NIMROD PHILIPS, the pioneer ferryman, came of a family some of whose members had settled in the middle of the eighteenth century in the valleys of the Yadkin and the river Dan in North Carolina. There they became associated with the Boones and Elledges, whom they eventually followed to the land of Kentucky, members of all three families coming thence to Illinois in the early 1820s.
The name of Philips, spelled in many ways in different lands and by different branches of the family, is an old one in America. The Philips Ferry family always spelled the name with one "l." This family settled in Morgan county, in the part that is now Scott county, early in 1822, moving thence to the Pike county side of the river in 1824.
The name of "Nimrod" has been a favored one in the Philips family for many generations, as has been also the name of "Andrew." Andrew Philips, son of Nimrod, succeeded his father at Philips Ferry, taking the ferry by express charge of his father in his will. Andrew was also an early justice of the peace, and many a yellowed document in the basement of the Pike county court house bears his signature and certification.
The first Andrew Philips of record in America dates from 1659, being mentioned in "Wyman's Charlestown Genealogies." This Andrew had a son Andrew, who married Sarah Smith November 11, 1685, and their children were Andrew, Ebenezer, Joanna and Samuel. The early record of the family is very imperfect.
A descendant of the first Philipses in America wrote the genealogist in the middle of the last century: "My father had the records of the first of the Philipses who came to this country, but they were destroyed by a little roguish girl about 60 years ago. The Philipses left a large amount of property in England, choosing rather to leave their property than to be deprived of the privilege of enjoying their religion." The writer of this information was Abner S. Philips.
The earliest Philipses were of the Plymouth colony.
In the Plymouth Colony Records it appears that John Philips of Marshfield and Faith Doty of Plymouth signed a marriage contract by making their marks. Their son, John Philips, was killed by lightning. The Mather MSS. Recite:
"Being at work in the meadow, making hay, a tempest suddenly arose and he (John Philips) immediately started for the nearest house. Having entered he sat down between the door and the chimney when the lightning struck the chimney, and descending passed out the door, knocking him lifeless on the ground."
The Philips family had cause to fear the thunder cloud, for once before, according to the early records, death darted from the darkened sky, leaving two others of its members dead.
Faith Doty, it appears, was John Philips' third wife.
His second wife had been Grace Holloway, and she with their son Jeremiah were killed by lightning on June 23, 1666. The account is related in a letter from the Reverend Samuel Arnold of Marshfield to the Reverend Mr. Mather of Boston, 1683, and given by Winsor as follows:
"There were at the house of John Philips 14 persons.
"Instantly a terrible clap of thunder fell upon the house and rent the chimney, and split the door in many places, and struck most of the persons, if not all.' Three were ‘mortally struck with God's arrows, that they never breathed more.' They were the wife of Mr. Philips, and his son, aged about 10 years, and one William Shertley (Shurtleff), ‘who had a little child in his arms, which was wonderfully preserved.' This Shurtleff had just before been burnt out of his own house, and with his family, was at this time ‘a present sojourner at said Philips.'"
Nimrod Philips was twice married. Who his first wife was is unknown. His second wife, whom he married in Kentucky, was Nancy Elledge, a daughter of Francis Elledge and Charity Boone, and a sister of Preacher Jess Elledge, whose second wife was Elizabeth Philips, Nimrod's daughter by his first wife.
Nancy Elledge had first married a Norris (probably Thomas Norris) and they had several children, some of whom came to Pike county and married and settled here, one of them, Thomas K. Norris, marrying Mrs. Louisa Scholl Key, widow of Francis Key and daughter of Kentucky Peter Scholl and Mary Boone. Nancy's first husband died and later, in Kentucky, she married Nimrod Philips, and came with him to Illinois.
Rude indeed was the cabin of Nimrod Philips and Nancy Elledge at the old ferry landing on Section 20, Flint township. Again we will call upon Rebecca Burlend, the English emigrant of 1831, to describe the Philips home, typical of the Pike county homes of that day.
In the preceding chapter, it will be remembered, the Burlend family, landing on the wild Illinois shore at Philips Ferry, houseless, by night in a strange land, sick at heart and wishing they had never come to America, had at length found shelter in a settler's cabin which Father Burlend had discovered by following a cow path into the wilds. Burlend, accompanied by a stranger, had then returned for the mother and her little ones, huddled in a despairing group on the river shore. The stranger who accompanied Burlend was Andrew Philips, son of Nimrod, and then in charge of the ferry. The cabin to which Philips guided the emigrant family was that of his late father who had died in Sullivan county, Indiana, a few months before the arrival of the Burlends, the cabin being then occupied by Andrew Philips and his wife Jane.
