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Anna Long is believed to have been born about 1788-1790 in Orange County, North Carolina. She evidently married John H. Toliver in 1810 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He was a son of Jesse and Martha Frances (Stamper) Toliver. Note that among family members Toliver was often spelled Tolliver. John H. Toliver and his wife Anna (Long) Toliver had the following children:
- Mathursa (Mathersa) Toliver, born 11 Jan 1811 in Ashe County, North Carolina. She married (1) Matthew Phipps and (2) Alexander McBride. She died 30 Aug 1858 in Owen County, Indiana and is buried in Hicks Cemetery near Freedom.
- Larkin Toliver, born about 1812.
- Isom Toliver, born 29 Jul 1814 at Gap Civil, Ashe County, North Carolina. He married Matilda Reynolds 6 Aug 1836 Owen County, Indiana. He died 13 Sep 1893 in Bristol Township, Greene County, Iowa.
- Elijah Toliver, called Eli, born 15 Apr 1818 in Ashe County, North Carolina. He married Lucean Nations, who was born about 1823 in North Carolina. He died 12 Jan 1909 at Patricksburg, Owen County, Indiana.
- Levi H. Toliver, born 1820, presumably in Ashe County, North Carolina.
- Hiram Toliver, born 29 Apr 1822 in North Carolina. He married Nancy before 1860, who was born in 1827 or 1828 in Kentucky. He may have died in Greene County, Iowa, where he appears in the 1860 and 1870 censuses.
- Tobias J. Toliver, born 15 May 1824. He married Margaret J. (“Martha”) Stevens and appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Lawrence County, Indiana. He then appears in Schuyler County, Missouri in 1870 and 1880. Birthplaces of his children suggest that he left IN for Iowa between 1849 and 1852, then came to Missouri by 1857, then returned to IN by around 1858, then returned to Missouri by around 1867. The fact that he first left in when he did suggests that Edward Bonney’s book (see below) may have been the cause.
- Frances or Francis Toliver (gender unknown), born about 1825.
- Catharine Toliver, born 13 Aug 1827.
- Martha E. Toliver, called Patsy or Marthy, born about 1829.
- Patience Toliver, born about 1830.
- Jane Toliver, born about 1831.
- John Toliver, born about 1832.
Anna Long, who married John H. Toliver, was a daughter of John R. Long. Her mother is believed to have been Susannah Vanoy. (There seem to have two individuals by this name, one born in 1754 and the other in 1799, unless pass-along data is simply confused.) The following were children of John R. Long:
- Benjamin Long
- Martha Long, born 1775 in North Carolina. in 1795, she married John Taylor. She died about 1865 in Alleghany County, North Carolina.
- Leah Long, born 5 May 1779, Wilkes County, North Carolina, died 13 Jul 1862 Alleghany County, North Carolina, buried Scottsville, Alleghany County. She married John Jones about 1798. He was born 22 Aug 1772 in Henry County, Virginia and died 13 Jun 1865 in Alleghany County, North Carolina. He is buried in Scottsville.
- Ellender (Eleanor) Long, born 11 Jan 1781 in North Carolina, died 12 Mar 1821 in Alleghany County, North Carolina. in 1801, she married Daniel Jones. He was born 26 Dec 1774 in Virginia and died 13 Oct 1857 in Alleghany County, North Carolina.
- Jonathan Long, also called John, born 30 Sep 1783 in Alleghany County, North Carolina, died Apr 1876 in Gallia County, Ohio. He married Susannah Stamper, who was born 3 Jun 1792 in Wilkes County, North Carolina and who died May 1871 in Ashe County, North Carolina.
- Rev. Tobias Long, born 30 May 1785 Ashe County, North Carolina, died 20 May 1862 Wilkes County, North Carolina. in 1809 in Wilkes County, he married Frances Stamper, called Franky. She was born about 1792 in North Carolina and died in 1835 in Wilkes County. Tobias Long is believed to have also married another Susanna Vannoy, 14 Feb 1849, who was born 22 Sep 1799 and who died 23 Nov 1877.
- Anna Long, who married John H. Toliver, is discussed above.
