'My 3rd great-grandfather, John Phillips stands out as one of my ancestors to whom there still exists a thin, living, thread. Phillips' great-granddaughter, Laura, was my mother’s grandmother and my mother is still alive, though 100 years old. As she recounts fragments of her family history, it is clear that the Phillips played a major role in her childhood concept of who she is.
*John Phillips (1747-1834) was descended from Nathaniel Phillips, who in 1636 left Britain to settle in Dedham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where he received 12 acres for planting. Four years later, he became a freeman and a deacon of the church in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
The name of John Phillips was first recorded when he joined the colonial militia at his home in Bellingham, Massachusetts, at age 28, A private under the command of Captain Jesse Holbrook, he left his wife and two-year-old son to march 50 miles to Lexington on April 19, 1775 to stop the advance of British troops. For the next year and a half he served in several companies* before he was discharged from service in Ticonderoga in December 1776.
John returned to Bellingham and with his wife, Sarah Pond, had three more children over the next 12 years, the last one a daughter, Sarah Pond Phillips, in March of 1789. The next year he was in Maine, a full ten years after the close of the Revolutionary War, propelled in part by the promise of a land grant for his military service. One report says the family stopped first in China, Maine but in 1790 census takers found the 43-year-old, John Phillips and six family members living in Eddington, a bustling frontier town on a bend in the Penobscot River settled by Col. Jonathan Eddy and 19 others through a land grant given in 1785.
Early settlers traded with the Penobscot Indians who had long fished the Penobscot River near Eddington, they also fished and worked the land.
There is no indication where the Phillips first lived but eight years later the family had moved to the Brewer section of East Orrington. In 1803, son Nathan had married another Massachusetts native who had made her way to Maine, Rebecca Kentfield.
After Nathan and Rebecca were married and she gave birth to the first three of ten children, Nathan Phillips visited a picturesque lake not far from Orrington and decided to settle there in 1810. When he returned a second time he found he was on the wrong side of the lake so he removed his clothing, tied it to the handle of an axe and swam across the lake. He built his first cabin near the shore, then built another on a hill, where he offered lodging and food to travelers at a spot known as half-way on the road to Ellsworth. Today the rustic inn has been replaced by a grander structure and is called the Lucerne Inn.
Many members of the family, including John and Nathan, and their wives, are buried in Pine Tree Cemetery, just a stone’s throw from the lake.
The census of 1830 lists three Phillips family households -- under John, John Jr. and Nathan -- living as residents of Otis, Maine, then a part of Dedham territory. In 1834, John Phillips died but Nathan and other family members remained in Dedham.
Nathan’s son and my direct ancestor Richard (Rich) Phillips married Phoebe Cowing on March 2, 1843. Phoebe was the granddaughter of another Revolutionary War veteran, one of thousands of militia men who took part in one of the country's biggest naval debacles, the Penobscot Expedition. (Compare the ignoble end of Calvin Cowing’s military career to the defeat of one of his ancestors by Cromwell's army in the last battle of the English civil war.)
Rich Phillips and Phoebe Cowing gave birth to eleven children in Dedham, the youngest of them, Laura Adams Phillips, was born in 1860, when Phoebe was 42 years old. By 1870, Rich and Phoebe had settled in Surry, on the far side of the county seat of Ellsworth. Phoebe died at age 75, according to her death certificate, the cause was “old age.”
Laura grew up in Surry and became my great grandmother after marrying Herbert Henry Eldridge, of Orrington, who we will learn about in another post. Laura gave birth to four children including my grandmother and her twin sister, Mattie and Minnie Eldridge, but died in her forties and was spoken of in reverent terms ever since.
John Phillips was attached to the following Continental Companies in Massachusetts for varying amounts of time:
Names of My Ancestors
Puritans & Servants