Alexander Phillips Synopsis

Martha Smith Phillips mother of Mae Phillips.

It’s been a long while since I posted on this blog. Soon I will be sharing letters my grandparents, Mae Edith Phillips and William Roy Caple, wrote to each other from 1913 to 1916.

In hopes of aiding the reader, reading these letters, I am posting a synopsis of Mae’s heritage, another for my Grandfather, William Roy Caple will follow, tomorrow.

Most of Mae’s ancestry in this country goes back to Colonial days. Many on her paternal side were among the first English settlers of Connecticut in the 1600’s.

In 1794, Cynthia Prindle, of this group, married, Patrick O’Hara of Londonderry, Ireland. Patrick had come to Canada in 1783 and by 1794, when they married, they were living in Vermont.

They had 12 children and eventually moved to LeRay, Jefferson County, New York. Here their daughter, Sarah O’Hara, married Reuben Phillips in 1823. Reuben’s parentage is unknown, but census records indicate he was born in the New York around 1800. Their first child, Mae’s grandfather, was born the following year. They named him Daniel and he was soon followed by 6 siblings, 4 brothers and 2 sisters.

Meanwhile, about the same time, Sara’s brother, James O’Hara, became one of the earliest settlers of Madoc, Hasting County, Ontario, Canada. By 1833 Sarah and Rueben also moved to this area.

Around 1840 another family made their way to Madoc. Alexander Cross and his wife Helen Ross of Scotland crossed the ocean and settled next to the James O’Hara property in Madoc. Both Alexander and his wife Helen were born in Ross and Cromarty county, Scotland but were living in Aberdeen, Scotland when the emigrated. In 1848 their daughter Janet (Jessie) age 16, married Sarah and Rueben’s son, Daniel Phillips.

By 1852 most of Rueben and Sarah’s children were married with families of their own and they were all on the move. The entire family group first moved back to Northern New York, by 1860 they were living in Whiteside County, Illinois and by 1870 the census records shows most of the group had settled in Tama County, Iowa. Daniel and Jessie were living there when Mae’s father, Alexander Phillips, was born in 1867.

Six years later Daniel was killed in a wagon accident leaving Jessie with 13 children to finish raising.

Sometime after 1880 most of the Phillips and allied families moved to Shelton, Buffalo County, Nebraska, and by the late 1880’s they were homesteading in the Black Hills of Crook County, Wyoming. My grandmother was living there when the letters I will be sharing were were written.

Mae’s maternal ancestors also go back to the Colonial days and are of Quaker, Scots Irish, Palatinate German, and French Huguenot origins. The Quaker and Scots Irish groups moved into VA, NC and finally Iowa. The Palatinate German and Huguenot groups also moved into VA, then Tennessee, Indiana and eventually Tama County, Iowa.

There her Smith grandparents William R. Smith and Lavina Harden married. To this couple 3 children were born, Martha Smith, Mae’s mother, b. in 1877, William I. Smith b. in 1880 and Sadie Smith b. in 1891.

Around 1885, when most of the Phillips clan moved to Nebraska, they were joined by the Smith family. Most of this group including the Smiths went on to homestead in Crook county, Wyoming around 1888. Lavina Harden’s Smith’s father Jonathan Harden, had gone there during the gold rush in the late 1870’s. His presence there probably had something to do with the group choosing to homestead there.

Alexander and his mother, Jessie Cross Phillips, both took out claims on Deep Creek as did their old Iowa neighbors, William R. Smith and his wife Lavina Harden Smith.

On Aug. 5th, 1895, Mae’s parents, Martha Smith and Alexander Phillips, wed. Their first child, my grandmother, Mae Phillips was born the following year. Her sister, Hazel in 1900 and a brother, Daniel in 1903.

While Mae grew up in a isolated part of the country she was surrounded by a large extended family, which included aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, many cousins both first and several times removed as well as her Smith grandparents, Aunt Sadie and Uncle Will Smith.

In 1903 Mae’s Uncle, John Phillips, moved to Rosedale, Pierce county, WA. Justin, the cousin she mentions often in her letters, is his son.

Later other Phillips kin moved to Puyallup, WA. In 1912, perhaps because of a very hard winter and a poor crop year, Alexander moved his family to Puyallup and rented a house next to the family of Samuel Hugh Caple. There my grandparents, Mae Phillips and William Roy Caple met. Mae would have been 16, Hazel her sister, 12 and Daniel, her brother, 9. William Roy Caple would have been 27, his older brother Joe, 30, his younger brother Richard, 23 and their sister Lida 13.


Notes: James O’Hara the brother of Sarah O’Hara Phillips had a sawmill in Madoc, Hasting County, Ontario, Canada. Today the site of the Mill is a heritage park. Readers may find it interesting to explore their web page at Be sure to check out their history link for more history about the O’Hara family.

You might also enjoy looking up the Aladdin General store’s face book page or google it.  Today Aladdin, WY has a population of 15. At the time the letters were written it was a small coal mining town. This same general store is the place Mae’s family used and where her Dad collected the mail for his mail route. It is also where they could catch the train to Belle Fourche and points elsewhere. Several extended members of her family also lived there at one time or another.


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