- Jesse Long, born 5 Jul 1789 in North Carolina, died 1 Sep 1866 in Owen County, Indiana. In 1814 in North Carolina he married Levisa Stamper, daughter of Jonathan and Mary Ann (Davis) Stamper. Levisa was born 26 May 1796 in North Carolina and died 29 Jan 1847 in Urbana Township, Monroe County, Iowa. Jesse and Levisa Long divorced, and Levisa became what was known at the time as a “grass widow.” Jesse remarried 28 Aug 1849 in Owen County, Iowa to Elizabeth Solsberry. See more on Jesse Long and his family below.
- Isaiah Long, born between 1790 and 1800. He is said to have died in Dent County, Missouri, although I have not found him in census records there.
- Owen Long, also referred to as “Oen,” born about 1790. He married Elizabeth, who was born about 1790-1800.
- Mary Long
Levisa (Stamper) Long, mentioned above as the first wife of Jesse Long, was called Lovicy. Edward Bonney, in his 1845 book The Banditti of the Prairie, or the Murderer’s Doom refers to her as “Widow Long.” This was because she was what people called in those days a “grass widow.” in other words, she was divorced.
One researcher claimed that they separated in the early 1840s and that she then went to Monroe County, Iowa with Hiram (presumably Hiram Long). This appears to be incorrect, however, because she already appears without a husband in the 1840 census. She did go to Iowa, but only after the hanging of John and Aaron Long in 1845 (see below).
In the 1840 census, Levisa appears in Grayson Township, Owen County, Indiana (p. 204). She was living next to the household of “Jessee” Phipps, the father-in-law of her daughter Mary.
Lovicy (Levisa) Long is described by Edward Bonney in his 1845 book The Banditti of the Prairie as “a meager specimen of humanity, poorly clad and besmeared with dirt.” He described her house as “a miserable cabin about 14 feet square with open porch or stoop, the whole covered with rough clapboards, laid on loose.” Bonney described the cabin’s interior in the following terms:
The furniture consisted of crippled chairs, half a dozen three-legged stools, two miserable beds; the bedsteads of which were made of rough poles, with the bark still on; an old rickety cupboard – a table made of a slab of timber, roughly hewn; a couple of iron kettles, half a dozen broken plates, as many knives and forks without handles, and a few tin cups.
Lovicy (Levisa) Long, or “Widow Long,” moved to Iowa sometime after her nephews John and Aaron Long were hung for the murder of Col. George Davenport in 1845. The city of Davenport, Iowa is named after him. Edward Bonney’s book was released in that same year, making it even more difficult for family members who the book discussed to remain in Indiana. in that book, “Widow Long” is extensively discussed in connection with outlaws. She died in Iowa in 1847.
Jesse and Levisa (Stamper) Long had the following children:
- Jane Long, born 1810-1820 in North Carolina. She married Troy Phipps, son of William and Sarah (Scott) Phipps. William was a son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Reeves) Phipps and a brother of Jesse Phipps. Jesse Phipps was the father of John Meshack Phipps, discussed below. Charles Blanchard, in his 1884 History of Clay and Owen Counties, mistakenly identified Troy as a son of Jesse. Troy Phipps was born 1813-1815 in Ashe County, North Carolina and died 17 Aug 1880 in Yell Township, Webster County, Iowa. He is buried in Webster County.
- John Long, born about 1815 in Ashe County, North Carolina. He married Nancy Meshler or Mishler about 1837.
- Solomon Eli Long, born 19 Oct 1816 Ashe County, North Carolina. He appears in the 1850 census in Monroe County, Iowa. He married Frances Meshler or Mishler. He died 28 Dec 1896 in Iowa.
- Aaron B. Long, born 17 Jun 1818 in Ashe County, North Carolina, died 16 Oct 1897 in Center Township, Decatur County, Iowa, buried at Leon in Decatur County. Along with Hiram Long (presumably the Hiram Long who was his brother), he was named in a grand larceny case (State v. [John] Meshach Phipps, Hiram Long, Aaron B. Long, and William H. Fox), which case was continued in the Aug 1849 term of the Owen County, Indiana Court (Civil Order Book 5, 1849-53, p. 2). This case was similarly continued in Mar 1850 (p. 40) and in Aug 1850 (p. 96). When it finally came up for trial in Mar 1851, the state prosecutor had dropped the charges: “Comes now Mr. Richards, the attorney prosecuting the pleas of the State of Indiana, and says that he will no further prosecute the indictment herein.” Aaron appears in the census in 1850 in Monroe County, Iowa, in 1860 in Wappelo County, Iowa, and in 1870 and 1880 in Decatur County, Iowa. On 21 Mar 1851 in Blakesburg, Monroe County, Iowa, Aaron B. Long married Mary Catharine Cuppy.
