Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

Calvin and Fanny Phibbs with (l-r) Evelyn, Florence, and Catherine in Idaho in 1912.

I had heard a rumor a couple of years ago that Calvin Phibbs had taken his own life but could not confirm the story.  Now that I am back in Idaho, I stopped by the Rupert Library to see if they had some old newspapers.  Sure enough, I found the following obituary which reads more like the local gossip column.  I will include some of the family history after the obituary.

“Judge Phibbs Ends Life; Ill Health Cause
“Well Known Rupert Attorney Meets Instant Death By Own Hand at Home Thursday.
“Four months of sleeplessness, a body racked with pain and mind grown despondent through belief of the utter hopelessness of physical recovery, led to the tragic, but carefully planned suicide of Judge C. D. Phibbs, well known Rupert attorney who ended his life at his home Thursday.
Seated before a mirror in his bedroom at three o’clock in the afternoon, when no one was in the house but his wife and himself, the distraught man placed the muzzle of a 22-caliber hammerless revolver to his right temple, and with a firm unswerving hand sent a bullet through his brain, death being instantaneous.  The leaden missile passed through the head and lodged in the wall, near the ceiling.
“Startled by the sharp explosion of the gun, Mrs. Phibbs rushed in from an adjoining room to find her husband’s body crumpled on the floor with his life extinct.
“That the rash act was premeditated and carried out as planned is shown by excerpts from a letter written the previous Saturday, addressed to his wife and left where she could not fail to find it.
“I do not feel that I can get well.  I have suffered for four months.  So much that I cannot endure it.  If anything happens to me, know that I love you and have never loved anyone but you.  Tell the children to be good children, as it is best for them.  It is the only way to be happy.  I have failed to do as much for them as I wanted to but have not been able.”
“Following the introductory explanation foreshadowing the tragedy that was to take place, the letter continued with detailed instructions of what to do in regard to business that would arise, told where his life insurance policies were, how to plan the funeral, left words of encouragement to the children to continue their education and even advised about planting a garden.
“After a farewell sent the children and the brief words of assurance for their future, the final paragraph concludes: “God bless you all till we meet again.  I do not believe God will blame me for what I am doing for there is no other way.”
“The letter was found by Mrs. Phibbs soon after the tragic shooting occurred.  It was dated March 20.  Although she knew he suffered much from stomach trouble for many weeks and was discouraged over his health, no hint of self-destruction was ever suggested by her husband, she said, and in the past week it seemed to be somewhat improved, and had been to his office only a few days before the appalling act.  He had suffered intensely from stomach trouble and it is thought he believed himself a victim of cancer.
“When a youth of 13 years, while in the mountains of Virginia, at Fancy Gap, Carroll county where he was reared, in 1899 Calvin D. Phibbs, whose father worked in the mines there, hopped on a coal car and received injury to his left leg that later caused infection, making amputation necessary and left him crippled for life.
“In 1906 when twenty years of age he married Fanny Elizabeth Ross in Welch, West Virginia, and on March 21, 1913, they came to Idaho and to Rupert, making there [sic] home here since then.
“Although he had little opportunity for attending school, he received his education by private study.  Securing books and texts of the International Correspondence school he studied law and was admitted to the Idaho state bar in 1919.
“For ten years he held the position of probate judge of Minidoka county, being elected on the Republican ticket and served in that capacity until four years ago.  He served also as justice of the peace for two years and in 1918 was city clerk of Rupert.
“His friends and business associates, of whom he had many, were shocked and grieved at his tragic act.  He had a kindly disposition and a cheerfulness of manner that in no way can be reconciled with his fatal deed.  At the time of his death he was engaged in the practice of law but since last November had been unable to be in his office much of the time.
“Besides his grief-stricken wife he is survived by eleven children, five boys and six girls, their father being the first of the family to pass away.  The children in order of their ages are Mrs. Florence Biles, 23, of Gridley, California; Mrs. Evelyn Collier, Rupert; Mrs. Catherine Beachell, of Filer, Idaho; Virginia, James, Viola, William, Orville, Arthur, Albert and Phyllis, the youngest, age three, all of whom live at home.
Three brothers, Frank Phibbs of Twin Falls, Robert of Oakland, California, and John of Salt Lake City, and twin sisters, Mrs. Ardena Christensen, San Francisco and Mrs. Mary Hiatt of Paul, also survive.
“Largely attended funeral service were conducted Monday at one o’clock in the Second ward L.D.S. church with Albert Harrison, first counselor to Bishop O. J. Bateman in charge.
“Speakers included David J Borup, former bishop of the Second ward, who came from Boise where he now resides to be present at the funeral.  Judge Hugh A. Baker, an attorney friend, and David Hyde and A. H. Jensen, churchmen and friends of the deceased.
“Music was rendered by a chorus of nine voices under direction of Arthur Humphries, singing three selections “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Sometime We’ll Understand” and “Oh, My Father.”
“Prayers were offered by L.D. Hyde and R.C. May.  Interment was in Rupert cemetery with Goodman Mortuary in charge.