"And now," says Mrs. Burlend, "for the first time in my life, did I fairly see the interior of a log-house, which, however rude I might think it, I felt, as the reader will readily believe, most happy to enter. It was much more comfortable to sleep on a bed laid on the floor before a fire of glowing embers than it would have been on the cold ground, which a short time before I feared would be my lodging.
"But I am forgetting the house. It was a fair specimen of a log-house, and therefore a description of it will give the reader a pretty correct idea of the American peasantry. There were two rooms, both on the ground floor, separated from each other with boards so badly joined that crevices were in many places observable. The rooms were nearly square, and might contain from thirty to forty square yards each; beneath one of the rooms was a cellar, the floor and sides of which were mud and clay, as left when first dug out; the walls of the house consisted of layers of strong blocks of timber, roughly squared and notched into each other at the corners; the joints filled up with clay. The house had two doors, one of which is always closed in winter, and open in summer to cause a draught. The fire was on the floor at the end of the building, where a grotesque chimney had been constructed of stones gathered out of the land, and walled together with clay and mud instead of cement. It was necessarily a great width, to prevent the fire from communicating with the building. The house was covered with oak shingles; that is to say, thin riven boards nailed upon each other, so as just to over-reach. The floors of the house were covered with the same material, except a large piece near the fire, which was paved with small stones, also gathered from the land. There was no windows to the house I am describing, although many log-houses may now (eleven years later) be found having glass windows. This inconvenience I pointed out to my hostess who replied, ‘upon the whole it was as well without, for in winter the house was warmer and in summer they had always the door open, which was better than any window.' it is in reality true that the want of light is felt very little in a log-house; in winter they are obliged to keep fine blazing fires which, in addition to the light obtained from their low wide chimneys, enable the inmates to perform any business that is requisite.
"It is however by no means to be understood that an American log house equals in comfort and convenience a snug English cottage. It is quite common to see at least one bed in the same room as that in which the fire is kept; a practice which invariably gives both the bed and house a filthy appearance. There was no chamber, only a sort of loft, constructed rather with a view to make the house warmer than to afford additional room. Adjoining one side were a few boards nailed together in the form of a table, and supported principally by the timber in the wall. This was dignified with the name ‘side-board.' In the center of the room stood another small table, covered with a piece of coarse brown calico; this was the dining table. The chairs, four in number, were the most respectable furniture in the house, having bark of hickory platted for bottoms. Besides these there were two stools and a bench for common use - a candlestick made from an ear of Indian corn, two or three trenchers and a few tin drinking vessels. One corner of the house was occupied with agricultural implements, consisting of large hoes, axes, etc., for stubbing, called in America grubbing, flails and wooden forks, all exhibiting workmanship rather homely. Various herbs were suspended from the roof with a view of being medicinally serviceable, also two guns, one of them a rifle. There were several hams and sides of bacon, smoked almost till black; two or three pieces of beef, etc. Under one of the beds were three or four large pots filled with honey of which Mrs. P. was not a little lavish, as she used it at every meal along with coffee. The furniture in the other room consisted of two beds and a hand-loom, with which the family wove the greater part of their own clothes. In the cellar I observed two or three large hewn tubs, full of lard, and a lump of tobacco, the produce of their own land, in appearance sufficient to serve an ordinary smoker his life."
The log house thus described by Mrs. Burlend had been built by Garret Van Dusen in 1821 and had been transferred by him to Nimrod Philips in 1824. Philips and his wife, Nancy Elledge, had lived therein until shortly before the death of Philips in the forepart of 1831, after which the house was occupied by Nimrod's son, Andrew Philips and his family. This rude abode had also been a licensed inn and tavern under both Van Dusen and Nimrod Philips, as shown by the records of the county commissioners.
Nimrod Philips, in addition to running the ferry and his combination inn and tavern, was also a road supervisor, appointed by the County Commissioners' Court in June, 1824 as supervisor "of that part of the road leading from Atlas to the Illinois River, that is between Bay Creek and the said River, and to have the control of all lands within three miles on each side of said Road."
This was the early Atlas trail, leading up from Philips Ferry and dividing on the mound where now is Griggsville, one fork leading to Atlas, the other to the early German settlement in what is now Adams county, on the road to present Quincy, the site of which was then inhabited by the Indians.
Nimrod Philips was a son of Nimrod and Sarah Philips, he a son of Andrew, Nimrod and Sarah Philips were pioneers in the Yadkin region of North Carolina, where they settled along with the Boone and Bryan families. The date of Pike county Nimrod's birth is unknown. It is known that his younger sister, Sally Philips, who married Solomon Hornback, was born in North Carolina December 23, 1778. It is probable that Nimrod was born about the beginning of the Revolution.
Some of the Philips kin were in this region in a very early day, even before Illinois was a state. The census of 1818, taken in the Territorial counties to determine whether Illinois had enough inhabitants to qualify for statehood, shows fifteen members of the Philips family then in Madison county, from which (with portions of Bond and Clark) Pike county was erected in 1821. These members belonged to the families of James, David and Jeremiah Philips.