- Mary Elizabeth Long, called Polly or Patsy (more often Polly), was born 12 Mar 1821 in Ashe County, North Carolina. She married John Meshack Phipps, called Shack or Meshack, son of Jesse Phipps and his wife Jane (Jennie) (Spurlin) Phipps. He and his twin brother Eli Shadrack Phipps (called Shade) were born 14 Feb 1812 near the Virginia/North Carolina line. The place usually cited for their birth was Abington, Washington County, Virginia. John died 10 Dec 1916 in Farragut, Fisher Township, Fremont County, Iowa and was buried 12 Dec 1916 at Shenandoah, Page County, Iowa. Mary (Polly) (Long) Phipps, wife of John Meshack Phipps, died 14 Nov 1906 at Shenandoah, Page County, Iowa and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Page County. See more below.
- Hiram Long, born 22 Sep 1822 Ashe County, North Carolina, died 16 Sep 1899 in Iowa, and was buried in Eslinger Cemetery at Urbana, Monroe County, Iowa. He married Celia Ann Tyrrell 8 Mar 1854 in Monroe County, Iowa. She was born about 1834-1838 in Iowa and died 17 Oct 1916 in Iowa. She is also buried in Eslinger Cemetery at Urbana. See more below.
Hiram Long is pictured in at least one of the early editions of Edward Bonney’s The Banditti of the Prairie, although the likeness is probably based more on an artist’s fancy than on fact. Bonney discusses Hiram Long at length. Bonney describes him (pp. 102-103, 1856 edition) as
a small, well formed, and remarkably good looking young man of twenty-two or three years of age. His complexion was fair as that of a woman; his forehead prominent and high, while his full clear dark hazel eyes, and dark auburn hair made up one of the finest countenances I have ever seen.
The illustration in the book, however, cannot be described by anyone as being of someone with a “fine countenance.” When Bonney, who was posing as an outlaw, came to visit at Widow Long’s, he asked specifically to see John Meshack Phipps. Mrs. Long answered that she thought she could “holler him up.”
The book explains how Hiram Long’s brother-in-law John Meshack Phipps (“Shack Phips” in the book) would take Hiram food when he was hiding out in the woods from the law. Shack would deliver the food whenever he would hear Hiram Long “whistling for his grub,” as Shack put it.
This Hiram Long is presumably the same person who, along with Aaron B. Long (his brother), was named in the grand larceny case (State v. Meshach Phipps, Hiram Long, Aaron B. Long, and William H. Fox), which is discussed above in connection with Aaron B. Long.
Hiram Long appears in the 1850 census in Monroe County, Iowa. There, he is listed as single and a farmer with no family of his own. Living in the same household, however, was his brother-in-law John M. Phipps (John Meshack Phipps, or Shack) and family. (John M. Phipps was married to Hiram’s sister Mary.) This household is followed by the household of Hiram’s brother Aaron B. Long.
The 1860 census shows Hiram Long as a merchant living at Blakesburg, Adams Township, Wapello County, Iowa, with post office address at Amador. in the 1870 census he was living at Urbana, Monroe County, Iowa, where he was a farmer.
An obituary for Hiram Long appeared under “State Personals” in the Des Moines Daily News on 25 Sep 1899, p. 4:
Hiram Long, who was appointed postmaster at Hummaconna, Monroe county, in 1877, and has held the position ever since, is dead, aged 77.
Owen Long, born about 1790, was a brother of Levisa (Lovicy) Long, known as “Widow Long.” He married an Elizabeth, born about 1790-1800. Owen had at least two sons, Aaron and John. They were, of course, nephews of “Widow Long.”
Both John and Aaron Long were presumed to be involved in the gang that was the subject of Edward Bonney’s book. When the gang murdered Col. Davenport and his wife at Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois in 1845, Bonney personally tracked down the murderers. This resulted in the hanging of John and Aaron in Rock Island in 1845.
