The portrait that adorns our first page this week is that of another of our old and highly respected townsmen—Mr. Stephen W. Phillips—and it is a great pleasure for us to be able to present our readers such a splendid picture, thanks to Photographer Hurd, who made the photograph a few days ago from which the engraving was made.
Mr. Phillips is the son of Isaac and Ruth (Lord) Phillips, and was born in Danby, on the farm now owned by Frank Goodwin, October 14, 1816. Two years after his father bought of Joshua Johnson the Ross farm, so called, now owned by R. E. Caswell, and Stephen resided there until he became twenty-one years of age. His father was one of the five children of Stephen Phillips, who came here from Rhode Island in Revolutionary times, and who died in 1863, aged 91 years. His mother died in 1854, aged 70.
Upon reaching his majority the subject of our sketch embarked in the peddling business for Alfred Bruce, who was engaged in that line. Mr. Phillips tells us that after following this occupation for a year and a half he came out $55 in debt, and as his horse, wagon, harness and boxes were not paid for, and was in debt for them also, he was a total bankrupt. To make matters worse, he found himself in poor health, and future prospects were anything but encouraging.
Fortunately, he had previously learned the art of penmanship and had become one of the most skilled in the art of this section of the country. After abandoning the peddling business, he commenced to teach the art by giving free lessons in the Scottsville school rooms. But after giving thirteen lessons his class became unruly and he was obliged to abandon the lessons there. This was certainly a case where the number thirteen proved unlucky; but Mr. Phillips pushed ahead and succeeded, in spite of ill luck.
After discontinuing the evening lessons at Scottsville, he drew up some subscription papers and started out to organize writing classes in this and adjoining towns. He made a most pronounced success of it, and at different times conducted as many as thirty-seven classes in Danby and thirty-five in Wallingford, besides many elsewhere. At nearly eighty-six years of age he still writes a remarkably good hand, and from his physical and mental condition today no one would suppose he had passed the eighty-fifth milestone on life’s journey.
Receiving a start upwards financially by giving writing lessons, he continued in that direction till he paid up all his debts—and says he has been a happy man ever since. He taught penmanship for twenty-two years, and has always paid his honest debts, besides giving liberally to charity—among the more prominent of the latter acts being the presentation by himself and brother, George, of the beautiful iron and wire fence which surrounds the cemetery of the Danby Cemetery Association, near Scottsville—costing the donors, we believe, something over a thousand dollars.
Mr. Phillips was first married to Loretto Andrews of Pittsford, who died in 1863, a few years after their marriage, aged 39 years, and leaving no offspring. He again married, some six or seven years ago, Mrs. Alma Lord, widow of a relative, and a most estimable lady. They reside in their large and beautiful residence, situated on a commanding eminence about a mile north of this village, where they frequently entertain their friends most pleasingly. The Phillips residence, in point of cost, modern construction and commanding location, is probably surpassed in this town only by that of Mr. S. L. Griffith of this village.