Here is a biography of Judge Phibbs from an old Idaho directory of prominent people.

“Judge Calvin Dickerson Phibbs. since 1912 a resident of Rupert, where in 1918 he was elected judge of the probate court of Minidoka county, was born at Hillsville, Virginia, June 12, 1886, a son of James and Elizabeth (Bolt) Phibbs. The parents are also natives of the Old Dominion, where they were reared and educated. Subsequent to his marriage the father there followed farming and stock raising and during his early life also engaged in the profession of teaching. In 1910 he removed westward to Rupert, Idaho, and purchased a farm northeast of the town, becoming owner of eighty acres. At times he has owned various farms, but his holdings at the present time embrace just eighty acres. He and his wife have become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in his political views Mr. Phibbs is a republican.

“Calvin D. Phibbs spent his boyhood in his native state and pursued his education in Fairview Academy. He was reared to the occupation of farming, early becoming familiar with the best methods of tilling the soil and caring for the crops. Later he took up electrical engineering and worked along that line until he came to Rupert, Idaho, in 1912. Here he entered the real estate field and after a time he was called upon for public service, being made city clerk of Rupert, which position he filled for a brief period. In 1918 he was elected to the office of probate judge of Minidoka county, which position he is now acceptably filling, being most careful, prompt, systematic and accurate in the discharge of his official duties. On the 15th of December, 1919, he was admitted as an attorney at law in the supreme court of the state of Idaho.

“In 1907 Judge Phibbs was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Ross, a native of Pulaski, Virginia, and a daughter of J. T. and Catherine (Graham) Ross, the former a farmer and stockman. Judge and Mrs. Phibbs have become parents of six children: Florence, Evelyn, Catherine, Virginia, James and Viola. The religious belief of the family is that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in politics Judge Phibbs is a stalwart republican, giving unfaltering allegiance to the party and its principles. He stands for advancement and improvement in all things that have to do with citizenship and is among that class who are putting forth every effort to spread the principles of true democracy and make one hundred per cent Americanism the rule of this land.

I do not usually place that much quoted material in my histories, but there is so much extra information I probably would not otherwise include, I thought I better just leave them how they were printed.

Calvin Dickerson Phibbs was born 12 June 1886 in Hillsville, Carroll, Virginia.  He died 30 March 1933 in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  He was buried 4 days later on 3 April 1933 in the Rupert Cemetery.

Now that I have given so much on Calvin, I probably should fill out the life of Fanny a little more, my Great Great Aunt.

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia to James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  Read more about here parents and family here.  She married Calvin Phibbs 22 December 1906 in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  As mentioned 11 children were born to the marriage.  I believe she moved fairly quickly to California after Calvin’s death.  While in Rupert, the Phibbs family lived at 96 B Street (unless the streets have been renumbered, this home does not exist any more.  Grandpa, Milo Ross, visited her in Salt Lake City before World War II.  I do not know if she was living there or just visiting, he does not remember either.  She died 23 January 1943 in Daly City, San Francisco, California.  She is buried at Cypress Law in Colma, San Francisco, California in an unmarked grave.

Calvin and Fanny’s children are as follows, without spouses.

Florence Geneva Phibbs born 21 June 1907 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia and died 9 February 1987 in Gridley, Butte, California.

Evelyn Adaway Phibbs born 8 October 1909 in Eckman, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 January 1961 in San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Catherine Elizabeth Phibbs born 1 January 1912 in Thorpe, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 September 1989 in Fall River Mills, Shasta, California.

Virginia Ardena Phibbs born 3 March 1914 in Rupert and died 25 September 1969 in San Francisco County, California.

James Calvin Phibbs born 22 April 1916 in Rupert and died 10 July 1977 in San Francisco.

Viola Belle Phibbs born 21 July 1918 in Rupert and died 11 June 2008.

William Robert Phibbs born 3 October 1920 in Rupert and died 16 September 2010 in Redding, Shasta, California.

Orville Leonard Phibbs born 20 October 1922 in Rupert and died 25 December 1985 in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California.

Arthur Lee Phibbs born 12 October 1925 in Rupert and died 22 June 1983 in San Francisco.

Richard Albert Phibbs born 25 December 1927 in Rupert and died 27 January 1993 in Clearlake, Lake, California.

Phyllis Elaine Phibbs born 24 February 1930 in Rupert and died 6 July 1972 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Of course I am always looking for more information on the family since we do not have contact with any of the descendants.

