January 18, 1926
Miss Harriet Abbot
19 Brooks Ave.
I have learned that Mrs. Stephen Meyers [Malinda (nee: Phillips) Myers] lives in the corner of Champlain and Pearl Streets in the brick house in the West side of Champlain Street at the corner. She can tell you all about the Phillips, as she went Gypsying with them and can also tell you about Miss Baker [her sister Louise (nee: Phillips) Baker] and her travels as Gypsies.
W. S. Heath, Town Clerk of South Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont
January 29, 1926
State Department of Public Welfare
In Re: Phillips family
We are interested in the Phillips family that has inter-married with many families which have cost the State of Vermont a good deal of money. These people in the past were known as “gypsies” but in all probability they are part French, part Indian and part Negro. (largely Negro). As far as I know they have never been registered as colored. There was certain Peter Phillips who was known as “One-eyed Peter” [confusion with Mathias a.k.a. Michael Phillips], “King of the Gypsies.”
Matilda Leopard Phillips says that Old Mike died at the age of 104 at the home of his granddaughter, Matilda Leopard Phillips herself. Cora Stark Phillips and relatives about Peacham state that Old Mike Phillips had only one eye, but it is apparent that they are confusing Mike with Pete. HEA
He is said to have had about eighteen children, who were of many different colors from black down through yellow and white. These people wandered up and down the shores of Lake Champlain stealing what they could lay their hands on, hunting and fishing out of season and often living in boats [confusion on her part with the Jerome “Pirate” family]. Some years ago a branch of these Phillips’s went to Belfast, Maine. I think the oldest member of the family that went, was known as Antoine Phillips Jr., [son of Peter Phillips and his first wife Delina Benoit a.k.a. Delia Rosa Bone] I am anxious to get not only the Dependency, Delinquency and Defective records of the Maine branch of this family but also to obtain the genealogy of the Maine family so that I may connect it up with the people here [meaning Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont].
Just at present the Phillips here are trying to hide their connection with “Old Pete”, undoubtedly because their children have married into white families. I am told that the original Peter married for his first wife [his first wife was Delia Rosalie Rosa Benoit dit Livernois dit Benware dit Benway dit Bone] Eliza Way, and that she had a brother Newton Way who lives in Belfast, Maine and who is fairly well-to-do.
I wonder if the State of Maine or any Social Agency of Maine has been in contact with this family or any of its branches. We have here in Burlington, a Mrs. Steven Myers [Melinda Phillips, daughter of Peter Phillips Sr. and his first wife Delia Bone] who was the daughter of a certain Peter Phillips, who she says died in Maine [Peter Phillips Sr. died in December 1906 while in Peacham, Caledonia County, Vermont]. She denied any connection with the original Pete Phillips.
From another source, I was told that a certain Willy Phillips married a Nellie Gray and this couple had five children who lived in Belfast, Maine. If you can help to obtain the information which I would like I would appreciate it very much. If these people are not known to your office, probably you can turn my letter over to some other agency which has been in touch with the family. Any help will be very much appreciated.
HEA/GA, In charge of Field Research
Melinda Phillips – spouse of Stephen Aiken Myers
Melinda Phillips traveled with the Gypsy Phillips’s. She married Stephen (or Aiken) Myers. Mr. Myers traveled with the Phillips’s for some time but after he married Melinda she made him settle down.
Mr. Daniel O'Brien states that there is a tradition that Melinda is the illegitimate child of the wife of Old Pete Phillips by Pete's brother Mike [Mathias] who appropriated Pete’s wife Delia Bone [Benoit] while Pete was in prison. Mr. O’Brien thinks that this is what makes Mrs. Myers dislike giving information because she feels that people are probing into her past.
However, Cora Stark Phillips, wife of Pete's son Napoleon, says that Mike was not promiscuous and that he would not have done such a thing as the above. Such a statement, however, is not necessarily to be believed as Mrs. Cora Stark Phillips though fairly intelligent married at 14 and is not always truthful. She also seems to be unusually fond of Mike Phillips herself.
After her marriage Melinda Phillips Myers settled down and has become an unusually fine citizen. She has the good qualities of the better class of colored people. She is a good worker and has worked for the best families in Burlington and in 1926 was still doing day work although she must be very old. In 1926 Mrs. Myers was living in an extremely nice second floor flat on Lower Pearl Street. It was very well furnished and of a much higher grade than that of her sister Mrs. Martin. Mrs. Myers was living with some of her unmarried sons and working out every day doing housework for very nice people in Burlington. She is apparently a very decent sort of woman and thrifty. Although friendly she was somewhat suspicious and did not wish to give much information.
Melinda has a number of daughters who have married well and she has a number of nice grandchildren. The visitor thought that possibly she did not wish the husbands of her daughters to know about the colored blood in the family.
Mr. Daniel O'Brien of South Burlington spoke of one of the daughters of Melinda. He said she was a very fine girl.
In 1926 Mrs. Melinda Phillips Myers was a stout, healthy-looking woman. She was very swarthy and showed her colored blood to some extent.
On page 11 of the Eugenics, "For example, they tell of some member of their tribe [meaning family] Antoine Phillips Sr.' father Peter Phelps living to be 111 years old” [See November 1865 Newspaper clipping] etc, when there is no good evidence of that the age was as far advanced as that."
So when Melinda (nee: Phillips) Myers was visited and interviewed "by the agent" at her residence, did Harriett E. Abbott question Melinda about the "original" Peter Phelps and NOT her own father Peter Phillips? And that Melinda Myers denied connection with "Peter Phelps, a colored man who died November 10, 1865 having lived in St. Albans for nearly half a century"? Or was she attempting to deny any connection with her own father? And if so, why?
WHY would 'they' tell of some member of their FAMILY living to be 111 years old ...
... if this was not Antoine Philips Sr.'s own father Peter Phelps who happened to have coincidentally died at the printed age of 111 years ... specifically? Who told or SAID to the newspaper 'wire' that Peter Phelps, a colored man ... was alleged 111 years of age?
Was Melinda (nee: Phillips) Myers (along with other Phillips family members) 'racially denying' and/ or trying to 'distance' themselves from their own Phelps/Phillips ancestors ethnicity ... of being Black, Colored, Negro, or Mulatto?
In 1924, Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, a series of anti-miscegenation laws that would be overturned by the landmark case Loving v. Virginia in 1967. The act defined a white person as someone with blood that was “entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race.” Yet when faced with the fact that many rich Virginia planters claimed to be descendants of Pocahontas, the state allowed that a white person could be up to one-sixteenth Native American. A person with one-sixteenth black blood, however, was still black.
REMEMBER, Melinda (nee: Phillips) Myers and other family members were visited and interviewed by Harriett E. Abbott, white-at-the-same-time, in Virginia, this 1924 Racial Integrity Act was LEGAL ... until 1967 when it was overturned.