By Rachel Aliya Makansi
You might not have heard of it. You might not know it exists. But it’s there.
Joseph and Esther Phillips Plantation is a plot of farmland which is just as hard to find information on as it is to convince people it’s a place and not a sneeze.
It first appears in recorded history in 1793. At this time Margaret Philips lived in the Spring House on the side of what is now known as the Joseph and Esther Philips Plantation.
Her husband had recently died in the Revolutionary War. In honor of her husband’s service, the US government granted Margaret Philips the 307 acre land that was the original Joseph and Esther Philips Plantation.
Joseph Philips was Margaret’s son who inherited the property from his mother. In 1813 Joseph and Esther built the house that is part of the plantation. The Philips family used the plantation mainly as a dairy farm. The land was 106 acres at that time, however, it decreased to 7.8 acres by the 1970s.
When the land passed onto Joseph and Esther’s son, Isaac Philips, he added a rap-around porch to the house. The porch posts are engraved with clover leaves, Isaac Philips’ trademark.
Isaac Philips used the small house across the road from the main house to serve as his blacksmith house.
When Isaac died in 1908, Roy A. Ritter bought the farm along with the six original buildings of the plantation. The land stayed in the Ritter family from then until 1959, which is why the land is sometimes called the “Old Ritter Farm”.
In 1959 the land was sold to Naamen King, who rented the land out to Robert Ritter.
In 1971 Chester Marian bought the property from Naamen King. In 1985 Marian put the Joseph and Esther Philips Plantation on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In 2007 the land was sold to John R. Vandenberg, who still lives there today.
The last three families to have lived on the property – Robert and Edith Ritter, Chester Marian, and John R. Vandenberg – all still live in the area.
Over the coming days and weeks Parkesburg Today will do a series of articles following the lives of those made their home on the plantation, the plantation’s history, and what they have done to preserve that history.