Phillips and Callahan Family Lines


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Some of the principal surnames associated with our Phillips family line are BERRY, CALLAHAN, DAY, HARRIS, LOGAN, NEILL, REDDICK and WHITE.  Most of these families have early roots in the United Kingdom or Ireland. Some of our ancestors were in America in early colonial times. The BERRY, CALLAHAN and NEILL families were among the earliest settlers of Texas.  Some of them were in Texas before the Texian Revolution. FRANCIS BERRY arrived in Texas around 1825. Some of our ancestors fought under Sam Houston during the Texian Revolution, including JAMES CLINTON NEILL and JAMES HUGHES CALLAHAN.

On this side of the family, our ancestors were working class people - farmers, blacksmiths, soldiers, lawmen, storekeepers and laborers of all kinds. While most of them lived in the Old South they were not part of the aristocracy. Only a few of them ever owned Negro slaves but many of them were Confederates during the Civil War.

Some highlights for key individuals;

JAMES CLINTON NEILL was an old soldier who commanded the Alamo in early 1836, before it came under siege by the Mexicans. He is sometimes mentioned in history works as “the lost Commander”.  He turned the command of the Alamo over to LT COL William Travis several weeks before it came under siege, to take a leave of absence so he could travel to east Texas to spend time with a very sick loved one.  I do not know all of the particulars about that but there was some talk about him abandoning the Alamo because he was a coward. I do think that was the case. He was not in favor of trying to defend the Alamo when the Mexicans invaded, and had begged Sam Houston for reinforcements and better fortification of the Alamo compound in several letters he wrote.  The invasion was not expected to happen until sometime in May but it happened earlier than the Texians anticipated.  Houston did not have the resources available to strengthen the Alamo and it is believed that he planned to order its evacuation before the Mexicans arrived. By one record, COL Neill was on his way back to the Alamo, carrying emergency supplies he had purchased in east Texas with his own money, when he got word that the Alamo had been taken by the Mexicans with the loss of all the Texian defenders. He served as Chief of Artilary under Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto and was wounded there. He died in Navarro County, Texas in 1846. His granddaughter, SARAH ELIZABETH NEILL, would later marry JAMES SANFORD CALLAHAN..

JAMES HUGHES CALLAHAN was a survivor of the Goliad Massacre  during the Texian Revolution. He was born in Georgia around 1812 and traveled to Texas with a company of Georgia Volunteers commanded by Captain Ward. They arrived in Texas in late 1835 and promptly linked up with COL Fannin in south Texas. COL Fannin’s troops faced off against a large force of invading Mexicans near Victoria, Texas in March of 1836. The Texians were quickly defeated. While a few managed to escape, many were killed in the battle and the survivors were captured by the Mexicans. Most of the prisoners were executed by the Mexicans near Goliad, Texas a short time after being captured, known as the Goliad Massacre. JAMES HUGHES CALLAHAN was a skilled mechanic and had been drafted by the Mexicans to serve on a work detail near Victoria, Texas, which involved building a large barge. After the Goliad Massacre happened, Callahan escaped from the Mexicans with several companions. The Texian Revolution ended before they could link up with the main force of General Sam Houston’s Army. I believe it is safe to say that JAMES HUGHES CALLAHAN had a deep seeded hatred of Mexicans after that. He first saw service as a Texas Ranger in 1837, and would participate in several campaigns against maurauding Indians and Mexican bandits through 1840 – sometimes serving as a Lieutenant. He was appointed as a Captain in the Texas State Rangers and commanded a company of minutemen in Seguin, Texas. He was primarily a farmer, cattleman and storekeeper but when it was necessary between 1841 and 1844 he served as a Texas Ranger Captain to lead frontier troops in actions against the troublemakers then victimizing the settlers in rugged, sparsely populated areas of southwest Texas. I have found no record of him serving with the Texas Frontier Rangers from 1845 to 1855. This was a very active time period in Texas and the Texas State Rangers were called upon to serve as scouts for the regular U.S. Army troops dispatched to travel to Mexico, via Texas, in 1845.  It appears that Callahan took a break from the Texas Ranger service to focus on raising a family and operating a new store that he started around 1843. Texas became a state in 1846. Around 1849, he moved his family to newly aquired land along the Blanco River, near present day Blanco, Texas. He was one of the first settlers in that part of Texas and it is believed that  he speculated in land deals to lure others there. In 1853 he signed on as the Chief of Scouts with Michael Erskine, to lead a large cattle drive drive from near San Antonio, Texas to near Los Angeles, California. That mission was successfully completed in 1854 and he returned to Texas. There was a great deal of friction between the new U.S. state of Texas and Mexico in the 1850’s and many Texans were in favor of invading Mexico at strategic locations along the Rio Grande, to eliminate the bandits who took refuge there and establish new safe zones. In 1855 Callahan led a large company of Texas Rangers across the Rio Grande to enter Mexico, in pursuit of raiding Mexicans and Indians who operated from a safe haven they established in  northern Mexico.  In history it is known as “Callahan’s Expedition”.  Callahan’s company crossed the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas to enter Mexico. They were ambushed by a large party of Mexican Federal troops and some Indians after traveling about twenty miles into Mexico. After realizing that they were seriously outnumbered and outgunned, Callahan led a retreat back to the village of Piedras Negras, which is situated just across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas. They were not able to ford the river because of the run off from recent heavy rains upstream. Callahan had to take a defensive stand at Piedras Negras, to wait for the river to subside. Fires were set in the brush near the village, to create a smoke screen and cause confusion, with the hope of preventing the Mexican Federal troops from entering the village. Unfortunately, a shift in the winds caused the fires to get out of control and many of the structures in Piedras Negras were destroyed. The Mexicans claimed that the village was intentionally laid to waste by the Texas State Rangers, as an act of war by the U.S. against Mexico. There were also complaints made by the Mexicans against the Rangers for  looting, committing several rapes and even a few murders. Callahan denied these reports. He was eventually able to evacuate his force and return his men to Texas – using a ferry which was protected by cannons manned by U.S. Army troops on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. The raid into Mexico created an international incident. Most of the people in Texas thought Callahan was right to enter Mexico but some believed that he was only interested in plundering  and re-capturing several runaway Negro slaves, which were his own personal property. He was relieved of his responsiblities as a Texas State Ranger Captain and told that he could never serve again.Until the day he died, he swore that he had authorization to enter Mexico from the Governor of Texas and did nothing wrong. He was killed by a neighbor near the Blanco River in 1856,  after he became angered by some slanderous comments made by the neighbor. His son, JAMES SANFORD CALLAHAN, served  in the Texas State Militia 1st Calvary Regiment (Frontier Rangers) during the Civil War. He married SARAH ELIZABETH NEILL, granddaughter of COL JAMES CLINTON NEILL, in 1866 in Texas. They were the parents of WILLIE KATHERINE CALLAHAN, who grew up to marry JOHN WESLEY PHILLIPS.  

