Old Phil, veteran barber
In 1899, when Old Phil was nearly 90 years old, his eyesight having failed, and his physical condition grown weak, he realized he would not long be able to care for himself, and through the advice of friends besought someone to take possession of his little property and agree to take care for him while he lived. He then owned a one-story frame shop with a small, tumbled-down shanty in its rear on the same lot. Several businessmen were appealed to but declined to accept the trust. Among several ladies interested in his case was Mrs. M.E. Mathews, (Mathews practiced law in Marshall) who prevailed upon her husband to assume the duty, which he consented to do. He rebuilt the little house, making an addition of a room especially for the use of the old man and placed the shop in a rentable condition. A competent person was employed to attend to the wants of the old man, and he has been faithfully cared for during the past seven years, his last attendant being John Brantman, who is deserving of warm commendation for faithfully performing a most onerous task.
Old Phil died a Catholic, so far as accepting any religion’s attention, and his affiliation with that faith was one of late necessity rather than of early choice and reflects credit upon the Catholic church in efforts to reach and minister to the poor and afflicted. Many months ago Father Guillot learned of the old colored man’s condition, and afterward he was a frequent caller, administering consolation and material comforts. One day in March last the old man had sunk to a very low condition, the physician was called, and he said the man could not live but a few hours. Father Guillot came, and with him assistants from his parish, and the last rites or sacraments were administered, and it was thought the morning would find Phil relieved of earthly troubles. But he rallied and was soon about his little house. His guardian approached him with questions as to his wishes when death should (o’er)come, as it must be soon. Old Phil said he had never had to do with churches, and had no choice about religion, but as none of the other ministers had come near him, and Father Guillot had been so kind, he would like to have him take charge of his spiritual affairs and conduct his funeral.
The funeral was held today at the Catholic church, Father Guillot officiating, and the bearers were Messrs. J.B. Murray, Chas, E. Pattetson, M. Sullivan, T.P. Baldwin, Olaf Pehrson and R.M. Addison, all pioneer citizens and prominent men.”
In an early November 1906 edition of the Lyon County Reporter, a short article appeared which read: “Old Phil was out and voted Tuesday, though it took two men to get him there. He is in very bad shape now and is very nearly helpless.”
In an interview with Ray Baldwin, Jr., former owner of News Messenger/Marshall Messenger newspapers, he remembered hearing his grandfather, T.P. Baldwin, talk about Old Phil. Old Phil also had a son who was a playmate of Ray’s father. The barbershop was a wooden structure located in the vicinity of the present Thrifty Drug on Main Street.
Old Phil’s gravestone is located in the Calvary Cemetery, Marshall.
Source: “Nearly a Century Old, O.C. Phillips Passes Away,” Marshall News Messenger, Nov. 23, 1906; Lyon County Reporter, Nov. 1906; Interview of Ray Baldwin, The Lyon Tale, May 1993.