Frank Phillips

Franklin Phillips (1861 - 1898)

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Franklin (Frank) "Bad Frank" Phillips
Born in John's Creek, Pike, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 5 Jun 1878 in Pike County, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Husband of — married 17 Sep 1883 in Pike County, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Husband of — married 5 Sep 1895 in Pike County, Kentuckymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Phelps, Pike County, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Profile last modified 5 Sep 2019 | Created 7 Aug 2011 | Last significant change: 5 Sep 2019
14:29: Abby (Brown) Glann edited the Biography for Franklin Phillips (1861-1898). [Thank Abby for this]
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Frank Phillips was an outlaw.
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Hatfield and McCoy poster
Frank Phillips was a member of the Hatfield and McCoy family feud 1863-1891.
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Bad Frank Phillips was a deputy sheriff, freelance gunman, logger, outlaw, and integral part of the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud in the US South during the late 19th century.[1]


Franklin Phillips was born 27 July 1861 in John's Creek, Pike County, Kentucky to William "Billy" Phillips and Mary King.[2][3][1][4][5] By 1870, Frank and his siblings were living with his grandparents in Pike, Kentucky; Jessee and Nancy Phillips.[6] Frank had never met his father, as Billy died serving in the US Civil War.[5]

Frank was described by some who knew him as handsome, with a pleasant expression.[5]

Frank married Matilda J. Phillips June 5, 1878, in Pike, Kentucky.[7]

Later, Frank married Mary Cinderella Rowe, 17th September 1883 in Pike County, Kentucky.[8] Mary and Frank had 5 children; Franklin Jr., Epperson, Lizzie, Pearl, and Roy.[citation needed] Mary was married before and had one child, Ora Justice, when she married Franklin.[citation needed] They later divorced.

Frank bought land after 1887 in Pikeville, Kentucky in the midst of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.[2] The feuding led him to leave that home and head to Peter Creek, to avoid some of the conflict headed his way as the McCoys tried to pin two murders on him.[2]

It was during his time there that Nancy (McCoy) Hatfield moved in with him, the wife of Johnse Hatfield, who had remarried in bigamy after fleeing to the Pacific Northwest, leaving her alone.[2] Frank and Nancy were married on 5 September 1895 in Pike County, Kentucky, after finally securing a divorce from Johnse (but not before Frank and Nancy were indicted for adultery in 1891).[2][5][1][9] They supported their family with Frank's successful timbering business.[5][2] The household had eleven children: two from Nancy's marriage with Johnse, five from Frank's marriage to Mary, and four (Elsie, Jesse James, Flora, and Goldie) they had together.[5][10]

Frank's activities and family heritage made him a wealthy landowner in both Kentucky and Virginia, claiming several thousand acres in both places.[2][5]

"Bad Frank"

Frank knew he was trouble. He referred to himself as "Bad Frank" as often as those around him did.[2] Though apparently a very likable and kind person when sober, he was "crazy" when he drank, which was every weekend, and later in life included week-long binges.[2][11][5]

According to firsthand family oral history, Frank rode with the James-Younger gang in his younger years.[12] This seems to be supported by his naming one of his sons Jesse James Phillips.[12]

An opportunist whether for good or bad, he had a reputation. He had been indicted in three different states, for various crimes, but never served time.[2] His connection to the powerful Pike County man, Colonel John Dils, helped him out of any situation he got himself into.[2] Dils was Frank's guardian for a time after Frank's dad, Billy Phillips, died during the US Civil War under Dils' command.[5] Despite the lore surrounding the legend, few sources back up the stories of cold murders, many of which were actually attributed to the McCoys.[2] The worst that can be solidly attributed to him is an attempted murder of Rebel Bill Smith.[2] He was known as a freelance gunman.[1]

Frank Phillips was appointed deputy sheriff in June 1887, Pike County, Kentucky, by Sheriff Basil Hatfield.[2][1] It was this role that he is best known for, as it included his foray into West Virginia to capture many of the Hatfields.[1] His activities nearly caused a war between Kentucky and West Virginia.[1]

Frank was recruited by Perry Cline to gather a posse and capture the Hatfields after three of the McCoy sons had killed Ellison Hatfield five years earlier.[12] Devil Anse had retaliated by killing the three of McCoys.[12] Several skirmishes occurred during that time, leading to the burning of the McCoy farm, and the deaths of two more of the McCoy children.[12]

In the famous massacre event of the Hatfield and McCoy feud, Frank led his posse into Logan County bent on rounding up Hatfields on 9 January 1888, succeeding in bringing in nine in a series of bloody battles.[13] Phillips had led several similar raids, the culmination of which led to him being wanted in West Virginia.[14] His relentless pursuit of the Hatfields made him one of the few men Devil Anse Hatfield feared.[14]

Sheriff Basil Hatfield didn't like Frank's raids, and petitioned and succeeded in removing his station as deputy sheriff.[5] Frank continued with his raids.[5]

