The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

Phillips wrote of journey to freedom

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of articles related to Paulding County’s Bicentennial celebration. This is the second of a two-part series on the life of escaped/freed slaves who lived in Paulding County.

KIM SUTTON/for the Van Wert independent

The journey of Loyd Phillips (1840-1929) from slavery to freedom in the Civil War era was scribbled on scraps of paper, old envelopes and even the backs of calendars. Members of the John Paulding Historical Society and a Phillips family descendant transcribed and organized Loyd’s story.

PAULDING — This continues the narrative of Loyd Phillips, an escaped slave, and his journey to Paulding County in search of his father, Abraham. It is based on an oral narrative by Loyd Phillips. It is believed that the narrative was relayed to, and penned by, Loyd’s son George, who was born in freedom, and/or Loyd’s daughter, Elizabeth, who cared for him in his later years.

Freedom, but without my family: Columbus
“After failing to join the army in Pittsburgh, I took a train back to Columbus, Ohio. I was glad to be back in Ohio and got my first job. I found that they were running a streetcar line from the depot to the main part of town. The streetcar was drawn by a horse and I was given a job of taking care of the horses to draw the streetcar. The horses were changed once a day at noon. The wages received for caring for these horses and stables was $1 per day or $6 per week of which I paid $3 a week for room and board. I remained on my job a week. The wages made in Columbus was the first free money I made. 

“I spent Sunday in Columbus during which time I began to make inquiry about my father, Abraham Phillips. (Abraham took his master’s name upon receiving freedom. I also took the Phillips name because Phillips was a good master and Barbour was a cruel man.) 

“I promised to pay the landlord after I made my draw, but upon receiving my wages, I walked out into the country about 6 or 7 miles to see if I could find anybody who knew anything about my father. I was unable to get information about him, but a man informed me that a good many colored people were in Xenia, Ohio. So, I again returned to Columbus. 

Freedom, but without my family: Cincinnati
“Being unable to find my father, I made up my mind to go back after my wife [Lucy]. I went to Cincinnati and got a job running the river. I ran the river for one year and made four trips to New Orleans. The war was still going on when I made these trips. Silver Moon, Golden Eagle and Alice Dean were some of the boats making the trip to New Orleans from Cincinnati. 

“I served as a deck hand on Silver Moon and Golden Eagle. We received wages going down the river to New Orleans, but all we received coming back was our board. The wages ranged from less than $.50 a day to $2 per day. But the wages paid averaged from $1.50 to $2 per day going down and nothing but board coming back. This made it hard to save anything so one had to be economical. 

“Deck hands were called roustabouts. Being in rebel country, the colored deck hands were afraid to leave the boat. So it was an easy matter to keep us on the boat. I remained on the boat until the river froze up. 

The riverboat Silver Moon, on which Loyd Phillips took a job during the Civil War traveling from Cincinnati to New Orleans. He saved his wages to steal his wife out of slavery. 

“I had to save my money and had to get it in the form of bills and sew it up in the lining of my britches in order to keep the other deck hands from knowing that I had it and to prevent them from stealing it. By being economical I saved about $25 or $30 during the times I served as deck hand. After saving up this amount I decided to quit the river and to steal my wife out of slavery. 

Freedom for my wife
“I made a trip out to the Harboldt plantation and told my wife to sell off all the things and make preparation for 

leaving when I called for her. I made two more trips to New Orleans and then I called for her.
“I gave a man $25 to set me and my wife across the river on a flat boat. We arrived at the river at daybreak and were followed by both Harboldt and Barbour in pursuit. I got the man to go out from Louisville to get my wife and had to pay him part of it down. The man who moved them was a colored man. The agreement was to go after my wife and a few pieces of furniture. The furniture consisted of a bureau, a trunk and a few bed clothes.
“After getting on the Indiana side, we took a boat with our freight to Cincinnati. We did not stay there long, but I again took up the search for my father, Abraham. I inquired around there for my father, and I worked there for a while in Cincinnati loading boats.
“I worked for two weeks and saved up my money and paid board and room in Cincinnati while inquiring for my father. Some minister told me that some Kentucky folks had gone to Greene County, Ohio, around Xenia and if I went there, I may get on track of my father. So I went to Xenia and while there I got on track of my father. 

Freedom with my family: Xenia, Greene County & Washington Township, Paulding County
“I had run the river before getting my wife and settling in Greene County. Now, I raised crops in Greene County and I worked in the slaughter house in Xenia. Lucy and I had three children born in Greene County: Lloyd, Charlie and William (Will). 

“While in Xenia, I got on track of my father Abraham who had settled in Paulding County, Ohio. In 1872, I moved to Paulding County and settled in Washington Township. Will was just a baby at the time we moved to Paulding County. Two other children were born in Washington Township, Paulding County. They were named Victoria and John. 

“After Lucy died in 1880, I married Miss Georgiana Howard on March 17, 1881, and had my second set of children. Their names were: Thomas H., James, George, Arthur, Iola, Alonzo, Elizabeth, and Golda. Georgiana died in 1915.

Life in Washington Township, Paulding County
“It was here in Paulding County that I found my father Abraham, and here is where I moved my family and settled in Washington Township. Here is where I built a log house beside my father’s small shanty. 

After his first wife passed away, Loyd Phillips married Georgiana Howard in 1881. One of their eight children was George Phillips, who became a benefactor of the John Paulding Historical Society Museum. 

“Father Abraham had been given a mortgage on the forty acres, and when I arrived he told me that he wasn’t well. Also, he said he wasn’t able to pay off on a loan and was about to lose the property. He talked to me and urged me to pay off the mortgage and take half the land. I agreed to do so and I also bought Aunt Nellie’s portion of 20 acres on the east sector. Here, I cared for my father until he passed away in 1874. 

“After freedom, I attended Sunday school and learned my alphabet. I had as my teacher Professor J.R. Blackburn. I was ordained at Middle Creek Church by Elders Young & Moss of Lima (& Goings).” 

NOTE: The handwritten notes end here. 

It leaves the reader wanting more, doesn’t it? Do you agree that history is just waiting to be discovered? If we had discarded this manila envelope full of scrap pieces of paper, we would have lost this priceless story. 

Of course, the story goes on, Loyd was licensed to preach in 1870, and was a pastor of four different congregations of the Baptist denomination. Loyd was a farmer and he raised fine horses. His farm was well maintained, and both as a farmer and citizen he was esteemed as an honored resident of the community. 

George Augustus Phillips was the third son born to Loyd and Georgiana Phillips. George was born on December 22, 1885, in Washington Township and died on August 26, 1979, in Cincinnati at the age of 94. George married Myrtle Ann Reynolds on October 31, 1909. Myrtle died on July 14, 1973. They had no children. They are buried in the Middle Creek Zion Baptist Church cemetery near Roselm. 

Dr. George A. Phillips bequeathed part of his estate to the John Paulding Historical Society. It was with this legacy that the society built the main museum building across from the fairgrounds in Paulding in 1984. Dr. George A. Phillips’ room remains virtually intact as it was in his home in Cincinnati. The trunk and bureau (spoken of earlier) brought out of slavery are on display at the museum. 

The notes and writings on which this narrative is based have been organized and edited by Sandra Phillips, Kim Sutton, and other members of the John Paulding Historical Society. Sandra Phillips is a great-great-granddaughter of Abraham Phillips. This article would not have been possible without the dedication and devotion of Sandra Phillips in deciphering and transcribing the written narrative of Loyd Phillips 1840-1929. 

More information on the bicentennial can be found on Facebook at  

POSTED: 08/19/20 at 6:54 am. FILED UNDER: News