John James Phillips was born in Amherst County, Virginia on April 7, 1816. His parents were Moses and Nancy Wyatt Phillips. He married Sarah Ann Abernathy in Tennessee on November 6, 1841. The family moved to Texas in 1852 settling southeast of present-day Thornton in Limestone County.
John James and Sarah Ann Phillips had thirteen children, some born in Tennessee and some born in Texas. They were Martha Eliza (1842-1930), Moses Sterling Polk (1844-1908), Virginia Spotswood (1847-1941), Helen Euzeda (1849-1934), Robert Moorman (1850-1900), Mary Louise (1852-1902), Francise Hill (1855-1939), John James, Jr. (1857-1859), Susan M. (1859-1860), Nancy W. (1859-1867), Edna D. (1862-1949), Sidney Vernon (1863-1936), and Sarah (1868-?).
John James Phillips died in Thornton, Limestone County on February 1, 1895. Sarah Ann Phillips died in Thornton, Limestone County on April 1, 1895. They are buried in the Thornton Cemetery.