The Mystery of John Phillips Death
(23 October 1821- 15 April 1862) 41 years
John Phillips: eldest son of David Phillips (1794-1846), he is the 5th generation of American ancestors (A5), and the second John of that line. He was my Great-Great Grandfather.
“John Phillips was born on his father’s farm near Cherry Valley, Tennessee, October 23, 1821, and married Miss Rebecca Williams December 5, 1845. He joined the Round Lick Baptist church in young manhood, and on the fourth Sunday in April, 1848, was ordained a Baptist minister. Going into the work actively from the very beginning, he held pastorates at Barton’s Creek, Cedar Creek and Providence, and in June, 1852, was called as pastor of the Fall Creek Baptist church at what is now Norene, Tennessee, which position he held until his death. He also did wide evangelistic work.* John was administrator of his father David’s estate. In addition to his activities as a minister, he owned and operated a 284-acre farm in the 18th district of Wilson County. He had eight children: Mary Ann Frances, William Anderson, Margaret America, Julius Wilson, Martha Jane Howard, John Houston, J. R. Graves and Sarah Rosetta. John Phillips died prematurely and unexpectedly.”
*Grime’s History of Middle Tennessee Baptists, pages 249-250
Letter from John’s brother who was fighting in Virginia with the 7th Tennessee (CSA):
“Thus have I seen one of my fondest earthly hopes decay.”
“December 4th . Got a letter from John [brother] from which I learned he was about to volunteer.”
“May 10th . The events that have transpired since the first have been too extensive and important to attempt to record them here . I will have to leave them to memory to keep. Much of toil, weary marching, sleepless nights and hard fighting has fallen to the lot of this army since it left Yorktown. By the Gracious Providence of God I am here sound and unhurt. While I am preserved from the dangers of camps and the battlefields , sad news comes to me from home. Intelligence has come to me that I have lost a dear, much-beloved brother [John]. Oh, how distressingly sad it is to be so completely cut off from home that I cannot know only perchance whether loved ones there live and are well or laid low by disease and death . Fondly had I cherished hope that I would meet that beloved brother again, but death hath separated us. Thus have I seen one of my fondest earthly hopes decay. The next stroke may remove me from those who will be left behind . Yet how consoling it is to think of meeting him in Heaven. There we shall know no separation. It is the sacred hope of meeting my friends in Heaven if not on earth that animates my soul and nerves my arm to withstand the temptations of life around me, endure the afflictions of the soldier and willingly risk my life on the battlefield. This life is full of desperations and dangers, full of sorrow and grief, but in the next oh how happy all shall be who while here love God and keep His commandments!”
‘The Phillips Family History’ by Harry Phillips • Published by The Lebanon Democrat 1935
Most Phillips men lived way past the average mortality rate (about 44 years in 1860). A previous ancestor reached 101. The Phillips clan also had a very high percentage of their children reach adulthood, also very rare for the times. The odds of Rev. John Phillips dying of natural cause in April 1862 at age 40, is rather low.
- Joesph Phillips (A1) – age 101
- Reverend David Phillips (A2) – age 87
- John Phillips (A3) – age 84
Rev. John died on Tuesday April 15th, 1862, seven days after the epic Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). Corinth, Mississippi (retreating point of the Confederate Army) would have probably taken seven days by horseback to Watertown, Tennessee (205 miles via the Florence, Alabama Tennessee River crossing point @ 30 miles per day).
Killing Pro Confederate Preachers? Coincidence? We will probably never know.
Bob Henderson (GGGrandson)
Location of Rev. John Phillips grave in Norene, Tennessee: 485 Cherry Hill Lane, Lebanon, TN 37090