law's brother. That left only
son Isaac at home, although there is some indication that Sarah Stagg lived
there, too. Sarah apparently was one of John's children by a former marriage.
Martha sold her late husband's land March 19, 1849 to his grown son John for
$100. In 1850, she lived with Isaac adjacent to married daughters Martha and
Elizabeth. That summer the census taker visited Bois D'Arc and recorded his
glimpse into Tom's home. Tom's age was given as 56, Green Berry, Annanias, Ebenezer,
young Mary, Malinda and Amos all lived at home. Tom's wife was named Mary; she
had been born in North Carolina about 1796. We don't know, though, that she
had left Indiana with Tom.
On October 25, 1852, Tom had his will drawn. He was 58 to 62 then, and sons
Green Berry, Annanias and Ebenezer were married or nearly so. The will read:
I Thomas H. Phillips of the County of Greene and State of Missouri do make
and publish form following that is to say First it is my will that my funeral
expenses and all my just debts be fully paid. Second I devise and bequeath to
my beloved wife Mary Phillips in lieu of her dower the plantation on which we
now reside Situate and being the West half of the south west quarter of section
five in town ship Twenty nine of Range 24 west. also the South east quarter
of the north quarter of the above named second also all my Horses Cattle sheep
hogs and all my farming tols wheat fan and every thing on or belonging to the
farm nothing Excluded. During her natchural life or widow hood then at her death
or marriag to be sold and divided amonst my children. and lastly I hereby constitute
and appoint my sons Greenberry Phillips and Annanias Phillips to be the Executors
to this my last will and testiment annulling all former wills by me made and
ratifying and confirming this and no other in testimony whereof I have here
unto set my hand and seal this the 25 day of October in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two signed published and delivered by the
above named thomas H. Phillips as his last will and testament In presants of
us at his request have signed as witnesses in the same.
Thomas H Phillips
Grantham and West were neighbors, and Grantham's daughter eventually married Green Berry. West had been born about 1807 in Tennessee and had remained there till about 1840. Grantham, who was a justice of the peace for a time, had been born about 1798 in North Carolina then had lived in Washington County, Indiana. Judging by the handwriting, he wrote the will for Tom; the spelling and punctuation probably were his.
Tom's provisions were fairly standard: he left everything to his wife but protected their children's interest should she remarry. This was all well and good, but on August 23, 1853, Tom and Mary sold most of the land to Hugh Middleton for $1,000. They kept only "eight square rods to include a certain spring on the south boundary line of the half of said quarter." Son Annanias and R.B. Wilson witnessed the deal, which was recorded in Springfield that September 5. Then Tom and Mary moved to nearby Barry County, not far from where Joplin is.
Back in Indiana, Martha Stagg had gotten a copy of her marriage documents from William P. Shields, the clerk in Vernon, on February 3. Her generation was growing old and more and more time would be spent in court. On March 3, 1853, she had affidavits drawn in Vernon, showing where she lived and where her late husband had drawn his pension. Her pension as a widow of a Revolutionary War soldier finally was granted March 22,-1853.
On March 22, 1854, she reiterated most of the information, named Oliphalet Pastor of Cincinnati her pension attorney and asked that she get her checks at Madison, Ezekiel Lewis and Samuel Arbuckle swore a corroborating document. On June 24, 1854, she swore other similar documents and Ezekiel Lewis and Obabiah W. Dolen vouched for her.
It was in Barry County that Tom died, apparently in the spring of 1854. His
gravesite is unknown. Grantham and West proved the will in Barry County June
9, 1854. They might not have rushed it to court, though, judging from the ensuing
lawsuits, which lasted at least five
years. Moreover, they apparently still lived in Greene County. Barry County's records have not worn well with time. Many have faded and presumably some are missing. And they weren't very good to start with. Frontier courts often left sketchy records; perhaps the judges and lawyers talked too fast for the clerks. The records that have been found concerning Tom's estate could be interpreted many ways. The handwriting is often as confusing as the legalities the clerk was trying to record, making it difficult today for us to tell just what was going on. Besides this overall muddle, there are two major gaps in the records: we don't know if Tom owned land when he died and the court seems to have forgotten about young Amos Phillips. It was obvious that the will was outdated: Tom had sold the farm in Greene County.
