Transcription by J. R. Burton
"From the 1909 Medora Messenger, individual family reminiscences for John Farrow Simpson, Franklin Bushrod Simpson and William Moore Simpson.
These are three of the four sons of Hendley Simpson and Elizabeth (Farrow) Simpson who settled in Macoupin County in the 1830's and resided there the remainder of their lives.
A fourth son in the immediate area, Dr. James French Simpson of Green County Illinois, was not mentioned in Lymon Palmers work."
Read the Footnote from: The History of Macoupin County, Illinois: biographical and pictorial" by Hon. Charles A Walker / 1911:
Medora Messenger / Medora Illinois - Friday, Oct 15, 1909. Palmer Reminiscences: by Lyman L Palmer.
F B Simpson
As you went northward along the road from the Perry shop there was a quite a little hill and a branch of some pretensions run through the ravine. It all seemed very "big" to me as a boy, but really I could not find the place the other day when I was riding along the road with Jay Kitzmiller on my way to the fish fry. Well, just on the north side of that branch or stream, be it big or little now, there stood a house on the west side of the road which was occupied by "Doc" Simpson and family ever since I can remember, and that is a good ways back, now. In those early days before the post office passed into the hands of Judge Rice it was kept by Mr. Simpson, and many a time I have been there for mail when I was a wee bit of a lad.
In those days I used to think two things about Mrs. Simpson (Miss Mary Parker), first, that she was the prettiest woman in the Point, and, second, that she was the best woman in that part of the neighborhood. I would not like to say that I never went there for the mail without her giving me a piece of pie or a cookie, but she did it so frequently that the fact was indelibly fixed upon my boyish brain. I have said before that I used to spend many a lonesome hour when I was a boy, and anyone who paid any attention to me, or who was kind to me won my lifelong gratitude and affection! And so It has come that through all the years I have always had the most kindly remembrances of the dear woman who was kind to me so long ago.
Many years afterward, on my return from California, it was my happy privilege to be at the Simpson home for supper one Sunday evening, and northing ever gave me more pleasure that to note the sweet and happy smile which played over Mrs. Simpson's face when I recounted to those present the little incident, and how much it meant to my poor, love-famished, boyish heart. Ah, dear hearts of yon olden days, so many of you were kind to me, but you could not know, you cannot know now, how much it meant to my starving heart. The tears were standing in my eyes as I write these words and all the old feelings of loneliness and lack of love sweeps o'er my soul! Is it any wonder that I love you all who were kind to me with an affection that will endure to the end of life, and which fails to find expression in words?
"Doc" Simpson was a sturdy, stirring man who always had things on the move in those days. I recall spending many a night in the farmer's hostelries at Alton in those days, such as the "Farmers Home," kept by dear old John Wendt, the "Piasa House," and Mrs. Armstrong's place, with a host of up-country farmers, and Doc Simpson was always the life of the crowd.
It was a very sad day when the issues of the war came up and separated the whole neighborhood into two factions, and the friends of the pioneer days became implacable enemies during wars times. Doc Simpson lined up with the Souther sympathizers, and hence I saw but little of him or his family after the war began. Since my return from the west I renewed the acquaintanceship of my boyhood's days with him, and many a good visit I had with him when in Medora during his last days on earth. But the white haired and whiskered man of those days was not the man I had known back there in the '60's. One time I went to Medora and as I missed his familiar figure on the street I made inquiry and they told me he had joined that innumerable host "over on the other shore"." He was always kind to me, and so I loved him, and mourned him when they told me I should see his kindly face no more.
There were three daughters, Celia, Hattie and Nellie, and one son, Dick, that I remember in those days. I met the two older girls in school for a number of terms both at the Point and at Summerville. I remember one cold, snowy evening as we were all "hiking it" home someone came along in a sled and took the girls in and left us boys standing knee deep in the snow. Of course we were not so very happy over it, but the girls seemed to enjoy it very much. I can see their happy, smiling faces yet as they looked back and waved an adieu to us and in a spirit of gleeful mischief shouted out and asked us if we would not like to have a ride, too. Ah, dear girls, it is a far cry back to that winter's day, but I am glad to note the fact that the "sledding has been good" for all of those who were present there during all these years so far as I am informed.
Celia married my dear old friend Andy Steed, and so I came to always think of her as linked up with me in the same ties of friendship as those which bound me to him. Since my return from the west I have had several pleasant visits with her and have found her the same quiet, unassuming , dear girl I used to know at school.
