The Phelps family                              


uman Phelps during his lifetime was known as a prosperous farmer. He married Lovina, the youngest daughter of James Spencer Sr. and inherited the old man's homestead farm; it became so associated with him that it was almost always called "the old Phelps farm" in 19th century narratives.

It is as an innkeeper that he was best known in Penn Yan. He ran the inn or tavern that John Dorman built on the southwest corner of the Head Street intersection with Main Street, across from Asa Cole's Penn Yan Hotel on the northwest corner. It must have been quite a lively neighborhood.

He died in 1823, age 55, just as Penn Yan was becoming the county seat of Yates County. He was no doubt involved in the agitation to start the new county, and it seems a little sad that he had to die so young and never see his ambitions in this direction satisfied. It was certainly good for business.

His widow, Angelina Spencer Phelps, outlived her husband by 20 years. The couple had five children:

  • Mary Phelps married the merchant John Brooks who with his brother built the Brooks block on the site where her father had his tavern. This building burned in one of the many catastrophic fires that swept the corners, this one in the 1840s. She was living in a house that belonged to her brother David in the middle 1850s.
  • Rhoda Phelps never married.
  • Angelina married Lewis Vanderlip, about whom there is more below.
  • Thomas J. Phelps was killed in 1816 by a tornado when a tree fell on the wagon he was driving home from Jerusalem. His passenger, Jonathan Coleman, was able to free himself and run for help. Thomas was brought home alive, Dr. Joshua Lee arrived from Geneva in three hours but could not save him. The young man's skull was crushed. Cleveland says, "This catastrophe caused a great sensation at the time, more probably than a railway crash in these days that should destroy a dozen lives."
  • David L. Phelps inherited his father's (and grandfather's) homestead; and also owned property in Penn Yan. He died in 1859 at the age of 50.

    Lewis Vanderlip and his wife Angelina Phelps lived in Penn Yan. He was a tailor, one of the first and best-remembered in the village, who went west and died at Toledo, Ohio. They had six children:

  • Lewis N. Vanderlip became a lawyer, and married Sarah C. Cornwell. He died at Havana (Montour Falls) aged only 27. His son Charles came back to Penn Yan and was a mercantile clerk.
  • Sarah E. Vanderlip died single, aged 21.
  • Thomas J. Vanderlip married Albina Gage and stayed in Penn Yan.
  • Mary Jane Vanderlip married twice, first to Patrick Graham of Rochester and then to his brother James. They lived in Rochester.
  • Lovina P. Vanderlip died single in 1856, aged 21.
  • Laura S. Vanderlip married Michael Ray of Rochester and died a year after her marriage.

The Phelpses and the Vanderlips were associated with:


  The southwest corner
 341 Main Street  


 333 Main Street
 329 Main Street


  The County Seat