Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Sep 14

Harrison Phillips: The Soul of a Soldier

Posted on September 14, 2018 at 9:41 AM by Melissa Dalton

I came across an old newspaper article from September 10, 1936 with the headline “Harrison Phillips Dies Thursday; Was Civil War Veteran” (Fig 1), which included an image of the gentleman. Mr. Phillips was African-American, a Civil War veteran, and a long-time resident of Greene County. He was 96 years old at the time of his death, and according to the article one of the “oldest veterans in the county.” The obituary isn’t long, but the few details mentioned made me curious about his life and service.

Fig 1. Obituary of Harrison Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated September 10, 1936 (JPG)
Fig 1. Obituary of Harrison Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated September 10, 1936 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Harrison was born in Lexington, Kentucky on July 4, 1840. His father was Allen Phillips, but his mother’s name is illegible on the death record; however, we believe her first name was Leona (maiden name unknown). Due to the time and location of his birth, we believe he was born into slavery, and little is known of his childhood until he enlisted.

On July 15, 1964, just a few weeks after his 20th birthday, Harrison enlisted as a Private in the Army, under the alias Harrison Fields, to fight with the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War (Fig 2). He was assigned to Company B, 117th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. This regiment took him from Kentucky to Maryland to Virginia. After Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, Harrison’s regiment stayed in Virginia until the end of May. In June, the regiment was moved to Texas, which is where he would stay. On January 1, 1866, Harrison was promoted to Corporal (Fig 3), and the 117th Regiment was mustered out on August 10, 1867.

Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (JPG)Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (JPG)
Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (Fold3.com)

Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)
Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion to Corporal (Fold3.com)


After the Civil War, he and his soon to be wife, Sarah (sometimes referred to as Sallie), moved to Ohio. They married in Greene County on February 4, 1869 (Fig 4). I was unable to find them on the 1870 Census, but the couple were on the 1880 Census and living in New Jasper Township (Fig 5). By this time, they had two children, Lizzie and Dickey (Richard).

Fig 4. Marriage record of Harrison Phillips and Sarah Fields (JPG)
Fig 4. Marriage record of Harrison Phillips and Sarah Fields (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. 1880 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 5. 1880 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)


Harrison and Sarah stayed in Greene County. Harrison worked various jobs, but mostly as a farmer/farmhand. By the time of the 1900 Census (Fig 6), Lizzie and Richard had left home, but two more children, Jesse James and Sarah Leona, were listed. Something else of interest is that the Phillips’ had a total of ten children, with only four surviving. This is indicated on the 1910 Census as well (Fig 7. When I saw this, I went to our birth and death records to see if I could learn anything about the other six children. In total, I was able to find birth records for seven of their children.

Fig 6. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 6. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)

Fig 7. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 7. 1910 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)


In 1915, at the age of 27, Jesse passed away. The obituary does not state how he died, but it was obvious that his death had a huge impact on the family (Fig 8). Then in 1929, Sarah Phillips died after suffering a stroke. Sarah’s obituary mentions her prominence in Yellow Springs (Fig 9).

Fig 8. Obituary of Jesse J. Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated August 5, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 8. Obituary of Jesse J. Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated August 5, 1915 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 9. Obituary of Sarah Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated November 2, 1929 (JPG)
Fig 9. Obituary of Sarah Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated November 2, 1929 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)


After his wife’s death, Harrison remained in their home (Fig 10), but he wasn’t alone. His daughter, Leona, and her husband, John, lived next door. There is an indication that Harrison’s health was deteriorating, and he moved in with his daughter, Lizzie, who lived on S. College Street. This is where Harrison remained until his death on September 10, 1936 (Fig 11).

Fig 10. 1930 U.S. Census with Harrison Phillips outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 10. 1930 U.S. Census with Harrison Phillips outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)

Fig 11. Death Certificate of Harrison Phillips (JPG)
Fig 11. Death Certificate of Harrison Phillips (FamilySearch.org)


Harrison lived a long life, was a soldier in the Civil War, and witnessed the Great War. He saw a society change and history being made. He experienced profound losses in his lifetime, but one would also believe great love in his family and community. It is stories like this that stand as a reminder of the perseverance and determination of the human spirit; that we get in life what we put into it; that it is ours to make.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Fold3.com
Greene County Archives
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UUS0117RI00C
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

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