Biographical / Historical
Mr. Phillips was born in Montgomery County, New York, in 1804. Members of the Phillips family were among the earliest settlers of Maidenhead and were a branch of the New England family that founded Andover and Exeter. An 1825 graduate of Union College, he studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary where he met Dr. Brown, a trustee there. In 1832 Mr. Phillips was named co-principal of the Lawrenceville High School, as Lawrenceville was known at that time.
In 1834 Dr. Brown sold the School, its buildings, and 40 acres to Mr. Phillips for $8,500. The new principal experienced financial difficulties that were not helped by the opening of another boarding school in Howe’s Tavern, across the street from the church. Additionally, when James H. Porter, who left the faculty in 1834 to found the Lawrenceville Female Seminary in Davis House just north of the School, died suddenly, Mr. Phillips became principal for both schools, spending the mornings at the Seminary and the afternoons at the “High School.” At this time, Samuel M. Hamill came to teach at Lawrenceville, replacing Mr. Porter.
In 1836, Mr. Phillips produced the School’s first publication, the Triennial Catalog. In it he listed the names and home states for 152 students. He also mentioned a library from which pupils were permitted to draw books twice a week as well as daily examinations by the principal. Parents and guardians were encouraged to attend weekly examinations, and pupils were supposed to read from Scripture twice daily and attend morning and evening worship. Mr. Phillip’s most distinguished alumni were Joel Parker and Rodman Price, both governors of New Jersey, and Charles and Henry Scribner, founders of the publishing house that bears their name.
In 1837 he sold the School to Samuel M. Hamill and his oldest brother, the Reverend Hugh Hamill. Mr. Phillips moved to Texas and became one of that nation/state’s foremost lawyers and a leader during its most trying times. He was a strong secessionist and a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1866. Mr. Phillips had four wives, two sons, and one daughter. His first wife, Mary Todd, was placed in a sanitarium in New York where she spent her entire life. While in Texas, he married three times. He died in 1880 and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Victoria, Texas.