Phineas Wells PHILLIPS, b. 1830, d. 1887

Phineas Wells Phillips, deceased, was born in Virginia, January 11, 1830, and died in Prairie township, Mahaska county, Iowa, January 25, 1887, a life of usefulness and activity crowned by successful accomplishment being thus ended. He was a son of Holdridge and Sarah (Ryan) Phillips. The father was born in Virginia and the mother in Ohio and Holdridge Phillips removed from the Old Dominion to Ohio, where he spent his remaining days upon a farm. In his family were five children, namely Phineas W.; Cyrus, now living in Oskaloosa; Adam and Eve, twins, the former now deceased, while the latter is living in Ohio; and Mathias. Phineas W. Phillips was a student in the common schools of Ohio, where he was reared upon a farm, remaining with his parents until his marriage, on the 10th of October, 1850, Miss Ellen Williams becoming his wife. She was born in Ross county, Ohio, September 30, 1830, and yet resides upon the old homestead farm in Prairie township, Mahaska county. Her father, John Williams, was born in Maryland, March 7, 1794, and died in Prairie township, this county, on the 5th of December 1863. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Christiana McGuire, was born in Ohio, January 30, 1801, and spent her last days in the home of her daughter, Mrs. Phillips, there passing away October 21, 1887. In the family of Mr. and Mrs. Williams were seven children, but Mrs. Phillips is the only one now living. The parents came to the west with their family and took up their abode upon a farm in Prairie township, Mahaska county, where they lived for many years. At the time of their removal from Ohio, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips also came, this being in the year 1855. Traveling across Illinois, their wagons became stuck in the mud and they had to employ farmers to pull them out with ox teams. They were almost discouraged.,yet they would not turn back. On reaching Mahaska county, Mr. Phillips rented a house near Oskaloosa and began teaming and following any other employment that he could get to do. After spending the summer there he started northward to find a more favorable location where he could make a better living. As he and his wife thus traveled by wagon they would stop on the way and the various settlers, after the hospitable manner of the times, would allow them to cook meals upon their stoves. They spent the winter of 1856-6 in a log house at Granville, Mahaska county. The structure was so poor, however, that it did little to exclude the storms and they could shovel snow out of their upstairs rooms down to the first floor and then out of the door. In the spring of 1856 Mr. Phillips purchased forty acres of land where his widow now resides. It was all wild prairie. There were logs upon the place but no house had been built, and Mr. Phillips, after rolling the logs into a small shanty, began the task of clearing and cultivating the fields. The bed was made by poles stuck in holes bored into the logs in the side of the shanty and then covered with clapboards. They had an old drop-leaf table and a little chair which they brought with them from Ohio and this chair Mrs. Phillips still has in her possession. Mr. Phillips did some teaming in Burlington and Keokuk, and made a heroic struggle to get a start in life here, but ill luck seemed to attend him in many directions. At different times he lost his horse, and as he had no shelter for the cow, she died. Mrs. Phillips did work of all kinds for the neighbors, taking meat and flour in payment. They lived in a log house until 1862, when they built a frame addition to their cabin home and later they tore down the log structure and put up a more commodious frame residence. In those early days there were few fences on the prairie and one night the neighbor's cattle came to the Phillips farm and ate up the grease which Mrs. Phillips had prepared to make soft soap. In those early days they made their own tallow candles and Mrs. Phillips also made clothes for herself, husband and children. No expense was incurred that could be avoided. They lived very frugally and economically until the land was paid for and when their financial resources somewhat increased they bought more land, adding to the property from time to time until at his death Mr. Phillips was the owner of a valuable tract of four hundred acres which was divided among the children, Mrs. Phillips having one hundred acres of the old homestead. She is a very well preserved lady, enjoying good health for one of her years and she manages her own affairs, a daughter living with her, while a son, who resides in a separate house, works her land for her. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Phillips were born seven children, all of whom survive. John C., born October 3, 1851, and now operating his mother's farm, married Cora Sawyer and has three children. Mary A., born November 20, 1853 is now living in Nebraska, where she is engaged in dressmaking. She married Jerome Smith but has obtained a legal separation from him. Cornelius, born June 30, 1855, married Martha Frederick, has six children and owns and occupies forty acres of the old homestead. Jasper H., born September 23, 1858, married Retta Heinsman, lives upon a farm in Prairie township and has two children. Sarah born October 31, 1862, is living with her mother. Charles W., born October 23, 1867, married Lou Heinsman and resides upon a farm near New Sharon. William E, born July 14, 1870, married Vira Shroyer and owns and occupies a part of the old home place. Mr. Phillips was an earnest republican and served as supervisor of his township for eighteen years, while for several years he acted justice of the peace and was known as Squire Phillips. All of his political duties were faithfully and promptly discharged. He was active in politics and his fellow townsmen, recognizing his worth and ability, called him to a number of positions of local honor and trust. He was a very earnest worker and his indefatible industry and laudable ambition made him successful. He was a temperate man, who entertained high moral principles, but he never believed that to be good one must be long and serious. On the contrary be was jovial and genial and shed around him much of the sunshine of life. In the year 1868 he kept a diary where he recorded the weather conditions and the doings of each day and it is a noticeable that each Sunday he attended church and Sunday-school if the weather would permit. His death occurred very suddenly, being taken by paralysis, from which he suffered at one in the afternoon, while at seven o'clock in the same evening he had passed away, the attack being brought on by over study and hard work. His life was indeed a busy and useful one and is in many respects well worthy of emulation. Mrs. Phillips belongs to the Methodist church. She is a well posted lady and is a good conversationalist. She was to her husband a most faithful companion and helpmate on life's journey and assisted him in acquiring his property. She now has a comfortable home, good barns and sheds and well kept fences upon her place, yet residing upon the old homestead where she and her husband located so many years ago.


from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906

Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa

Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy

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