Arthur Crawford Phillips was born on 8 May 1897, in the city of Rochester, located in Monroe County, New York. His parents, Fred and Allie (Cartman) Phillips, were recent transplants to the city, having moved there from other parts of the state; Fred from Onondaga County in Central New York and Allie from Wayne County, along the shores of Lake Ontario.
Arthur’s parents had married in the city two years earlier. Allie had been working as a domestic servant, Fred was a railroad man with the Central New York Railroad. It’s not clear how the two met. Fred later moved the family to East Syracuse, to work as a yardman in the DeWitt Yards, where trains were switched and made up and cars were brought into the shops for repair. In 1918, DeWitt Yards were the largest in the country, according to an article in the Syracuse Post Standard (30 January 1918, page 7.)
Arthur would go on to follow in his father’s footsteps, although his father would not live to see it. Like many of the men in his family, Fred suffered from heart trouble, in his case, cardiovascular disease, and he died in 1908, when he was just thirty-seven years old. Arthur was only eleven.
Allie was left with six children to raise on her own, all under the age of fourteen. It must have been very difficult for her. Arthur’s older brother, Ray, went to work as a laborer in a spoon factory soon after his father’s death. Arthur finished eight years of school and it’s likely that he too went to work, to help provide for the family. A younger brother, Roy, would eventually be adopted by family friends, Charles and Clara Bovee. Allie remarried about 1915, to Fred R. Mitchell, who was also with the railroad.
Arthur grew up to be a man of moderate height, about 5’9″ tall, with a fair complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. In 1917, he was working as a farm laborer. The next year, during the summer after he turned 21, he was working as a farmer, but then World War I intervened. In August of 1918, Arthur was drafted into Company A of the 120th Engineers. He and 141 other young men left by train at 10:30 p.m. on 26 August and arrived at Camp Gordon in Atlanta, Georgia on 28 August. Arthur was honorably discharged shortly before Christmas on 14 December 1918 from Fort Benjamin Harrison, in Lawrence, northeast of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Two years later, in January of 1920, Arthur was working as a fireman on a steam crane in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s not clear whether the steam crane was part of a railroad system, as the 1920 census does not say. I would like to think he was already working for the railroad, because it would help to explain how he could be living in Cleveland in January and have moved to East Syracuse by November, working as a mechanic for the New York Central Railroad. And it would certainly help to explain how he had time to meet Miss Gladys Louise Benedict of Pulaski, the woman who would become his wife later that year.
Gladys was born on 11 July 1897 in Liverpool, Onondaga County, New York, the first-born child of John Prosser and E. Louise (Piester) Benedict. She moved with her family to Hastings, in adjacent Oswego County, while still a toddler, and then to Pulaski, also in Oswego County, when in her teens. Gladys’ father was also with the railroad; he worked as station agent for the New York Central Railroad, often working the “third trick” or night shift.
The marriage of Arthur and Gladys took place on a Wednesday afternoon at the Methodist parsonage in Pulaski, where Gladys’ family lived. The wedding ceremony was performed by the Rev. C. T. Holcombe, and Gladys’ younger brother, Walter, and the woman who would become his wife, Gladys Mae Fox, were the couple’s attendants. After the ceremony, a wedding luncheon was served for the immediate family at Randall House, a popular restaurant and inn in Pulaski. Afterwards, the newly married couple went to Syracuse and then departed on their honeymoon, which was a trip by car to Ohio. After they returned, they began housekeeping at 521 Burnet Avenue in Syracuse. (The house no longer exists; it stood where Jim Stagnitta Electric is now.)
For much of his life, Arthur worked as a machinist on the steam locomotives at the DeWitt Yards near East Syracuse Village, the same place where his father worked as a yardman. He and his family lived in a series of houses just west of East Syracuse Village where Arthur grew up, among them: 311 Mather Street; 247 Marlborough Road, 405 Highland Avenue; and 715 Hawley Avenue.
Gladys had been working as a librarian at the Edwards store in Syracuse, but presumably gave up her job when she married. She gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Jane, the next year, on 11 February 1921, and Betty Jane as she was called, grew up as a treasured only child. Arthur and Gladys would eventually have another child, Tyrone Arthur, in 1941, just a couple of months before Betty Jane married. (Tyrone suffered from a congenital heart defect and died as a result of heart surgery when he was 21 years old.)
So many of the Phillips men were victims of a weak heart, and Arthur was no exception. On the second day of the year in 1952, Arthur had a heart attack, on the street at the corners of West Genesee and North Franklin in Syracuse. He died almost immediately. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Syracuse.