The Phares Family in America, Ancestral Families of Robert Phares(1762-1823)

by Ken Rowan and Dick Phares

The Phares family is of Scotch-Irish descent and probably emigrated to this country from the northern part of England where the Presbyterian influence was great. The LDS International Index lists Phares families in both England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries. The first Phares immigrant to this country found so far was Lydia Phares who was "transported" to the Maryland colonies in 1658. There are no further details. However, in 1707 there was a Sarah Phares in Talbot County, Maryland who witnessed the sale of 100 acres of land in Dorchester County, Maryland to Peter Watts by Hannah Prosser of Talbot County. Also, Thomas Phares (Phareze) married Sarah Mecoy in 1722, in Talbot County, Maryland. It is believed that some of the Phares family migrated from Maryland to Pennsylvania where the next records of the family were found.

JOHN PHARES, (FARIS) I, a brick maker, was the earliest Phares settler known in Pennsylvania. It is not known when he came to Philadelphia but it was before 1729. John's wife was named Mary and it is believed that her surname was Lawrie. There is no proof of this but the name turns up again in 1767 when Mary Phares and John Lawrie were the executors of the will of William Phares, grandson of John Phares I, who died in Burlington County, New Jersey. The first John Phares had at least 3 sons and 1 daughter: Joseph, William, John and Mary. In 1729 Joseph Phares married Elizabeth Hall in the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and they had at least 2 children; Anne born in 1730 and Margaret born in 1733. There is no further record of Joseph in Pennsylvania and it is believed that his family may have gone into western Pennsylvania or the Carolinas. William Phares married Mary Hutchinson and settled in Burlington County, New Jersey where numerous descendants still live. The second John Phares, born about 1710, married Agnes Margaret Johnson and settled in Virginia and is the progenitor of the Virginia and West Virginia families. In 1732 Mary Phares married John Knight in the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and disappeared from the pages of history. Tradition has it that there was a another son, Robert, born about 1707. There is no documentation to prove this but in Augusta County, Virginia about 1771 there was a Robert Phares who was said to be of full age. He could have been a son of either the first or second John Phares. However, there is no further indication that the second John Phares had a son named Robert. Some have speculated that the Thomas Phares of Talbot County, Maryland might be the son of the first John but there is nothing known to verify this. The first John Phares died in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1736.

JOHN PHARES, (FARIS) II, the progenitor of the Phares family in Virginia, married Agnes Margaret Johnson and they had at least 7 children: Samuel, born in 1730 in Pennsylvania, married about 1750 and is believed to have gone to Shenandoah County, Virginia; Jane, born in Pennsylvania in 1733, married Robert Ferguson; John III, born in 1735, married Elizabeth Hill; Margaret, born about 1736, married Arthur Johnson; Elizabeth, born about 1737, married Joseph Skidmore; Rebecca married Job Reynolds and another daughter, unnamed, married William Faris. John Phares II was known to have been in Augusta County, Virginia in 1750 where he bought 150 acres of land near Arthur Johnson in that year. The will of John Phares II was probated in Augusta County, Virginia in 1787. His wife, Agnes, and son-in law, William Faris, are named as executors. His wife, Agnes, and his two sons-in-law, William Faris and Job Reynolds, are the only heirs named.

JOHN PHARES III, born about 1735, son of John Phares II and Agnes Margaret Johnson, married Elizabeth Hill at the Peaked Mountain and Cook's Creek Presbyterian Church in Augusta County, Virginia on September 19, 1759. This later became Rockingham County. They lived in the vicinity of what is today Dayton, Virginia near Harrisonburg on the North River Shenandoah. John and Elizabeth had at least 6 children: Johnson, born about 1760, married Sarah Negley; Sarah, born in 1761, married George Negley, brother to Sarah; Robert, born in 1762, married Susana Minnis in 1795; John IV, born about 1769 moved to Shenandoah County, Virginia and married Catherine Whitson there in 1790; James, born about 1770; William and possibly others.. After his first wife died in 1778 John III married, in early 1779, Margaret Wilmoth, widow of Thomas Wilmoth and moved to the Wilmoth place near Ruddle in Pendleton County, VA. There were no known children by this marriage. In 1786 John III bought 100 acres of land on Hedrick's Run and 100 acres on Skidmore's Mill Run. Hedrick's Run was near Ruddle, but does not appear on current maps. Skidmore's Mill Run was also near Ruddle and is now called Hammer Run.

