PHIFER, Joseph, of Henry Co VA

Joseph Phifer[1] was born ca 1758, probably in Virginia. One clue to his origin is the fact that in 1788 he sold land he owned in Montgomery Co VA; another is that there was a Jacob Piper, in Henry Co VA in 1780. Joseph died in Henry County, Virginia, 12 Jan 1833.[2]

He was married ca 1777 to Judith Meredith, who was identified by both names in his will. She has been called the daughter of Bradley and Dorothy (–?–) Meredith of Henry Co VA.[3] Given the name of her first son and the residence of this couple in the same county, this connection is highly likely, but this writer has seen no documentary evidence. And years later there was a loose connection to a Meredith family in the Barren Co KY area.[4]

The earliest records that name Joseph Phifer are in Henry Co VA where he resided continuously from as early as a 1779 tax list[5] until his death in 1833. At no time from the founding of the county in 1777 through the early 1850s, was there a known Piper in Henry Co VA or any of the nearby counties. There was this one man, Joseph Phifer, from earliest times through his death in 1833. The name Phifer was spelled in a variety of ways, but usually Phifer or Fifer.

In 1781, the name Joseph Piper appears on a list of names of Militiamen who marched to… assist… at Guilford Courthouse, Col Penn’s Muster Roll.[6] For valid reasons, including Col. Penn’s demonstrable spelling errors,[7] I believe that this was the same Joseph Phifer.[8] He was accepted as an NSDAR Patriot Ancestor a few years ago.[9]

Joseph Phifer was on the 1787 Henry Co VA Tax list.[10] He signed a series of land transactions from 1788 to 1804 in Henry Co; the earliest of these is for land he owned in Montgomery Co VA.[11] His first extant census was in 1820, Henry Co VA, p 30. Joseph Fifer, 010001/02001/02. In 1830, he was in the same place: Henry Co VA, 192. Joseph Phifer, 0000200001/0000000001.[12]

Joseph and Judith’s children are named in his will:

i. Bradley PHIFER. Born ca 1778 in Henry Co VA. Bradley died in Limestone Co TX, ca 1848. On 13 Apr 1803, he married Polly HIBBERT in Henry Co VA. Born in 1784 in Henry Co VA, Polly died in Limestone Co TX, bef 1848.

ii. Joseph PHIFER Jr. Born ca 1782. On 25 Jul 1808, he married Lindy WITT in Henry Co VA.

iii. Forrest PHIFER. Born ca 1784. On 5 Jan 1814, he married Susanna PHILPOTT in Henry Co VA.

iv. John PHIFER. Born ca 1788 in Henry Co VA. On 22 Jul 1817, he married Elizabeth Jones PHILPOTT in Henry Co VA.

v. James PHIFER. Born ca 1790. James died bef 1833. On 10 May 1813, he married Jane TURNER in Henry Co VA.

vi. Sarah PHIFER. Born ca 1790. Sarah died on 29 Jul 1857. On 28 Dec 1818, she married Joseph THOMASON in Henry Co VA.

vii. Nancy PHIFER. Born ca 1792. On 5 Jan 1819, she married John PHILPOTT in Henry Co VA.

viii. Mary PHIFER. Mary died in Barren Co KY, in 1845/1853. Born ca 1793. On 3 Aug 1813, she married Cavin GOSSETT, son of John GOSSETT & Elizabeth MAYZE, in Henry Co VA. Born in 1791 in Henry Co VA. Cavin died in Barren Co KY, in May 1845. They had the following children:

i.            Jane (1817-1900)

ii.            Henry (1818->1910)

iii.            James Thomas (1822-)

iv.            Martha (1820-)

v.              Peter (1827-1913)

ix. Elizabeth PHIFER. Born ca 1794. On 11 Jul 1814, she married George Pollard TURNER in Henry Co VA. Born ca 1793, George died in 1854.

x. Judith PHIFER. Born ca 1800, she married Thomas POMEROY.

xi. William PHIFER. Born ca 1801.

xii. Martha PHIFER. Born ca 1802, on 14 Feb 1824, she married Edward PEASE in Henry Co VA.

xiii. Henry PHIFER. Born ca 1805 in Henry Co VA, he married Mary Ann SIMMERMAN.

