July 1922: Retired Judge Lewis Patrick Phillips, left, is interviewed by Los Angeles Times writer Burton L. Smith.
Phillips was believed to be the last living son of a Revolutionary War soldier. Burton and an unknown photographer visited Phillips at his Downey home.
Burton L. Smith wrote in the July 16, 1922, Los Angeles Times:
Southern California numbers among its citizens the only living man whose father fought in the Revolution. In the little city of Downey, at 403 New Street, resides former Judge Lewis Patrick Phillips, who at the advanced age of 91 enjoys exceptional health, is in the possession of all of his faculties and is proud of the distinction of being the only human link in the long chain of events which holds the progressive present to a glorious past.
Although but 8 years of age when his father died, Judge Phillips retains a clear mental picture of the sturdy patriot, who as a member of the Continental Army, aided in making realities the dreams of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The wide span of years, totaling approximately a century and a half represented by these two generations, is accounted for by the fact that the father of Judge Phillips was 72 years old when he was born. The venerable judge was the youngest of three children by a second marriage, and is the last survivor of his generation.
John Phillips of the Continental Army, was born in 1759 in Halifax county, North Carolina. He lived until Nov. 20, 1839, when he passed away in Johnston county of the same State. …
John Phillips enlisted in the patriot army in July 1775, as a private in Capt. Fort’s company of the South Carolina regiment, commanded by Col. Powell and his last enlistment was on Oct. 10, 1778, in the company of Capt. Joseph Wood, in a North Carolina regiment commanded by Col. Philip Alston. He participated in many tours and skirmishes and in the battles of Brier Creek, March 3, 1779; Cowpens, S.C., Jan. 17, 1981 and Fuilford, N.C., March 15, 1981. He received an honorable discharge at the close of the war when he resumed his studies for a number of years during his still young manhood devoted himself to the vocation of teacher.
After some years of school life he left the city to become a farmer and settled in Johnston county, North Carolina. Here on Oct. 3, 1824, he was married to Polly Thompson, who was his second wife. On Oct. 2, 1831, Lewis Patrick was born, the younger of three children by this marriage. …
When the Civil War broke out he (Lewis Patrick) was engaged as agent for the North Carolina Central Railway at Stallings station. He was also a justice of the peace and a leading citizen in his little community. …
After the war, at a time when conditions in the South were at the worst, Judge Phillips decided to seek his fortune in other lands.
Phillips lived in Shelby County Ill., then Johnson County, Tex., moving to Downey in 1897.
Smith’s story continues:
For more than twenty years Judge Phillips has been a Justice of the Peace of Downey, retiring just four years ago. This honor was voted him time and time again in a district strongly Republican in spite of the fact that Judge Phillips has been identified with the Democratic party since he was old enough to cast his first ballot. …
The present political situation is somewhat of a puzzle to the judge who admits that he did not vote for a Democratic candidate for President at the last election.
“You see,” he said, “I lost faith in Wilson and this League of Nations talk. I couldn’t support it and I did not see any way clear to vote for a Republican, so I just didn’t vote at all. I was sure that the Republicans would try some kind of a scheme to take the place of the League of Nations, and sure enough they did. They didn’t come any nearer a solution than did Wilson. I fear folks will fight as long as governmental groups make up the surface of this earth.” …
Judge Phillips is a life member of the California Sons of the Revolution, which organization has checked and verified the official war record of his distinguished father. The organization is authority for the statement that the judge is the last remaining living son of a man who belonged to the Continental Army.
Judge Phillips died on Oct. 12, 1926, after being injured in an automobile accident.
As reported by this Sons of the Revolution website, Phillips was not the last survivor. That honor went to Vermont resident William Constant Wheeler, who was born Dec. 14, 1847 and died Feb. 1, 1941.
These six images were scanned by UCLA staff from 4 x 5 inch silver nitrate negatives stored at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA. Four of these images accompanied Smith’s story in the July 16, 1922, Los Angeles Times.
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