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Philips of Early Virginia

This family of Philips spell their name with one "L" as far back as I have been able to ascertain.  I am still investigating to see if they changed from two "L"s to one at some point in the past or have always spelled their name that way.

This web site is under construction. I started working on the site early in October, 2006 and have focused on getting the information I have on-line as quickly as possible. There may well be typos and errors. I appreciate any feedback so that I can make corrections as needed.

This web site focuses on the Philips' family, ancestors of my grandparents Nelle Williams Holthouse (Mama Nelle), the wife of Bernard Godfrey Holthouse (Pop).  Please note the spelling of Philips with one "L".


I am a researcher of family histories and regard myself more as a historian or preservationist than a genealogist. My interest lies in uncovering family connections and life stories of ancestors. Debunking unsubstantiated lore and speculation is part of the process.

I was born in Lawrenceburg, TN in 1937 but my mother's roots in Nashville go way back.

Elisha Williams was born about 1749 and married Sarah Josey in Windsor, NC in 1775, producing three sons and one daughter. The last child, born 1786, was Josiah Frederick Williams. Josiah, who attended the University of North Carolina and then moved with his family to Nashville about 1804.

Josiah Frederick Williams was married in 1815 to Margaret Peggy Philips, born in 1799 at her parent’s large farm off Dickerson Pike, about six miles north of Nashville, south of Old Hickory Blvd. Her father was Joseph Philips Jr who had come to Nashville in 1791 from Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina with his wife Milbry Philips nee Horn. The population of Nashville at that time was about 300.

The Philips’ family cemetery, Sylvan Hall, is circled by a high stone fence and remains today in the middle of a housing development near where the original house stood until about 1960. Members of both the Philips and Williams families are buried there.

In 1817 Josiah Williams built a brick house, one of the first in Davidson County, named Maplewood on his 1,400 farm situated 4 miles from Nashville on Gallatin Pike just before Briley Parkway.

Maplewood was the scene of the marriage of three of Colonel Williams’ daughters to the three Ewing brothers with the weather so cold the wedding guests were driven across the river on ice.

Another of Josiah Williams daughters, Mary Thomas, married James C. Warner, a prominent iron manufacturer, in 1851. Their sons, Edwin and Percy Werner, are the namesakes of the large parks on Nashville's west end.  The original land was donated by Percy's daughter Percie and her husband Luke Lea.

One of Josiah Williams’ sons, James H. Williams, born in Nashville, TN 1826, moved to near Osceola, AR in 1849 to manage some of his father’s land in that area. Before leaving Nashville, he married Mary E. Finley and they had two children.  Shortly after arriving in Arkansas Mary died and James married Juliette Marion Heath who gave birth to the father of my grandmother, Edward Heath Williams, born 1859. He had two other sons, William Williams, born between 1848-1857, and Henry Ewing Williams, born 1860. My grandmother, Mamma Nelle, eventually ended up in Lawrenceburg in 1920 where she lived until she died in 1973.

Colonel Jere Baxter, born in 1852, purchased the house and land surrounding Maplewood in 1884. He founded the Tennessee Central Railroad in 1893, connecting Nashville and Knoxville. He had for many years been a collector of objects of art and Maplewood was filled with treasures brought from all over the world. There was also an extensive library, containing many volumes of rare editions.

However, as Nashville grew, the land became more valuable and on April 27, 1922 the last of the land, 27 acres, and the home at Maplewood were subdivided and sold at auction.

The Philips home remained until it was sold in 1960 to the Bellshire Methodist Church, and in time razed for the church building which stands on the site.

After moving around the country, I have been living in Hendersonville with my wife Janice since 1989, within just a few miles of my 1800 roots, and am now retired.

Larry Feldhaus