The Mysterious Captain Phillips

Phillips, Capt Ben, picture 001
Capt Benjamin Allen Phillips

Some times researching ancestors can be quite challenging as is the case for my third great-grandparents, Captain Benjamin Allen Phillips and Mary Nicholas Cazey!  They were the parents of Oscar Fitzallen Phillips who married Nancy Burch.  Oscar and Nancy’s daughter Cora Virginia Phillips and her husband, William Domman Swanson were my grandmother Cammie Swanson Lyons’ parents.  Cammie Swanson and Clarence Lyons were, of course, my father’s parents.  So I was able to go back all these generations from my father up to Captain Phillips and Mary Cazey but then the mystery began!

The story of Capt. Benjamin Phillips starts with his birth in 1777 in Henrico County, Virginia – born during the Revolutionary War.  I was able to calculate his birth year from his age on the 1860 Federal Census where he was listed as age 83.  Find A Grave also listed his birth as 1777.  However, who were his parents?  Here I hit a brick wall.  Oh yes there were some leads from Ancestry trees but none could be proved – no sources or evidence.  No wills or deeds were found as yet.  Sometimes one can research the wife or children or siblings to get clues of parentage but after researching the Mary Nicholas Cazey and their children, I was still unable to identify any parents of Capt. Benjamin!  Of course, without knowing the parents, I couldn’t find any siblings either.

Mary Nicholas Cazey was born about 1795 probably in Henrico County also but her parents are also a mystery!  Some Ancestry trees claim her father as James Singleton Kazey but upon investigation, I found that James Kazey did have a daughter Mary but his will named his daughter as Mary Martin, not Phillips.   No sources or proofs were documented in the Ancestry trees either.  So I have two mysteries to solve so I can identify any fourth great-grandparents in these two lines.

Luckily, the marriage of Benjamin Phillips and Mary Nicholas Cazey is well documented!  They were married on 4 Feb 1811 in Henrico County, Virginia.  Mary Cazey was just 16 years old at the time and Benjamin was about 34 years old, over twice her age.  A man named Joseph Palmer, surety, attested to the ages of both and Mary’s residence.    Also in 1811, their first child, Maria Ann Phillips, was born.

Soon after the marriage and the birth of Maria, Benjamin enlisted or was inducted into the U. S. Army and served during the War of 1812 where he rose to the rank of Captain.  Now finding his military records was another problem!  Clearly I have some serious digging to do as I am unable to find military records for him as yet!  Another mystery!  It is possible that he served until about 1814 or so as their second child, Elizabeth A Phillips was born in 1815.   Elizabeth died at age 27 in 1842 of unknown causes.

The third child was also a daughter, Mary Catherine Phillips, born 1819.   I also found a record of a son born in 1821 and died in 1837 at age 16 – another mystery as this son was unnamed!  Another son, Benjamin S Phillips was born in 1822, daughters Frances J Phillips in 1828 and Caroline Agnes Phillips in 1831 and the last child, Oscar Fitzallen Phillips in 1832 (my 2nd great-grandfather- see his story on A Family of Phillips!).

By 1830, the Phillips family was living in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia with 9 persons in the household which included a female slave over age 55.  In 1840 there were 11 people in the household.  One was an employed free “colored” female between the ages of 24 and 35 and 2 others were young slaves – a male and a female both under 10.  Possibly they were the children of the free female employee.

The 1850 census give a glimpse of the Phillips family as it lists the names, ages and relationships for the first time in the census forms.  Benjamin Phillips is age 67 and is a carpenter by trade and Mary, his wife, is 52.  If her age is correct in this record, perhaps she was born in 1798 but this doesn’t seem likely as she would have been only 13 at the time of marriage, not 16.   Son, Benjamin S, age 26, is a “plaisterer” or plasterer and Oscar, 18, is a “moulder” (molder in an iron factory).  Frances J, 20, also lives at home.

Cazey. Mary Phillips, funeral, 1857, newspaper 001On the 17 May 1857, Mary Nicholas Cazey Phillips passed away of unknown causes.  Son Benjamin helped to arrange the funeral and burial.  The funeral notice and obituary was published in a local paper.


Phillips, Mary N Cazey, Obit, 1857 VA 001

According to the burial record for Mary, her son Benjamin made a cash down payment of $10 for the services and then a final payment of the another $10.  The Diuguid Funeral Home in Lynchburg has a record of her burial.  During my research, I found several of my ancestors used the services of this funeral home including my great-grandfather, William Domman Swanson.

Phillips, Mary N Cazey, bural record 001
Mary’s record is the third entry down.

After his wife’s death, Capt. Benjamin lived with his grandson, Robert Taylor, in 1860.  Robert Taylor was the son of Benjamin and Mary’s daughter Frances who married Edward Taylor.  Robert was 28 and a moulder in an iron factory and his wife Catherine was 22 and daughter Sallie was one year old.  They lived in the Eastern District of Campbell County which was near Lynchburg.

001Three years later, on 11 Mar 1863, Capt. Benjamin died in the home of his grandson, O. T. Phillips, in Amherst County VA.   I still haven’t determined which of Benjamin’s sons had a son named O. T. Phillips.  Capt. Benjamin was 86 years old and still working as a carpenter at the time of his passing.   It was noted that he was a War of 1812 veteran.  He was buried in the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg City where his wife was also buried.

Phillips, Capt Ben, grave, 1863, Lynchburg VA 001
Grave of Capt. Benjamin Allen Phillips
Cazey, Mary N Phillips, grave, 1857, Lynchburg VA 001 (2)
Grave of Mary N Phillips, Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg VA

That’s the story so far of my mysterious Captain Phillips and Mary Cazey!  I did find some interesting stories of their children to share in the next blog so check in again!


  • 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Ben A Phillips; Eastern District, Campbell, Virginia; Sheet: 35; Family: 277; Line: 3; Image: 238.
  • Dodd, Jordan R., et al., Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850.  Bountiful, UT, USA; Precision Indexing Publishers; also: Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1740-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry .com Operations Inc. 1999.
  • Pollack, Michael E.; Marriage Bonds of Henrico County, Virginia, 1782-1853.  Baltimore MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1984, p. 127.
  • Year: 1830; Census Place: Lynchburg, Campbell, Virginia; Series: 19; Roll: 194; Page: 342; FHL film: 0029673.
  • Year; 1840; Census Place: Lynchburg, Campbell, Virginia; Roll: 553; Rage: 41; Image: 716; FHL film: 0029684.
  • Year: 1850; Census Place: Lynchburg, Campbell, Virginia; Roll: M432_938; Page: 74A; Image: 151.
  • Find A Grave for Mary N Phillips, Memorial # 160388487;
  • Find A Grave for CPT Benjamin A Phillips, Memorial # 160388530;