Robert Phares, progenitor of the Randolph County, West Virginia families, was born in 1762, son of John Phares III and Elizabeth Hill. In 1795 Robert married Susana Minnis, daughter of Robert Minnis. In 1796 the family moved from Pendleton County, Virginia and settled on Leading Creek in Randolph County. He died in 1823 in his 62nd year and Susana died in 1838. Susana's headstone says she died in her 50th year but it is most certainly in error. as she would have been only 7 years old in 1795, the year she and Robert were married. Analysis of the Randolph County , Virginia 1810 and 1820 census records establishes Susana's year of birth between 1765 and 1775. Robert's will, probated in 1823, names 9 children: John W., born in 1797, married Martha Ellen Marteny; William, born about 1799, married Anna Stalnaker; Nancy, born about 1800; Abel, no information available; Jesse, born about 1804, married Mary "Polly" Gilmer; Benjamin I., born in 1805, married Catherine Slagle; Johnson, born in 1808, never married; Elizabeth, born in 1810, married Holman Profitt.; Susanah, born in 1813, married Edward Pritt; A tenth child, Mary, died in 1820 in her 6th year. Robert, Susana and more than 80 of their descendants (including spouses) are buried in the Phares-Pritt Cemetery at Valley Bend, West Virginia.

There was apparently another child, Naomi, who was born about 1796 according to her headstone in the Phares-Pritt Cemetery, at Valley Bend, West Virginia. She is buried beside Robert and Susana and the headstone clearly has the inscription "daughter" on it. She never married and apparently lived with her brother, Johnson until she died in 1873. The 1810 Randolph County, West Virginia census lists 2 females under the age of 10 and none aged 10-16. The 1850 census gives her age as 40 and in the 1860 census her age is given as 59. All this, coupled with the fact that her name is not mentioned in Robert's will leads to speculation that the age as given on her headstone is incorrect and that Nancy, born about 1800, and Naomi may be one and the same person.

There is some uncertainty about the mother of Robert's son, William. Some sources state that William was born in 1789 and was 6 years old when Robert married Susana Minnis in 1795. No documentary evidence has been produced to prove this. These statements are believed to be based on the Randolph County, Virginia census of 1850 which gives William's age as 61 and is almost certainly incorrect. William's headstone in the Gilman, West Virginia, Cemetery says he died in 1851 in his 52nd year and in the 1810 Randolph County census Robert's family includes 4 males under age 10 and 2 males aged 10-16. This accounts for all his male children and none are over 16 years of age. Therefore unless some proof to the contrary is produced it will be assumed that William's mother was Susana and he was born about 1799.

Traditional accounts of the Phares family history state that Robert Phares was the son of John Phares II. Depositions taken in a 1790 Pendleton County, Virginia court case, Phares vs Vineman, known as the "Horse Case", indicate that the traditional account is untrue. In a deposition by Robert Phares it is stated that he is of full age and his father is John Phares. In a deposition by Seriah Stratton in the same case, it is stated that the wife of John Phares died in 1778 and that he married his second wife in early 1779. Some confusion may be the result of the fact that the second wife of John Phares III, who was apparently Margaret Wilmoth, the widow of Thomas Wilmoth, had one of the same given names as his mother, Agnes Margaret Johnson. Since John Phares II died about 1787 and his wife, Agnes Margaret Johnson, was one of the executors of his will and still living at that time, they could not have been the parents of Robert but were, probably, his grandparents.

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