Phelps, John Wesley
     JOHN WESLEY PHELPS, deputy sheriff of Hartford county, an army officer during the Civil war, and one of the best-known citizens, farmers and tobacco growers of the town of Simsbury, is a native of Connecticut, born April 22, 1836, in Simsbury Center.
     The Phelps family of Simsbury trace their ancestry to William Phelps, who was born in 1599, in Tewkesbury, England, emigrating thence to this country in 1630, and becoming one of the earliest colonists of New England. His son Joseph, born in England, died in Simsbury, Conn., in 1684; Joseph (2), was born Aug. 27, 1667; Lieut. David, May 7, 1710; Maj.-Gen. Noah, Jan. 22, 1740; Col. Noah A., May 3, 1762; Hector Fayette, July 25, 1797; and John Wesley, April 22, 1836. Of the above:
     Joseph Phelps (2) was born in Windsor, and died in Simsbury, Jan. 20, 1750. He first married Mary Collier, of Hartford; his second wife was Sarah Case, daughter of John and Sarah (Spencer) Case, of Simsbury. She died May 2, 1704, and he next married Mary Case, daughter of Rich-ard and Elizabeth (Purchase) Case; this third wife died Sept. 10, 1757. To the first marriage of Joseph (2) were born three children: Joseph, Oct. 9, 1689, settled at Turkey Hills; Hannah, Oct. 25, J693, was married to Samuel Humphrey; Mary, Oct. 17, 1696, died Jan. 9, 1713. To the second marriage of Joseph (2) were born: Sarah, Aug. 11, 1700, died June 14, 1714; and Damaris, March 5, 1703, married John Mills, of Canton. To the third marriage were born four children: John, Feb. 14, 1707, died Jan. 5, 1713; Elizabeth, April 7, 1709, married Daniel Hoskins July 23, 1725; Lieut. David, May 7, 1710; and Amos, who married Sarah Pettibone.
     Lieut. David Phelps, son of Joseph (2), a native of Simsbury, married April 25, 1731, Abigail Pettibone, who was born in the same town April 22, 1706-07, and was a daughter of John (Jr.), and Mary (Bissell) Pettibone. David Phelps was commissioned lieutenant of militia in 1756, served in the French and Indian wars, and died of small pox Dec. 10, 1760, his remains being buried at Simsbury. His widow married Deacon David Strong, of Bolton, and died Oct. 17, 1787, and in her honor the chapter of the D. A. R. at Simsbury was named. The children born to Lieut. David Phelps and his wife were ten in number: David, born May 7, 1732 died July 19, of the same year; David (2), born March 26, 1734, was an ancestor of the Dodge family of Simsbury; Abigail, born Nov. 5, 1735, was married (first) to a Mr. Griswold and (second) to Amasa Case; Elisha, born Oct. 17,1737, was a captain in the Revolutionary war, and died in Albany, N. Y., July 14, 1776; Maj.-Gen. Noah was born Jan. 22, 1740; Rachel, born Dec. 10, 1741, was married to Hon. Daniel Humphrey, a delegate to the convention that rati-fied the Federal Constitution; Ruth was born Sept. 15, 1743; Sarah, Oct. 15, 1745; Susannah, Jan. 4, 1748; and Lois, March 27, 1750.
     Maj-Gen. Noah Phelps, great-grandfather of our subject, married, June 10, 1761, Lydia Griswold, of Poquonock, who was born April 25, 1743, and died Sept. 17, 1821, having lost her husband March 4, 1809. The children born to the General and wife were five in number: Col. Noah Amherst, born May 3, 1762; Lydia G., Feb. 25, 1764; Chandley Conway, Oct. 22, 1766; George G., Aug. 18, 1773 (died in Ohio); and Elisha, Nov. 16, 1779. The last named was one of the prominent men of the State, was an attorney, and represented his district in Congress. He owned the first piano and the first Brussels carpet in Simsbury. He married, April 16, 1810, at Middletown, Conn., Lucy Smith, and had one son, who became governor of Missouri and a member of Congress; and two daughters, Lucy J., who was married to Amos R. Eno, whose biography appears on another page, and Mary A., who married John Allen. Gen. Phelps, who was born on the east side of Farmington river, settled in the village of Simsbury some years after his marriage, and lived on the property now owned by the Amos Eno heirs. He was identified with several industries of the town, and was very prominent, especially in military circles. