Log Cabin Shrugged

220 Year Old Homestead

John Phillips

1768-1846

Founding Father of Round Lick, Tennessee

2016

In 17971 brothers John (29) and Benjamin Phillips (31) migrated from western Pennsylvania to what was then called Round Lick in Wilson County, Tennessee. It was renamed Watertown in the mid-1800’s in honor of Wilson T. Waters, the grandson of one of it’s founders.

In 2021 one of the oldest Middle Tennessee frontier log cabins was removed from its 220 year old site. It may have been the oldest two-story log cabin in Wilson County. Parts of it were salvaged by a family descendant that hopes to one day restore a one-story version of the Phillips family homestead. A digital  reconstruction of the original cabin can be viewed here. Images of the second floor in 2016 can be viewed here.

2016

“Dr. J. M. Phillips, in an article on the Phillips family in the Watertown Sentinel, January  19, 1906, state: that the brothers and their families em-barked southward on a flat-boat on the Ohio River at Pittsburg, thence down the Ohio to the mouth of the Cumberland; that they disembarked there and struck out across the wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee in wagons until they reached the headwaters of the Round Lick Creek at the present site of Watertown. The settlers followed the West fork of the creek until they came to a big spring in the canebrake, and it was there that they made their final halt. John Philips built his home only a short distance from the spring.” 2

Spring

On December 20, 1801, William Phillips sold 200 acres to John Phillips far $400 in cash. “Beginning at a hackberry on Lytle’s 2.5 west boundary, six poles 3 [33 yards] north of the creek running thence west one hundred and forty-nine poles [820 yards] and three-fourths to a stake; thence south two hundred and nineteen [1205 yards] and a half poles to a stake; thence east one hundred and forty-nine [820 yards] and three-fourths poles to three lynns; thence to the beginning; the whole containing two hundred acres be the same more or less with all its appurtenances.” 4

In the preceding years, John’s land increased to 365 acres. “The Wilson County Court Records of 1803 show that John Philips owned 200 acres of land on the Round Lick Creek and Benjamin 120 on Round Lick and 100 on the Hickman Creek. Both brothers acquired more land as they prospered. John bought fourteen acres from William Philips (of Davidson county) for $40 cash on December 14, 1808; ninety-five acres from William Campbell, for $750 cash on September 27, 1819; 21 acres from Richard Cartwright for $78 cash on December 10, 1829; and 35 acres from Joseph Philips for $350 cash. Both John and Benjamin received grants from the State of Tennessee, John’s on July 20, 1813, and Benjamin’s on May 24,1814. Both grants were signed by Willie Blount, governor.”5

John was a respected member of the community, but did not unite with any church, although his wife Mary was a member of the Baptist church. They had 11 children; six sons and five daughters. All eleven lived to raise families of their own.

“John Philips died July 30, 1846, at the age of 78; his wife, Mary pre-deceased him on November 20,1844, aged 71. Benjamin died only 28 days before his brother, on July 2,1846. Lydia Philips died August 19, 1851. The report of Sion Bass, administrator of Benjamin’s estate, was confirmed by the County Court December 14, 1848.

David Phillips, son of John, was appointed administrator of his father’s estate. However, David died September 30, 1846, only two months after John’s death, before he had completed his administrative duties. Rev. Henry Bass, who married John’s daughter, Francina, was appointed administrator de bonis non, and proceeded to wind up the estate.

John Philips accumulated more than a modest amount of wealth for a farmer of his day. When he died, he owned 350 acres of fertile land, and possessed $1,436.75 in gold and silver, $40 in bank notes and about three dozen promissory notes of various amounts. After the payment of all debts, his personal estate totaled $7,039.69. Each of his ten distributees received $703.96 and thirty-five acres of land.

Among the expenses itemized were: $1.00 to Doke Young for crying sale and $6.00 to W. L. Waters for coffin. The total funeral expenses, including clothing, were $15.75. A tomb stone was erected many years later.

The list of articles itemized among  John Philips’ personal property gives the reader a conception of the self-sufficiency of the pioneer home. Among the articles listed were the following: One yoke of oxen [2], 38 hogs, 36 geese, 548 pounds of bacon, 163 barrels of corn, 4,480 bundles of oats, 3,000 pounds of fodder, 1,910 pounds of pork, 12 plows, 3 singletrees, 1 doubletree, 1 wagon, 1 cart, 36 bushels of wheat, 3 washing tubs, 1 brass kettle, 2 teakettles, 2 fat skillets, 5 pots, 2 fire shovels, 2 cotton wheels, 2 wooden buckets, 4 bedsteads,140 pounds of seed cotton, 1 cross-cut saw, 2 coffee mills, 1 deer skin, 1 wash pan, 1 frying pan, 3 bread trays, 1 candle stick, 2 shot guns, 2 rifles, 1 candle stand, 1 handsaw, 2 clocks, 1 pair of sheep shears, 3 pecks of dried apples, 4 bee hives, 3 pairs of weavers looms, 4 bee gums, 7 saddles, 2 sickles, 1 umbrella, 17 ducks, 100 chickens, 13 bushels of Irish potatoes, 2 pickling stands, 1 grindstone, 1 work bench, 814 pounds of picked cotton, 67 pounds of lard, 19 horses, 39 sheep, 18 cattle, and dozens of other items.

There is a two-year discrepancy in the records as to the date of John Philips’ birth. The family Bible of his son, Benjamin, gives it as April 16, 1768. His tombstone records that he was in his eighty-first year when he died in 1846, which would place his birth in the year 1766. Since the Bible gives Benjamin’s birth as April 18, 1766, and was a contemporaneous record, while the tombstone was erected many years after John’s death, the author is inclined to accept the date given in the Bible.

Benjamin Philips’ estate was wound up in 1848. His coffin, too, was bought from W. L. Waters for $6.00. Among the interesting items of his settlement was an allotment of $26.90 to his widow, Lydia Philips, for a year’s support.

The brothers and their wives are buried on a little knoll which was formerly a part of John Philips’ farm, only a short distance southwest of Watertown. A handsome tombrock marks John’s grave, bearing this inscription: “John Philips died July 30, 1846, in the 81st year of his age.Mr. Philips was one of the first settlers on Round Lick, being the father of six sons and five daughters.”  6


  • 1. Phillips Family History – p. 10  Harry Phillips 1935↩︎
  • 2. Phillips Family History – p. 10  Harry Phillips 1935↩︎
  • 2.5 “The area around Watertown was first settled by Captain William Thompson of North Carolina in 1780. He built a fort in the area to protect settlers and provide a safe haven for travelers on the nearby Holstein Trail. After Thompson left, the land became a revolutionary war grant given to Colonel Archibald Lytle, who received 1,000 acres, and his brother, Captain William Lytle, who received 500 acres.” – – https://watertowntn.com/about/history/↩︎
  • 3. a pole is 5.5 yards↩︎
  • 4. Phillips Family History – Harry Phillips 1935↩︎
  • 5. Phillips Family History – p. 14 Harry Phillips 1935↩︎
  • 6. Phillips Family History – p. 16 Harry Phillips 1935↩︎

One thought on “Log Cabin Shrugged

  1. Pingback: 220 Year-Old Homestead of John Phillips, Founding Father of Round Lick, Tennessee | Southern Roots and Branches

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