JOHN PHILLIPS is a pioneer of Lane County, He came to this part of Western Kansas in 1885. Through his varied activities and experiences he has become one of the most widely known men of Lane County. In fact every one feels it a privilege to claim friendship and acquaintance with "Polk" Phillips, as he is universally called. He is not only a veteran Western Kansan, but also a veteran of the great Civil war and was very active in the Grand Army Post at Healy as long as it existed.
Mr. Phillips is an example of a man who rises above his early environment and makes a successful record in life by individual initiative and force of character. His people were all of the poor farmer class, and a few of them rose to financial independence. John Phillips was born in Orange County, Indiana, near French Lick Springs, December 23, 1842. His father, Leonard Phillips, came from North Carolina to Indiana with grandfather Phillips, who settled in French Lick Township of Orange County, Indiana. Grandfather Phillips spent his last years there, and much of his time was spent as a school teacher. Among his children were: William, who died in Orange County; David, who died in Knox County, Indiana; George, who was best known as a lover of fast horses and died, it is believed, in Ohio; John who lives near Terre Haute, Indiana; Leonard; and a daughter whose name is not now recalled.
Leonard Phillips acquired only a fair education. He had a small tract of land, cultivated it to the best of his ability, and did what he could by his family, but was a poor man when he died in 1874. He was then sixty years of age, having been born in 1814. He was a warm democrat and before and during the war was a Southern sympathizer, though all of his sons old enough went into the Union army. Leonard Phillips was not especially a religious man, and became a church member only late in life. He married Lucinda Leonard, who died in 1873. Her parents were Isaac and Lizzie (Taylor) Leonard, her father having been one of the early settlers in Orange County, Indiana, though he pursued farming with indifferent success. Leonard Phillips and wife had the following children: George, who became a private in the Twenty-Eighth Indiana Infantry, saw active service with Sherman's army and died near West Plains, Missouri; Bedford became a member of the Fiftieth Indiana Infantry in Company F, spent three years in the western army, much of his service being under General Steele, and he now lives in West Baden, Indiana; John; Isaac, a farmer near Mitchell, Indiana; James, of Indianapolis; Lucy Ann, who died while the war was in progress, and her husband, Newton J. Carr, died as an enlisted soldier of the Forty-Ninth Indiana Infantry, but had never left the state with the regiment; Elizabeth, wife of John Lynch, of Indianapolis.
John Phillips grew up on the farm of his parents in Orange County, Indiana, and the only education he and his brothers received were a few terms of three months each year. At the age of seventeen he left home and went to Knox County, Indiana, and was working on a farm at wages of $12 a month when the war broke out.
Notwithstanding his father's southern sentiments and inclinations John Phillips early became convinced that his duty was to the Union. In October, 1861, he was elected to Company F of the Fiftieth Indiana Infantry under Capt. John Hungatte and Col. C. L. Dunham. This regiment rendezvoused at Bedford, Indiana, went to Louisville, thence to Beardstown, and on to Camp Wyckliff, Kentucky. While at Camp Wyckliff he and his brother were stricken with measles, were sent to the barracks and soon given a furlough to return home. After sixty days at home John Phillips rejoined his regiment at Mumfordsville, Kentucky. The regiment soon reinforced General Wilder's command and took part in the fighting in that vicinity. The entire brigade was captured by Bragg's army but John Phillips managed to escape early the next morning. While standing in ranks ready to move to the prison camp at Bowling Green he asked the guard if he could not go to the river and fill his canteen. As he passed around a bluff to the river he perceived that he was completely out of sight of the entire Confederate forces, and then and there decided to make his escape. He had soon waded across Green River and entered the heavy timber and thickets of briars on the other side. That night he spent in a pile of leaves off the road. The following morning he begged his breakfast, and was hardly in condition to travel since he had suffered a severe chill as a result of his exposure. He arranged with a farmer for the loan of a horse, and proceeded horseback to a mill some distance away, and then started to walk back home to Indiana. Arriving on the banks of the Ohio River, he found a skiff locked to the bank, but he quickly broke the lock with a rock, and on jumping from the boat to the north bank of the river found himself once more in the land of freedom and in the state of Indiana. He remained at home until the regiment was paroled and furloughed, and he then went back to Indianapolis. When the reg ment received its exchange it was re-equipped with new guns, flags and other paraphernalia, was sent to Cairo, Illinois, then to Columbus, Kentucky, on to Jackson, Tennessee, and arrived at Corinth the day after the battle was fought. Returning to Jackson, the regiment took part in the chase of General Forrest, engaging the Confederate commander at Parker's Crossroads from 10 until 4 P. M. General