39 thoughts on “Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

  1. Pingback: Meredith – Graham Wedding « Sagacity

  2. Good morning. I am the grand-daughter of Calvin & Fanny Phibbs. I am one of 8 children of William (Billy) Robert Phibbs. Donna Beachell, who did much family research was my cousin, Catherine Phibbs Beachell’s daughter. I have just started my work on family history and would be dilighted to correspond with others who are doing so.


  3. Fanny was just visiting Salt Lake when gpa Ross came to visit. According to William, (and his baptismal records) she had taken some of her children there from central California to be baptised in the Temple, at the urging of Uncle Jim.


  4. Hi, I’m Richard G. Hyte, son of Helen Phibbs Hyte who is a niece of Calvin D. Phibbs. My mother’s father, John “R” Phibbs, is Calvin D. Phibbs’ brother. I had the opportunity of talking to Donna Perry about our common ancestry many times in past years. I would like to keep contact with any of C.D. Phibbs’ ancestors to continue common genealogy research.


  5. Hi, wonderful info, thanks so much for posting it. I’m a great-grandson of Calvin and Fanny Phibbs via my grandmother Viola. I recently had 23andMe DNA sequencing done, and I’m trying to fill out my family tree to help verify relatives that the algorithms suggest. For instance, thanks to you I could tell someone that an ancestral “Ross” connection probably isn’t valid since the last name only goes back a few generations and isn’t really biological, a big help. I was hoping I could get in contact with you or one of your readers to add to and/or correct what I have so far in this branch of the family. I’d really appreciate the help. My e-mail address is


  6. Thank you so much for this fabulous piece of history about my family! I am the grand daughter of Viola Belle and great grand daughter of Fanny. I love learning about my family history and the photos are especially awesome! I see a strong resemblance between Calvin and my father, also named Calvin. Thanks again!

    Denise Perry


  7. thank you for sharing this info. I am very grateful. My name is Michael Perry i’m am the grandson of Viola Belle and great grandson of C.D. and Fanny. i look forward to learning more and hopefully contributing in some way. thanks again.


  8. Wow! This is amazing. I am the eldest great – granddaughter of Viola Belle, granddaughter of her eldest Shirley Anne and daughter of Richard (Shirley’s eldest). I have my own two children now so this will be amazing to teach them about. I never knew most of this information and am thrilled to have it. Thank you!


  9. This was my grandpa. William R. (BILL) being my dad. Would have liked to meet him. Interesting read. “History” is sometimes more subjective than objective. But I have always loved history


  10. Thank you for sharing. A few years ago, I did some research through on the backgrounds of my grandparents. I found a lot of information on both. There is still one question, I haven’t been able to find the answer to about my Grandmother. Did she have an American Indian connection. I am the daughter of Phyllis E.Phibbs Daniels. (Pep)


  11. Hello and thank you very much for providing this amazing family history. I am the granddaughter of Viola Belle and great grand daughter of Fanny and very grateful to have been able to read my family history. I would be interested in hearing any updates. Thanks again!


  12. Pingback: James & Damey Ross | Sagacity

  13. My aunt married Arthur Lee Phibbs. Her name was Antonia Elizabeth Strasters from S.L.C., Utah. I have not been able to locate their children. I did find out Arthur Lee Jr. Died. I have put a lot of information on family Maybe there is something you can use there. If you have any information I could use I would appreciate it, also. Also I have pictures of the family.


    • Hi Nancy, it’s Elaine second daughter to Arthur L. and Antonia Elizabeth….i see this post is 2014, I have not gotten on this for a long while….what kind of pictures do U have of the family.YOUR side the Strasters or the Phibbs side…???? and I’m on facebook ….would love to hear from you…. are you Uncle Bills daughter, or Uncle Ted’s daughter??? My brother Calvin Dickenson, not Dickerson is still alive and so is my sister Lorraine Susan , little brother Glenn Allen passed away a few years ago..can’t remember the date, my sister would know the dates more than i since she saw him last… anyway thought i send you this note since i was really happily Surprised to see your post……………..


    • Was your dad my Uncle Ted or Uncle Bill ? my brother Glenn Allen died a few years ago, my Sister Lorraine susan is still alive and would know the date’s as she was the last to visit him in 2009 0r 2010 she came out from W. Virginia to see him and do some traveling with her husband George Harvey Ross, HA don’t know if he is related to the Ross side of the Family on my dad’s side or not….any way she went and saw Uncle Bill on the Phibbs side before he passed in 2010 and my brother Calvin Dickenson is still alive as far as I know. We don’t talk and have not since my mom passed in 2001.. my phone is [e-mail webhost for phone number] but don’t know much more you need…hope all is well with you and yours………


    • trying this again…..not sure if these reply’s are even being posted AS I DON”T see them……………..your my cousin from my mom’s side…. your dad was either Ted or Bill Strasters… yes my oldest brother Arthur Lee Jr. passed away and so did my baby brother Glenn Allen My sister Lorraine Susan is still alive and living in W. Virginia with her Husband George Harvy Ross Sr and my younger brother Calvin Dickensen ( not Dickerson) is still alive and living here in Calif…with his wife I guess but not sure as we haven’t spoke since before my mother died in 2001 my e-mail is [respond to post or e-mail webhost for e-mail] and my current phone is [email webhost for phone number]… as said in other reply’s Hope all is well with you and yours…….