A portrait of John Long appears in some early editions of Bonney’s book. Because this is a full-page posed portrait and not an illustration depicting action or activity, as was the case with other illustrations in the book, I suspect that this may have been based on an actual photograph. The book also contains an illustration showing John and his brother Aaron being hung.
Aaron Long was born about 1821 and John about 1823. They were both born in Owen County, Indiana, and they both were hung 29 Oct 1845 at Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois.
Aaron Long was arrested at Galena, Illinois shortly after his brother John was arrested 19 Sep 1845 by Edward Bonney at Sandusky, Ohio. He was arrested after Bonney ferreted out him and his accomplices after they robbed and killed Col. Davenport, for which Davenport, Iowa is named. After his arrest, Long said, “I am not afraid; I’ve done nothing to trouble me,” and seemed entirely indifferent.
One newspaper noted that “Long has been arrested so often, and has always escaped, that nothing need be expected from him but the most daring acts to break away.” In spite of widespread expectations that members of his gang would come to rescue him from the gallows at the last moment, John Long was hung at 3:30 p.m. on 29 Oct 1845, along with his brother John. Aaron’s rope broke and he needed to be rehung.
After he died, Aaron Long’s body was donated to an area doctor for medical research. Although his brother John’s skeleton ended up hanging for years in the Rock Island County Courthouse, I have not ascertained what ultimately happened to Aaron’s remains. In the case of his brother John Long, however, we know in detail (see below).
Edward Bonney, in his 1845 book The Banditti of the Prairie, called Aaron’s brother John Long “probably one of the most daring villains who ever pursued the career of crime.” He was probably the “John H. Long” mentioned in Owen County, Indiana court records, since Civil Order Book 3A (1839-43), pp. 378 and 466, refers to “Oen,” John H., and Aaron Long in a foreign attachment case in 1843.
John Long and his companion in crime William E. Birch were said to have been “North Carolinians born.” John Long was “23 years of age, and has broken nearly every frontier jail in the West.” Further, “Long is a pupil of the celebrated villain, Brown, who was killed at Bellevue, Iowa, a few years since.” In addition, “This Long is the one who robbed Frink & Walker’s stage a while ago . . . . ”
The hanging of John and Aaron Long was preceded by a parade through Rock Island, which began at 10 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., 140 armed guards assembled at the gallows, located at 3rd Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. John Long was wearing a blue dress coat and pantaloons. When John and the others reached the gallows, a local band, the Green Mountain Boys, played a song composed especially for the occasion. According to more than one account, John confessed his crimes on the gallows, but without showing any signs of penitence or remorse.
After he and his brother Aaron were hung, their bodies were donated to medical doctors in the area for research. That of John Long was given to Dr. Patrick (“P.P.”) Gregg of Rock Island, who attended John and his brother when they were hanged. The body was on display for years in Gregg’s Rock Island Arsenal office.
After Gregg died, the body disappeared. Gregg’s widow had given the body to a Dr. Charles E. Kahlke of Chicago. He, however, gave it to the Illinois Historical Society. The skeleton was then mailed to the Rock Island County Historical Society in 1940. Then the skeleton was exhibited in a glass case in the lobby of the courthouse in Rock Island until about 1975, when it was moved to the Hauberg Museum in Black Hawk State Historic Site.
The skeleton was finally given a proper burial, but in an unmarked grave, on 14 Sep 1978. Evidently this was because the exhibit was finally deemed to be in bad taste. A photo of the skeleton appeared in at least one newspaper. The grave in which the skeleton was buried is located in Dickson Cemetery, also known as Pioneer Cemetery. This is a small burial ground in the northwest corner of Black Hawk State Historic Site.
Levisa Long’s daughter Mary (Polly) Long, who married John Meshack Phipps, is also pictured in at least one of the early editions of Bonney’s book. There she is seen with her mother in her mother’s cabin, conversing with Bonney. The illustration is probably based on conjecture as to how Polly and “Widow Long” looked.
Her husband, John Meshack Phipps, is addressed by her as “Shack” in Bonney’s 1845 account. His twin brother Eli Shadrack Phipps was called “Shade,” which apparently indicates how “Shadrack” was pronounced.
