Some town histories make it seem as if Phillips, in establishing the gunpowder factory, was being altruistic. Powder was indeed in short supply, and a “resolve” was passed “Encouraging Mr. Samuel Phillips Jr. to manufacturer gunpowder.” 
But it was certainly meant to be a money-making venture. As Reverend Bentley wrote: “He was a man exceedingly attached to interest so as not to leave a pure reputation near him" — “interest” presumably meaning "self-interest," that is, “profit.” 
His partner at the gunpowder factory was none other than Eliphalet Pearson. Often repeated in secondary sources about Pearson and the factory is a quote, attributed to Washington, that described him as "worthy not only to lead boys, but to command men.” The fact is, however, it's only hearsay, three times over: someone said that students said that George Washington was said to have made the statement. As for Phillips, despite Bentley's opinion, his mythologizing began while he was still young and continued apace. On June 7, 1878, in a story headlined “The Phillips Centennial,” in the Boston Post, Reverend Alexander McKenzie claimed that Samuel Phillips had worked in the gunpowder factory “from morning to night in his farmer’s frock with his neighbors.” This seems highly unlikely on two counts: first, he was nothing of a farmer, nor were other members of his family; and second, it's doubtful he actually got his hands dirty at the mill, and that was probably a good thing, for him. It proved to be a dangerous place. On June 2, 1778, just a few weeks after the opening of P.A., an explosion there killed three men and destroyed part of the building. 
Captain Nathaniel Lovejoy, whose progenitors came to Andover in 1650, wrote of the occasion in his diary: “… about 3 o’clock the Powder House took fire It was destroy’d together with the Magazine & Three Men Destroy’d in the Explotion.” It must have been a moment of reckoning in the town. Captain Lovejoy otherwise recorded little else in his diary but the weather, e.g., “June 1, rains considerable, Quite cold. June 2. Continues… June 3: “Outwinds & great rains.”  Work did not resume at the mill until some months later, and the diary of Philemon Chandler, a blacksmith who, like Captain Lovejoy, descended from early Andoverites, says the disaster caused “great consternation in the town.”  It is a sentiment repeated by Sarah Loring Bailey in her Historical Sketches of Andover (1880).  For while Washington needed the powder for the war, the citizens of the town did not need the factory as a place of their employment. According to a Chandler family genealogy, one of the children of Philemon used to chant the doggerel: “Father can plough and hoe, Mother can card and spin;/ Hetty can knit like a witch/ And the money comes tumbling in.”  Maybe, too, townies weren't very good at running a mill and the explosion was evidence of it. What is more, the quality of the powder was poor. As a result, two Frenchmen were ordered to Andover to oversee the remaking of the operation. British prisoners of war were subsequently employed there, until the Massachusetts government contemplated removing them, possibly for use in a prisoner exchange. In a letter to a member of the Board of War, Samuel Phillips protested their removal, pointing out that “some have married, had children, taken the oath of allegiance, paid taxes, and become useful members of society.”  According to the Chandler genealogy, at least one British deserter, William Hill, settled in Andover, too, and his son Richard D. Hill married Deborah Chandler. 
1. William Bentley, The Diary of William Bentley, D.D., Pastor of the East Church, Salem, Massachusetts (Salem: Essex Institute, 1905-1914), February 12, 1802.
2. Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, XIX,203-204, quoted in Edward Moseley Harris, Andover in the Revolution: A New England Town in a Period of Crisis, 1763-1790 (Andover: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1976), 66.
3. Bentley, February 12, 1802.
4. Some sources say the explosion occurred on June 1, not June 2. In an email to the author on March 25, 2021, Kenna Therrien, formerly of the Andover Center for History and Culture, explained the discrepancy and made a case for June 2 being the correct date: “The Puritans (and then their descendants the Congregationalists) didn't use the pagan names for the days of the week. They started with First Day (i.e. Sunday), Second Day (Monday), and so on. Third Day would be Tuesday. June 1, 1778 was a Monday (thank you, Google!), but the June 2 date makes sense in this context, since it would be Tuesday, Third Day. So June 2 seems like the right date, without knowing for sure. The June 1 date we have turns out to be a circular reference: we cite [a book by Julie Mofford] as the source of the date, and Julie Mofford's book cites us. I can't tell where we got that date from, unless it's buried in Samuel Phillips's papers.
5. American Antiquarian Society, Nathaniel Lovejoy: Diaries, 1762-1809, Mss. Octavo Vols. L.
6. Quoted in Matthew E. Thomas, Historic Powder Houses of New England: Arsenals of American Independence (Charleston: The History Press, 2013). https://books.google.com/books?id=coWNCQAAQBAJ&pg=PT57&lpg=PT57&dq=andover+gunpowder+mill+explosion+1778&source=bl&ots=hi7jW1HBy1&sig=ACfU3U0h4fF-ar1ttoSVnRzXA1iqINaz-g&hl=en&sa=X&ved#v=onepage&q=andover%20gunpowder%20mill%20explosion%201778&f=false Retrieved April 26, 2022.
7. There was “considerable local feeling about the danger of the mill”: Sarah Loring Bailey, Historical Sketches of Andover (Comprising the Present Towns of Andover and North Andover) (Boston: Houghton, 1880), 347.
8.George Chandler, The Chandler Family. The Descendants of William and Annis Chandler Who Settled in Roxbury, Mass. 1637 (Worcester: Printed for the Family. Press of Charles Hamilton, 1883), 57.
9. Quoted in Bailey, 348, who cited “Pickering papers, Mass. Hist. Soc.” i.e., Col. Timothy Pickering Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Dec. 24, 1779, Vol. 17, 317.
10. Chandler, 1017.