Rev. George Phillips

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George Phillips

Birthplace: Rainham,St Martins,Norfolk,England
Death: Died in Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Christopher Phillips, of Norfolk and Elizabeth Phillips
Husband of Elizabeth Weldon Bond Phillips and Elizabeth Sargent
Father of Zerubabel Phillips; Jonathan Phillips, Sr.; Theophilus Phillips; Annabel Phillips; Ephraim Phillips and 7 others
Brother of Mary Phillips; Katherine Phillips; John Phillips; Jacob Phillips; Hannah Boyden and 1 other

Occupation: Curate at Boxted (1630, 1st Minister at Watertown (1630)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rev. George Phillips

George Phillips, b. Rainham, St. Martins, Norfolk, England abt. 1593, matriculated Cambridge 1613, AM degree from Cambridge 1617, arrived on the Arbella with Gov. Winthrop 2 June 1630, settled in Watertown, Mass., d. Watertown, MA 1 Jul 1644, m(1) a daughter of Richard Sargent, m(2) Elizabeth ____, prob. the widow of Capt. Robert Weldon, d. 27 Jun 1681.


Children (by first wife):

1. Samuel, b. Eng. abt. 1625, d. Rowley, MA 22 Apr 1696, m. Oct 1651 Sarah Appleton, b. Reydon, Eng. abt. 1629, d. Rowley, MA 15 Jul 1714

2. Elizabeth, b. Eng., m. before 17 May 1651 Job Bishop of Ipswich

Children (by Elizabeth):

3. Zerobabel, b. Watertown, MA 5 Apr 1632, m. Ann White

4. Jonathan, b. Watertown 16 Nov 1633

5. Theophilus, b. Watertown 28 May 1636, m(1) Watertown 3 Nov 1666 Bethiah Kedell, d. Watertown 15 Mar 1668, m(2) Watertown 21 Nov 1677 Mary Bennett

6. Annabel, b. Dec 1637, bur. 17 Apr 1638

7. Ephraim, b. Jun 1640 or 1641, d. young

8. Obadiah, bur. 5 Apr 1641

9. Abigail, m. Watertown 8 Oct 1666 James Barnard (son John Barnard and Phebe), b. 1637


Reverend George Phillips, the first minister of Watertown, was the son of Christopher Phillips of Rainham, Norfolk. He was born around 1593 probably at Rainham, St. Martins, near Rougham, in the hundred or district of Gallow, county of Norfolk, England. George matriculated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in April 1610 and graduated as B.A. in 1613 and received the degree of M.A. in 1617. "He gave early indications of deep piety, uncommon talents, and love of learning, and at the University distinguished himself by his remarkable progress in learning, especially in the theological studies for which he manifested an early partiality" (source of quote not provided).[1/9] He took orders in the Church of England and served for some years as vicar at Boxtead, Essex though the length of his service is uncertain, owing to the loss of the parish registers.[3]

George Phillips was settled for a time in the ministry in Suffolk County, but suffering from the storm of persecution which then threatened the non-conformists of England, he determined to leave the mother country and take his lot with the puritans.[1/910] John Maidstone, a nephew of John Winthrop's second wife, was among George's parishoners (and later an officer in Cromwell's household) and wrote Winthrop on 4 Nov 1629 stating that Phillips was resolved to go to Massachusetts and highly recommending him.[3] He embarked for America 12 Apr 1630 in the Arabella, with his wife and two children, as fellow passengers with Governor Winthrop and Sir Richard Saltonstall, and he arrived at Salem June 12th. Before the final embarkation which had been considerably delayed, Gov. Winthrop says in a letter to his son John Winthrop, "From aboard the Arabella, riding before Yarmouth, April 5, 1630. Yesterday we kept a fast aboard our ship and in the Talbot. Mr. Phillips exercised with us the whole day, and gave very good content to all the company, as he doth in all his exercises, so as we have much cause to bless God for him".[1/910] George was one of the seven signers of The Humble Request, which is dated April 7, on the eve of sailing, and which was printed that same year. There seems to be some ground for believing that George Phillips drafted this noble statement.[3]