The twins were erroneously said to have been born in 1803. They have been listed in some editions of Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest twins on record, but this was evidently based on the erroneous 1803 birthdate.
John Meshack Phipps is said to have killed a bear when he was 14. As he became older, he became involved with John and Aaron Long in the outlaw gang which was the subject of Edward Bonney’s 1845 book. An entire chapter in that book is titled “Shack Phipps.” Later, John experienced a Methodist conversion and evidently became an upstanding citizen. According to family tradition, a son of John burned all the copies of the book that he could find.
Bonney refers to briefly to Jesse Phipps (but not by name), the father of “Shack Phips,” as he spelled the name. The following is noted on page 89 of the 1856 edition:
. . . we learned that Fox had been arrested on suspicion of horse stealing, Shack Phips was also under arrest on a similar charge. . . . Shack Phips was also held to bail in the sum of $400. His father entering bail for the amount, Shack was released.
Bonney also writes (p. 90),
I learned from these gentlemen that Shack Phips, who was arrested with Fox, lived in Owen County, but a few miles distant in a sparsely settled country, Nearly all the settlers were connected in different ways with the banditti. Phips had married a daughter of widow Long, sister-in-law of old Owen Long, and mother of Aaron and Hiram; all whose names I had taken from Granville Young or old Birch. Phips lived in the house with old widow Long and her boys, and Fox had been arrested there.
John Meshack Phipps was presumably the “scoundrel called Phipps,” as one newspaper put it. He was implicated with “Long and his two sons” in a gang from Owen County, Indiana that was involved in counterfeiting and robbery in 1841.
John was involved in the grand larceny case that has been mentioned above, in the Owen County, in Aug 1849 court term. This was State v. Meshach Phipps, Hiram Long, Aaron B. Long, and William H. Fox, discussed in Civil Order Book 5, pp. 2, 40, 96, 162.
After leaving Indiana, presumably because of Bonney’s book, John Meshack Phipps moved for a time to Missouri. There he became a friend of Jesse James. While living in Missouri, John would swim cattle across the Missouri River at Nebraska City. At some point after his outlaw past, he had a Methodist conversion experience. He later, however, became a Congregationalist.
One biography of John Meshack Phipps and his twin brother Eli Shadrack Phipps was published in 1910:
The Sentinel-Post prints a picture of John M. Phipps, who was 98 years old Monday. His twin brother Eli Phipps came up from Hennesy, Okla., and the aged pair celebrated the event together. The Phipps brothers were born in 1812 in Washington county, Va. John Phipps was recently in the limelight, the assertion being made that he was the father of Rockefeller. The Sentinel-Post says: ‘Mr. Phipps has always been reticent to talk about himself. Regarding his early life he will seldom talk. This reticence brought him notoriety a few years ago that proved amusing after it was over. Ida Tarbell, the magazine writer, stated that William Rockefeller, father of John D. Rockefeller, was living under an assumed name in obscurity in Iowa, and the Chicago papers undertook to find him. They got a clue that the old man was living near Shenandoah, and reporters were sent here from Chicago to hunt him up. There was no one here of the right age to fill the description except Uncle John Phipps, and for two or three days they labored with the problem of proving that Phipps and Rockefeller were the same person. They drove to his home before daylight and pestered the old gentleman with questions by the hundred, trying to get him to admit that he was William Rockefeller, but the clue was a false one.[‘]
When John Meshack Phipps died in Iowa, his obituary appeared in the New York Times (and various other newspapers), perhaps because of the Ida Tarbell matter. Muckraking writer Ida Tarbell and written a History of the Standard Oil Company in which she suggested that the father of John D. Rockefeller was living under an assumed name in a little town in Iowa. When reporters came to investigate, John Meshack Phipps was the only person around who seemed to match the description.
John Meshack Phipps was accustomed to making long train trips alone, even after he had reached the age of 100. He claimed to have been sick only once, when he had typhoid fever. When he was over 100, he was a vegetarian, bathed in icy water, walked much and frequently, read without glasses, hoed in his garden, and stayed away from alcohol and tobacco. In winter he often walked barefoot in the snow. At age 99, he was walking “several miles a day,” according to one newspaper article. At age 100, he was “as spry and able to do things as most men at seventy,” according to another. One newspaper article said that the believed in bathing in icy water and walking around barefoot in the snow as methods of preventing disease and resisting the effects of old age.