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the militia in 1771, captain in 1774, lieutenant-colonel in 1777, brigadier-general in 1792, and major-general in 1796, and the documents pertaining thereto are now in the possession of Dr. Henry Eno, of Saugatuck, Conn. Gen. Phelps,. among other daring deeds, passed alone through the enemy's lines at Ticonderoga, was there shaved,, gathered all the information he desired, and was being rowed back across the river, en route to his own corps, when the oarsman suspected him to be an American, and started to return to the British lines; but the General was the stronger man of the two, and compelled the ferryman to finish the trip. It was due to the information thus gleaned by Gen. (then Capt.) Phelps that Ethan Allen planned his attack on and captured Fort Ticonderoga, the day following. Gen. Phelps also served twenty-two years as the second judge of probate in Simsbury; as justice of the peace, as well as sheriff, and as representative in the General Assembly twenty sessions; and was the owner of considerable property.
     Col. Noah Amherst Phelps, grandfather of our subject, graduated from Yale College in 1783, studied law, and practiced in Simsbury. He was a colonel of militia, was active in public affairs, and frequently a member of the State Legislature. At the time of his death, June 19, 1817, he was post-master. He was intellectual, kind and generous, and a leader among men. On July 31, 1784, he married Charlotte Wilcox, who was born April 4, 1766, and died Dec. 15, 1831, the mother of the following named children: Charlotte Melissa, born Oct. 11, 1786, married Frederick Jewett, of Granby, and died Dec. 29, 1871. Noah Amherst, Jr., born Oct. 16, 1788, married (first) Delia Clark, of Bloomfield, and (second) Catherine St. John, of New Haven; he was educated at Yale, studied law, and practiced in Hartford; was sheriff of the county; collector of customs at the port of Middletown; and Secretary of State 1842-44; he died in Simsbury Aug. 26, 1872. Jeffery Orson was born Feb. I, 1791. Fanny Rosanna, born March 8, 1795, married Jonathan Pettibone, Jr., and died Aug. 22, 1877, in Willimantic, Conn. Hector F., born July 25, 1797, is mentioned below. Emma Maria, born Dec. 10, 1799, was married to William Mather, Jr., and died March 21, 1862. Guy Rowland, born April 1, 1802, became a physician, later manufactured medicines, and was the founder of the Con-necticut Mutual Life Insurance Co., realizing a large competence; his death took place March 18, 1869, in Hartford, his remains being interred in Simsbury; his only child is Miss Antoinette Randolph Phelps, of Hartford. George Dwight Phelps, the youngest of this family, was born April 6, 1804, and when a young man went to New York City begun business life as a clerk in a drug store at the corner of Wall and Water streets, later became proprietor, acquired a large estate through his own efforts, and died Aug. 31, 1872.
     Hector Fayette Phelps, the father of our subject, was born in Simsbury, and was educated there. He read law with his uncle, Elisha Phelps, was admitted to the Bar in 1833, and at once began the practice of his profession in Hartford county. He resided at Simsbury, and, in addition to his law practice, farming and tobacco growing received a share of his attention. He was well-known throughout the county. He held allegiance to the Democratic party, and was active in politics, many local offices being from time to time ably administered by him. For several years he was justice of the peace in Simsbury, and he was deputy sheriff for many years. Fraternally he was a member of St. Mark's Lodge, No. 36, F. & A. M. On Jan. 1, 1827, Mr. Phelps was married in Wintonburg, now Bloomfield, to Roxanna Selina Barnard, a native of Bloomfield, who was born Jan. 19, 1806, daughter of James Harvey Barnard. To Hector F. and Roxanna S. Phelps came the following children: Emma Maria, born Feb. 27, 1828, is the wife of Rollin L. Hawley, of Springfield, Mass. Frances Henrietta, born May 30, 1830, became the wife of Hoyt Moses, and both died in Simsbury. Margaret Emogene, born