CALVIN PHILLIPS was the earliest ancestor with the Phillips surname that I have information about. Most of the information I have about him comes from land records and census records. What I know about him is sketchy, to say the least. I know he was born in the 1820’s in South Carolina, probably on the western side somewhere near Spartanburg.  That is rugged mountainous country – part of the Cherokees old hunting grounds. His father’s name was GABRIEL PHILLIPS and his mother’s maiden name was ABBEY RAINMAKER. It is likely that she was a Cherokee, although I have not been able to prove that. I believe CALVIN PHILLIPS was half Cherokee and had many of the Cherokee ways, which is reflected in his lifestyle after he married and had a family. Records show that he had at least three brothers - Edmond, Gabriel and H. It seems that the family started moving west in the early 1830’s, settling first in Tennessee, then moving to northwest Alabama near Florence, where they spent several years, and finally settling in northwest Arkansas. The family arrived in northwest Arkansas in the early 1840’s – possibly even before that. CALVIN PHILLIPS married RACHEL REDDICK in 1849. RACHEL REDDICK was the daughter of a soldier, Indian fighter and frontiersman named SHADRACH REDDICK. He was born in the 1790’s in South Carolina. He started soldiering when he was in his teens and served in campaigns against the Seminoles, Creeks and Cherokees in the early 1810’s,1820’s and 1830’s. He served under Andrew Jackson for part of that time. After the Indian problems were resolved, he traveled to the frontier in Illinious. He married NELLIE SMITH there. RACHEL REDDICK was born in Illinious around 1830.  CALVIN and RACHEL REDDICK PHILLIPS were living in Washington County, Arkansas in 1850 and he is listed as a blacksmith. Notations indicate they were “married within the year”. They stayed in Arkansas until after 1870. Old family journals show that he served as a soldier in the Confederate Army during the Civil War but I have not found official records to validate it. Records show that he owned small parcels of land in Washington County and Benton County. Calvin probably fought for the Confederacy.  He named a son born in 1865 JEFFERSON DAVIS PHILLIPS. They had eight children between 1851 and 1872. Our direct ancestor, JOHN WESLEY PHILLIPS, was their seventh child, born in 1868. The family moved to Texas after 1870. They show up in the 1880 Cooke County, Texas census. They were living in the Chickasaw Nation of the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) before 1890. They settled in or near the village of Wapanuka, in present day Johnson County, Oklahoma. SHADRACH REDDICK left Arkansas with a grown son anf other family members aound 1852 to travel to Oregon in a wagon train via the Old Oregon Trail. He died in 1860 in Sauvie Island, Oregon. JOHN WESLEY PHILLIPS married WILLIE KATHERINE CALLAHAN around 1890 in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. They had seven children, all born in the Indian Territory, including my father, WALTER LEE PHILLIPS, who was born in 1896. My father talked about an old Indian grandfather who came to visit their farm, on the reservation, when he was a small boy. He described the old man as being toothless, wearing his hair long and braided in the Indian style, and having a bad scar across one side of his face with part of the ear on that side missing. He said the old man liked to chew tobacco and he sometimes thought he ate it because he never saw him spit anything out. The old man would sometimes send my father to their barn to pick out a tobacco leaf for him. They apparently raised tobacco as one of their crops, and kept bundles of it hanging in the barn to cure when it was harvest season. I believe the old man was CALVIN PHILLIPS. I believe CALVIN PHILLIPS died in the early 1900's and he is probably buried somewhere around Wapanuka, Oklahoma - probably with his wife, Rachel. I have not found their graves.

