I generally view with skepticism lurid newspaper accounts of Negro malfeasance, but it’s hard to ignore the cumulative record of Montraville Simmons’ outrageousness. He beat his wife and children, he seduced his neighbors’ women, he piled up lawsuits.
Here’s a smattering of not even ten years’ worth of Montraville’s mayhem:
- In which a drunken Montraville whipped his wife Anna Henderson Simmons (but did not slit her throat) and punched his children, and they rose en masse to beat him back. After his arrest, Montraville pressed charges against his whole family for assault.
Kokomo Daily Tribune, 13 November 1899.
- In 1901, remember, he hit son Dock Simmons in the head with a rock.
- In which, long story short: Joseph Hall was a tenant living on Simmons’ farm. Mabel Cain was his niece, and William Epperson was her boyfriend. Montraville allegedly offered Cain $5 for sex. (This, apparently, is the assault and battery with attempt to rape.) Epperson was outraged; he and Montraville fought with ax and club; and Montraville threw Epperson into a creek, nearly drowning him. On the way to court, while in custody, Montraville tried to get Cain to drink some whisky. Later, he offered to squash the matter by paying for a marriage license for Cain and Epperson. He got drunk, however, forgot his promise, and went home.
Logansport Times, 7 March 1902.
- (First, there’s the mention that Montraville was recently a “prominent figure in the colored circles of Ervin Township,” suggesting that he did live in the Bassett settlement during his time in Howard County.) Charles Baker worked for Montraville, and he and his wife Ollie Perkins Baker shared the Simmons’ home. Having noticed that his wife was on extra friendly terms with Montraville and his sons, Charles decided to move back to Logansport. Ollie initially refused, then relented and “kissed the Simmons boys” (who were men in their twenties) as they left. The next day, Ollie insisted on returning to the farm, and Charles finally agreed. He and Montraville began drinking, and the inevitable argument broke out. Ollie took Montraville’s side, grabbed Charles’ gun, and hid it under a mattress. Montraville threatened Charles with a length of wagon wheel, and Charles grabbed his gun and smashed the butt into Montraville’s head. Ollie was screaming to Montraville, “Kill him!,” and Charles ran out of the house when a Simmons son snatched the gun from him. Ollie refused to leave with him. Montraville’s version of events was more laconic: he was in bed, Charles started beating Ollie, Montraville protested, and Charles knocked him in the head.
Kokomo Daily Tribune, 9 January 1903.
- In which a white laborer named Francis Kinstler filed assault and battery charges alleging that Montraville and Ed Simmons called him vile names and attacked him. Kistler bit Ed’s thumb, and Montraville clubbed him in the hip. After tearing Ed’s shirt with his teeth, Kinstler escaped.
Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 24 July 1907.
- Montraville and Edward were acquitted.
Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 27 July 1907.
- As mentioned here, in 1908 Montraville’s second (or third) wife Emily charged him with beating her for breaking a beer-filled mug.
- And then there was white-collar crime. Montraville mortgaged fifty acres of growing corn for $250. Except he didn’t have any corn growing. This article recounts the tale of Montraville’s tumble from rumored wealth to a “rocky” life.
Kokomo Daily Tribune, 19 May 1908.
- Later that summer, a Logansport paper elaborated on Montraville’s downfall to homelessness, wifelessness and penury.
Logansport Daily Tribune, 23 August 1908.