He was quoted at one point as saying,
Any man who has not sense enough to let liquor and tobacco alone must be a fool his lifetime long. I have lived for more than a hundred years and my mind is still stronger than my bodily desires. I have no more use for the man who uses liquor than I have for poison.
John Meshack Phipps became a member of the Elks on his 100th birthday, making him the oldest Elk in the country. That event is documented in several newspaper articles. When asked why he joined, one newspaper reported him as saying, “Well, they say they are all good fellers, and that’s my kind.” At age 103, however, John Meshack Phipps did become sick with “the grip,” or flu. This especially bothered him, since he was used to spending ample time outdoors. This was the first time he had ever been sick, with the exception of an earlier bout with typhoid fever.
The following are references to residences of John Meshack Phipps:
1836, said to have moved to Iowa, according to at least a couple newspaper articles. If he did so, he must not have stayed long, however.
1838, Owen County, Indiana: Land patent issued to Meshach Phipps of Owen County, Indiana for 40 acres in that county in the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 20, Township 10 North, Range 5 West, purchased through the land office at Vincennes, Indiana.
1843 tax list, Grayson Township, Owen County, Indiana.
Supposedly in Owen County, Indiana until at least 1845 (note though that he had a son born in Illinois about 1842), then moved to Green County, Missouri, then Decatur County, Iowa, then Buchanan County, Missouri. In 1845, Edward Bonney’s book The Banditti of the Prairie was published, generating much negative publicity about John. This is probably why he permanently moved out of Indiana around that time. During the Civil War, he lived in Harrison and Pottawatamie Counties in Iowa. After the war he moved near Independence, Missouri. In 1878 he moved to Fremont County, Iowa (he traded farms with J.J. Kastor, a Mormon). According to a newspaper article, he also lived in Nebraska.
1850 census, 10 Dec, Monroe County, IA, farmer, listed with his wife and children below Hiram Long in same household; Hiram Long is listed with no family of his own. This household is followed by the household of Aaron B. Long.
Birthplaces of his children in the 1860 census suggest that he was in Illinois about 1842, Iowa by about 1849 and until about 1855, in Missouri about 1858, in Kansas about Mar/Apr 1860, and in Iowa by the time of the census on 6 Jul 1860.
1860 census, Dodge Township, Boone County, Iowa, farmer, 6 Jul 1860.
1880 census, Fisher Township, Fremont County, Iowa, listed as “J.M. Phelps.”
1900 census, Fisher Topwnship, Fremont County, Iowa, farmer.
One of the obituaries that appeared for John Meshack Phipps noted that,
John M. Phipps, who would have been 105 on next Valentine day, southwest Iowa’s oldest citizen, died recently in Shenandoah at the home of his son, Albert S. Phipps. He was not confined to his bed and was able to be out of doors the day before his death. His twin brother, Eli Phipps of Hennessey, Okla., died a few months short of the century mark. The twins were too old to serve in the civil war. Mr. Phipps was the father of ten children, but only four survive: M. M. Phipps of Pawnee City, Okla.; Mrs. J. E. Winfrey of Stella, Neb.; Mrs. Matina Gardner, Leon, Iowa, and Albert, at whose home he died. He came from Independence, Mo., to Iowa in 1836. The day he was 100 years old Mr. Phipps was initiated into the Elks lodge at Shenandoah.
Regarding the statement that the twins were too old to serve in the Civil War, another newspaper noted in a brief obituary that John was “rejected from enlisting in 1861 because of his age.” Yet another obituary for John Meshack Phipps noted that his mind was alert up to the point of death.
John Meshack Phipps’ twin brother Eli Shadrack Phipps married (1) Nancy Ward in 1831 in Owen County, Indiana and (2) Rebecca Ann Griffith 5 Nov 1860 in Boone County, Iowa.
Eli Shadrack Phipps lived in the area of Washington County, Virginia and Ashe County, North Carolina until 1831, then came to Indiana, residing in Owen County. A newspaper article refers to him also living in Vigo County. Then he moved to Hancock County, Illinois, living there until 1849.