George's wife died soon after arrival in Salem and was buried by the side of Lady Arabella Johnson, both, evidently, being unable to endure the hardship and exposure incident to a tedious ocean passage. He soon located in Watertown, and without delay settled over the church in that place which was called together in July. At the Court of Assistants, 23 Aug 1630, it was "ordered that Mr. Phillips shall have allowed to him 3 hogsheads of meale, 1 hogsh of malte, 4 bushells of Indian corn, 1 bushel of oatmeale, halfe an hundred of salte fish". Another statement from the same source says, "Mr. Phillips hath 30 ac of land graunted him vpp Charles Ryver on the South side". His first residence was burnt before the close of the year. His later house was "opposite the ancient burial ground, back from the road".[1/10]

George continued to be the pastor of the Watertown church, greatly respected and beloved, until his death 14 years after his arrival. He died at the age of about fifty-one years, 1 Jul 1644 and was buried July 2. "He was the earliest advocate of the Congregational order and discipline. His views were for a long time regarded as novel, suspicious, and extreme, and he, with his ruling elder, Mr. Richard Brown, stood almost unaided and alone, until the arrival of Mr. John Cotton, in maintaining what was and still is, the Congregationalism of New England. It is not now easy to estimate the extent and importance of the influence of Mr. Phillips in giving form and character to the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of New England" (source of quote not provided).[1/1011] In 1632 George was one of the leaders in the protest made by Watertown against the action of the governor and assistants in arbitrarily levying a tax on the town. The tax was not remitted, but within three months an election of representatives to the General Court was agreed upon, with the understanding that in future no taxes should be levied without the consent of the court. To this Watertown protest is rightly traced the beginning of representative government in Massachusetts.[3]

George's lands were described in the second inventory of grants and possessions of Watertown in 1644. They included 1) a homestall of twelve acres by estimation bounded east by Thomas Arnold, west and north with the highway, and south by Edward How; 2) seven acres of upland bounded north with Cambridge line, south by Samuel Saltonstall, and west by Isaac Hart; 3) a homestall of five acres bounded southwest and northwest with the highways and east with a driftway; 4) forty acres of plowland in the hither plain bounded east by Edward How, west with the driftway, north with the highway, and south with the way betwixt the lots; 5) thirty acres of remote meadow bounded with the farmland, lot 93; 6) eighty acres of upland being a great Divident in the second division, lot 28; 7) fifteen acres of upland upon the meeting house Common; and 8) thirty acres of meadow bounded west with the river and southeast with the Cambridge line.[2/1:6970]

George's name appears in the list of those admitted freeman 18 May 1631, which is the earliest date of any such admission. His inventory amounted to 550.2.9. His library was valued at 71.9.9.[1/11]


[1] Genealogy of Rev. George Phillips - A.M. Phillips, 1885

[2] Records of Watertown, 1894 (Lands, Grants, and Possessions)

[3] Dictionary of American Biography - Dumas Malone, 1934, Vol.15 (pgs.540-1)


Founder, Congregational Church

"He was the earliest advocate of the Congregational Order and discipline." His views were for a time regarded as novel, suspicious and extreme, and he with his ruling elder, Richard Brown, stood almost unaided and alone, until the arrival of John Cotton, maintaining what was and still is the Congregationalism of New England. It is not now easy to estimate the extent and importance of the influence of Rev. Phillips in giving form and character to the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of New England.


The story properly begins on Saturday, June 12, 1630, when the sturdy ship Arbella, with John Winthrop, Simon Bradstreet, Sir Richard Saltonstall, Isaac Johnson, and other Puritan leaders on board, anchored in Salem Harbor, after a tempestuous passage across the Atlantic. One of the little company was the Reverend George Phillips, of Rainham, Norfolk County, England.