Then widow Mary, Green Berry and Annanias were accused of selling estate property before the inventory or for keeping money belonging to the estate. One suit involved Annanias Phillips, Robert Feaster, Easter Feaster, Isan Williams, William A: Medlin and Polly A. Medlin, but the records never explained who the Medlins were.
On July 15, 1854, someone got a court order telling "Greenbury and Annias Phillips, Executors of the last will and Testament of Thomas H. Philips deceased, you are hereby notified to take out letters of administration upon said will with 30 days following this date, or letters of administration will be presented to some other suitible |?| person after that time ..." There is a postscript on the bottom of the document that seems to read: This is the notice I want you to return to the court."
On July 25, 1854, Robert Feaster swore the following document before Gideon Jackson, a justice of the peace: "I Robert R. Feaster, do hereby certify that I did serve the within notice on Greenberry Phillips by delivering to him on the 19th day of July 1854 a true copy of this within notice and on Annias Phillips on the same day & year by reading the same in the hearing of the said Annias Phillips and delivering to him a true copy of the same." Feaster signed his name somewhat clumsily. (He had read the document to Annanias because Annanias was illiterate.)
Another document, totally undated and apparently written on a small sheet of
We the executors of Thomas Phillipses will do here by Relinquish our Right of executorship and appoint John Smith executor to said.
[signed) G.B. Phillips
On August 1854, John Smith told the court in Barry that Tom "had died
with a will" and that widow Mary, Easter Feaster, Mary J. Phillips, Malinda
Phillips and Amos Phillips of Greene County and Annanias Phillips of Lawrence
County were Tom's heirs. Much of the document is illegible, but when Smith left
the courtroom he was the estate administrator. William Owen and A.B. Brown were
his suretors. The court appointed three men to appraise the estate: William
Johnson, John Medlen and W.O. Medlen. Each swore they were not kin to Tom and
had no interest in his estate. On August 12, 1854, they filed their appraisal:
Sorrel Mare 100.00
Bay Horse 85.00
Red Cow 18.00
Pided (piehald?) cow & calf & bell 20.00
White Heifer 6.00
3 Head of Sheep and Bell|?] 6.75
Cuting knife & Box 1.50
Two Horse|illegiblej 35.00
1 Wheat Fan, 22.50
1 Set Black Smith tools, 30.00
1 Crop Casebow |?), 3.00
1 Broad Ax, 3.00
1 Sythe & -dle, 1.50
1 -adax (handax?), .75
1 Saw --awing knit square (?), 6.00(?)
3 Augers 1 Chissel, 5.00
1 T-|?l, .50
1 [word illegible) plane (?), .25
1 Plough, .50
1 Belt|? | & C-lton|?|, (illegible)
1 Diamond Plough, 1.50|?|
1 Plough, .50
1 Grind stone.25
1 Set|?| of Harrup|?| & Gra, 7.00|?|
Total at this point - 427.50
1 pr of Chains & Back Band, .30
1 Blind Bridal,.35
1 Saddle Bridal & Martingale, 6.00
1 Hhd(?|, .50
1 Riffle Gun, 8.00
1 pr Steelyards, 4.00
1 Bed Stead, 3.00
2 Singletree & clevices, 1.00
1 Heos (hoses, hoes?), .30
Final Total - $442.50
A steelyard is a balance-type scales. A singletree, also called a whiffletree, is the pivoted swinging bar to which the traces of a harness are fastened. A clevice is a metal shackle used to join various parts.
