Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Horribly scalded.

The horrifying account of a farm accident that befell Doctor Simmons, oldest son of Montraville and Annie Henderson Simmons.

8 16 05 L Pharos Tribune

Logansport Daily Pharos, 16 August 1905.

Dock Simmons survived his terrible burns, but bad luck dogged him, and in 1917 he suffered another agonizing injury. Though I have not found his death certificate, evidence indicates that — despite all this — Dock lived into the 1940s.

Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles

Rubbing a little too close.

1 9 03 Logansport Pharos Times

Logansport Pharos Times, 8 January 1903.

Montraville (or Montreville) Simmons was, of course, the irascible husband of Anna J. Henderson Simmons. After many years in Ontario, the family settled in rural Cass County, Indiana, near the community of Kenneth. Not far away was an African-American settlement dating back to the mid-1800s, when southern free people of color began migrating to the Midwest. The Bassett family, originally from North Carolina, anchored that community, and two of Annie and Montraville’s daughters married into the family.

Montraville, occasionally his sons Dock and Edward, Annie (once), and Montraville’s second wife Eliza (often and dramatically) popped up in the pages of nearby Logansport’s newspaper much more regularly than one might expect. He had a penchant for clashing with his neighbors, for lawsuits, and for violence, and local reporters gleefully recounted his mayhem and mishaps.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Misinformation Monday, no. 5.

The fifth in a series of posts revealing the fallability of records, even “official” ones.



What’s right with this death certificate? Annie Simmons‘ name — more or less, as she seems to have been called Anna in her youth. Presumably, her date and place of death. Her birthday may be right, though the birth year is probably three or four years late. She was certainly female.

But she was not white.

Annie Simmons was mixed-race, described as “mulatto” in early life and “colored” (and even “African”) thereafter. She is consistently classified in census records in two states (North Carolina and Indiana) and a province (Ontario), as well as her marriage license. The local newspaper avidly carried news of her husband Montraville Simmons’ antics and was quick to point out his non-white status.  (She was certainly married, if unhappily.)

(By the way, Basedow’s disease is more commonly known as Graves’ disease, or hyperthyroidism.)

Annie was probably 54, rather than 50, and she was certainly born in North Carolina, but not to “James Harrison” and “Eliza Henderson.” Rather, as is clearly set forth in her application for a marriage license in Duplin County NC, her parents were James Henderson and Eliza Armwood. Montraville Simmons probably had not seen his in-laws in more than 40 years when he gave this information. His errors are perhaps excusable, but there they are, enshrined as “fact” and forever leading researchers astray.

Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Anna’s children succumb.


Kokomo Tribune, 13 April 1936.ImageKokomo Tribune, 13 September 1937. 


Kokomo Tribune, 7 August 1942.

Edward Simmons, Susan Simmons Bassett and Muncie Simmons Bassett Palmer were children of Montreville and Anna J. Henderson Simmons.  Susan’s age was seriously overstated. (She was about 60.)  And Muncie’s obit completely elides the years the family spent in Ontario.

[By the way, Second Missionary Baptist Church in Kokomo remains active.]