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Milberry Horn

Milbery/Milberry/Millberry/Milbiry/Milbry Horn is the great-great-great-grandmother of my mother's mother.

Born 4 December 1764 in Edgecombe NC
Died 19December 1851 in Davidson County TN
Married Joseph Philips Jr. 1785 in Edgecombe County NC
Daughter of Col. William Horn (1738-abt 1799) and Mary Ruth Thomas (1741-1778)

She was listed as MILBIRY on her tombstone.  Her husband listed her name as MILBERRY in her Dower in 1822.  Tennessee Records & Marriage Bonds listed her name as MILBREY in 1933.  The 1903 reunion held at the old home place listed her name as MILBERRY.  The story below says she was named MILLBERRY for a berry vine by the mill.  The name is often listed as MILBRY in various stories found at the TN State Library and Archives.


William R. Polk, a descendant of Milberry Horn, taught at Harvard and was later a Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including POLK'S FOLLY, an American Family History.
He was raised at the knee of his grandmother, Mary "Mollie" DeMoville Harding Polk. She is the mother of George W. and Harding Polk and Capt. James Hilliard Polk is their father and Mollie's husband.
Mollie is a daughter of William Perkins Harding and Milbrey "Millboy" Catherine Philips (1833-1863). She is the grand-daughter of William Duncan Philips (1804-1879) whose father is Joseph Philips, Jr. (1763-1822).

The below story, part of the essay “Mollie’s World”, was written by William Roe Polk. It relates stories told him by Mary “Mollie” DeMoville Harding Polk, his grandmother, and phrased as if she was telling the stories.

Mary "Mollie" DeMoville Harding Polk

  There is quite a pretty story of a name that has been handed down through the Philips family. I have never known it elsewhere and only five times has it been used.


The home in North Carolina was called Mill Brook (from the mill and brook the place derived its name). There grew a very beautiful vine [covered with berries] unlike any vine in the countryside.


There was a new baby and the mother could not decide upon a name.


Lady Washington, George Washington’s mother, was making them a visit. She was a cousin of my grandfather who was very courteous to bring his wife some little offering each day when he returned from his rides over the farm. This day it was a branch from this mill vine. He broke the twig in half, giving both of the ladies a part of it.


Lady Washington turned to my grandmother and said, “Margarete, may I name the baby?” She bore the name of Millberry ever after.


My mother inherited the name, but she was always called Millboy.


Now my little granddaughter [William Roe Polk’s sister Milbry Catherine Polk who was born in 1919] has the name. So it is truly a family name.

Mary Ball Washington

I don't know if the story is true or not.  Mollie's grandmother wasn't named Margarete.  She was Elizabeth Dwyer, the wife of William Duncan Philips whose mother was the first known family member to have the name Milberry/Milbery.  Milberry's  last name was Horn.  She was born 4 Dec 1764 in Edgecombe County NC to Col. William Horn and his wife Mary Thomas.


Mary Ball Washington was born 30 November 1708 and moved to a plantation called Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg VA in 1738.  She stayed there until 1772 when George Washington bought her a house in Fredericksburg where she lived out her life near her daughter Betty Lewis.

Milberry Horn was born 4 December 1764 in Edgecombe County NC, most likely just to the northeast of Tarboro.  It's 200 miles between these two points, about 10 days travel in those days.  But trips of this length were not uncommon.  Mary Ball Washington would have been 56 when Milberry was born, young enough to make such a journey.
I recently learned that Joseph Washington, a cousin of George Washington, on arriving in the Nashville TN area from Virginia in 1794 stopped over to visit his friend Joseph Philips who owned a farm outside of Nashville. 
Joseph Washington felt the area was too densely settled and continued thirty miles north to Robertson County where he settled and eventually established the largest tobacco farm in the United States, Wessyngton Plantation.  This comes from page 40 of the book "The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation" published in 2012.  The author attributes the story to a speech given by the above Joseph Washington's son Joseph Edwin Washington on the 100th anniversary of Wessyngton in 1915.  However, I tracked down the source as coming from the Sadie Warner Frazer papers at the Tennessee Library and Archives.
Also, it seems that Joseph Philips' grandson, Henry Philips Williams, knew Joseph Washington and his son, George.  As related on my web page http://www.lfeldhaus.com/holthousefamilygenealogy/id19.html , Henry Philips Williams and his brother-in-law Andrew Ewing purchased 1329 acres in Todd County KY from George A. Washington after Joseph Washington died in 1848.  Joseph Washington's daughter Jane was married to Felix Ewing who is a nephew of Andrew Ewing and that also could account for the sale of the land.
Apparently there was a connection between Joseph Philips and his wife Milberry Horn and the Washington family.
This is further born out in the story told by Joseph and Milbery Philips' daughter Martha on my web page https://lfeldhaus.tripod.com/philipsfamily/id27.html . 
"I can remember when I was a little girl about seven years old, my mother taking me to witness the obsequies of General Washington. I had never seen such a large gathering of people before. A coffin and all the form of a funeral and the sad look of all present made a deep impression upon me. I was impressed by the idea that the great man’s body was really in the coffin. "


Larry Feldhaus comments:
George Washington was born 22 February 1732 in Westmoreland County VA on Pope's Creek and died on December 14, 1799 at age 67. It is remarkable that Martha Philips at age 7 attended the funeral of President Washington with her mother (and presumably her father).
It has been said that Martha's mother, Millberry Horn, was named by George Washington's mother who was visiting the Col William Horn family at the time of her birth. Col Horn was a Revolutionary War hero.
I have doubted the story, but there must have been some strong motivation to cause the Philips family to travel almost 700 miles from Nashville to attend George Washington's funeral in Washington D.C.. 
That is, unless what she saw was a re-enactment of the funeral, which occurred all across the country at the time.