Also filed that day was an "inventory of the books, papers, moneys & evidences of debts." That list:
Money on hand $6.77
Money was on hand and that Mrs. Phillips used 100.00
Money that was on hand at Mr. Phillips deeds and taken by Mr. I.. Nickols on the 9th of July for safe keeping, by Mrs. Phillips request (as stated by Mrs. P. 15|?| Gold Piece 300.00
Much of the estate was sold September 4, 1854. Smith made the following tally,
which is faded, difficult to read and subject to various interpretations:
Mary Jane Phillips, 1 Sorrel Mare, $95.00
Malinda Phillips, 1 Bay horse, 75.00
Amos T. Phillips, 1 Bay Colt, 45.00
Wm P. Hemphill, 1 old Bay Horse, 21.00
Annanias Phillips, 1 Red Cow, 15.25
Greenberry Phillips, 1| illegible | Cow & Calf, $20.00
Ebonezar Philips, |yolk of stears?)- --|?|, 24.00
Ebonezar Phillips, 1 White Heifer, 6.50
Wm S.|?| Mason, 3 Head of Sheep & Bell. 3.12
Ebonezer Phillips, 1 Bell &. Collar, .50
Jno Medlin, 1 Cutting Knife & B--|?|, 1.12
Jno |? | Rhoades |?|, 1 Wagon, 25.00
Stephen S. Wiles [?|, Wheat Fan, 15.50
Levi H. Smith, 1 Set Blacksmith Tools, 30.50
Jno Waid |?|, 1 Cross cut Saw, 4.60
(name illegible), 1 Broad Ax, 2.50
Jno Wise |?1, 1 Sythe & Cradle 1?|, 1.30
John [?1 Wilks |?|, 1 Mattock, .75
Wm r?1, 1 Saw drawing Knife | illegible), 2,25
Wm G- |?|, Three augers & 1 chissle, 1.00
Wm Waid, 1 Fa-(?|, .65
Annanias Phillips, 1 Plain f?1 & (chisel ?], .25
Ebonezar Phillips, 2 - & B-|?|
Annanias |?| Phillips, 1 Lot -- |?|
[illegiblel Barker |?|, 1 Ball Tongues [illegible)
| illegible | Thomas, 1 R- & C |?|
Franklin Gibson, 1 Diamond Plough, 1.05
WilleamWaid, [illegible), 1,75
Franklin Gibson, 1 set |?| H |?|, 6.00
R. R. Feaster, 1 pr Chains & Backhand, .75
Wm Waid, 1 Blind Bridal, .65
Wm P. Hemphill, 1 Saddle & Bridal, 5.25
A total of $409.95 was carried over to a second sheet. On that second sheet:
J. M. Wilks (or I. M. Wilks), 1 Hhd, 1.05
R. R. Feaster, 1 Rifle Gun $7
Mrs. Mary Phillips, Steelyards, 62 1/2 cents
Wm Waid, 1 pr Bed Steads, $4.75
Jno Medlin, 2 single trees & Clivises, 1.00
Ebonezar Phillips, 1 Lug pole |?|, 1.50
R.R. Feaster. 1 Heos, .62 1/2
This list was recorded September 22, 1854 and signed by John Smith, who elsewhere
on the document is identified as estate administrator. The total is illegible,
but, judging from the amount brought forward and the subsequent items sold,
the total proceeds should have been about $426.98.
In December the court noted that Smith got a summons for "Sarah Phillips,"
whom he said improperly held money and property belonging to the estate. In
February 1855, Annanias Phillips sued the estate. Another notation in the file
shows that Annanias, Mary and Green Berry were defendants in a suit. In March
1855, it turned out that there was no "Sarah Phillips"; it was an
error and widow Mary Phillips should have been summoned. So Smith amplified
his allegations: Mary, Annanias and Green Berry had concealed property, cash
and notes worth $230, he said. He asked for, and got, an attachment against
Mary, to be served to her by the sheriff
over in Greene County, where she was living. Finally that March 7, Tom's will, the one transcribed above, was "confirmed" and admitted to probate. Then Annanias, Green Berry and Ebenezer got the court to revoke Smith's letters of administration. The public administrator, James M. Barker, was granted letters of administration and Smith was ordered to "deliver all papers, moneys and effects in his hands and belonging to the estate."
In Indiana, Martha Stagg found herself in legal redtape, too. On April 3, 1855,
she applied for bounty land under the new law of March 3. Appearing before Adam
Brower, a justice of the peace in Jennings County, she said she was 66, that
she was collecting $80 a year as the widow of a Revolutionary War soldier, and
she hadn't remarried. Samuel Arbuckle and Reason Redman witnessed her mark and
vouched for her. Arbuckle marked, too.