Sullivan then came up with re-enforcements and the rebel army fled. The command of which Mr. Phillips was a member was soon ordered from Jackson to Meden's Station above Vicksburg. It remained there until the Mississippi stronghold fell on the 4th of July, 1863. He and his comrades then marched to Helena, Arkansas, and on to Little Rock, and drove General Price's army out of that section of the state. In the fall they returned to Louisburg, Arkansas, were again in Little Rock the next spring, and as part of General Steele's army took part in the engagement at Camden, and from there retreated to Jenkins' Perry, where the Federals beat off the Confederates. After the regiment was returned to Little Rock, Mr. Phillips secured a veteran furlough home. On rejoining his regiment, he was sent down the river to New Orleans, camped a week or more at Algiers, just across from New Orleans, was then sent to Lake Ponchartrain, and from there a vessel carried him over the Gulf to the defenses around Mobile Bay. He was in camp about Fort Morgan about ten days, was in the siege of Spanish Fort for thirteen days and nights, and after its capture the regiment was ordered to re-inforce A. J. Smith's army. He and his command then went aboard the Union fleet and steamed up the bay to Mobile, and after one shot had been fired from the gunboat the mayor delivered up the city. From Mobile they marched up the Tombigbee River and on the second day they were met with a flag of truce, the messenger bringing the news that Johnston and Lee had surrendered and that the war was over. Marching on to McIntosh's Bluff they remained there until the rebel fleet came along and carried them back to Mobile. Two weeks were spent in camp at Mobile, a boat then took them to Montgomery, Alabama, and Mr. Phillips and his command were then ordered forty miles south to Union Springs. They remained there until about the first of September and were then sent north to Indianapolis and given their honorable discharge September 15, 1865. Thus Mr. Phillips had been in the army almost four years. In all that service he received not a single wound, but endured the almost countless hardships of the soldier's life in the southern states. The first three years he was a private and afterwards a corporal.
After the war Mr. Phillips married and started out as a farmer on the renting plan. From his wages as a soldier he had saved $250, and that gave him his start in life. He continued to live in Orange County, Indiana, until September 15, 1869, when his and three other families started out with wagons and teams overland to Cass County, Missouri. Mr. Phillips remained a farmer in Cass County, Missouri, sixteen years. He managed to make a living, but very little more. In Cass County he married his second wife, and one of their children was born there.
From Cass County Mr. Phillips came into Lane County, Kansas, in 1885. He brought with him an old wagon and team, his family of four young children, and only $8 in cash. He entered as his homestead in Cheyenne Township the northeast quarter of section 19, township 17, range 29, and proved up on his "soldier claim." He spent two years there and then took a relinquishment on the northwest quarter of section 26, township 16, range 30. That tract was his home until 1904, when having been elected for a county office he removed to Dighton.
On coming to Kansas Mr. Phillips built a half dugout 12 by 14 feet on his homestead. On his preemption he built a soddy, and that dwelling gave shelter to himself and family for sixteen years. By personal experience he knows practically all the hardships and shifts to which the early settlers had to resort in order to live in the early days of Lane County. He dug wells, broke prairie, did freighting from Grainfield and was willing to accept any kind of employment that would earn a few dollars for the provision and supply of household necessities. As soon as he could he got into stock raising, and that proved the backbone of his business enterprise while living on the farm.
In 1904 Mr. Phillips was elected register of deeds of Lane County as successor of Caleb Dagg. He spent four years in the office and then returned to Healy, where he now resides. Since then he has given much of his time to dealing and trading in land. He now owns and has improved the south half of section 10, township 17, range 30, located a half mile south of Healy, and constituting one of the best individual farms in the county. Mr. Phillips has always been a republican. Besides his service in the county office he was trustee of the township.
He married for his first wife Martha Compton, a daughter of Larkin Compton. Mrs. Phillips died in 1882. Her children were: Frank, of Green Forest, Arkansas; Mary, who died in Lane County, leaving a daughter by her marriage to John Harris; Eva, who is the wife of William McClelland of Kansas City, Missouri, and the mother of five children; and John, who lives at Healy and has two children by his marriage to Cora McGee. For his second wife Mr. Phillips married Sarah Hagans, a daughter of James Hagans, of Cass County, Missouri; Mrs. Phillips died in 1910. Her children are: Leonard, of Healy; Harry, who married Eva Widekind and has one daughter; Chester, who lives in Lane County and has one son by his marriage to Amanda Widekind; Eli, who has become a "globe trotter;" and Theodore, a resident of Healy.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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