From the book
Portrait and Biographical Record
of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania,
Chapman Publishing Co., New York, 1897
Joseph P. Phillips. From colonial days until now, the fondest dream indulged by thousands of dwellers across the sea has been that of coming to America, where moderate finances would secure more of the comforts of life and better opportunities for educational and social progress than in their native land. This dream has been realized by many now recognized as among our worthy citizens. One, now city engineer of Scranton, in boyhood days often thought of the United States as a desirable home and by experience he has learned that our opportunities are greater and our possibilities larger than those of his native country.
William, father of our subject, and Henry, the grandfather, were born in Monmouthshire, England (WALES!), and were bonesetters by occupation, the former dying at sixty-nine years. The mother, Jane, who was born in Monmouthshire and died there at the age of sixty-six, was a daughter of Jeremiah James, for some years a coal agent in Cork, Ireland. The parental family consisted of ten children, of whom four sons came to America, and two are living, Joseph P. and William, a miner and prospector in Colorado. The oldest son, Hon. Henry Phillips, was the first of the family in Scranton, coming here in 1862, and securing employment with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western as surveyor of coal mines. To him belongs the honor of securing ventilation of mines; he originated the bill, that was afterward passed, securing proper ventilation of the mines. In 1872 he was elected to the state legislature from the old fifth district of Luzerne, now the first district of Lackawanna, and served one term. Interested in the development of Hyde Park, he surveyed and platted lots, which he sold from time to time. Frequently he returned to England, on business trips or for the purpose of recreation, and he died in Monmouthshire, in October, 1896. Another brother, Jeremiah, who was also a surveyor and engineer for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, died in 1892.
The boyhood days of our subject were passed in Monmouthshire, where he was born December 30, 1845, At the age of seventeen he secured work in Glamorganshire mines, but, the employment not proving congenial, he made application to the Great Western Railroad for a position. However, before passing the examination, he returned home and the influence of his parents caused him to decide to learn the civil engineer's trade. After an apprenticeship of fifteen months under Thomas Marley Williams, in August, 1868, he took passage on the steamer "Nebraska," and spent ten days between Liverpool and New York. Arriving in the latter city, he proceeded at once to Scranton and began to work with his brother Henry, for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, as a civil engineer in the coal department.
Follow this link for an image of the front page of the Nebraska's passenger list for the voyage that brought Joseph P. Phillips to America. The Nebraska arrived in New York on 14 Sept 1868. Jos. Phillips is listed on page 2 of the manifest as a 20-year-old laborer.
In the spring of 1884, he resigned, and in May of that year was appointed assistant city engineer under Edward F. Blewitt, with whom he continued until March, 1893. He was then elected by the council to fill the unexpired term of city engineer, and in April, 1894, was elected for a full term of three years. Most of the improvements in this line in the city have been made since his first connection with the office, among them being the building of the two bridges across Roaring Brook and the paving of streets.
Mrs. Esther Hughes, who became the wife of Mr. Phillips in 1870, was born in Summit Hill and educated in Wilkesbarre. Her parents are Thomas and Frances (Slocum) Hughes, the former of Welsh descent, the latter a member of the historic family of Slocums of Slocum's Hollow. Mr. Hughes was quite successful as a mine superintendent and died in Wilkesbarre in 1872. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips are the parents of ten living children: William, a civil engineer with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad; Frank, a clerk in the city's engineer department; Frances J., Mary L., Nellie, Beatrice, Geraldine, Joseph, Orissa, Henry, and Esther.
In 1875-77 Mr. Phillips was a member of the select council from the fifth ward and was president of that body in 1876, when there were twelve wards in the city; before his term expired the number had been increased to twenty-one. He is connected with Hyde Park Lodges of Masons, Knights of Pythias, has been keeper of records and seals, was district deputy three terms and representative thirteen times to the grand lodge. At one time he was vice-president of the West Side Board of Trade. In political views he is a Republican. He took an active part in the organization of the Engineers Club of Scranton, of which he is a member. He was in the Eisteddfod competition at the World's Fair and has been closely connected with the societies that competed at the World's Fair.
Return to the Prominent Welshmen of Scranton page
Read more about the connection between Scranton and Brynmawr, Wales
Read more about the history of Hyde Park
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