Adam was born in Frederick Co. Maryland, on December 27, 1762. He was the son of Reuben and Catherine (Jones) Phillips, formerly of Cecil County, Maryland. His family had been attracted to Frederick County by the deep and fertile soils of the Monocacy and Catoctin. These soils were highly productive, especially for new tobacco which was still a principal crop at this time. Tobacco eventually wore out the soil, and they later moved to Western North Carolina. The Tobacco Inspection act of 1747 ensured that tobacco prices would remain high. This act expired in 1770, which may have been the reason Reuben and family left Maryland. However, population increased so rapidly that by 1770 Frederick Town had more people than Annapolis.
In 1769, the will of John Phillips of Frederick County was proven, listing wife Elizabeth and children Sarah, Catherine, Rachel, Grace, and Ruth. On December 11, 1769 Reuben Philips and wife Catherine sold a tract of land in Frederick County Maryland called Pleasant Valley to Henry Lantiss. By the end of this year, all land owned by Reuben and Catherine Phillips in Frederick County had been sold.
In February 1781, Adam Phillips was in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Cowan's ford. The troops first assembled at Beatties Ford on the Catawba River, many of them coming straight from church. The Reverend James Hall had called them from Fourth Creek Church, while Reverend Thomas Mc Caule called them at Centre Church. The troops were divided, half of them assigned to Beatties Ford, and Half of them to Cowan's Ford. Adam was with the 300 assigned to Cowan's Ford, and was in the thick of battle during the morning of February 1, 1781.
After the Revolution, Adam married about 1783. The name of this girl is unknown, but she may have been of Indian origin. It is possible that Adam had only the one wife, but family legend stated that his first wife was Indian. Perhaps this first wife died in childbirth, as nothing else in known of her. Eli A. Phillips was born in 1784.
Living in Rowan Co. NC Adam taook an apprentice to learn the trade of Shoemaker. On February 6, 1787 Jesse Phillips gave his apprentice George Vincent to Adam Phillips to learn the trade of shoemaker. As a journeyman shoemaker, Adam raised cows for leather and meat. He often tanned the hides too, using mountain oak and white oak for tanbark and ground it up in a vat with water. If he also had the trade of saddler he might make saddles, harnesses and bridles as well as boots and shoes.
The war years now being over, a bit of prosperity showed its head in sections of the country, and the Phillips family determined to leave Rowan County. Reuben with his sons Thomas and Levi moved to Wilkes County Georgia, and in 1792 were in the section set off to become Oglethorpe County. William and perhaps Jesse moved to Tennessee. Jonas moved first to Montgomery County North Carolina, and then to Pickens District South Carolina. Reuben Jr. moved to Wilkes County North Carolina where he died in 1814, and Adam moved first to Mecklenburg County and then in 1803 to Buncombe County North Carolina.
In the fall of 1803 Adam purchased a piece of unimproved land on the beaverdams of Hominy Creek, and moved into it on the 10th of March 1804. This was the real frontier, and the neighbors were few and far between. Life was hard, and the Philips family found it difficult to exist so far from civilization. The hardest part of living so far out was the lack of adequate schools and churches.
On September 27, 1821, Adam sold Reuben 100 acres of land, and Reuben started building his own house near Adam. Reuben’s reputation as a schoolmaster grew, and in 1823, he was given a teaching position at the Academy in Asheville.
In 1855, Adam applied for a bounty land warrant on this same service and received this shortly.
1858 - In the spring of 1858, Adam died. His last pension check was dated April 4, 1858, so he died about this time. He had lived 95 years, and seen and done many things, so he died happy and to heaven.
(Asheville News)Death of the Oldest Citizen. Mr. Adam Phillips, the oldest citizen perhaps of Buncombe County, being in his 98th year, died Sunday night last, at the residence of his daughter, Mrs Catherine Bell, four miles east of this place. Mr. Phillips had been for sixty years a member of the Methodist Church - forty years of that time a class leader. He was a most excellent man and through his long life enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all who knew him. Green be the memory of his many virtues.
(Reverend John Reynolds) His Youngest daughter Mrs. C. Bell who so tenderly cared for him during his last years, often said she hoped the lord would let him stay just as long as possible, that she might enjoy the benefit of his prayers, and that her house, like that of Obededum, might continue to be blessed.