George Washington Family Tree


The Joseph Washington who stopped to see his good friend Joseph Philips when he arrived in Nashville in 1794 has a brother named George Washington who's wife would have been the right age to be visiting Milbry Horn's parents when she was born in 1764.  It's entirely possible that Mollie DeMoville Harding Polk was referring to this George Washington.  Obviously she was confused about parts of the story as explained above and may have just neglected to explain which George Washington she was referencing.

The below information came from the web page that will open when you click on this link.

 Milberry5 Horn


She was born December 4, 1764 in Edgecombe, NC, and died December 19, 1851 in Davidson County, TN125. She married Joseph Philips 1785 in Edgecomb County, N. Carolina126, son of Joseph Philips and Sarah Exum. He was born October 31, 1763 in Edgecombe County, NC127, and died May 22, 1822 in Davidson County, TN.

Notes for
Milberry Horn:
See Notes to Henry Horn, Jr. Milberry was probably raised by Henry Horn, Jr and his wife, Sarah Battle, after the death of Milberry's mother, Mary Thomas. This is a speculation based on the indication that Milberry is erroneously listed in the Battle Book as the first child of Henry Horn, Jr and Sarah Battle.

The following document, received June 2001, from Larry Horn of Fayetteville, Arkansas, reviews his evidence that Milberry Horn was not the daughter of Henry Horn and Sarah Battle.

Parentage of Milberry Horn

By Larry Horn

The consensus, and correct, view is that Milberry Horn, who married Joseph Philips, was the daughter of Col. William Horn and Mary Thomas. I still, however, occasionally encounter the attribution of her parentage to Henry Horn, Jr. and Sarah Battle. (Henry Horn, Jr. was a brother to Col. William Horn.) Dr. Bob Horn has suggested credibly that the source of this confusion is possibly that, following the death of her mother, Milberry may have lived with her Uncle Henry Horn and his wife Sarah. That this may well have been the case is reflected in Milberry's naming one of her children Henry Horn Philips, possibly as a gesture toward the kindness of her Uncle Henry.

As I have not seen a systematic refuting of the Henry-Sarah parentage theory, I have undertaken such a project. The evidence assembled into this project is legal and civil documents pertaining to early Edgecombe County, NC.

This item comes from "Kinfolks of Edgecombe County, NC l788-1855" by Joseph W. Watson:

"DB-5-519. "Joseph Philips was son-in-law of William Horn of Bertie Co. NC, Jan. 29, l791."

When I brought this to the attention of Dr. Bob Horn, he clarified it thus, drawing from his data base of early NC deeds naming Horns:

"642-(19) William Horn of Bertie County to his son-in-law Joseph Philips of Edgecombe county 29 Jan. 1791. Deed of gift. Negro girl Jinny already in sd Philips' possession. Wit. Etheldred Philips. Exum Lewis, Jr. Feb. Ct. l791. Edw. Hall CC."

(Dr. Bob suggests that this transaction refers to a servant given as a wedding gift to Philip's wife, William Horn's daughter Milberry.)

As we know that Milberry Horn did marry Joseph Philips, this item might seem sufficient in itself to prove that Milberry Horn Philips was NOT the daughter of Henry Horn, Jr. and Sarah Battle.

But I choose to let that family add its own voices, so to speak, to the evidence proclaiming that Henry and Sarah were not her parents.

From "Estate Records of Edgecombe County NC, l730-1820" by Joseph W. Watson. Information pertaining to the settling of the estate of Henry Horn, Jr. in 1785. The estate admrs. are said to be Jeremiah Hilliard (Henry Horn's step-son, I am sure; Sarah Battle's son by her first husband Jacob Hilliard) and Jacob Battle. The estate is said to have been divided between "the widow, Sarah Horn, and the orphans of the decd., namely Piety Horn, Charity Horn, Sealy Horn, and Henry Horn." And, as late as l792, "money arising from the estate" was divided "among the widow, Sarah Horn; and Piety Fort, daughter; Charity Bunn, daughter; Selah Horn, daughter; and Henry Horn, son of the decd."

No mention of any daughter Milberry, and she was very much alive in l785, living in fact until 1851.

