Select Phillips Miscellany

Here are some Phillips stories and accounts over the years:

The Phillips Name in England

According to Charles Bardsley’s 1901 book Directory of English and Welsh Surnames, Philip was first seen in France, being a name born by five kings of France, and was brought from France to England sometime in the 12th century.  Henry Phelipe, noted in the 1273 hundred rolls of Norfolk, was one of the earliest recorded bearers of the surname in England with a "Ph" spelling. 

For patriotic reasons, because of the rivalry with Spain, Philip ceased to be a popular given name in England at the time of Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada.

Early Phillips in Redruth

Agnes Philipp
daughter of Thomas Philipp
Michel Philipp
married to Katerine Robins
John Philipp
son of Michel Philipp
Julian Philip
son of Joan Philip
Elizabeth Philip 
daughter of William Philip
Jane Philip

The first spelling as Phillips did not appear until 1658.

Sir Thomas Philipps of Picton Castle

Sir Thomas Philipps was the forebear of the powerful Philipps family of Picton Castle which held sway over Pembrokeshire during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 

His grandfather was said to have been Meredith Philipps of Clisant, his father Phillip Philipps.  This Cilsant family which had extensive lands in West Carmarthenshire was descended from a late 11th century lord of Blaen Cych named Cadifor Fawr.  Cadifor's great grandson Aaron ap Rhys took part in the Third Crusade and became a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher.  He is said to have added the golden collar and chain to the back of the lion rampart insignia of the Philipps family. 

However, other records have suggested different ancestors.  Instead these Philipps may have come from Kent and migrated west to Somerset by the 1460’s. 

Thomas Philipp was born around 1465 and in 1491 married Joan Owen, heiress of the Wogan line, and thereby inherited Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire.  He rose to power and influence under Henry VII.  He was knighted in 1513 and became Sheriff of Pembrokeshire in 1516

William Phillips - Three Wives, One Mistress, and A Dog

His father Thomas Phillips claimed an exotic heritage, the son of a Gaelic chieftain who had died at Culloden - a tall story indeed.  He prospered as a gin distiller and pub owner in London.  William the eldest son, born in Southwark in 1752, built upon this family inheritance through some shrewd property investments.  He died a rich man. 

William had three wives and at least one mistress.  He married his first wife Frances at St. Marylebone in 1777.  They had three children, the last of them being born in 1781.  Somewhere along the line he acquired a mistress, either while his first wife was still alive or as a widower.  They had a son named John, born in 1785.  In 1797 William married again to Elizabeth, a widow, but this marriage proved short-lived as she died within the year. 

William remained unmarried until 1815 when he wed Mary Jane Abbiss, the daughter of a rich widow.  This widow had died two years earlier, in which she named her brother and William Phillips as guardians of her two children – including Mary Jane who was just fifteen when the will was written.  Could she ever have imagined that Mary Jane would have ended up marrying her whose own children were ten to fifteen years older than Mary Jane.  She gave him two children.  And he was in his sixties then! 

A story often told about William was his rescue by a dog when he was about to drown.  One account went as follows:

“While bathing at Portsmouth Mr. William Phillips ventured out too far and was in imminent peril. Two boatmen, instead of starting off to assist him, selfishly strove to make a hard bargain with some of the bystanders who were urging them. While the parley was going on a Newfoundland dog, seeing the danger, plunged into the water and saved the struggling swimmer.

It is pleasantly told that Mr. Phillips, in gratitude for his deliverance, bought the dog from his owner and thereafter gave an annual festival at which the dog was assigned the place of honor with a good ration of beefsteaks. He had a picture of the dog painted by Morland and engraved by Bartolozzi and the image of the dog put on all his table linen."

Phillips Farmers in Pennsylvania and Indiana

The Quaker George Phillips from Cheshire in England was an early arrival in Pennsylvania, disembarking on the Delaware river from the Endeavor of London in early 1683.  By 1700 he had made his home near the Welsh Quaker settlement of Gwynedd.  He and his wife Patience later moved to Richland in Bucks county where they were among the area’s earliest settlers. 

These Phillips were farmers and over time migrated westward.   They moved to Stokes county, North Carolina around 1790 and then in the 1820’s to Indiana – first to Wayne county and later to the rolling pastures of Hendricks county in central Indiana.

Jonas Phillips and His Offspring

Jonas Phillips, the son of Aaron Phillips, was said to have been born in Frankfort, Germany in 1736.  At the age of twenty, he was on a ship to America, first to the Jewish community in Charleston, South Carolina and later to Philadelphia where he was a merchant and fought on the patriot side in the Revolutionary War.  He died in Philadelphia in 1803.

Many of his offspring were to distinguish themselves in 19th century America:  

  • from his oldest son Naphtali came Isaac Phillips, an influential member of the New York Chamber of Commerce.  
  • from his next son Benjamin came the playwright Jonas B. Phillips.
  • and from his youngest son Zalegman came the financier and congressman Henry Mayer Phillips.  His nephew Henry Phillips Jr. was an expert on American currency.

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