James Aeneas E. Phelps, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists and hospital surgeon of the Texas army at San Jacinto, was born either in 1794 or around 1800 in either Mississippi or Hartford, Connecticut; sources of information differ. On April 18, 1821, he married Rosetta Abeline Yerby. He was educated as a doctor and persuaded by Stephen F. Austin to come to Texas. He arrived in the colony on the Lively in 1822 and began cultivating a farm with Stephen Holston. Phelps received title to one sitio and two labors of land in present Brazoria County on August 16, 1824. In January 1825 he was in Pinckneyville, Mississippi, where he was delayed by the death of his father-in-law. The census of 1826 classified Phelps as a physician, aged between twenty-five and forty. His household included his wife, two sons, two daughters, one servant, and fifteen slaves. In 1826 only four of his slaves were in Texas, and Phelps returned to Mississippi to bring the others. The ayuntamiento of San Felipe ruled in March 1830 that Phelps's land had been improved by an agent and that the doctor had complied with the colonization law in all respects except his removal to the colony. Austin certified in January 1832 that although Phelps had delayed establishing his residence, his improvements and expenditures justified an extension of time for completion of his contract. Phelps was treating cholera in San Felipe in October 1833. On March 1, 1835, he helped organize the Masonic lodge in Texas.
In February 1836 Dr. Phelps received seven votes at Brazoria as a delegate to the Convention of 1836. On March 19, 1836, he set out with Anson Jones to join the Texas army and was attached to the medical staff on April 6. As the army moved toward San Jacinto, Phelps was left at Harrisburg to attend the sick; on April 22 he established a hospital in the home of Lorenzo de Zavala. Antonio López de Santa Anna was held prisoner at Phelps's home, Orozimbo Plantation, from July to November 1836, during which time Phelps saved Santa Anna from suicide. In 1842 the Mexican general expressed his gratitude by saving Phelps's son, Orlando, from execution as a member of the Mier expedition. In 1838 Phelps was awarded 320 acres for his service from March 21 until May 21, 1836, and in 1847 was granted another 320 acres in Brazos County.
Phelps was postmaster at Orozimbo on October 19, 1836. He was appointed by Anson Jones as a member of the Brazoria medical commission to license physicians. In April 1845 he was appointed to a Brazoria committee to prepare an address in favor of annexation. He died in 1847 and was buried on his plantation. His grave was marked by the Centennial Commission in 1936.