The few anecdotes recorded of the Reverend George Phillips indicate that he was a man who, in a pious age, was conspicuous for personal piety. It was said that he read the entire Bible at least six times a year, and that he was able to turn to any stated text without the aid of a concordance. He was accustomed to spend the interval between his two sermons on Sunday in conferring "with such of his good people as resorted unto his house." Cotton Mather in his Magnalia makes the Watertown Congregationalist the subject of a carefully drawn eulogy, in which emphasis is laid on his faithfulness in office. "He was indeed," says Mather, "among the first saints of New England ---a good man and full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." It was for Phillips that Mather, in one of his whimsical moods, designed the remarkable epitaph, so delightful in its ambiguity:

Hic jacet GEORGIUS PHILLIPPI Vir incomparabilis, nisi SAMUELEM genuisset


GEORGE PHILLIPS. ORIGIN: Boxted, Essex MIGRATION: 1630 FIRST RESIDENCE: Watertown OCCUPATION: Minister. At the first meeting of the Court of Assistants in New England, on 23 August 1630, the first order of business was the maintenance of the ministers of Boston and Watertown, JOHN WILSON and George Phillips; a house was built for each ("Sir Rich[ard] Saltonstall undertook to see it done at his plantation for Mr. Phillips") and Phillips was to receive provisions and cash equal to £40 per annum "to begin the first of September next" [MBCR 1:73]. On 21 November 1642 the Watertown town accounts showed £33 6s. 8d. due "to George Phillips pastor for half year" [WaTR 9]. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: Founding member of Watertown church. FREEMAN: Requested 19 October 1630 (as "Mr. George Phillips") and admitted 18 May 1631 [MBCR 1:80, 366]. EDUCATION: Admitted sizar, Caius College, Cambridge, 10 April 1610, aged 17, son of Christopher Phillips of South Rainham, Norfolk; A.B., 1613-4; A.M. 1617 [Venn 3:355; Morison 395-96]. Books in his inventory were valued at £71 9s. 9d. His wife bequeathed "all the Latin, Greek and Hebrew books now in the house" to eldest child Samuel. OFFICES: Colony committee on wages and prices, 12 March 1637/8 [MBCR 1:223]. Harvard College Board of Overseers, 1642 [Morison 327]. ESTATE: On 7 November 1632 "Mr. Phillips" had thirty acres of land granted him up Charles River [MBCR 1:102]. On 20 December 1642 the town of Watertown levied a rate to include payment of £33 6s. 8d. due "George Phillips pastor for half year due January 1" [WaTR 1:9]. Granted eight acres in the Great Dividend in Watertown, 25 July 1636 [WaBOP 4]. Granted thirty acres in the Remote Meadows, 26 June 1637 [WaBOP 10]. Granted twelve acres at the townplot, 9 April 1638 [WaBOP 11]. In the Inventory of Grants George Phillips held eight parcels: homestall of twelve acres; seven acres of upland; homestall of five acres; forty acres of plowland in the Hither Plain; thirty acres of Remote Meadows; eight acres of upland in the Great Dividends; fifteen acres of upland on the meeting house common; and thirty acres of meadow [WaBOP 69-70]. In the Inventory of Possessions he held one parcel: three acres of upland [WaBOP 115]. (His Composite Inventory does not survive, but was probably on one of the first two pages of the inventory volume, now missing [WaBOP 17].) In his nuncupative will, taken 1 July 1644 and proved 6 September 1644, George Phillips, pastor of Watertown, bequeathed "to my wife the thirds of all mine estates"; "the remainder to be divided amongst my children, Samuel the eldest to have a double portion, & the rest to have equally alike." "Presently, after his wife putting him in mind of the bond in Elder Howe's hand, he called Samuel to him & told him he had given him a double portion, & bade him let the bond alone & give it into your mother when you come to age, but if you take that you shall have no more" [SPR 1:33]. The inventory of George Phillips was taken 22 July 1644 and totalled £553 2s. 9d., including real estate valued at £301: "the dwelling house, a barn, other outhousing with fifteen acres of land," £120; "the old dwelling house with twelve acres of land," £20; "thirty acres of meadow," £100; "forty acres of plowland," £35; "eighty acres of dividend," £10; "thirty acres of remote meadow," £6; and "three hundred acres of [sic] for a farm," £10 [SPR 2:21-22]. On 12 November 1644 the court ordered "that they think it just & meet that Mrs. Philips make over so much estate as shall secure £100 to Samuel & Elisabeth Philips, grandchildren of Richard Sergent, or otherwise give bond with sureties [to] the content & satisfaction of Capt. Cooke, Mr. Sparhauke, & John Bridge, who are entrusted in the business by the Court" [MBCR 2:80]. On 28 November 1648 the town agreed that Mrs. Phillips was to be freed of all rates "to town and ministry during the pleasure of the town" [WaTR 1:16]. In her will, dated 20 October 1674 and proved 4 October 1681, Elizabeth Phillips bequeathed to "my son Sam[ue]ll Phillips all my Latin & Greek & Hebrew books that is now in the house"; to Job Bishop one shilling; to "James Barnard which married my daughter Abiel" one shilling; residue to "my three sons, namely Zorobabel Phillips & Jonathan Phillips & Theophilus Phillips to be equally divided between those three, but in case my son Zorobabel should die without children lawfully begotten by his own body," his share to be divided between his brothers Jonathan and Theophilus Phillips, who are to be executors of this will [MPR 5:357]. BIRTH: About 1593, son of Christopher Phillips of South Rainham, Norfolk [MHSP 63:194; Venn 3:355]. DEATH: Watertown 1 July 1644 (date of nuncupative will). He was buried at Watertown on 2 July 1644 [WJ 2:209]. "He laboured under many bodily infirmities: but was especially liable unto the cholic; the extremity of one fit whereof, was the wind which carried him afore it, into the haven of eternal rest" [Magnalia 1:379]. MARRIAGE: (1) By about 1626 _____ Sergeant, daughter of Richard Sergeant [MBCR 2:80]; she died during the winter of 1630-1 [Dudley 72]. (She was apparently half-sister of JOHN HAYWARD [Bond 873-74]. (2) Elizabeth (_____) Welden, widow of ROBERT WELDEN ; she died at Watertown on 27 January 1681 [WaVR 1:49].