© Kathy Alvis Patterson, 2009, 2013

[1] The name is usually spelled Phifer, occasionally Fifer, and once or twice Piper, Phyffer, Pepes, and other variations.

[2]Joseph Phifer will (1834), Henry Co VA Will Book 4, page 78.

I, Joseph Phifer, Senr. of the County of Henry & State of Virginia, being of weak body but of perfect mind and memory, and knowing that it is appointed unto all men once to die, & believing as I do, that the number of my days on earth is nearly accomplished, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament, in the words ad form following: viz. First—my wish is that out of the perishable part of my estate all of my just debts be paid by my executor. Second—I give and bequeath to my sons, Bradley, Forest, John, Joseph, William, Henry Phifer, each one dollar to be paid them respectively by my Executor out of my personal estate. Thirdly—I give and bequeath to my daughters Polly Gossett, Betsy Turner, Sally Thomason, Nancy Philpott, Judith Pomeroy, and Martha Peas, each one dollar to be paid in like manner by my Executor. Fourthly—I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Judith Phiefer, alias Judith Meredith, all my estate both real and personal during her natural life. At her decease, whatever may remain, I wish sold on a reasonable credit, and the monies when collected equally divided among all my children above named or their lawful heirs. In confirmation of which I do hereby declare this to be my last Will land Testament revoking and disannulling all others heretofore made by me.  In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this twelfth day of January year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & thirty-three. I do hereby appoint David Dyer my Executor.

Joseph (his X mark) Phifer


Sealed, signed in presence of Bartholomew Egan, Daniel Easton, Tarleton King

At a court holden for Henry County March 12th 1834. The foregoing last will & testament of Joseph Phifer, decd. was produced in court, proven by the oaths of Tarleton King and Daniel Easton two of the subscribing witnesses and ordered to be recorded; and at a court holden for the said county 12th of May 1834 David Dyer the executor therein named qualified as such and with Tarleton King and Jessee Wootton his securities entered into bonds in penalty of $600 conditioned according to law; and acknowledged the same.

Teste.  Anthony M. Dupuy   Clerk

[3] Marla Moore, “Early Birds of Virginia,” posted 12 Jun 2009 at

[4]Mary (Phifer) Gossett’s granddaughter had a mother-in-law whose first husband was a Meredith. That is, Mary’s grandson-in-law had a half-brother who may have been related to her.

[5] Adams, Lela C.. 1778-1780 tax lists of Henry County,  Easley, S.C. : Southern Historical Press, 1989. Joseph Phifer was not in the 1778 list.

[6]Personal Papers, Abraham Penn Roster, no date, Accession #41633, The Library of Virginia, 13 Oct 2007. Brice Martin’s Company. Also, Virginia G. and Lewis G. Pedigo, History of Patrick and Henry Counties Virginia, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1977, pages 72-75.

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, History & Culture Web Site, “Interesting Stories Associated with Guilford courthouse,” page 11. [This article does not mention Joseph Phifer by name, but does give interesting data about Colonel Abram Penn’s militiamen, including a reference to Lewis Franklin, in the same unit as Joseph P(h)ifer, and whose son married Joseph’s daughter Jane.] Henry County: A Proud Look Back, First National Bank of Bassett; copyright 1975. In DAR Library.

[7]Kathy Alvis Patterson, “Names which occur in both Col. Abraham Penn’s Muster Roll, March 1781 and Henry Co VA Tax List, 1787,” 2008.

[8]Two of Joseph’s neighbors in the 1787 tax list include the individuals whose names both precede and follow his in Col. Abram Penn’s original roster of militiamen:  John Prytle and John Pursell/Parsley.

These sources were among those checked for Piper in this area of Virginia, resulting in no occurrences of the name Piper:

1. 1810 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Third Census of the United States, 1810. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1810. M252, 71 rolls.

