The Phelps' of Butler County, KY

The William Phelps Question

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I've recieved several e-mails concerning William Phelps.   The e-mail from Mary Garlan below explains the quandry clearly.  I have added this important note to my site to keep from passing on bad and undocumented information. 

I have also included more information gathered from friends. Maybe This can give some type of answer or a place to start searching.

When it comes to our Phelps line, unfortunately it seems that some mistakes have been made. The parents of our William PHELPS, who came to KY from VA, have been recorded incorrectly.

The Phelps line was researched within the last 100 years, and we all took their research as truth. Books have been written about them, as well as articles, and they are in the DAR records. But unfortunately, past researchers made an understandable mistake. They didn't realize that there were TWO William PHELPS living in Buckingham Co., Virginia from 1770 through the Revolutionary War period. So they linked our line to the wrong William PHELPS, and on and on, back to England.

This mistake has only come to light within the last few years, when a young man from the William PHELPS line in Buckingham Co., VA started searching his roots right there in the county where he lived, as had his relatives for the past 300 years. To his knowledge no one from his line had ever researched their family. Then he found William PHELPS in the DAR records. After sending for their records, he found that it linked his William to Nancy NAIL, and had them migrating to Kentucky. To compound the problem, the "other" William of Buckingham Co., had a son named William. That William Jr. also migrated to KY (Logan Co.) in the very late 1780s. But his wife's name was Keziah STILL. They must have been married around 1790 in most likely Buckingham Co., VA. And, two of his Uncles, Thomas and John, from Buckingham Co., VA, had also migrated to Kentucky.

Well, the young man knew that his William PHELPS, and most of his descendants remained in Buckingham Co. VA. So he started digging through all the records he could find. He found in his line, three Williams in a direct line

  1. Thomas Phelps, who died before May 14, 1751 in Albermarle Co., VA.; then go to his son,
  2. William I, d 1749, Albermarle Co., VA; his son,
  3. William II (the brother of James), b 1735 in Albermarle Co., VA and d 1810 in Buckingham Co., VA; then his son
  4. William III, d 1824 in Logan Co., KY, married Keziah STILL, and came to KY in the 1790s. And of course this Wm. also named a son Wm. Note that in VA, this family lived on the same property for 3 generations. In 1761 that part of Albermarle Co. became Buckingham Co. but it was the same land.

There is also proof that our William was not from the Thomas line. The solid proof is that William's son, John, testified in his Revolutionary War pension application that he, John, was born in Cumberland Co., VA. That is "primary" evidence, first hand testimony, as was Nicholas's testimony. There is proof that there was only one PHELPS family that lived in Cumberland Co., VA in the 1750s. That was the family of John PHELPS, who died in Goochland Co., VA in 1747. The Plantation where he was living at the time of his death was on land that became Cumberland Co., VA in 1749 when that county was formed from Goochland Co.

This proves that our William PHELPS, the one who we state was married to Nancy NAIL, was the son of John PHELPS, who owned lands in Goochland Co., VA upon his death in 1747. That land later became Cumberland Co., VA in 1749. And our William remained on that land until March of 1755. And our William had a son named William who married Nancy House & Ritha Cox.

Here is John's Will from 1747 where he names his three sons. The oldest son was John, then Samuel, than the youngest, William.


From Goochland County Deeds and Wills Deed Bk. No. 5, 1745-1749, p.389-390.

Will of John PHELPS (x), of Goochland Co., sick,

To my son, John, the use of the land where he (John) lives, next to John WOODSON and John PLEASANTS, and at his death to his son, John PHELPS.

To my son, John, one Negro woman Sarah.

To my son, Samuel, land where James STAFFORD lives and where George BUTS lived, next to WADSON(sic) and John PLEASANTS, [*note- this property is near the Court House of the said county] and also to him Negroes Charles, Dick, Hanah, Cate, Peter and York; also 500 acres on Fleamon's Creek, 400 being part the plantation is on and 100 acres of the joining survey; also items and livestock;

To my son, William, all the rest of my land at Fleamon's Creek, being 560 acres held by him, and also land and plantation where I live at my wife's death. Also Negroes Franky, Harry, and Ned; items and livestock.

To my grandson John PHELPS, 54 acres next to CARDWELL, TABORS, Horsepen branch & Col. RANDOLPH; also one Negro Joe, when he comes of age. To granddaughter Mary PHELPS, one Negro; granddaughter Sarah PHELPS, one Negro;

To Dorothy LEARWOOD, 1 young mare and 4 cattle.

To wife Margaret, for life, 3 Negroes Thom, Jeney, and Robin, and then to my son William. The use of plantation where testator lives, &c &c; the Negroes given grandchildren to be in the care of William Phelps.

Rest of my estate to my wife and son William.

Executors sons Samuel and William.

Dated Feb 14 or 10, 1747;

Wit Wm. STONE, Joseph WOOD, James BARNES

Signed John (F) PHELPS

Recorded 16 March 1747 proved in Goochland March 1747.

Deed Bk. No. 5, 1745-1749 (Reel 2), p.389-390. Will pro. 16 Mar 1747.



(Note that our William named his first son, John, after his father and oldest brother. Also he named another son Samuel, for his other brother. And a daughter, Margaret, after his mother.)

There is a question about if William was married to Nancy NAIL, although he could have been. There are documents stating that at least between 1755 and 1770, Wm.'s wife was named Sarah. Perhaps we may be able to prove that Sarah was a NAIL/NEAL. The names Nicholas, Julian, Nancy Ann, and Aquilla are names that are found in the NAIL/NEAL/NAILE/NEALE line of Amherst Co., VA. That makes a case for a NAIL/NEAL connection.

No one has any "proof" of Nancy NAIL, only family stories passed down through the years that she died at Pitman's Station. Most Phelps have relied on the biographies written about the two Julian PHELPS in "Kentucky A History of the State, Battle, Perrin, & Kniffin, 2nd ed., written in 1885, as their proof. But, that is not "primary" evidence, only stories that where relayed by family, and the one about Julian N. PHELPS is differently inaccurate. We can prove that some of our PHELPS were at Pitman's Station during 1780-1782 off and on between Indian raids. William's son, Nicholas testified to that in a deposition he gave in 1822. He mentioned his father and brother Julian in that deposition.

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