Select Phelps Miscellany

Here are some Phelps stories and accounts over the years:

Phelps Origins

From the time of Edward 1, when Phelyp, Phelip, Phelips, Philip, and Phelipee were recorded, to Elizabethian times when Phelps was first mentioned, there were many ways used in spelling the name.  The following is one account of the Phelps origins: 

“In the burying-ground beside the old Tewkesbury Abbey Church in Gloucestershire, founded by the Mercian princes, Dukes Odo and Dodo, two noble Saxon brothers who flourished at the commencement of the 8th century, lie interred some of the Phelps ancestors; others lie in the cemetery of Dursley in Gloucestershire; in Porlock in Somerset; in Staffordshire and in almost all of the shires of old England."

Phelps in the 1881 Census


The largest numbers of Phelps in Gloucestershire were in Westbury, Cheltenham, Bisley and Gloucester.

Phelps at Porlock

Phelps at Porlock in Somerset seem to date from the early 1600's.  The death of Henry Phelps, yeoman, was recorded in 1637.   Richard Phelps the portrait painter lived from 1718 to 1785.  Abraham Phelps, a Porlock tanner, died in 1795.  And Henry Phelps was a landowner and surgeon in Porlock in the early 1800's.

It was at Porlock in the mid 1800's that a Mr. Phelps, a contemporary of the sporting parson Jack Russell, started the foxhounds which became famous as the "stars of the West."  His kennels occupied the site of the Bridge House on Parson Street.  He showed wonderful sport with his pack, direct ancestors of the Exmoor foxhounds whose kennels were at Oare.

William Phelps, Early New England Settler

William Phelps - with his wife Elizabeth, six children and brother George - came to America on the Mary and John in 1630 and made their home in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  His wife Elizabeth died there in 1635 and his eldest son Richard, aged then seventeen, departed for Barbados.  

The next year William left for Windsor, Connecticut with his remaining children, becoming a founder of that town.  He married again.  It was said that he purchased his land from the Indians for the price of four overcoats.  However, not being able to prove title and payment, he had to pay a second time, the legal tender being wampum.  The site of his home was not too far away from Deacon Roger Phelps’ house in Windsor in the mid 19th century.  

William Phelps was a man of property, as shown by the high pew rent that he paid.  He subscribed also to the fund for the poor.  Forty-two years of his life were spent in the New England of the New World; six in Dorchester, and thirty six in Windsor.  He died in Windsor in his 73rd year, on July 14, 1672, and was buried the following day.

The Phelps Home and Tavern in Simsbury, Connecticut

The Phelps house and tavern in Simsbury served as a family home, canal hotel, lodge meeting site, entertainment hall, and local tavern.  From 1786 until 1849, three generations of fathers and sons, and one widow, served as tavern-keepers.   

Built for Elisha Phelps in 1771, the house may have included part of an earlier dwelling constructed by 1761. The building was a family residence until Noah Phelps, Elisha Phelps’ brother, acquired the first tavern license in 1786.   His son Noah ran the tavern from around 1805 until his death in 1817.  His widow Charlotte operated the tavern for a while until her son Jeffery purchased the property in 1820.  Jeffery Phelps ran the tavern for 29 years, closing the business in 1849 to devote himself to agriculture and other interests.  

The building was remodeled in 1879 and 1915 by resident family members and remained a family home until it was given to the Simsbury Historical Society in 1962.

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