North Carolina Plantation Founded by the Philips Family

Mt. Moriah Plantation | North Carolina | c. 1830s

Sometime in the 1780s, Frederick and Sally Tartt Philips would marry and in 1798, they would have a son, James Jones Philips, born in Edgecombe County, NC. By the 1810s, Frederick had established the Hickory Grove Academy where white male students could enroll in 5 months of reading, writing, and arithmetic education for twelve dollars.

In 1815, his son James Jones was enrolled and as Frederick remarked in a letter to his cousin, James was a fine scholar who was studying Latin that year.

James would soon go to Raleigh to finish his education where he decided to become a physician.

Dr. James Jones Philips

While away studying at the University of Pennsylvania, James’ father Frederick fell on financial hardship and decided to sell off the last person he enslaved (a carpenter) to pay for the balance of his son’s medical education.

By 1822, James had established himself as a physician in his home county of Edgecombe where he grew a reputation as a man of incredible knowledge and skill in his field. In those days, it was difficult to sustain a family on doctors’ wages so he grew his wealth as a planter too. He became well-known for his progressive farming practices that embraced chemistry and focused on soil analysis.

In 1827, Dr. Philips bought land in Edgecombe County where he would build a Masonic Lodge and start his plantation. The lodge was named Mt. Moriah and the plantation followed suit. At this time, he relocated a cabin from nearby that had been built between 1810-14. This original home now comprises the backside of the house.

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In 1834, he married Harriet Amanda Burt, daughter of William and Susan Burt of Nash County. The couple would have 5 daughters and 5 sons together and in 1850, work began to considerably enlarge the home to accommodate this large and affluent family. The greatest additions were to the front of the house which was completed in a Greek Revival style just in time for James and Harriet’s oldest daughter Sally’s wedding in December of 1851.

As James continued to grow his plantation, he eventually amassed 3,000 acres and according to the 1860 census, enslaved 80 people.

The Mt. Moriah Masonic Lodge used to stand 100 feet north of the existing home but today, all that remains of it are a ghostly imprint in the ground from the building’s old footprint. The upper floor was used for Masonic rites and the bottom floor was a schoolhouse for white children on the plantation.

There is also a collection of outbuildings still standing on the property that served a variety of purposes over the years, one of which dates to the 1810s.

The farm has remained in the family to this day who do what they can to keep it up, despite fire damage to one wing of the house from a lightning strike.




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4 thoughts on “North Carolina Plantation Founded by the Philips Family”

  1. My great, great. great, great grandfather Thomas Woodard came to Robertson County, Tennessee from Edgecomb Ciunty, North Carolina.
    I have relatives who restored his home near Springfield, TN where I grew up

  2. Just amazing history and family legacy!
    We live in a very historic area here in Northern Westchester County, NY.
    with many preserved properties. My 7th grade english teacher’s home was
    a stop along the underground railroad. Not far from that is the Hohn Jay Homestead.
    Our family only arrived in California from Norway in the 1840’s for the gold rush.

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