Phillis Ganges


Migrations/Residences: Arr. Philadelphia, Penna., 4 Aug. 1800[1] as a captive aboard the schooner Phoebe[2]; 1800: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Penna.[3]; 1804: Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County, Penna.[4]; 1850: Tredyffrin Township, Chester County[5]; 1870:

Parentage/Family: Unknown

Birth/Baptism:  1790,  Africa[6]
Death/Burial:  d.  18 Apr 1872, probably  Chester County, Penna.;  bur. Great Valley Baptist Church Cemetery, Tredyffrin Twp., Chester Co. , Penna.[7]

Married:  Possibly[8]

Groom: [Unknown] Burr

Parentage/Family:  Unknown

Birth/Baptism:  Unknown

Death/Burial:  Unknown

Land/Property:  none located

Institutions:  none identified

Community: probably a member of the Great Valley Baptist Church, Tredyffrin Twp., given the memorial stone erected to her there and her 2nd master, David George was a trustee.[9]

Education: was to receive three quarters day schooling before termination of her indenture; could not read or write in 1850.[10]

Military: no military service identified.

Occupation: Housewifery[11]

Estate: none located

Children: none identified



Date: 3 Oct. 1800

Term: 8 y.

Skills taught: Housewifery; three quarters day schooling

Master/Mistress  John William Godfrey

Residences:  Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Penna.[13]






Date: 11 Apr. 1804

Term: unstated, but since the original indenture was assigned, presumably for the remainder of the indenture term, until 3 Oct. 1808

Skills taught: Housewifery; three quarters day schooling (as per original indenture).

Master/Mistress  David George (177?-1822)

Residences 1800, 1810: Upper Merion Twp., Montgomery Co., Penna.[14]; 1814: Bristol Twp., Philadelphia Co., Penna.[15] 1822: Bristol Twp., Philadelphia Co., Penna.[16]

Parentage/Family:  his wife, Mary Jane Godfrey was a sister of John William Godfrey, Phillis’ first master.


Death/Burial: 25 Jan 1822[17]

Community 1800: Trustee of the Baptist Church of the Great Valley. His farther George is buried in the graveyard there.



[1]. The first newspaper reports of the arrival of the Phebe were dated August 5, 1800. See for example, The Philadelphia Gazette and Daily Advertiser, Vol XVII, No. 3667, 5 August 1800, p. 3. Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert received a letter from prize master Calvin Stevens dated August 4 requesting instructions on how to proceed. See United States. Office of Naval Records and Library, Naval documents related to the quasi-war between the United States and France & Naval Operations From June 1800 to November 1800, Washington : U.S. G.P.O., 1938. Vol. 6, p. 232.

[2] Abolition Society of Pennsylvania, Indenture Book D 1795-1835, Papers of the Abolition Society, HSP, Collection 490, Series IV, Ams .061, fol 50.

[3] Indenture from Phillis Ganges to John William Godfrey of Philadelphia, Papers of the Abolition Society, HSP, Collection 490, Series IV, Box 2 Folder 17. Front Back

[4] Ibid. Phillis’ indenture was transferred to David George of Upper Merion, J. W. Godfrey’s brother-in-law, on April 11, 1804.

[5] 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Tredyffrin, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_764; Page: 360A; Image: 724 (accessed Oct 12 2018). Phillis was enumerated as Phillis Burr. There is a 1870 census enumeration in Tredyffrin for a black woman, Phillis Burroughs, aged 103, born Virginia. This may be the same woman, but the stated facts differ sufficiently that we are not citing it here without further evidence. Phillis has not been located in the 1860 census.

[6] 1850 Census enumeration suggests 1792 as the year of birth. Phillis’ indenture to J.W. Godfrey has an 8 year duration  which, given the standard indenture terms for a female’s indenture was either 4 years or the period needed to reach age 18, places her year of birth in 1790, used here.

[7], Burial Index record for Phillis Ganges, , accessed 12 Oct 2018. The church has erected a memorial marker with the following inscription:

“Erected by the Great Valley Baptist Church in memory of Phyllis Burr who was born in Africa, brought to America in the slave ship “Ganges” and sold into slavery to pay her passage and died April 18th, 1872 aged nearly 100 years.”

While the stated facts are a bit off the mark, this inscription is one of the few tangible indications, other than the surname, that directly links an individual to the Ganges.

[8] 1850 Census gives Phillis surname as Burr; headstone inscription identified her as a Ganges captive. Surname change suggests the possibility of a marriage, but no marriage record located to-date.


[10] Indenture to J. W. Godfrey includes his commitment to provide schooling; 1850 Census indicated Phillis could not read or write, however.

[11] Indenture, Phillis Ganges to J.W. Godfrey.

[12] Indenture, Phillis Ganges to J.W. Godfrey.

[13] Indenture, Phillis Ganges to J.W. Godfrey.

[14] Indenture, Phillis Ganges to J.W. Godfrey.

[15] Administration Bond, Estate of Mary George, Philadelphia Orphans Court, Administration File 263, 1814.

[16] Inventory of Estate of David George, Philadelphia Orphans Court, Administration File 36, 1822.

[17] Inventory of Estate of David George, Philadelphia Orphans Court, Administration File 36, 1822

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