(It may seem of interest that Henry Horn did not leave anything to his step-children Jeremiah Hilliard and Elizabeth Hilliard Fort. I doubt that they needed anything. I believe they were left well fixed by their own father and that their inheritance was well looked after, till they came of age, by their grandfather Elisha Battle. I have seen the abstract of the will of Jacob Hilliard (in "Abstracts of Wills,

Edgecombe County NC, l733-1856" by Ruth Smith Williams and Margarette Glenn Griffin) in which among other things he leaves his plantation to his widow "all this during widowhood" and to his son Jeremiah "reversion in all lands and 3 Negroes." Then after Sarah did leave widowhood and married Henry Horn, I have seen the agreement whereby the guardian of the orphan Jeremiah, Elisha Battle (his grandfather), okayed "that Henry Horn and wife, Sarah, should retain possession of the plantation until the orphan became of lawful age." ("Abstracts of Early Deeds of Edgecombe County NC, 1759-1772" by Joseph W. Watson)

Then in "Records of Estates, Edgecombe County NC, l761-1825" by David B. Gammon there is a record of the petition for dower on the part of Priscilla Hilliard, widow of Jeremiah Hilliard in Nov. l810 in which Jeremiah is said to have "died in l810 possessed of 6000 acres in Edgecombe and Nash counties." A tidy amount of land. And while Jeremiah no doubt added to his land holdings, I bet that a sizeable chunk of that 6000 acres came to him from his father, Jacob Hilliard [the son, incidentally of Mourning Pope, who was via her second husband Joseph Thomas the grandmother of Milberry Horn-how these families intertwine!!] )

3. From "Abstracts of Wills, Edgecombe County NC, 1733-1856" by Ruth Smith Williams and Margarette Glenn Griffin. The will of Sarah Horn, widow of Henry Horn, Jr., probated Feb. Ct. l799.

In her will Sarah names the following as her heirs: "Son & Exr: Jeremiah Hilliard"; "Dau: Charity Bunn"; "son: Henry"; "daus: Elizabeth [Hilliard] Fort, Piety Fort, and Seely Sugg." And having specified what she was leaving to each of these, Sarah concludes: "Residue to 6 children."

So in her will Sarah enumerates her two children from her first marriage to Jacob Hilliard and her four children by Henry Horn, Jr. What stands out dramatically is that there is nary a mention of any child named Milberry.

4. From "Estate Records of Edgecombe County NC, l730-1820" by Joseph W. Watson. A summary of inventory and estate matters in l810 pertaining to the property of Jeremiah Hilliard (son of Jacob Hilliard and Sarah Battle). Jeremiah's heirs, among whom his Negroes were to be divided, are listed as "his sister, Elizabeth Fort"; "the representatives of his sister of the half-blood, Charity Vick, decd" (and four Bunns and one Vick are enumerated); "his sister of the half-blood, Piety Fort"; "his sister of the half-blood, Seeley Sugg"; and "his brother of the half-blood, Henry Horn." And division of the money arising from the estate was to be divided among the following: "Priscilla Hilliard, widow of said decd."; "Elizabeth Fort"; "Piety Fort, wife of Josiah Fort"; "Selia Sugg, wife of Lemuel Sugg"; "Henry Horn"; and "the heirs of Charity Vick."

Again, no reference to a sibling sister (of the half-blood) Milberry.

It is interesting that Jeremiah Hilliard names no children or grandchilden among his heirs. He was married twice: first to a second cousin, Anne Hilliard; and then to Priscilla Dickinson, who had been married to his second cousin, John Hilliard III. But, apparently, Jeremiah had no children by either wife; or if he did have, they did not survive into adulthood to marry and produce children of their own.

5. Finally, the will of Elisha Battle, father of Sarah Battle Hilliard Horn (from "Abstracts of Wills, Edgecombe County NC, 1733-1856" by Williams and Griffin). This occurs among various other bequests:

"All remaining part of my estate to be equally divided amongst my 5 children: Elizabeth Crudup, Elisha Battle, Jacob Battle, Jethro Battle, and Demsey Battle, provided that my daughter Sarah Horn's 6 children (to wit) Jeremiah Hilliard, Elizabeth Fort, Purity [sic] Fort, Charity Bunn, Seely Sugg, and Henry Horn come in for 1 equal share with my 5 children to be equally divided among them . . ."

This will is dated Feb. 6, l799 and was probated May Ct. l799. Significantly absent from this will's listing of the children of Sarah Horn is any Milberry. And , again, she was very much alive in l799, would indeed live for half a century more.


November 12, 2001: I located the large family cemetery , located at the top of a knoll, easily visible, behind a house at 3913 Oxbow Lane, about 1/2 mile from the intersection of Dickerson Pike and Old Hickory Blvd, in Davidson County, TN.

Milbrey Horn PHilips is burned in this family cemetery at Sylvan Hall, Davidson County, TN on Oxbow Drive. Front inscription: JOS. PHILIPS/ BORN/ OCT. 31, 1763/ DIED/ MAY 22, 1822./ MILBIRY PHILIPS/ WIFE OF J. PHILIPS/ BORN/ DEC. 4, 1764/ DIED DEC. 19, 1851/ BORN IN N. C./ & SETTLED ON THIS PLACE 1791. Website listing of above is "http://www.geocities.com/davidson_co_cemeteries/WC/sylvanhall.htm"