Bad to the End

Frank lived up to his nickname time and time again. In a final instance, he quarreled with a friend about a woman and threatened to stab him.[5] The friend warned him to back off, and in the end the friend shot him through the hips.[5]

He was carried to the home of Dr. Dotson who ended up amputating his leg to try to save him from gangrene, then home, and soon after set about putting his affairs in order, writing his will just five days before he passed.[2][5] He requested that his first wife, Matilda, come to visit so he could ask her if their last two children were really his.[5] She said yes, but he must not have believed her because he left money to all his children except for those two.[5][10]He also left five hundred acres of land to Nancy.[5] Just a couple of weeks later, he died of his wounds at the age of thirty-six, July 12, 1898, in Pike County, Kentucky.[5][3][4]

Notably, Frank's wife, the "Hellcat" Nancy, died of tuberculosis three years later, also thirty-six years old.[5] She never saw the generous inheritance he left her due to shady lawyers who sold it to each other.[2] She did what she could to fight the situation, going so far as to maintain a bootlegging business to support her family.[2]

Frank was buried in Phillips Cemetery, Pike County, Kentucky.[4]

the inscription on Frank's headstone


The Phillips DNA project has tracked down the Phillips line of Bad Frank Phillips, putting him in Phillips DNA Family Group 8.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 John Ed Pearce, "Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky", University Press of Kentucky, Dec 1, 2009 - 240 pages. Google eBook.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Dotson, Tom, "How Bad Was Bad Frank Phillips?", Hatfield McCoy Truth Blog, accessed 5 July 2017; references near family experiences with Frank as well as his will
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harry Leon Sellards, "Hatfield and Phillips families of eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia", H.L. Sellards, 1993 - Reference - 474 pages.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Frank Phillips, Maintained by: Katie, Originally Created by: P Fazzini Record added: Aug 21, 2010, Find A Grave Memorial# 57395552
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 Lisa Alther, "Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance", Globe Pequot, May 22, 2012 - 304 pages. Book Preview.
  6. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  7. "Kentucky Marriages, 1785-1979," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Franklin Phillips and Matilda J. Phillips, 05 Jun 1878; citing , Pike, Kentucky, reference ; FHL microfilm 174,937.
  8. "Kentucky Marriages, 1785-1979," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Franklin Phillips and Mary F Rowe, 17 Sep 1883; citing Pike, Kentucky, reference 170; FHL microfilm 839,497.
  9. Dodd, Jordan, comp. Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1851-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2001. Phillips/Hatfield marriage
  10. 10.0 10.1 King, Dean, The Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The True Story, accessed via Google Books 5 July 2017
  11. Shepherd, J, "Bad Frank Phillips is at it Again", Tour Pike County Blog, referencing a clipping from the Logan County Banner, 11 September 1895
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 First hand knowledge Walter Quenton Grayson Goode.
  13. Evans, Colin, "The Railroads Come", Great Feuds in History: Ten of Liveliest Disputes Ever, pp. 76-79. Preview via Google Books 5 July 2017
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Bad Frank Phillips of Hatfield-McCoy Fame", Phillips DNA News, Vol 4 Issue 7, July 2012

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Memories: 1

On 3 Dec 2012 Betty Keene wrote:

It is a known fact that Franklin(Bad Frank) was married 3-4 times.SO different wives and children.I knew personally Roy Phillips the son of Franklin and Mary .Roy married my daddy's aunt.Lived right below me,and his house is still there.Roy was born Oct.25,1896.

Franklin died when Roy was 2 years old.Note::Bad Frank(Franklin) is the Grand Son of NANCY BISHOP(KEENE)(PHILLIPS) and Jessee Phillips.

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Frank by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Frank:

Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 4
Bad Frank Phillips
Bad Frank Phillips

Frank Phillips Gravestone
Frank Phillips Gravestone

Bad Frank Phillips
Bad Frank Phillips

Frank's Headstone Inscription
Frank's Headstone Inscription


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On 19 Mar 2017 at 23:13 GMT Paula J wrote:

I have proposed the other merges. You need to first remove the parents on Phillips-3742. The line will connect at the grandparents.

On 19 Mar 2017 at 23:09 GMT Paula J wrote:

I have proposed the other merges. You need to first remove these parents. The line will connect at the grandparents.

On 19 Mar 2017 at 23:00 GMT Paula J wrote:

Frank Phillips was the grandson of Jessie Phillips and Nancy Bishop Keene, Jesse's first wife. His parents were William Phillips and Mary King. source.

If the parents are disconnected from Phillips-3742 these two can be merged.

On 19 Mar 2017 at 22:58 GMT Paula J wrote:

Frank Phillips was the grandson of Jessie Phillips and Nancy Bishop Keene, Jesse's first wife. His parents were William Phillips and Mary King. source

On 28 Jan 2017 at 21:05 GMT William Phillips wrote:

This makes me wonder, wish I knew where he lived etc.

Frank is 20 degrees from Tanya Lowry, 15 degrees from Charles Tiffany and 15 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.