Phillips family

Our shared connection to Phillips family is through Wesley Fenimore Phillips, whose great-great-great-grandfather was Henry Christian Phillipsen.

Henry Christian Phillipsen, with his family, emigrated with 220 other Germans in two vessels, the “Catharina” and the “Heinrich and Georg” from Altona, Hamburg in May and June of 1792 to Philadelphia. They were members of what are now known as the Berczy settlers of Markham, Ontario.

The Berczy settlers were named for William Moll Berczy, who was born in Wallerstein, Ries, Bavaria, Germany in 1744. He studied art in Vienna and Jena and had an adventurous life in eastern Europe. In 1791, Berczy was in London and heard that a group led by Sir William Pulteney had purchased one and one quarter million acres of land in the Genesee area of New York State, just south of what is now Rochester. Berczy recruited a number of German families and arranged for their transport to Philadelphia.

From Philadelphia, Berczy and the settlers made their way to the Genesee lands and attempted to settle in and get title to their land. They opened the first inland north-south road between Williamsport and Painted Post, which was known as Williamson Road and is now currently Route 15. The arrangement, however, was not satisfactory, so Berczy and about 60 families emigrated to Upper Canada in 1794 to take advantage of free land offered by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. Most of these families settled on land in Markham Township by late 1794.

Henry Christian had at least one son, Friedrich Godfrey Phillips (b. in Germany in 1776). Friedrich (who went by Godfrey) married Wilma (b. abt 1790 in the US), and had three sons; John, George and Peter.

John married Elizabeth (b. abt 1815 in Canada). They had two children, John (b. Abt 1838), and Oran T. (which was variously spelled as Oron, Orin, Orrin and Oren) and who was born about 1840. Oran’s father, John, died before 1851 as the 1851 West Canada (Ontario) census lists Elizabeth as a widow. In 1851 Elizabeth, Oran and John, were living in Markham Township, York County, Ontario in a “round log house” on 3 acres, next to the two other Phillips families (living in “board houses”) related to Elizabeth’s husband, John. The family matriarch, Wilma Phillips, was living with her son Peter, a blacksmith, and his wife, Mary Ann and daughter Helen Maria, two houses away. In between both families, was George Phillips, a farmer with 80 acres, his wife Emily and three children, Charlotte, Reuben and John L. There was at least one other Phillips family, William and his wife, Em, and their four children, Mary Jane, Matilda, Louisa and Margaret who were likely also related, lived nearby.

In 1861, Oran was living in Mornington Township, Perth County, Ontario at the same address as George (b. abt 1835) and Matilda (b. abt 1837) Phillips, and working as a carpenter. Despite the same last name, there is no indication that they are related to Oran, however.

Oran Phillips married Christiana Ross (b. abt 1847), the daughter of David and Jane Ross, in April of 1864, and had seven children between 1865 and 1888; an unnamed infant daughter (b. Apr 15, 1865), John James (b. Jun 14, 1866), William Wesley (b. Sep 28, 1869), Elizabeth Jane (b. Jul 8, 1871), Adaline (b. Sep 2, 1875), Ida (b. Jul 21, 1878), and Pearl (b. Jul 5, 1888). The unnamed infant daughter and Pearl died in infancy. The fates of Elizabeth Jane, Mary Adaline and Ida are currently unknown.

Oran had another child, Henry, in 1873 by Mary McAulay. Henry died less than two weeks after being born. Oran was still married to Christiana at the time, however, and his relationship with Mary McAulay is unclear.

Oran is listed as a merchant in the 1871 Ontario Census and on the 1875 Birth Register for his daughter, Adaline, but in the 1861 Ontario census and the 1880 Michigan census and thereafter his occupation is listed as carpenter.

