The following article appeared in the Nov. 23, 1906, issue of the "Marshall News Messenger." Then it was published again in the May 1993 issue of the "Lyon Tale," under my name.
"Nearly a Century Old, Oliver C. Phillips Passes away Was Chief Cook for Zack Taylor in Mexican War Horse Trainer, Jockey and Barber Voted at last Election How He Became a Catholic He was buried in the Calvary Cemetery, Marshall." Born March 1, 1811 and died November 21, 1906.
"Oliver C. Phillips, the veteran colored barber, better known as 'Old Phil,' died of old age at his little home in the rear of the barber shop on Main Street, on Wednesday night, at the age of ninety five years, eight months and twenty-two days.
Old Phil has been a well known and well liked character for twenty-eight years in the city of Marshall. He was chiefly noted for being an old man, and many reminiscences he was wont to relate as connected with his early life, and boasted association with great men in the capacity of rendering service. When he came to Marshall in 1878 he was nearly seventy years old, though seeming a much younger man, and he opened up his barber shop with all the enthusiasm of a man in the prime of life. There are many incidents he has oft related with recurring accuracy, but which are not chronicled because of a want of verification, but such as we reproduce have been run down by legally interested parties, and without doubt are correct. His age has always been of doubtful question, as from his own statements and reminiscent reveries, he would be anywhere from one hundred to many more years old.
But Old Phil has chronologically been run down as follows, which shows his age as above stated: He was born March 1, 1811, on the farm of John Bouden, in Chatham County, North Carolina. He was a free born colored man of mixed parentage, his mother being a white woman, of Scotch nationality, named Charity Phillips, and his father was a colored man named Moses Harper, who died when at the age of fifty years. He was a free born negro. The mother died when Oliver was born. The father and mother never were married. John Bouden, at whose home Oliver Phillips was born, had lived with the Harper woman for twenty years prior to his birth, and he was a white man, or rather, a Portuguese. The child Oliver, remained with Bouden until twelve years old, when he entered the service of a farmer and horseman named Aaron Lindsey, who raised racing horses in Morgan county, Indiana, and the boy drove team for him. He remained with Lindsley for fourteen years, naturally drifting into training and riding race horses. After seven years in Indiana, Lindsley and the boy went to New Orleans with race horses, and remained two years, thence to Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati, Covington, Ky., Springfield, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa. Phillips then accompanied Lindsley to Wisconsin, locating some thirty miles west of Sparta, remaining there three months, then going to Oshkosh, where they remained sixteen months, and during this period young Phillips did some work around barber shops and at waiting on table. After fourteen years with Lindsley young Phillips left him, and was the owner of three race horses, with which he again went south.
In 1845 during the war with Mexico Phillips, then at New Orleans, got in connection with the army, and for a year and a half was chief cook for General Zach Taylor, and was with him in Mexico. After the war he returned north, and was for several years conducting barber shops in Richmond, Washington and other cities. It was during this period that it was his boast that he had the honor of shaving and waiting on the table for John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and other notable men. Soon after this time Phillips returned to Wisconsin, locating at Fond du Lac, and then he had a wandering period as a barber, going to Buffalo, where he remained three years, then to Cincinnati, Wheeling, and back to Buffalo, where he remained during the period of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. He then went to Oshkosh, Wis., and was there married to Clorian Doader in the summer of 1865, conducting a barber shop for four years, when he removed to Green Bay, stayed four years, thence to St. Paul, was there three years, then at Winona for two years, when he located in Marshall in 1878, where he has since remained. His first wife having died several years previous, he was again married in Marshall, in the spring of 1881 to a woman with whom he lived four years and was then divorced.
(Continued next week)