JOHN WESLEY PHILLIPS moved his family to Comanche County, Texas around 1905. They homesteaded a small farm near Comanche, Texas and raised mostly cotton. At cotton harvest time, John would sit on the wagon seat while his wife and children gathered the cotton. The wagon was usually parked under a good shade tree. They would bring their full cotton sacks to  the wagon and dump it in. They would get a drink of water and rest there for a few minutes before going back to the the field to pick more cotton. John was also responsible for keeping the water tank filled. When the wagon was filled with cotton, he would drive it to the gin in town.  He considered himself to be the manager and oversee’er  of the family and he left most of the hard work to his wife and children. In the home circle, the prime mover for the family was “Katie”. She took care of the discipline for the children to keep them in line and also gave them love and most of their fundemental education – teaching them reading, writing and ciphering. She supervised the children to get all of the chores done around the farm. Where the children were concerned,  John was somewhat aloof and  detached. He was not very involved with the children in  their day to day activities. He was patient and kind but was very quiet and  kept his distance. This goes along with what I know about the Cherokees. The men were the protectors and hunter-gatherers – rearing  the children and doing the chores that had to be done around their homes and villages was considered to be “squaw’s work”. John was more involved with his grand-children than he had been with his own children. JOHN WESLEY PHILLIPS died in 1935. WILLIE KATHERINE CALLAHAN PHILLIPS died in 1949. They are both buried in the White Point Cemetery in Comanche County, Texas.

My father, WALTER LEE PHILLIPS, had a strong work ethic. He prided himself for being able to work circles around most other men. In his younger years – he worked mostly on farms and ranches, doing anything that needed to be done, from breaking horses to blacksmithing,  herding livestock, planting.and harvesting crops. He did it all. He also worked as a gin hand during the cotton harvesting season. The cotton gins in those days were complicated and problematic, and good men were needed to be on the job twenty four hours a day to keep the gin running.  It was a very dangerous place to work and the work was hard. As a small boy, I remember my father staying in town at the cotton gin most of the week, coming home on Saturday evenings. He would spend the Sundays with the family then it was back to work again very early Monday morning.  With him – his work always came first. He had lived through the Great Depression and knew what it was like to be unemployed. He knew the importance of making a good hand so he could keep a good reputation and have a job. He always gave 110 percent to every job he held. As a small boy, I  remember that we lived about seven miles from town and my father often walked to and from town. In those days - everyone did not own cars. After he turned sixty, my father could no longer do the heavy work he had done all of his life. He took up cooking and worked as a cook in several restaurants around Abilene, Texas – Drake Hotel Restaurant, Graves Truck Stop Grill, Weathers Cafe’, Grape Street Inn, to name only a few. He often worked twelve to sixteen hour shifts at those places, until he was forced to quit at the age of 71 because of failing health. Years of standing in one spot on the concrete floors took their toll – he developed serious circulatory problems in his legs which eventually resulted in the amputation of his right leg, just above the knee, when he was 72 years old. WALTER LEE PHILLIPS died in January of 1971. He is buried in the White Point Cemetery in Comanche County, Texas.






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This website was developed by Dalton R. Phillips of Temple, Texas. The information appearing here was compiled from information gathered during my own research and the material received from several donors since 1995. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of all of the information shown here. Please verify any information shown here against other sources, when it is practical to do so. I will be happy to answer your questions and provide assistance, when I can.

The information appearing here is intended for the use of others with family connections, to aid in their research, and is provided free of charge.

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