Note that Hancock County is the location of the early Mormon settlement of Nauvoo. His twin brother John M. Phipps was in an outlaw gang for a time that sometimes hid out at Nauvoo. This matter is extensively discussed in Bonney’s book. (It is said that a granddaughter of Eli confiscated and burned a copy of the book when it came into her house.)
In 1849, presumably because of the Gold Rush, Eli traveled by land to California Territory. There he lived for seven years, achieving what were described as “satisfactory results” at gold mining. From there he returned to the States in 1856, settling on a farm in Boone County, Iowa. He owned around 1,000 acres in Boone and surrounding counties, and personally improved about 800 acres of it. A vein about 4 to 4 1/2 feet thick of high quality coal lay underneath much of his farm.
Regarding Eli Shadrack Phipps, noted the following in 1910:
Eli left Virginia thirty years ago, located in Illinois and ten years ago removed to Oklahoma. Both men [he and his twin brother] are strong and vigorous and apparently are good for twenty years more. They say their mother lived to be 100 and their father to be 107 years old.
This last statement is puzzling in that neither statement appears to be correct. The following records pertain to residences of Eli Shadrack Phipps:
1839, Owen County, Indiana, posted bond with two others when John Lewis was arrested for threatening Abner Corey. Eli signed his name with an “X” 29 May 1839.
1839, Owen County, Indiana: Land patent issued to Shadrack Phipps of Owen County, Indiana for 40 acres in Owen County: The northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 20, Township 10 North, Range 5 West, obtained through the land office at Vincennes, Indiana.
1840 census, Franklin Twp., Owen County, Indiana.
1843 tax list, Grayson Twp., Owen County, Indiana.
1850 census: I have not found him, but two of his young daughters are listed in Marion Township, Owen County, Indiana. They are listed as “Patience Phipp,” age 12, and “Emily J. Phips,” age 10, both in the household of Wells Ward. Obviously these daughters were left behind for some reason. in the 1860 census, Eli Shadrack Phipps is living with another family and without his wife or any children, so obviously he had left his wife (unless she had died) as well. Presumably this had something to do with the Banditti of the Prairies affair as documented by Edward Bonney. Bonney’s book was published in 1845. A county history of Clay County, Indiana, which adjoins Owen County, mentions Eli Phipps being hung in Clay County. Obviously that was not the case, but that may suggest that there was an attempt to do so. Certainly Eli’s brother John Meshack Phipps is specifically discussed at length in the book (there is a whole chapter titled “Shack Phips”), and Eli Shadrack Phipps is mentioned as “Shade” Phips as well. There is no question that neither of the two could have continued to live in Owen County, Indiana after the book was published.
“Early settler,” Dodge Twp., Boone County, Iowa.
1860 census, Dodge Twp., Boone County, Iowa, farmer in household of G.W. and Caroline Conner with no other Phipps family members.
1880 census, Dodge Twp., Boone County, Iowa, farmer, next to household of daughter Jane (Phipps) Hyatt.
1900 census, Hennessey City, Hennessey Twp., Kingfisher County, Oklahoma Territory, perhaps the Phipps listed as a boarder. For five of the boarders, only minimal info is supplied, with the notation “could learn nothing [unreadable].” The given name looks like probably “James,” but if the census taker could “learn nothing,” it could easily have been him. No birthdate, age, marital status, or birth places appear. The occupation, however, is listed as “Butcher,” which would seem extremely unlikely.
1910 census, Sixth Street, Hennessey City, Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, age 107, occupation “own income,” living in household of daughter Cora (Phipps) Stinson.
Eli Shadrack Phipps died at the home of his daughter Mrs. George Stinson, a few months before his 100th birthday. This is in spite of the fact that the Hamilton Telegraph, Hamilton Ohio, 23 Feb 1911, said he was 108.