June 3, 1832, married Abram Moses, of Meriden, and both are now deceased. Hector Fayette, born June 23, 1834, married Octavia Howland, of Springfield, Mass., and is now deceased. John Wesley. our subject, was born April 22, 1836. Mary Paulina, born April 13, 1838, is the wife of Selah A. Hall, of Meriden. George M., born March 22, 1846, deputy revenue collector of Bloomfield, married Abbie Case, daughter of Job Case, of Simsbury. The mother, who was a faithful member of the M. E. Church and a good Christian woman, a devoted wife and mother, died at her home in Simsbury Nov. 3, 1881. The father died Feb. 10, 1874.
     John Wesley Phelps, our subject, spent his boyhood days on his father's farm, attending the district schools and also select schools. He was among the first to enlist from his State when the Civil war began, enlisting May 7, 1861, at Hartford, in response to the call for three-months' men, in Company H (Capt. James W. Gore), 2d Conn. V. I. (Col. Alfred H. Terry). He participated in the battle of Bull Run, July 22, 1861, and was mustered out at Hartford Aug. 7, following. Returning home Mr. Phelps re-enlisted, Nov. 21, 1861, in Company H (Capt. Joseph R. Toy), I2th Conn. V. I. (Col. Henry C. Deming), being mustered in as sergeant, and the regiment was sent to Louisiana. Mr. Phelps participated in the engagements at Georgia Landing, Oct. 27, 1862; capture of gunboat "Cotton," Jan. 14, 1863; Pattersonville, March 27, 1863; Bisland, April 13, 1863; siege of Port Hudson, May 25 to July. 1863. He was discharged Dec. 31, 1863, at Brashcar City, La., under Capt. John P. Lowell, and re-enlisted in January, 1864, becoming first sergeant in Company H (Capt. James E. Smith), I2th Conn. V. I., under Col. George N. Lewis. In the Virginia campaign of 1864 he participated in the battles of Winchester, Sept. 19; Fisher's Hill, Sept. 22; and Cedar Creek, Oct. 19. He was discharged Nov. 28, 1864. Re-enlisting in Company C, I2th Battalion, under Maj. Sydney E. Clark, he was commissioned first lieutenant, and commanded the company stationed in Virginia and at Savannah. Ga. He participated in the grand review at Washington, D. C., and was mustered out at Hartford Aug. 12, 1865, as first lieutenant, under Capt. John Mullen.
     On his return home Lieut. Phelps at once turned his attention to farming, settling upon his present farm in the Weatogue District, Simsbury, where he has ever since been engaged in the raising of stock, in tobacco growing, and in general farming. He married, April 18, 1876, Mary E. Buckley, a native of New Milford, Litchfield county, daughter of Dennis and Mary (Lynch) Buckley. To our subject and wife two children have been born: Nathanie Barnard, who was educated in McLean Seminary, Simsbury, and at Drew Ladies' Seminary, Carmel, N. Y.; and Margaret Stevens, who finished her education at McLean Seminary and at Mrs. Cady's School, in New Haven.
     Mr. Phelps is in politics a Republican, and is the only member of his family who has always voted the ticket of that party. In 1877 he was elected to the State Legislature, and served as clerk of the military committee. He has been selectman for several terms, has been assessor, has served on the board of relief, in school work, and in other local official capacities. In 1881 he was appointed deputy sheriff by Sheriff Alva W. Spaulding, and served continuously in that position for ten years. In 1895 he was reappointed by Sheriff Edwin J. Smith, and is now in his sixth year of service since his reappointment. He is a member of St. Mark's Lodge, No. 36, F. & A. M., and of Capt. Joseph R. Toy Post, No. 83, G. A. R., of which he is past commander. He is generous in spirit, genial and whole-souled in disposition, and one of the popular citizens of Hartford county.

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Commemorative
Biographical Record
of
Hartford County,
Connecticut

Illustrated

Chicago

J. H. Beers & Co.

1901

pgs 532-534

HARTFORD COUNTY BIOGRAPHIES
pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary
May 2002

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