On October 18, 1855, the Department of Interior's pension commissioner issued
certificate 8166, entitling Martha to 160 acres of federal land. On October
31, she sold the certificate to George Friers of Cincinnati. She handled the
sale in Jennings, apparently by signing the back of the certificate and having
the transaction notarized. Perhaps she was merely following her Cincinnati lawyer's
instructions and mailed the document to him so that he could pass it to Fries.
No sale price was noted. On November 25, 1855, Barker filed another inventory
with the Barry Court. It reveals that most of Tom's personal property had been
exchanged for promissory notes.
Inventory of the papers and evidence of debt of the Estate of Thomas H. Philips
deed, place in my hand as administrator (word illegible) of said Estate,
Malinday Phillips note $75.00
Mary Jane Phillips note 95.00
E Philips note32.70
William Wade note 6.05
Robert R. Feaster note 8.40
Annias Philips note 16.70
John Roads note 29.30
Amos P. Philips note 45.00
Greenbury Philips note 20.00
Franklin Gibson note 7.50|?|
W.P. Hemphill -
Money on hand - - -
There appear to be some fractional cents involved but there seems to be no
way to add the notes up and reach exactly $353.02.
On December 12, 1855, George Fries used Martha's certificate at the land office at Fort Dodge, Kansas, to obtain 160 acres in section 12 of township 91 north of range 19 West.
Martha died July 2, 1856. She was buried with Stagg at Hopewell Methodist Cemetery'
one mile north of Commiskey. Their stones were in reasonably good shape into
the 1980s, easily findable on the first row to the far left. Residents say that
in Martha's day there was a Methodist Church adjacent to the cemetery. A Bible
owned by one of Martha's descendants contains family data and has been copied
and recopied several times over. One copy of these Bible records lists Martha's
date of death as July 2, 1874.
Although many riddles could be solved had Martha lived that long, the Bible
record apparently has been miscopied. The public library in North Vemon has
transcriptions of tombstone inscriptions throughout Jennings County and that
compilation gives Martha's year of death as 1856; in 1971 I read the actual
tombstone inscription as 1856. After the transcription of the Bible record surfaced,
Myron Phillips of Deputy, Indiana, examined the stone and agreed that it is
inscribed 1856. Copies of pension records provided by the national Archives
do not show when Martha's pension ended; presumably a more thorough examination
of pensions records would verify the 1856 date of death.
Most Phillips descendants had forgotten Martha until the late 1770's when details
of her remarriage were pieced together. Some Arbuckle descendants remembered
her and have speculated that she and Stagg might have been Sarah Stagg's parents.
Few details are known about Sarah. A document dated 1850 in the pension files
shows that Sarah Sloat, widow of Philip Sloat, was "the only surviving
daughter and heir at law of John Stagg and that she was also the legal heir
of Paul Stagg, relationship not shown."
Back in Missouri, the probate dragged on into 1856, the lawyers obviously enjoying
it. As if Easter Feaster didn't have enough troubles, her husband died that
year and her estate went to probate, too. John Smith administered that, too,
and sold several lots from the estate, indicating that perhaps he had represented
Easter's interest in Tom's probate fiasco.
In May 1857, the court ordered Barker to pay Mary the proceeds from the sale of the estate's personal property. One year later, the administrator filed his final settlement, a "liability of $520.20," and the court told him to "pay said amount in equal parts to Martha Philips and Mary Phillips and the children of Thomas H. Phillips. On May 18, 1858, Malinda and Amos Phillips, "minor heirs of Thomas H.," went before the court over in Greene County and chose Lindsay Nichols as their guardian. This didn't necessarily mean that Mary lost custody of the children. Old-time courts, in those days when women had few rights, usually tried to make sure fatherless children had an adult male looking out for their interests. Lindsay seems to have been a justice of the peace for a time. He had been born about 1822 in Tennessee.
On May 1, 1859, Mary was back in court in Barry County to get Barker to give her the money that he'd been ordered to give her two years before. Finally, the next day, all sides agreed on a settlement and , looking back from 130 years later, it was a surprising settlement indeed:
"It is agreed between the administrator of the said estate and Mary Phillips
who claims under the will of said Phillips that said adm make his settlement
at the May term of said court for the year 1858 & said estate be equally
divided between Martha Phillips and said Mary Phillips and the children of said
Thomas H. Phillips whose names are John Phillips, Isaac Phillips, Elizabeth
Arbuckle, Martha Arbuckle, Easter Feaster. Green Berry Phillips, Annanius Phillips,
Ehenezer Phillips, Mary Phillips and Malinda Phillips in eaqual portions and
that the of the suit (as it reads contesting the validity of (word illegible)
will be paid out of the estate.