2. 1820 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourth Census of the United States, 1820. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1820. M33, 142 rolls. Joseph Piper, Shenandoah Co VA (000010/02010); Joseph Piper, Augusta Co VA (200010/10100). Both of these men were too young to have responded to a call to arms 39 years earlier. And moving north was atypical for Henry Co VA residents, who generally moved west or south. Seven other Joseph Pipers were heads of households in 1820, in PA, NY, MA, NH and ME.

3. Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 1999. Original data: Dodd, Jordan R., et al.. Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850. Bountiful, UT: Precision Indexing Publishers.

4. Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2002. Original data: The Virginia Genealogical Society. Quarterly and Magazine of Virginia Genealogy. This database includes volumes 1-35 (1963-1997).

5. 1790/1800 Virginia Tax List Censuses, Reconstructed 1790, 1800 Federal Censuses, © 2007 Binns, Genealogy dot Com, <;.

6. Virginia G. and Lewis G. Pedigo, History of Patrick and Henry Counties Virginia, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co, 1933.

7. Guthrie, Laurence Rawlin, American Guthrie and allied families, Chambersburg, PA: Kerr Print. Co., 1933.

8. Hill, Judith Parks America, A History of Henry County, Virginia, 1925.

9. Genealogical Records Committee Database Search, NSDAR emembers site, <http://e>. Piper family records are from the same northern VA families. A Joseph Piper, wife Sarah, left guardianship documents in Augusta County. According to the 1820 census for that county, this Joseph was 26-45 and had 3 children, all under 10.

10. Henry Co VA Genweb Homepage sources, including 1787, 1790 and 1800 tax lists. See <http://>.

11. Patrick Co VA Genweb Homepage search at < usgenweb/va/patrick.htm>.

12. Pittsylvania Co VA Genweb Homepage search at < ~vapittsy/>.

13. Online services:,, (including Stories & Publications search), Digital Collections at Brigham Young University, Harold B Lee Library, and “Making of America,” at Cornell University Library.

14. The International Genealogical Index, Virginia and North Carolina.

There were a few Piper families in Chesterfield, Albemarle, Augusta, Frederick and Shenandoah Counties. The only Joseph Pipers located in any early records were two men, born 1765-1784, who were in Augusta and Shenandoah Counties in the 1820 census, for whom guardianship documents for the former and the marriage record of the latter were also found.

Given Col. Penn’s inaccuracy with the spelling of names and the absence of anyone named Piper in the area, it is evident that the member of his militia was Joseph Phifer, a man who was present for many years in Henry County.

[9] If you can prove your descent from Joseph Phifer, with documents at every generation, any females in your family are eligible for the DAR See Ancestor #:A206153, at Contact me and I’ll be happy to volunteer my time to help with the application.

[10]Netti Schreiner-Yantis and Florene Speakman Love, The Personal Property Tax Lists for the Year 1787 for Henry County, Virginia, Springfield VA: GBP, 1987, pages 666, 677, and 683.

[11] Lela C. Adams: ABSTRACTS OF DEED BOOKS III & IV OF Henry Co VA, Aug 1784 through June 1792:

Page 63: DEED of Trust, page 391. I, Joseph Phifer of Henry County and justly indebted to Henry Lyne in the amount of Thirty pounds two shillings three pence, sell to him land in MONTGOMERY COUNTY being 320 acres Mill Creek, a branch of Meady Creek, 8 head of cattle, two black cows, 1 cow and yearling which John Redd owes me, also two feather beds and furniture, 2 iron potts, 6 pewter plates, 1 dish, 2 basons and all the rest of my household furniture, 1 bay mare, 8 hogs, 1 sow and 7 shoats. Signed Joseph (X) Phiffer. Witnesses: John (X) Dillingham; Michael Dillingham; Joshua Dillingham. Proved April 1788.

