Monday, January 11, 2010

John Phillips 1710 - 1773

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The John Phillips Family Bible

The early Phillips family story is documented in the Phillips family bible. Currently held by Wendell Fletcher Phillips 3rd, in Auckland, New Zealand.

John Phillips 1

At this time (Jan 2010)I have no verified information about John Phillips 1st parents.

It is likely John's fathers name was Thomas, John or Nicholas. Family legend tells that his father was a shipping agent in Suffolk county, Boston around 1700's. The colony of New England depended on goods from England and sugar, spice, cloth and tea from more exotic ports.

Inscription on first page from Thomas to John

We have records that Thomas Phillips, married to Rebecca Louisa, died in 1738 in Huntsmen, Massachusetts. The inscripton on the first page of the very handsome, leather bound family bible shows 'Thomas to John' or Jnr.(I believe the ink has faded at the top of the h and n) This inscriptions leads me to believe the bible was a gift from either his father or brother named Thomas, at the time of John's marriage to Anne.

Family legend tells that the bible was passed to John when his brother Thomas died. As there are no prior inscriptions before John's marriage to Anne this seems unlikely.

The bible lists the births of John's Children

John Phillips (1)  first notation is as follows. "I was married on September 29th 1734 on Sunday morning at Kings Chapel Boston by Commissary Roger Price. "

Kings Chapel in 1720 Boston

Kings Chapel, at the heart of historic Boston, was built in 1686 Boston as the centre of Anglican worship. Follow the link to find out more about Kings Chapel. When the old timber building burnt it was replaced with the current stone church in the late 1700's. Sadly all early records were lost in the fire. 

John Phillips was 24 when he married Anne Engs 19.

We lose track of John Phillips and his family until they reappear in Quebec after 1759. Anne and John have 16 children over a period of twenty years. We can only speculate on what business John was engaged in at this time.

Family legend tells us he was a Captain in the British Militia and fought with Wolfe in the famous battle on the Plains of Abraham which saw both General Wolfe, leading the British and General Montcalm, leading the French, lose their lives. The English won the battle by floating down the St Lawarence on the tide, then stealing up the steep cliffs to take the commanding position on flat fields belonging to Farmer Abraham. We believe his regiment was the 47th. This has not been substantiated by any official military records. I hope to find these soon.

Confusingly for researchers there are several families claiming Capt John Phillips at this war. There is also a Col John Phillips mentioned. There is even a Capt. John Phillips who was a privateer (Pirate) out of Boston. I have been unable to verify connection to any of the other researchers as wives names all differ. I have been unable to locate regimental muster lists which would confirm that our Capt John Phillips and his son John Phillips served which the 47th in the war against France to win Canada for the British.

The childrens births and deaths are listed in the bible.

John and Anns children married well in Quebec, some remaining there, others moving to Boston, North Carolina and further afield. (see more on the children in separate post.) One daughter Grizey married a General and is noted as being a socialite before her marriage. Families of officers in eighteenth century Quebec enjoyed such passtimes as ladies social lunches and teas, racing sleighs on the frozen St Lawrence river, rustic picnics in the country or by the frozen Montmorency Falls. Boat trips for pleasure to Levis or Isle Orleans. Regular regimental parades and social events were highlights for the English familes garrisoned there. Uniforms were gaudy and festooned with gilt or golden buttons, frogs and epaulets. Officers were very dashing and in winter work greatcoats trimmed with Canadian furs. Women's clothing was brightly colored, fabrics or stuff as it was called for dresses eagerly awaited for when boats arrived from Europe carrying these precious cargos along with hairpins and brushes, laces and ribbons, hats, boots and shoes and all the other necessities for an eighteenth century womans existence. Servants were often slaves, these might be black slaves from the south or more often First nation or even European children and women who had been captured in raiding scurmishes in New England. These children were often traded by the First nations as slaves for guns,supplies or hard cash. Some ended up in religious institutions or were adopted by local families, these were the luckier souls. Schools were run by Nuns, the one most often heard about is the Ursulines which still educates twentyfirst century students. There were many public drinking houses in Old Quebec town and drunkeness was common although servants were forbidden to be served in a public house.

