Thursday, May 22, 2014

William Washington Phillips (1834 - 1897)

A number of steamboat men got their start on the river while living in Smithland, Livingston County, Kentucky and later moved to Evansville, Indiana, which was a center for steamboat traffic. The Evansville newspapers are full of news of the steamboats and their pilots and passengers. The following obituaries caught my attention.

William W.
Aug. 5 1834
April 3, 1897

Evansville Courier  4 April 1897
Captain William Washington Phillips, one of the best-known pilots on the river, died yesterday afternoon at his residence. He was 62 years old. Capt. Phillips had been a sufferer of Bright's disease for about three years and for the last four months he had been confined to his home.

Capt. Wash Phillips, as everybody called him, was born near Smithland, McCracken [sic] county, Kentucky on August 4, 1835 [sic], being the oldest child in a family of seven. He attended the public schools of Smithland until he was 16 years old.

On October 5, 1853, he married Miss Martha J. Tigner, a prominent young lady of Smithland. Thirteen children were born to Capt. and Mrs. Phillips, six of whom are now living. They are: Mrs. E.M. Gordon, of this city; Mrs. Richard Martin, of Knight township; Mr. Charles B. Phillips, of Berryville, N.Y.; Mrs. L.C. Schultz, East St. Louis, Ill.; Mrs. Gus Phillips, of Memphis; Miss Ada Phillips, of Evansville. Capt. Phillips' wife survives him.

At an early age, Capt. Phillips learned the trade of ship carpentering and during his whole life was connected with steamboats in various capacities. When the civil war broke out, Capt. Phillips was a young man in the prime of his life and had bright prospects. When his country's flag was fired upon at Fort Sumter, he was seized with a desire to help save the union, which then seemed certain of destruction. He was engaged as pilot of an union gunboat and served throughout the war. He participated in many of the fierce engagements that took place on the rivers of the southern states.

At various times [after the war], he was employed as a pilot on the John S. Hopkins, Dick Fowler, Dexter, Cumberland, Idlewild and City of Evansville [steamboats]. He was proprietor of the tug Robbin at one time. Capt. Phillips had not been engaged in active service on the river for several months owing to his failing health.

Evansville Courier 6 April 1897
The funeral of the late Capt. Washington Phillips occurred yesterday afternoon from the family residence at 1612 East Virginia street. The services were conducted by the Rev. Samuel Reid, pastor of Ingle street M.E. Church. The remains were buried at Locust Hill.

Evansville Courier 30 January 1917
Following an illness of three weeks, Mrs. M.J. Phillips, 79 years old, passed away yesterday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Jeanie Gordon.

The 1850 Livingston County, Kentucky census shows William W. Phillips, age 16 and born Kentucky, living in the household of William and Judah Phillips in Smithland. When William Washington Phillips married Miss Martha Jane Tigner in Smithland 5 October 1853 he stated he was born in Massac County, Illinois and was living at West wood or the Point. His mother, Judith Phillips, a widow, gave consent for the license to be issued. He was 19 years old and his bride was 16.  By 1860, Wash Phillips and his family were living in Evansville. Wash Phillips, Martha Tigner Phillips and son, W.T. Phillips, are all buried at Locust Hill Cemetery, Evansville. Martha does not have a tombstone.

Published 22 May 2014, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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