Esquire Chase Phillips was born on September 21, 1833, in Newfane, Niagara County, New York, the son of New York natives Abram Phillips (1796-1866) and Betsey Swarthout (1796-1846).
According to Grand Rapids historian Bowen, Esquire or “Chase” came “from a warlike family, his grandfather having fought in the Revolution, and his father in the war of 1812.” By 1820 Abram had settled in Hartland, Niagara County, New York but eventually moved to Newfame, New York where the family was living in 1833 and in 1840.
By 1850 “Chase” was working as a farmer and living with his family in Newfane, New York where his father, who had apparently remarried a woman named Sarah (b. 1810 in New York) owned and operated a very large farm in Newfane. Chase was still living with his family in Newfane in 1855. By Abram died in Newfane in 1866.
In 1850 “Chase” went to Fort Wayne, Indiana and worked on the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific railroad in the run between Fort Wayne and Toledo. After working on the railroad for some three years, he returned home to Newfane in 1853 where he spent one year, and in about 1854 he moved to Grand Rapids where he took up the carpenter’s trade. “After working a reasonable time as a journeyman,” Kent County historian Bowen wrote, “he was employed 1 year as foreman at Saddlebag Swamp by the D & M. Railroad company, and afterward returned to work in the city, where his ability and industry had previously been so generously recognized.”
Esquire married Michigan native Mary Hall (1839-1911) on November 14, 1858, in Grand Rapids, and they had at least six children: Susan M. (b. 1859), George B. (1861-1943), Frank (b. 1867), Ella M. (b. 1871), Cora Dell (1874-1895) and (possibly) Edwin (1882).
In early 1859 Esquire went to Denver, Colorado, but soon returned to Grand Rapids. In October of 1859 he became a member of the Grand Rapids Light Artillery, under the command of Captain Baker Borden. (Many of men who were active in the GRLA would enlist in Company B, which was also under the command of Baker Borden.)
By 1860 he was apparently living on the north side of Fourth Street between West Division (possibly present-day Fulton) and Stocking Streets on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids.
Chase stood 5’6” with blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was 27 years old and probably working as a carpenter in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. He was apparently a sufferer of asthma, which, according to Captain Fred Shriver of Company B, had “troubled” him for some eight years. Shriver wrote in Chase’s discharge paper on October 23, 1861, that “during which time he has done but little work at his trade. He is unable to lie down at night to sleep [and] he is obliged to sleep in a sitting posture.” Phillips was discharged for asthma on November 6, 1861, at Fort Lyon, Virginia.
He returned to Grand Rapids where he soon reentered the service in Company B, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mechanics (also under the command of Captain Baker Borden who had left the 3rd Michigan) on December 12, 1861, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered December 23 at Louisville, Kentucky, listing Grand Rapids as his residence.
The regiment was organized at Marshall, Calhoun County on September 12, 1861 and left Michigan for Louisville, Kentucky on December 17 and was broken into at least three detachments almost immediately. Company B was probably on duty at Green River, Kentucky, building storehouses, fortifications, etc., until February of 1862 when it and the regiment advanced to Bowling Green, Kentucky and then advanced on to Nashville, Tennesse February 14-28. The regiment was Engaged in building railroad bridges at Franklin, Columbia, Murfreesboro, etc., till April. The regiment then Companies moved to Shiloh, Tennessee, April 3-15, and was engaged in building bridges and repairing roads. Regiment engaged in advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30. Skirmish near Corinth May 9. Buell’s Campaign on line of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in Northern Alabama and Middle Tennessee June to August, building bridges, repairing railroad, etc. At Huntsville, Ala., and building bridges, repairing track and running trains on the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad and the Memphis & Charleston Railroad till August.
Companies “A,” “B,” “D,” “G” and “H” moved to Nashville, Tenn., August 20-22, and building bridges on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad till September 16. March in advance of the Army to Louisville, KY., September 16-26. Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1-22. Battle of Perryville October 8 (Cos. “A,” “C” and “H). March to Nashville, Tenn., October 22-November 7, and tg Mill, Creek, near Nashville, November 22. Duty there till December 31. Battle Of Stone River December 31, 1862, and January 1-3, 1863. Lavergne January I, 1863. Repulse of Forest’s attack. Duty at Lavergne, Murfreesboro, etc., till June 29 building bridges, magazines, repairing railroad and other engineering work. Repairing line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad from Murfreesboro to Bridgeport, Ala., till September of 1863. The regiment was on engineering duty in the vicinity of Chattanooga through the winter of 1863-64.
Esquire was a Sergeant, possibly Orderly Sergeant for the company, and discharged for disability (possibly asthma) on February 9, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
After his discharge Phillips remained for some time in Nashville, Tennessee working for the federal government, but soon returned to Grand Rapids and from 1865 to 1866 he was working as a carpenter for Wheeler, Borden & Co., in a sash, door and blind factory, and living at 104 Fourth Street on the west side of the Grand River. (The company was co-owned by Baker Borden.)
In 1867 to 1868 he was a mechanic for Wheeler, Borden & Co., and living on Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Streets on the west side. Sometime around 1869 he bought 56 acres in Walker Township and engaged in fruit growing. In 1870 Esquire was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and three children (and Mary’s younger brother) in Grand Rapids’ 4th Ward. (Next door lived another carpenter who worked for Borden and who had also served in Company B, 3rd Michigan and with Borden in the First E & M, John Lindsey and his family.) By 1880 Chase was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Walker, Kent County.
Chase apparently took his fruit trees seriously. In fact, according one story, it was said that not only had “He furnished much of the Michigan fruit display displayed at the Pan-American exposition,” in 1898, but “at the time of his death had placed fruit for exhibition at St. Louis [“Louisiana Purchase”] in cold storage.”
He was also actively involved with the Grand River Valley Horticultural Society, serving as treasurer for some 15 years, and also active in local educational affairs, serving as “moderator” of school district no. 7, on West Bridge Street. Chase was Justice of the Peace for four years and also a vice-president of the Durfee Embalming fluid company on the west side. He became a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association in 1885, was a member as well of the Grand Army of the Republic Champlin post no. 29 in Grand Rapids and also a Freemason, a Granger, a member of the Old Settlers Society. In 1889 he applied for and received a pension (no. 834034).
In 1890 Chase was living at 183 Stocking in Walker where he was suffering from inflammation of the lungs, and, according to Bowen, “His residence [in Walker] is on a commanding site at the west end of the city, and for this ‘West Side’ he has done more than anyone else, in spite of strenuous antagonism toward its improvement -- such as securing the extension of street sewers and the extension of grading, etc., and the consequent enhancement of the value of the property.”
By 1900 he and Mary were living in Grand Rapids’ 7th Ward.
He died at his home in Grand Rapids, 690 Fourth Street (west side), at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday January 3, 1904, and the funeral was held at Durfee’s chapel. He was buried in Fulton cemetery: section 5 lot 7.
In February of 1904 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 592460).