HENRY L. PHELPS. - A representative of the florist's interests of Springfield is Henry Little Phelps, whose attractive establishment is located at 228 East Jackson street, where he is successfully engaged in dealing in cut flowers and all kinds of plants. He was born in Springfield, March 26, 1845, and back to Wales traces his ancestry, the family having been established in America by Deacon Nathaniel Phelps, who located in Connecticut and died in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1702. Through five successive generations the name of Ebenezer Phelps appears in the family record. They were people noted for longevity, were well-to-do, well educated and were earnest Christian people who in all life's relations were found to be honorable, upright and worthy of regard.
Ebenezer Strong Phelps, the grandfather of our subject, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1788 and in 1812 was married to Anna Wright, whose birth occurred in Northampton in 1791. They were the parents of seven children, all of whom came to Sangamon county in 1831 with their parents, who remained here for seven years, at which time the family removed to Princeton, Illinois, in 1838, save that Charles C. Phelps remained in Springfield. The grandfather of our subject was one of the founders and organizers of the Second Presbyterian church of this city and left the impress of his individuality upon the moral development here. He was a watchmaker and job worker and after coming to Springfield established a jewelry store, which he conducted until his removal to Princeton, where he embarked in the same line of business. He had some capital at the time of his removal to the west and thus he soon gained a good business footing in Illinois. A well educated man and one of considerable influence, he put forth his best efforts for the benefit of the localities with which he was connected, and his genuine worth and upright character made his example well worthy of emulation. He lived to be over ninety years of age and his wife was almost equally aged at the time of her demise. Their seven children were Epaphas, Charles C., Ebenezer S., Jr., James R., Mary A., Susan A. and Lucinda W. Of these tow are yet living - Ebenezer S., a resident of Hastings, Nebraska, and Mrs. Lucinda W. Bubach, a widow, who now resides in Princeton, Illinois.
Charles C. Phelps, the father of our subject, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, October 24, 1814, and received good school privileges for that day. He learned the furniture business when all work of that character was done by hand. After his removal to Springfield he became one of the pioneer furniture dealers of this city. He made his way west with a colony who traveled from Massachusetts by way of the New York canal to Buffalo, by lake to Detroit, by land across the country one hundred and sixty miles and thence by canoes down the St. Joseph, Kankakee, and Illinois rivers to the present site of LaSalle, Illinois, where the party arrived on the 29th of June. They reached Bureau county, this state, on the 4th of July, and on the 26th of the same month arrived in Springfield. Here Charles C. Phelps established a furniture business on a small scale. His business was carried on at different locations but remained the longest on East Washington street between Fourth and Fifth streets. He was actively connected with the furniture trade in this city until his death, which occurred March 5, 1866, while his wife passed away on the 2d of May, 1869. She bore the maiden name of Sophia Little, and was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, October 13, 1817. Their marriage occurred in their native state, July 31, 1837, and after coming to Springfield Mr. Phelps, about 1880, purchased property and erected the house that is now occupied by our subject. In the family were eight children, of whom Susan Adelia and Helen Maria died in infancy. The others are Henry Little; Sophia Anna, who was born in 1848 and is the wife of John P. Weber, of Pawnee, Illinois; Charles Chester, who was born in 1851 and is engaged in the insurance and real estate business in Oakland, California; Orrin Wilder, who was born in 1854 and is a traveling salesman, making his home in Chicago; William Wright, who was born in 1857 and is a photographer of San Francisco, California; and Louie Edith, who was born in 1859 and is the wife of A. B. Smith, agent for the American Express Company at Bloomington. All of these children were born on the family homestead owned by the subject of this review and were educated in the public schools, Sophia being a graduate of the high school. At that time there were only four public school buildings in the city. Both the father and mother died in the old home. Charles C. Phelps was the second generation to engage actively in the work of the Second Presbyterian church here and in his footsteps his son Henry Little and the latter's children have also followed, making four generations of the family who have been helpful factors in carrying on this work.
Henry L. Phelps pursued his education in the public schools of Springfield, attending for a time the high school, and in 1861 he entered upon his business career as a salesman in the store of J. Thayer & Company, with whom he remained until 1883, but in 1877 he had erected his greenhouses, employing a man to conduct the business. The trade grew and after a few years demanded the attention of the owner, who since 1883 has devoted his time and energies to the conduct of this enterprise. He does a retail business in cut flowers and plants, makes a specialty of the growing of carnations and roses and is particularly skilled in producing floral funeral designs. He has agents in several cities and thus is continually enlarging the scope of his business, which has already reached extensive proportions and is returning to him an excellent income.
On the 2d of February, 1871, Mr. Phelps was married to Ellen Gertrude Neely, who was born in Carlinville, Illinois, a sister of the first wife of General John M. Palmer. They had one daughter, Annie V., born in 1876 and educated in the city schools. Mrs. Phelps died October 2, 1887, and was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery. On the 1st of January, 1889, Mr. Phelps was again married, his second union being with Sarah A. Little, who was born in Newburg, New York, a daughter of John and Ann Little, who were residents of the Empire state. The father was extensively engaged in contracting and building and erected the barracks at West Point, the Hudson river being completely dotted with his work. He died April 13, 1895, but his widow is still living in Newburg.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Phelps hold membership in the Presbyterian church and our subject and his daughter are members of the church choir, he being connected with this musical organization longer than almost any other representative of the church. In politics he is a Republican and fraternally is connected with Court Camp, No. 454, M.W.A. Throughout his life he has lived in Springfield and after the death of his father he assisted in the support of the family until the younger children went to homes of their own. Dependent upon his own resources from an early age, his life proves what can be accomplished through strength of character, indefatigable energy and persistency of purpose, for today he is controlling a large and profitable business which has been built up entirely through his own labors. His life record has ever commanded the respect of his fellow men and in trade circles he sustains and unassailable reputation.