Cick here for Timeline of events in Quebec from 1760 onwards.

The army barracks of the day were by Porte St Jean or Saint Johns Gate. These buildings withstood all the battering of canon fire and warring while the English battled first the French and then the Americans to defend and keep Quebec loyal to the Brisith Crown.

Map showing ancient fortifications of Quebec city. The red text 'You Are Here'is the site of the old Barracks at St Jean Gate.

To find out more about the history of the British in Quebec and the wars they fought follow this link. Follow this link for even more!
Drawing of the new barracks built in the late 1700's.

John dies in Quebec in 17th December 1773. Anglican Church burial notes record him as John Phillips, Tidewaiter of Customs. A Tidewaiter of Customs was a customs agent, called Tidewaiter because they had to wait at the docks for the tide to accept goods from incoming ships. There was also a custom that the Tidewaiter would only record a portion of the cargo allowing a percentage to be brought in duty free.

Ann writes that he was buried "in the suburb of St John", the area we know today as St Johns Gate, very near to the old military barracks and houses that remain well preserved to this day. The Anglican church nearby has some very old graves but I've not been able to find burial records here yet. It is believed that both John and Anne lie there. It is pure speculation that John and Anne lived in or nearby the Military Barracks inside the walled town of Quebec, however when Anne died just two years later she was interred in the powder magazine of the Barracks. I have not found records of any other burial place.

At the time of her death she was living with her son Samuel and one of her daughters in a house in St Famille street in the old town of Quebec. She appears to have been unwell for some time before she died in that final winter of her life. The climate in Quebec is harsh, brutally cold during the long winters and hot in the summer with cooler night temperatures than southern parts of Canada. One can only speculate of the trials and difficulties a woman bearing 16 children faced in these times. The family do seem to have been supported by two servants, Honest Sam and Sally, both mentioned in John Phillips letter to his mother written just before she died. Slavery was still practised in these times so it is probable that these two people were black slaves, possibly brought with them from Boston.  

John and Anne lived in uncertain times. They survived the emerging politics of the time, wars, loyalist evacuation from their country of birth, rebuilding of Quebec and the death of children. There own family was to be geographically split by the Revolutionary Wars which saw the British lose hold of America, several of the family living in Boston, New York and North Carolina, others in Canada. Ann's daughter Grizey Moore, living in North Carolina, did not hear of her mothers death for 10 months, until her husband visited Quebec on business.


Officers House at Barracks in Quebec
St Johns Gate 2009


joanschaefer12 said...

I am Joan Plante Schaefer, great niece of Clara Plante Phillips. I nevr met Uncle Frank Phillips but Aunt Clara would come vistit her sister-in-law Florida Plante often. I met Wendell F. Phillis several times on his trips back to the U.S. from New Zealand. He even brought a strange doll with him once when he came to visit my Dad. Would like to have more info bout other childrne of Clara and Frank. Do you have any. There was Jeannette Phillips Hendrickson and Percy Phillips.

Julie Phillips Wood said...

Joan, I am Clara's great grandaughter Julie. Great to meet you cousin! I am so very pleased you have contacted me.

I am betting Pop (my grandfather Wendell Phillips) brought you a NZ Maori doll, with dark hair and skin and a grass skirt with a woven bodice and headband?

I am in close touch with Jeannette (Phillips) Hendrickson's grandchildren in California.

Please email me directly at and we can share our information.

Anonymous said...

My husband is also Phillips of New England from Boston to Maine

Julie Phillips Wood said...

Frosty do you have more info...first names...dates etc

daniel said...

john and Richard Phillips were cannon makers and did there work, in cannon makers row,in London,in 1584,they had sold cannon to Spain,at the time of the armada in 1588 ,ten bronze cannon ,were found ,by captain Jacob roe ,in Aug 1740 on a ship lost at portincross in west Kilbride in Scotland,he sold these cannon to a bell founders in Dublin 1740,the story ,of captain Jacob roe is found ,in the admiralty court papers,1723 to 1739,this is a long story,so if you want more tell me,you can go to the tower of London to see ,one of the cannon ,of John and Richard Phillips.

daniel said...