By B.L. Hendrick her att.
J.M. Barker for others [?]
Obviously the settlement left many questions: Who besides the former Martha
Pitts could have been "Martha Phillips"? Why wasn't she referred to
as "Martha Stagg"? Did the court know she had died? Would it have
mattered? Why could she have expected to share in her late ex-husband's estate,
especially if she'd remarried? Did Tom's children in Indiana split their deceased
mother's share, too, and get more than those in Missouri? Or perhaps had Tom
married another woman named Martha before he married Mary? And who intervened,
who told the judge about Tom's children in Indiana?
In 1860 the census taker recorded the following household in Center township
of Greene County; Mary Phillips, 62; Amos, 16; N. Mason, 25; Malinda Mason,
22; and Buchanan Mason, two months. "N Mason" was Nathaniel Mason,
Malinda's new husband. He and Amos gave their occupations as farmers.
In an oddity, Washington Arbuckle, one of Tom's grandsons from Indiana, lived
in Flat Creek township of Barry County in 1900 with his family. He returned
to Indiana. In what probably was a coincidence, James Wendell Phillips, a great
grandson of Tom moved to Joplin, Missouri about 1916. Some of his descendants
live in or near Aurora, as do some of Tom's.
In the late 1970's, John Stagg's name was among those engraved on a plaque
affixed to the courthouse in Vernon, Indiana, to honor the county's Revolutionary
War veterans (Descendants of John T Phillips will note also that their apparent
ancestor Michael Courtney is likewise honored on the plaque.) A list of children
bom to Tom and Martha; Elizabeth in 1817, John T. in 1819, Easter about 1820,
a son who died young, Isaac in 1826, Green Berry in 1828 and Martha in 1829.
Those children born to Tom after leaving Martha: Annanias in 1830, Ebenezer in 1832, Mary Jane in 1836, Malinda in 1838 and perhaps Amos in 1844. Elisabeth, John, Martha and Isaac grew up in Indiana, the others in Missouri.
The U.S. Geological Survey map made in 1956 and revised in 1975 shows that
to reach Tom's old farm in Greene County you would: Drive east on route 160
to downtown Ash Grove. In the center of town, turn right and go due south across
the railroad tracks and out of town. After three and one-half miles, look to
your left. Tom's land, which doesn't run flush up the road, would start a few
hundred feet away from the road. About this time you'll cross a stream called
Branch." Continue about three-fourth of a mile along this same road, until it turns sharply to your left and goes east towards Bois D'Arc. You may see signs for Stony Point Church or Scott Spring. Follow The road to your left and after a few hundred yards you'll see a road going off to your right (it goes to Johns Chapel Church). Do not turn on this road. This road marks the beginning of Tom's front footage on the main road. In other words, Tom's land begins on your left, just as you see the road on the right. (The road to Johns Chapel follows the section line, in other words ; the road out of Ash Grove was off a bit from the section line). The 1956 map shows that Tom's land would begin where the trees begin. In other words, as of 1956, Tom's land begins where some farmer had left a stand of trees as a windbreak. Of course this might have changed by now. Continue east on the same road (the one out of Ash Grove) until you see a paved road going off to the right.
Pass this road and continue on a very short way, perhaps only 100 feet, and you should see a dirt road going off to the left. Perhaps this was the road to Tom's house. The 1956 map shows two dwellings on this property, one not far up the dirt road on the right, and another at the end of the dirt road several hundred yards off. Tom's land continues to front the main road to Bois D'Ark for another hundred yards.
Bois D'Ark was Tom's post office. If he went to church, he probably went to
Johns Chapel, which is just one-half miles south of the road you were on. Tom's
son Ebenezer and his family are buried at Johns Chapel. If you had time, you
might want to look for Ebenezer's grave, which might have a Union War Veteran's
marker on it.
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