The following is an obituary that has circulated for years, but from an unknown source and containing inaccuracies. The article is titled “A Pioneer of Many States: Brief History of Life of Eli Phipps Deceased, Oldest Man in Southwest:”
Eli Phipps, undoubtedly the oldest man in Oklahoma and the southwest, and a resident of Kingfisher county for the past seventeen years, who passed away at the home of his daughter, Mrs. George Stinson, in this city last Thursday, February 23, 1911, at the age of 108 years and eight days, has had a varied career of more than passing interest. Eli Phipps and a twin brother, John Phipps, who resides at Shenandoah, Iowa, were born February 14, 1803, at Affington, Washington county, Virginia. Their parents were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Phipps and they had one sister, Nancy Taylor who died of fever after marriage in California many years ago. When at the age of seventeen Mr. Phipps with his parents started westward by wagon to Indiana, which was then considered the extreme frontier. But when reaching Kentucky were delayed three months due to an epidemic of cholera, but later resumed their journey settling on a piece of land at Bloomington, Indiana, where a number of years after the mother died of general break down at the age of ninety three years. In 1853 the family moved on a farm in Puttnam county, Missouri, at which place the father succumbed to the then most dreaded disease – small pox – his years numbering 111. It is gathered from these facts that the most pronounced characteristic of the Phipps family was their longevity. Eli Phipps was married in 1835 in Indiana to Nancy Ward, and three children were born to them – Mrs. Patia Winters, of Frazier, Iowa; Emily Phipps, Alton, Mo., and David Phipps Fay, Okla. His wife died in 1845 and leaving the children to the care of his brother Mr. Phipps visited many parts of the United States and even made a perilous journey to Canada. During the memorable gold excitement, of 1849 in California he made that most difficult trip across the plains amassing considerable wealth in that state. With a partner, Judge Wyatt, he went to Colorado during the early settlement of that state and introduced the first steam power saw mill ever operated in that part of the country and for nine months sawed lumber which was used in the erection of the first buildings of the city of Denver. He returned to Missouri later and in 1860 was married to Rebecca Griffith, at Marysville. Seven children, one dying in infancy, blessed this union. The living are Mrs. Jennie Hyatt, Hennessey; Wm. Phipps, Boone, Iowa; Mrs. Cora Stinson and Mrs. Minnie Stinson, of Hennessey; Charles Phipps, Boone, Iowa; Lewis Phipps, Hennessey. Mr. Phipps’ next move was to Boone, Iowa, where he purchased land and owning to the fact that there were no banks in that locality in those days, was quite prominent as a money lender for many years. Again experiencing the westward fever he came to Oklahoma in 1895, locating four miles southwest of town, coming to town about eighteen months ago. He was a Christian making an optimistic view of life, claiming the only way to live long and happy is to follow the teachings of nature. A remarkable of Mr. Phipps’ life was his splendid health, having never had a physician until his last illness which was only of a few days’ duration. Funeral services were held from the Baptist church Saturday afternoon, Rev. J.G. Schlieman officiating. Out of town relatives attending were three sons of deceased, William and Charles of Boone, Iowa, and David of Fay, Okla., and a nephew Willis Phipps, of the latter place. interment was made in the Hennessey cemetery.
Other obituaries appeared in other papers. In fact, a number of other articles about the twins can be found in old newspapers. Although some articles say they were born in 1812, a few refer to an 1803 birthdate. Why the strange references to 1803, when a number of records make it clear that this was not the case? Some newspaper articles and other sources do make it clear that they were born in 1812, and the 1803 claim seems to be more associated with Eli Shadrack Phipps than with his brother John Meshack Phipps. At least a couple newspaper articles make it clear that the twins were born just before the War of 1812 was declared. Another article noted that they were born “during Madison’s administration.” Madison was president from 1809 to 1817.
One article about John Meshack Phipps referred to his ancestry in the following terms:
Mr. Phipps sprung from an English ancestry that was noted for longevity, prowess and warlike proclivities. His grandfather on his mother’s side preached the gospel according to John the Baptist for eighty years in North Carolina, passing away after crossing the century mark in life.
His mother was Jane (Jennie) Spurlin (or Spurlen or Spurling). His “grandfather on his mother’s side” is presumed by genealogists to have been Zachariah Spurlin, who was born about 1747 in Fairfax County, Virginia and who died 20 Aug 1837 in Ashe County, North Carolina. Is that identification correct? Was this Zachariah Spurlin known as a minister? If not, was there some other Spurlin closely related who would be a more likely candidate for being Jennie’s Spurlin’s father?
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