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Spring Valley Cemetery ~ John Phillips ~ part of the Polk County Pioneer Cemeteries of Oregon
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Phillips, John
BORN: 25 Nov 1814 DIED: 1 Jul 1892 BURIED:  (Spring Valley Cemetery)
OCCUPATION:  Furniture maker and wood worker
BIRTH PLACE:  Wiltshire, England
DEATH PLACE: Zena, Polk County, Oregon

Donation Land Claim #569. John Phillips, Polk Co; b 1814, England; settled claim 10 Aug 1854; married Elizabeth 12 Feb 1839, New Orleans, La; naturalized 15 Apr 1852, Polk Co, Ore. Aff: Jessie D. Walling, Andrew J. Doak, James P. Smith, John N. Chambers

1850 OR CENSUS – John Phillips (32y, b England, occupation farmer) enumerated with Sisly (32y, b England), George W. (8y, b Missouri), Sarah A. (6y, b Missouri), John E. (3y, b Oregon) and Eliza J. (2y, b Oregon)

1860 OR CENSUS – John Philips (43y, b England, occupation carpenter) enumerated with Elizabeth (39y, b England), J.C. [John Edward] (16y, b Missouri), E.J. [Elizabeth Jane] (12y, b Oregon), G.W. [George] (10y, b Oregon), M.J. [Mary Julia] (8y, b Oregon), M.C. [Martha] (6y, b Oregon), Charles (5y, b Oregon), Amelia (4y, b Oregon) and Samuel (3y, b Oregon)

1870 OR CENSUS – John Phillips (55y, b England) enumerated with Elizabeth (50y, b England), John E. (25y, b Missouri), Charles (15y, b Oregon), Amelia (14y, b Oregon), Samuel (13y, b Oregon), Annie (9y, b Oregon) and Cornelia (5y, b Oregon)

1880 OR CENSUS - John Phillips (65y, b England, occupation farmer) enumerated with wife Elizabeth (60y, b England), 4 children,Charles (25y, b Oregon), Samuel (23y, b Oregon), Hannah (17y, b Oregon) and Frances (14y, b Oregon) and granddaughter Lettuia Daws (17y, b Oregon)