Sarah (Sally) Philips, daughter of the elder Nimrod and sister of Pike county Nimrod, was born in North Carolina in 1779 and as a child went with her parents to Kentucky at the time that the Boone and Elledge families were emigrating to the land beyond the mountains. In Kentucky, in 1806 or 1807, she married Solomon Hornback, whose first wife, Nancy Garner, had died about the year 1805.
Solomon Hornback and Sally Philips came to Pike county, Illinois, in 1836, bringing with them a son and a daughter, Solomon, Jr., and Nancy, both Kentucky-born. Solomon, Sr. and his brother, Tobias Hornback, had been in the War of 1812. Returning from that war, Tobias Hornback tarried in Milford, Pike county, Pennsylvania, and while living there, under an act of Congress, he received a grant to 160 acres of bounty land in the Military Tract in Illinois, as a reward for his services in the 1812 War. Receiving his U. S. bounty patent in 1817, he came the following year (1818) into this wild country and took up his claim in what is now Derry township. This was in the days of the Territory. The land to which he then established claim, lying south and east of Taylor school and Taylor-Martin cemetery, later passed to John O. and Edward T. Strubinger, great grandsons of Solomon Hornback and Nimrod Philips.
Thus, if the Hornback family records are correct, Tobias Hornback was one of the first white men to sojourn in the Military Tract, being a contemporary here in Pike county of Jean Baptiste Tibault, the early Canadian Frenchman who trapped along the Illinois and ran a rude transport at the site of Philips Ferry in the closing days of Illinois Territory.
William Hornback, so well known in the pioneer days of Pike county, was the first born of the children of Solomon Hornback and Sally Philips. He was born in Kentucky, in January, 1808. In 1826, in Kentucky, he married Sallie Wren Landrum, whose father's plantation joined that of the Hornbacks. They had one daughter, Patsy Ann, born in Kentucky in 1827, and in that same year William Hornback and his two half-brothers, James Hopeful and Joseph Alfred Hornback (sons of Solomon Hornback and Nancy Garner) came to Pike county, Illinois, and explored the country in the region where Tobias Hornback had sojourned in 1818. They located claims in Section 20, west of present El Dara, and in 1829 William Hornback brought his family to Pike county and settled on Section 20 in now Derry township. James Hopeful Hornback, who also entered land there, died March 17, 1832, of lung fever. He is buried in Hornback cemetery, on the original Hornback land entry.
In Pike county, three more children were born to William Hornback and Sallie Landrum, namely, William Landrum, Solomon Philips and Reuben Wren Hornback.
Patsy Ann, first born of William and Sallie Hornback's children and the only one born in Kentucky, married Robert Wassell in Pike county December 23, 1847, with Justice F. A. Landrum officiating.
William Landrum Hornback, born in Pike county in 1829, the first white child born in Derry township, married, first, Miss Osa May Thomas, August 11, 1853. They were married by the Reverend Jesse Elledge, the pioneer Baptist. The wife died November 9, 1861, and on March 26, 1863, William L. married Delila Carter. They had no children of their own but raised several orphan children in their home.
Solomon Philips Hornback married Nancy Freeman, in Pike county, October 31, 1858. She died August 25, 1860, aged 28. His brother, Reuben Wren Hornback, youngest son of William Hornback and Sallie Landrum, born February 1, 1837, married Nancy's sister, Elizabeth Freeman, October 2, 1860. They had eight children. Nancy and Elizabeth were daughters of Jordan L. and Sarah Freeman. Jordan L. was born October 1, 1808, and died June 7, 1882. He and his wife are buried in Taylor-Martin cemetery. Reuben Hornback died October 9, 1910; his wife, born in Pike county, September 16, 1843, died February 7, 1910. Both are buried at Taylor-Martin.
Sallie Landrum Hornback, born in 1806, died January 9, 1839, aged 34, and was buried in Hornback cemetery. William Hornback, on April 9, 1840, again married, his second wife being Nancy R. Swerer, who was born in Ohio October 31, 1808 and died in Derry township October 10, 1858. A year later, August 11, 1859, Mr. Landrum married as his third wife Mrs. Mary Ann Landrum, who was born October 4, 1808. She was the widow of Dr. Frank A. Landrum. They had first settled in the pioneer town of Winchester, coming thence in 1833 to the vicinity of present El Dara. He died, leaving a son, William Landrum, who died in 1936, leaving a son Harold and a daughter Inez, who married William Carr and resides at Maysville. Frank A. and Mary Ann Landrum had two sons who died young, William F. (born March 3, 1840; died August 11, 1840), and Francis A. (born March 23, 1843; died July 4, 1852). Both are buried in Hornback cemetery.