The 1880 Census places Oran living by himself in St. Clair City, Michigan. Was he making a living in Michigan and sending money home to his family? Was he estranged from his wife and family because of his relationship with Mary McAulay, and living separately? Other than a gap in the birth dates of Oran’s and Christiana’s children between 1878 and 1888 there is currently no information that speaks about this situation. However, despite their possible estrangement, Oran and Christiana are buried together at the North Mornington Presbyterian Church in Mornington Township, Ontario.

Christiana died in 1888, possibly from complications of the birth of her last child, Pearl. Oran remarried in 1891. He had a son, Arthur, by his new wife, Augusta, in 1892. In 1894 Oran was living on Grandy Street in Detroit, Michigan, and William was living a few blocks away from him on the same street. The 1900 Census shows John, William’s older brother, and his wife Jennie, living with Oran and Augusta. There were also four other children, Phillip, William, Charley and Walter living there who were most likely Augusta’s children from a prior marriage.

John and Jennie Phillips had at least two children living with them at that time, Carl and Bruce. I believe that Carl married and settled in Saginaw, Michigan, but I have not been able to trace Bruce. I believe, but cannot be sure, that in 1930 John was an invalid living in the Clark Memorial Home in Grand Rapids, and Jennie was a matron in the same institution.

The 1910 Census shows Oran and Augusta, living with only their son Arthur, still on Grandy Avenue in Detroit. Oran does not appear in the 1920 Census and my assumption is that he died before then.

Deliberately or not, the origins of the Phillips family were obscured by the information surrounding Wesley’s father, William Wesley Phillips. In William’s 1943 death notice and the 1930 census, his birthplace was given as Pennsylvania. However, in the 1920 census, he gave his birthplace as Michigan, and in the 1900 and 1910 censuses, he gave his birthplace as English Canada (aka Ontario). William, despite this conflicting evidence, was definitely born in Ontario, not Pennsylvania.

In 1893 William married Effie Maude Gamble (b. Mar 1875), the daughter of Canadian Irish immigrants, Thomas and Jane (Ballentine) Gamble. The 1900 and 1910 censuses show William, Maude, and two children, Wesley and Essie, living in Detroit. William’s occupation in the 1894 Detroit Directory and these censuses was listed as carpenter. Maude died Jan 11, 1912 and William remarried in 1916 to Ida C. Our oral family history says Wesley could not tolerate his stepmother (possibly because she was only 10 years older than him) and became estranged from his father. The 1920 and 1930 censuses show William continuing to live in Detroit, with his occupation listed as Cabinetmaker at a furniture factory. William died in 1943.

In the 1930 Census, William’s daughter, Essie is married to Alfred Marienthal, a plumber, and is living in Detroit. There is reason to believe that this was her second marriage, and that her first husband’s surname was Filer as the census lists a stepson living with them named Wesley Filer. Wesley later took the name Marienthal and appears to have died in the 1970’s, still living in Michigan.

Wesley Phillips married Hazel Ethel Albright (b. Oct 10, 1894), daughter of Ferdinand and Mary (Niswender) Albright on May 5, 1918. Wesley was already working for the Michigan Phone company at the time, which he continued to do for the rest of his life.

The 1920 Census shows Wesley living with Hazel next door to Hazel’s parents, Ferdinand and Mary Albright. The 1930 Census shows Wesley and Hazel, now living in Grand Rapids with their first three children, Kempster Burke (Bill), Mary Jane and Marilyn. Wesley Kerwin (Skip) was born in 1931.

Kempster (Bill) Phillips married Melba Overhault and had two children; David in 1952 and Patti in 1954. Mary Jane Phillips married Teddy Wynn Johnston in 1949 and had three children between 1950 and 1956; Richard, Daniel and Kevin. Marilyn Phillips married Sam Lovell and had two children; Rebecca in 1948 and Samuel Brent in 1952. Wesley (Skip) Phillips married Marilyn Nossman in 1953 and had two children; Cynthia in 1955 and Shelley in 1958.

Wesley Fenimore Phillips died in 1951. Hazel later remarried to Otto Pennell, and died in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1976. 

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