Valley Home Holds Rich Heritage of Old Oregon Territorial Days
By Josephine Sommer
A heritage rich with memory of the Oregon Territory is that of Roy E. Barker and his wife Ethel. They line in the house built in 1852 by his grandparents, John and Elizabeth Phillips, some seven miles northwest of Salem in the fertile Willamette Valley.
Nestled at the foot of a high hill near Zena, a few miles west of Lincoln and the Willamette River in Polk County, this white, colonial house, with its wide lawn and two huge spreading oak trees, makes an attractive picture. The stability that can time can create emanates from the scene. Even after the spring on the hillside, which supplies all their water, is the same one used by the Phillips in the 1800’s.
The industry and skill of this early pioneer are displayed on every hand, from the floors of oak boards, two inches thick, to the three fireplaces, and the handmade furniture. The Barkers are still using tables, chests, and huge four poster beds made by his grandfather. Most of these are solid maple, with all the tongue and groove work painstakingly done by hand. The way John Phillips split the wood, in these beautiful chests, showed a keen appreciation of beauty.
Trunk Historic
The oldest article in the house is a trunk made of camphor wood, which Phillips brought with him from England, where he served a seven year apprenticeship under a cabinet maker. He had just completed his training when his mother died. At her request, he made her coffin and soon after her funeral, left for America. It was while working in Quincy, Fla., he met tiny, blue-eyed Elizabeth Hibbard, who later became his wife.
After six years in St. Louis, where he followed his trade of cabinet maker, the young couple began to listen to the talk of the “great West.” Elizabeth’s love for her home and the beautiful furniture John had made for her, did not deter her from the “big adventure.” On April 11, 1845, the little family, for they had two children by then, started out, full of faith and courage, with the covered wagon train led by Joe Meek.
Several narrow escapes marred the long journey over the Oregon Trail, but the Phillips family finally reached Oregon City in October of 1845. The Barkers still have the old melodeon his grandmother brought with her from Missouri as well as tow guns of the grandfather’s. One is an old flint lock rifle with a very long barrel. “This is the one my grandfather used to shoot buffalo,” Barker said. The other is an old muzzle loading shotgun.
Man Builds Altar
The Phillips spent their first winter in the Oregon country at Oregon City, then in the spring of 1846 they went on to the Catholic Mission in Marion County now known as St. Paul. Here Phillips and his friend, Thomas Roberts, got the job of finishing the Sister’s School and building the altar and pews for the first church erected in Oregon.
In July of 1847, Phillips and his family followed the Willamette River to the beautiful Spring Valley in Polk County. A Mr. Turner, whose Indian wife had died, wanted to go to California, so he sold them his squatters rights to a 640-acre claim for $100. They lived in his log cabin until it burned down, then another small cabin served them while the big house was being built.
The Zena Church which celebrated its centennial in November of 1958, is near their land. The Grange Hall and the early day store were built on the Phillips land. Barker recalls hearing his grandmother tell about taking a blue glass pitcher and glasses that pleased her fancy, in payment for the land the store was on. “I drank milk from those glasses many times,” he said.
13 Children Born
The stork made frequent trips to the Phillips home, in those days, In all, there were 13 children. In spite of her busy life, Elizabeth, only 4 feet, 8 inches tall, had time for horseback riding, which she loved. John had Nathan Eaton, a pioneer of the McMinnville area, make a fine saddle for her. It was a familiar sight to see her on her horse, galloping down the road, with a child on either side of her, in saddle bags, and one on her lap, her curls bobbing in the breeze. This saddle was first used in 1847, and the last time was in 1897. Elizabeth gave it to the Oregon Historical Society in 1900.
Except for the year of 1849, when he, too, got the “gold fever” and went to California, John Phillips spend the rest of his life farming his land and making himself useful to the other settlers by manufacturing doors, sashes, blinds, coffins and household furniture with his hand tools. He died on July 1, 1892, at the age of 78 years.
His widow, and Hannah, the only child still at home, managed the farm along until Hannah’s marriage to Samuel Barker in February of 1895.
The Barker’s only child, Roy, who was born in December of 1896, was a great comfort to his grandmother during her remaining years. He says, “If I had realized the, the great privilege that was mine in being able to listen to her stories, I would be able to tell many more now.
Many times the family came home to honor Grandma Phillips on special occasions, and the old house would ring with laughter again. It was with tear, though, that they returned to lay her beside her husband in the little Spring Valley churchyard, on May 18, 1902, after 82 years of a rich, full life. Her memory lingers on in the home she loved.
Baker still farms 225 acres of the original claim. He has never lived anyplace else, for his roots are deeply embedded in the soil of his ancestors.
[there is a photograph which accompanies this article, of Roy and Ethel holding portraits of John and Elizabeth Phillips. The caption reads: "Roy E. Barker and his wife Ethel live in an amazing and handsome old house built near Salem in 1852 by Mr. Barker's grandfather, John Phillips. Portraits are of the 1845 Oregon pioneer cabinetmaker and his wife, Elizabeth, who was mother of 13 children".]
Oregonian, The (Portland, Oregon) 1 Feb 1959, 31:3-7




PHILLIPS.—At Zena, Polk county, Oregon on Friday July 1, 1892, at 2:30 p.m., John Phillips.
Deceased would have been 78 years of age had he lived until the 29th [newspaper error; should be 25th] of November next. He had been ailing for some time, but was able to be around. He went out into the yard to fix a fence. After driving some nails, he was taken suddenly with heart failure, and soon after died.
Mr. Phillips was an early Oregon pioneer. He worked on the first church build in Oregon, at St. Paul, in 1845, just after his arrival here, this being the first work performed on this coast. He was a cabinet maker by trade. He took up a donation land claim near Zena, where he resided up to the time of his death, being a successful and industrious farmer, a good neighbor, kind husband and father, and an honest and useful citizen.
Weekly Oregon Statesman 8 Jul 1892