    • Hi Nancy, my name is Rachel Elizabeth (Ross) Temple-Harris and I am the eldest daughter to Lorraine Susan (Phibbs) Ross and also eldest granddaughter to Antonia Elizabeth (Strasters) Phibbs, the wife of Arthur Lee Phibbs. This article has been both amazing and enlightening, and I hope that all of my extended family all over the world fairs well. I am married to a Brit & Texan, and we have two daughters. My husband is active duty Coast Guard so we have traveled and lived all over the U.S. but our hearts are in Florida. This post may not reach a lot of family members but I wanted to post here anyway to let everyone know that we think of you all the time and hope you are all well.


  14. Calvin D. Phibbs was my great uncle. His brother, John “R” Phibbs is my mother’s father. I have talked to Donna Perry many times on the phone and shared ideas about the Phibbs ancestry. My mother’s brother Elmer agreed to participate in a DNA test with FamilytreeDNA. The results are interesting and I am willing to share them with anyone who is interested.


  15. Hello, My name is Calvin Louis Perry Born July 6, 1943 in San Francisco California, The oldest surviving child of Viola Phibbs and Louis Manuel Perry. Brother Bob is still with us too. I noticed that Richard Albert Phibbs’s Death date is listed as 1983 he died in 1993, he was at his brother Orville’s Bed side when he died on December 25th 1985, which was also Uncle Ricks Birthday. I remember Rick saying to me, (He would have to pick my Birthday to die 🙂 Feel free to contact me.


      • Long story short- my mother was adopted and her adopted parents never gave her much info regarding her real family. So I did my own research not too long ago & I found info on her birth parents, along with some other info. My Mothers real mother remarried to Orville before she passed away at a young age.


      • Orville my uncle lived with a nice woman in the late 60’s early 70’s and she had a couple children and maybe one from Orville, I really can’t remember much except that he killed her and went to jail for it… it was a sad time my dad was very upset about it but did not make a big deal of it to us kids….when my uncle Orville was out from serving his time, he came to visit my dad and mom and also came next door to visit me that was I THINK in the late 70’s it was a short visit but we hug’d and talk for about 20 -25 min and he left, I loved that man he was very kind heart’d and I know he never meant to do any wrong to his girlfriend at that time…. i really can’t remember much sorry, EXCEPT I had borrowed an ALBUM of the DOORS from Uncle Orville’s girlfriend (maybe wife) don’t know if they ever were married, SON and I never got a chance to return it because of the death of Shirley, I think that was her name and could never get in touch with him .(her son ) to return it; Never knew what happen’d to the kids after her death…


    • the last time i saw my uncle Orville was in 1976 or 77 or even a few years later, can’t remember for sure if I had had my first son yet… and that was in 77 when I had my Johnny….Uncle Orville had stopped by to see my dad Arthur Lee and my mom Antonia Elizabeth (Betty) then came next door to visit me for a few I lived next door to my dad and mom from 73 till 83 and moved to the Mountains above Fresno .loved seeing him as I had not seen him in years, I don’t know when he went to jail and don’t really know how long he was there so I think it was after he got out that he came by to visit…….don’t have a lot of information on Uncle Orville except that he lived with a nice lady when I was in my teens and early 20 I guess then she died……and he went away for awhile…..:)


      • That is a lot of good information! Thank you so much. I was actually interested in learning about the woman he lived with, I think that may be my mothers birth mom. She was never given a lot of information on her but I did my own research and everything leads back to I think it’s the same woman!


  16. cassidythornhill my sister says that Orville did marry Shirley which i believe is your mothers Mom..your grandmother Shirley was killed by our uncle Orville when your mom was quite small 4 or 5 ish but my memory could be wrong on her age…Shirley also had a son around 16is that is why I thought your mom was Orville’s child because of the age difference ….your mother’s older brother killed himself a few years after your grandmother was killed that is what I remember


    • Thank you for that information Elaine! I know this is a stretch but does anyone know anything about the brother that killed himself? Or anything about Shirley’s side? According to my mother’s history, her birth mother (Shirley), kept the first two or three kids she had and gave up the others for adoption.


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