  • Robert Charles Anderson. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, vols. 1-3. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.


"Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century" Page 740 state: Phillips, George: Clergyman, author, was born in 1593 in England. He was a puritan clergyman. Minister at Watertown, Mass., From 1630 till his death: and published a treatise on infant baptism. He died July 1, 1644 in Watertown, Mass. George received an MA degree from Caius College of Cambridge University in 1617. He brought his family to America in 1630, arriving on the ship "Arabella" on June 12 with Gov. John Winthrop. He was admitted as a freeman on May 18, 1631. He was the founder of the Congregational church in America and for 14 years was the minister of Watertown, Mass.


"Phillips, George; of South Rainham, Norfolk; son of Christopher Philips, mediocris fortunae*. Educated at Tivetshall, under Mr. Collissonne, two years. Age 17. Admitted litt. grat., April 10, 1610, sizar of Christopher Husband, M.A., fellow.

  • Mediocris fortunae,' as descriptive of the social status of a student's father. The reader must not interpret this expression too strictly. There are many cases in which we find it used to denote those who are, in other records, described as generosi, or gentlemen ; indeed not a few of those so designated are to be found recorded in the Herald's Visitations of their county.
  • C. J. Clay, Admissions to Gonville and Caius College in the University of Cambridge, March 1558-9 to Jan. 1678-9 (1887), 115.

Coat of Arms

Crozier's General Armory is a collection of coats of arms used by various American families, with or without authority. It attributes the following arms to the descendants of Rev. George Phillips.

Philips. Massachusetts. Rev. George Phillips, Watertown, 1630. (Boxford) Azure, a lion rampant sable, ducally gorged and chained or. Crest--A lion as in the arms. Motto--Ducit amor patriae. (Crozier, 105)

These are the arms of the Philipps family of Picton Castle. Their use by an American family is this period does not necessarily indicate a claim to descent.


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Rev. George Phillips's Timeline

May 4, 1593
Rainham,St Martins,Norfolk,England
May 4, 1593
Rainham, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Age 26
Boxted, , Suffolk, England
Age 30
Probably England, (Present UK)
December 22, 1625
Age 32
Boxted, Essex, England
June 2, 1630
Age 37
Arrived with Governor Winthrop
Age 36
Boxford, , Suffolk, England
Age 37
Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
Age 37
Admitted freeman
April 5, 1632
Age 38
Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA