Rev. John Phillips

The Mystery of John Phillips Death

New: AI Animation of John and Becky Phillips

(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 [1861]. Got a letter from John [brother]  from which I learned he was about to volunteer.”

“May 10th [1862]. 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

rev-phillips-2Most 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

Recommended Reading:

Phillips Family History: A Brief History of the Phillips Family, Beginning with the Emigration From Wales, and a Detailed Genealogy of the Descendants … Pioneer Citizens of Wilson County, Tenn.

Phillip Family Genesis in Tennessee:

John Phillips A3 (1768-1846)

349 Hale Road • Watertown, TN 37184

One of the first settlers in Watertown, Tennessee (then known as Round Lick, also know as Three Forks) was John Phillips. John Phillips (1768-1846) is our GGGGGF.  John is the son of Reverend/Captain David Phillips (A2). He is the third generation (A3) of America ancestors, and the first born “Phillips” in the United States.

Other family names at this site, include Oakley and Bass. Earliest burial I could find was 1840.

The John Phillips Log Cabin circa 1802?


This rare two-story hewn timber log cabin may be one of the oldest in Wilson County, Tennessee. It was to home of John Phillips and was occupied by several generations. The property was deeded in 1801.

Old log cabins can be dated to a very specific point in time:

Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history.

John’s father, Rev. David Phillips (one of several by that name), was a Revolutionary War veteran. Could this be his land grant?

John’s son David (A4) was a War of 1812 Veteran.

Normally cut timbers would be cured for 12-24 months, which potentially dates the cabin to 1802 or 1803. The core cabin’s exterior measures 24′ wide, 19′ deep, 13′ to 16′ tall.

“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. The farm where John Philips settled is known among the old folks around Watertown as the Henry Bass place. It is now owned by Mrs. Annie Patton, widow of Cecil Patton. The log house which John erected still stands, but has been covered with weatherboarding, and other rooms have been added to the original dwelling”

‘The Phillips Family History’ by Harry Phillips • Published by The Lebanon Democrat • 1935


We found this by shear luck. It turns out, the property owner is a friend of my brother Blake Henderson.

Recommended Reading:

Phillips Family History: A Brief History of the Phillips Family, Beginning with the Emigration From Wales, and a Detailed Genealogy of the Descendants … Pioneer Citizens of Wilson County, Tenn.

Update: 17 February 2020

The cabin is getting ready to be dissembled and moved into storage in order to prevent it’s demolition. Stay tuned.

2016 Cemetery Cleanup


December 18, 2016

Wilson and Rutherford County Cemetery Maintenance

Take a Virtual Tour of the progress made today at the Henderson family cemetery clean-up.

From Billy Pittard:

Hey cousins,

Our cousin Bob Henderson and I have started a tradition of cleaning up one of our ancestral cemeteries on the day after Thanksgiving. This Friday, we are planning to go to the Henderson Family cemetery on Puckett Road in Norene, TN. This is where our ancestors Preston and Darotha Henderson established our Henderson family in Middle Tennessee. It’s a beautiful location not far from Lascassas. Click on the map link below to see the specific location.

We plan to be there from about 10am to about 4pm. It would be great to see you there.

Weather is supposed to be good. It’s a beautiful area.

Please share this with our other cousins. Come and see where our ancestors lived and just enjoy the day – or come with garden tools to help do some cleanup. Either way, this should be a special thing for us all – and especially the children.

Since the experts say there will be a million more people moving to Middle Tennessee over the next ten years, if we don’t take care of these sacred places, they will disappear. It’s already happening.

FYI – Bob and I have already cleaned up the Hoover family cemetery at Walterhill, the Henderson-Malone cemetery near Powell’s Chapel, and the Charlton Ford Cemetery near Mona.

If you think you can come, please let me know. Best wishes for a great Thanksgiving!

Billy Pittard

Saving our ancestors one cemetery at a time…

Read more about our heritage at:

Fri Nov 25, 2016 10am – 4pm Central Time
36.04143, -86.22395 (map)

Charlton Ford Heritage

Southern Roots & Branches Restoration:

REHABILITATION of the Charlton Ford Cemetery in northern Rutherford County

February 27, 2016

Charlton Ford Rehabilitation Phase 1

Cousin Billy Pittard and I cleared about 1/4 of the site and 100% of our joint ancestor plots of the Peyton and Donnell line of the family. The oldest grave was from 1806 (Sally Smith). We are pulling up undergrowth by the rootball. This is a very laborious way to clear the land, but extremely effective in keeping it from repopulating.

One of the biggest treats of the day was discovering a large spring not far form the cemetery on Fall Creek. Another surprise was a fly-by an anonymous cousin! Speaking of anonymous, the cemetery is on private property, and although the law allows descendant access to cemeteries, its prudent to ask for permission. If you are a descendant, contact me for more information on the precise location and access points: Bob Henderson (615) 477-0737.

For more information check out Southern Roots & Branches by Billy Pittard.

See a virtual tour of the site in 3D here.

Raiders of the Lost Cemeteries: Cousins Bob and Billy

Please let us know if you can help us maintain these historic sites. We would very much appreciate the help.

Find-a-Grave Burials at Charlton Ford

Bob Henderson, Jr.

(615) 477-0737

Cemetery Preservation

The Cemetery Preservation Project 2015:

Preservation of family cemeteries in north Rutherford County is important. Rural areas are turning into suburbs fast. Vandalism, neglect and real estate development is a growing concern.

Cousin Billy Pittard and I joined forces to clean up the Henderson-Malone Cemetery on Powells Chapel Road this week. As opposed to just cutting the undergrowth, we pulled up the entire root balls of mostly privot hedge and honey suckles. This will make future maintenance much easier. Last Thanksgiving we did the first project like this at the Hoover family cemetery at Walter Hill.

This will hopefully be an annual event following each Thanksgiving on Friday, Saturday or Sunday weather permitting. Fences and gates are also needed for these sites as well.


360 Panorama view of the cemetery