Brief Sketch of the Late John Phillips,
One of Joe Meek’s Company.
John Phillips, who died at Spring Valley, July 1, aged 78 years, was born in Wiltshire, England, November 25, 1814. He was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker seven years at Frome, Somersetshire. He had four brothers and one sister. His mother died about the close of his apprenticeship, and he made her coffin at her request. He came to New York in 1834, in company of a minister from Florida who had been to England in search of mechanics. He lived in Florida five years, during which time he worked on an arsenal at Chattahoochee, a government work, for defense during the Seminole war.
He came to New Orleans in 1839, where he married Elizabeth Hibbard on February 11, 1839, who now survives him. Thence to St. Louis, Mo., two weeks after, where he lived six years, leaving there for Oregon in April, 1845, bringing his wife and two children with ox teams in company with Joe Meek, as leader. Arriving in Oregon City in October, he spent the following winter there. Early in the spring of 1846 they moved to St. Paul, Marion county, where he and Thomas Roberts, a man who crossed the plains with him, were employed to finish the Sisters’ school and Catholic church at that place, being the first church ever erected in Oregon.
In July, 1847, they moved to Spring Valley, on the donation land claim which he held until his death. In the spring of 1849 he went to the gold mines of California in company with J. D. Walling and others, returning in the summer of the same year. Since that time he has lived on the home place, where for years he manufactured with his tools, out of rough lumber, sash, doors, coffins and household furniture, which was sold to the people for miles around. At present there are several beautiful pieces of furniture in the house, carved out with old-fashioned tools, such as the pioneers were compelled to use.
Mr. Phillips always felt very grateful to Thomas Roberts, who saved his life while crossing [the] Snake river in 1845. The current was carrying him away from his team, when Mr. Roberts rode out to him with his pony, and together they got the cattle turned in the right direction, thus saving himself and his wife and children, who were on the load.
He reared 11 children: Sarah E. Dane, deceased; John E. Phillips, Zena, Or.; Elizabeth McCarty, Umatilla county, Or.; G. W. Phillips, deceased; M. J. Martin, Tyler, Wash.; M. C. Richardson, Independence, Or.; Charles Phillips, McCoy, Or.; Mrs. Amelia Basey, Salem, Or.; Samuel Phillips, Zena, Or.; Mrs. Cornelia Claggett, Everett Wash., and Miss Hannah, at home. He leaves 39 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
John Phillips was a typical Oregon pioneer, and his neighbors and friends respected him highly for his sterling qualities of manhood, among which was his kindness to the poor and unfortunate who braved the perils of the wilderness to reach Oregon. Retiring in his nature, Mr. Phillips never essayed to push himself in politics, nor was he in the least greedy in pursuit of this world’s goods. His motto was “Live and let live,” a merciful and humane principle, which he followed in all his dealings with his neighbors until his death. Kind, generous and conservative during his life, he made a good father and a kind husband. No better eulogy can be pronounced on the character of any citizen than is contained in these few words: “He was an honest man.” So passes away another of Oregon’s oldest pioneers, ripe in years, with a record for good all his life, meeting death calmly after months of patient and cruel suffering. He was one of those brave men who blazed the path to the Great West, whose praises have been sung in prose and verse by Miller, Simpson and other talented native sons. His remains lie in the little churchyard at Zena, beside many of his old pioneer friends and neighbors, where the sea-breeze from the Pacific stirs the foliage of the sturdy oaks of the beautiful hills bordering Spring Valley. May he rest in peace until he shall receive the reward of a well-spent and useful life in the world to come. H. G. G.
Oregonian 14 Jul 1892


John Phillips


Nov. 25, 1814


July 1, 1892











Janssen Compilation
Saucy Survey & Photographs

Genealogical Material in Oregon Donation Land Claims, Vol I, page 23

1850 OR CENSUS (Polk co, FA#166)

1860 OR CENSUS (Polk co, FA#226)

1870 OR CENSUS (Polk co, FA#320)

1880 OR CENSUS (Polk Co, Bethel, ED 102, FA#40)
OS 8 Jul 1892 
Oreg 14 Jul 1892
Oreg 1 Feb 1959, 31:3-7

ROW: VI 9 A5  

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