Lela C. Adams: ABSTRACTS OF DEED BOOKS V & VI OF Henry Co VA, Oct 1792 thru Dec 1805:

Page 32: D.B. 5, page 172. 29 Dec. 1794. John Dillion and his wife Sarah Dillion of the county of Henry to Joseph Phifer of the same, for the sum of Twenty pounds, sells land on the south side of Rock Run Creek of the Smith River containing 100 acres more or less, part of a larger tract granted said John Dillion of PATENT dated 20 Feb. 1794, joins John Barksdale, crosses the Iron Works Road to Rowlands line. Signed: John Dillion.

Page 33: D. B. 5, page 173. 27 Oct. 1794. John Dillion of Henry County to Joseph Phifer of the same, for the consideration of Seventy pounds, sells land on the North side of Smith River and on both sides of Rock Run Creek, being 120 acres. Signed: John Dillion. Deed Examined and delivered 29 Dec 1794.

Page 55: D. B. 5, pages 320-321. 9 March 1797. Deed of Trust. Joseph Phifer of Henry County to James Baker, in the amount of Eighteen pounds. The said Phifer indebted to Baker, secures with 220 acres land whereon the said Phifer now resides bounded by John Barksdale, Newsum Pace, Thomas Nunn, William Draper and the land formerly of John Rowland. After the 1st of October next will sell for best price, balance to Joseph Phifer. (Signed) Joseph Phifer. Witnessed by JohnCox, Jeremiah Stone and Lewis (X) Franklin.

Page 87: D. B. 6, pages 138-140. 17 April 1798. Deed of Trust. (Note that Phifer is spelled with an “F” in this record) Joseph Fifer to John Smith . . . the Said Fifer indebted Thirty pounds secures with a tract of land on both sides of Rock Run on the Smith River by estimate 220 acres more or less where the said Joseph Fifer lives, joins John Barksdale, Newsom Pace, Thomas Nunn, William Draper and the land formerly of John Rowland. After 25 Dec. next shall be sold to satisfy debt. Signed Joseph Fifer (x). Witnesses: John Cox; Nancey Williamson; Joseph Cox; Mary Jennings, Robert Cox.

Page 165. D. B. 6, pages 531-532. Deed of Trust. 13 March 1804. Joseph Phifer of Henry County to George Waller, Jr. and Waller Redd,Trustees for John Redd, debt Sixty Eight pounds nine shillings 2 pence secures with: two tracts Rock Run Creek whereon he now lives, one tract 120 acres, the other 100 acres, being part of a tract granted John Dillen by PATENT 20 Feb 1794, joins John Barksdale, Ironworks Road and Jo. Dillen. Signed: Joseph (X) Phifer, George Waller Jr., Waller Red. Witnesses: Jeremiah Roberts, Ephriam Wilson, Ann Starling.

[12]1790 and 1800 Henry Co VA tax lists, copied at < ~vataxlists/Henry/1790PersonalA/12.jpg> and < Henry/1800Personal/12.jpg>

Published on August 13, 2008 at 11:57 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am researching the Dillingham family, but do not think this will be of any help to you. However, the deed they witnessed adds some more dating eveidence for the Dillingham family.

    Thank you
    Dave, Peterborough, England

  2. DAR approval of the Patriot Service of Joseph Phifer was given June 16, 2009. Contact me for assistance, if you wish.

  3. I am researching Bradley Phifer and Joseph his father. I am trying to join DAR under Joseph and need a copy of his will. I noticed you have posted one, is it possible to obtain a copy of the original as the DAR insists on a copy and not a transcription. Also, have you located a copy of Bradley’s will. It seems the courthouse in Limestone county has burned twice and none is available thru them. I do have a copy of the lawsuit between Forest and Permanius (children of Bradley). Thanks for your help.

  4. Looking for the father of Joseph Phifer. Was it Martin Phifer (sr)?

    • I have never seen evidence of Joseph’s father or any documents before he was an adult. No clues.

  5. Bradley Meredith born Lee Co. Va. 1804 my gr. grandfather. Census people changed spelling to Merida Knox Co. Ky. He married Mahala Taylor Knox County 1843/44.

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