Among those brave and hardy men who came to California in the early fifties mention is here made of William Milton Phillips, worthy pioneer and esteemed citizen of Merced County, who closed his eyes to things on earth in March, 1910. He was born in Newtown, Hamilton County, Ohio, July 30, 1829, and ten years later went with the family to Polk County, Iowa, where his father bought a farm near Des Moines. It was the paternal grandfather, James Phillips, who settled in Ohio when that was a frontier state. He had come from Germany and had served in the War of 1812, and he lived to the age of 110 years. His son, also James Phillips, father of W. M., was born in Ohio, eventually going to Montgomery County, Ind., and from there to Paulding County, Ohio, thence in 1839 to Iowa, where he spent his last days. He was fairly well-to-do and raised a family of seven children.

   William Milton Phillips acquired a good education for his day and he had the training of the youth brought up to farming pursuits. The old log schoolhouse was fitted with slab benches, hewed flat on one side, and he wrote with a quill pen. Until he started out on his own responsibility he had an uneventful life. In 1851 he went to New Orleans and was employed on Mississippi River boats until the spring of 1852, when he was found a member of an emigrant train bound for the Golden State. He was a fine marksman and owned a fine horse, so he was chosen hunter for the train and he kept it supplied with fresh meat during the entire trip. In his journeyings away from the train he met many Indians with whom he was very friendly, having gleaned the knowledge of how to keep them on friendly terms through his contact with them both in Ohio and Iowa. He arrived in Hangtown in August, 1852. After mining in Eldorado County two years, Mr. Phillips went to a ranch in Contra Costa County, later locating in Lake County, and in 1872 he came to Merced County and took up the ranch that was to be his home for so many years. He raised grain and stock, maintained a dairy, and made every improvement to be seen on his place.

   On September 30, 1869, he was united in marriage with Sarah Jane Phillips, born in Ray County, Mo., the daughter of a farmer, William P. Phillips, who crossed the plains in 1852, and engaged in farming and stock-raising in Oregon until removing to Antioch, Cal., in 1865. Later he went to Hollister and still later to Fresno, where he met a tragic death in 1889, when the Dexter stables were destroyed by fire. He had married Elizabeth Hartman, also a native of Missouri, and she died one week after their arrival in Oregon from mountain fever contracted en route to the West. Her daughter was a babe of six months and she was reared and educated in California. She bore her husband seven children: Lenora E., wife of T. L. Baldwin; Florence, who became the wife of C. O. Freeman; Oscar Ephraim; Elmer; Ivy Eleanor, Mrs. Lockhart; William and Vivian, deceased. Mr. Phillips and his wife were consistent Christians, doing their part to assist in maintaining the standard of morals to a high degree. Politically he was a Republican.

  Phillips, William Milton 483
History of Merced County, California: with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present.
By John Outcalt
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1925)

Contributed by: Carol Lackey