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Marker for a legendary man

New fence will protect Micajah ‘Cajoe’ Phillips’ grave site

September 7, 2011
By Ashley Rittenhouse - The Marietta Times (arittenhouse@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

WATERTOWN TWP.-Tucked in the middle of a field in Watertown Township with corn stalks reaching for the sky, is the grave of a one-time slave who become legendary for living 125 years.

Micajah "Cajoe" Phillips is buried along with two of seven of his wives, Binah and Anne, at a grave site off Buchanan Road in Watertown Township.

Currently, there is nothing enclosing the area but that will soon change, according to Jean Yost, president of the Marietta Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

"The tentative plan is to have a joint ceremony between the (Lower Muskingum) Historical Society, the (Marietta Chapters of the SAR and Daughters of the American Revolution) and other groups and the plans are to install a new wrought iron fence in October and have a ceremony in November when the corn is out of the field," said Jean Yost, noting that the fence is necessary because the grave site needs to be protected.

Phillips was born in 1736 in Virginia - although the year he was actually born is up for debate - and he died in 1861.

Phillips' life was recorded through census reports, newspaper articles, real

estate deeds and other records. Different sources recorded his age at death as 81, 115 and 125, with the latter being the most widely believed.

"He was purchased by Harman Blennerhassett sometime around 1790 and brought over here to the (Blennerhassett) Island (in Parkersburg) where his job was running Blennerhassett's guests back and forth between the mainland and island," said local historian Henry Burke.

In 1806, Blennerhassett, who was a wealthy Irish immigrant, was introduced to Aaron Burr, the former vice-president of the United States, known for killing the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton.

In a plan known as the "Burr Conspiracy," Blennerhassett loaned Burr money so Burr could carry out a plan to take over some Spanish territory and start his own republic.

"The big story was Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr were detained by the federal government on conspiracy charges and Blennerhassett was held in Richmond (Va.) for 50 some odd days and while he was over there his mansion burned - his wife (Margaret) fled the island and (so did) the slaves," Burke said.

After fleeing life as a slave, Phillips lived for a while in Marietta before moving to Waterford in about 1815, where he acquired a small farm and began working with the Muskingum River Underground Railroad line.

His original grave had to be replaced nearly 30 years ago.

"Cajoe had a tombstone but it was probably hand cut so it was badly deteriorated," explained Phillip Crane, a member of the Lower Muskingum Historical Society. "In 1983, (professor) Richard Walker took it upon himself and (took on) the expense of having a new monument put at his grave site."

Walker is from Stockport but currently lives in Springfield, Ill.

Crane said once the fence is installed at the grave site, officials with the Lower Muskingum Historical Society will likely maintain the site.

 
 
 

 

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