Hattie was a slender as a pole in those days, and as active as a cat. There was no such thing as keeping her still. If it were not for "telling tales out of school" I would relate the fact that she and Bird Love were "the best of friends" in those days when we all used to go to school at Summerville together, and that one day, because of her penchant to always be doing something, (Stroud) Keller tied her hands together with a string and then fastened the string to a nail quite a bit higher than her head, as a punishment. In the passing to or from his class Bird edged off over to where Hattie was "strung up" and quick as a flash he severed the string with his knife thinking that she would take her hands down. But not she. Either she was too honorable to try and evade the punishment or else the fear that a worse thing might come upon her if she did, and so her hands remained in the same position as before. I saw Bird doing it, and felt that he was making a mistake at the time, and so it proved, for, while the string was uncut, it served as a support for her uplifted hands, but once it was severed it became a real agony for her to sustain them in that tiresome position. Keller saw the cutting act, too, but was too smooth to let on, knowing that she would soon discover the trick if her hands came down. After she had been properly punished, as he thought, he told her to go to her seat, and when she walked away without assistance he feigned great surprise, but let the matter drop there. I have never seen Hattie since I went west, but my wife happily met her acquaintance at Leita Loper's wedding, and she assures me "that Mrs. Bell is a stout, portly woman." Wish I could see her sometime so that I could make my own eyes believe it!
The next daughter was Nellie. Have you heard of the cat which sat on the fence and saw the queen go by. Well, that is the game I used to play. In those days there were some girls in the neighborhood who "doted on" horseback riding, such as Lucy Kemper, Belle Thompson, Jessie Dannels, and other who have slipped from my memory at this distance. I trust that the other girls will not get "green with jealousy" when I write it down here that, in my eyes, Nellie Simpson was the queen of them all. O, but she was a picture in those days to make any man's heart rejoice when he saw her! She was about "sweet sixteen" and as "pretty as a peach," and "then some." She was the perfect picture of abounding health, her cheeks were as rosy as an apple, her eyes as bright as diamonds, and her hair the color of the crow's wing. And, say, but that little girl could sit on a horse just a bit nicer, yes handsomer, than any woman I ever saw in a saddle. She had a beautiful little bay which might well be the pride and joy of any lover of good horse flesh, and horse and rider presented as charming a picture as ever passed along those roads. I used to be working by the roadside a good deal in those and I often was fortunate enough to be near the "end of the row" just a Nellie would go galloping by. I don't mind saying it now that my heart always beat a faster pace for a "round or two" after she passed.
I used to wish that the "pesky war had been in Guinea" for it put me in such a position that I could have no fellowship with the young people whose parents stood on the "other side of the line."
I went over to Mr. Simpson's once to some sort of Baptist church "doin's" just about the time that Nellie was in the height of her glory in my admiration just to see if I could not "break the ice," but I went away broken hearted long before it was over, for there was "nothing doing" for me. Of course I didn't tell her a word about it, and she always remained just as oblivious of my admiration as was the queen of the cat's presence on the top rail of the fence in the fable. Once, I was driving along the road following close to a rig in which Nellie was riding on the back seat coming up through Hawkins prairie from a camp meeting down at the Yellow Banks, and I saw her handkerchief flutter out on the dust-laden air. I was out of my buggy in a second and had it in my hand in a jiffy. Her team stopped and I hastened up, covered with blushes, and handed it to her. She thanked my very graciously, and the "bright smile haunts me still" which she gave me as a reward.
But those old days with their would-be romances and day-dreams have long since sunken into the depths of the great ocean of oblivion, and their shadows, and their sweet memories , are all that are left to us now. And shadows and memories is all there is to them! Since my return from California, as the wife of Mr. John Robings, one of Medora's most worthy and respected citizens, it has given me much joy to have Nellie as one of my warmest friends. I nearly always see her when I visit Medora and her hearty hand clasp and cheery greeting is one of the brightest memories I bring away with me.
Richard Simpson was some younger than I, but I saw much of him in school, hence felt quite one with him. He was on of the nicest boys that ever grew up in that country. Everyone loved him and had a good word for him. He was always industrious on the farm, studious in school and trustworthy in places of confidence. About the time I went west he secured a position in a bank in Nokomis , Ill., and when dear old Thad Loper came on out to California he told the sad news that "Dick" was dead. O, how many of the dear old boys and girls are waiting "Over There!" And we, too can sing, "O think of the Home over there, By the side of the River of Life."
Medora Messenger / Medora Illinois - Friday, Oct 22, 1909. Palmer Reminiscences: by Lyman L Palmer.
William M. Simpson
"After the railroad was completed through Medora in 1869, there was a field for a hotel, and William Simpson opened one in a large building, which he erected on the south side of the street leading to the depot and about opposite the present Loper store. I presume the building was destroyed by the great fire or at some other time as I miss it now when I go to Medora. That is the first that I remember about William Simpson and family. Where he lived before or what he did is unknown to me. But as the "mein host" of the Medora hostelry I recall him very vividly. He was a man of stout build as I recall him, full whiskers, and a very genial face. I never had any intimate acquaintance with him mostly, I suppose because of the sectional sentiment which had grown up during the war. It served to put a blight on a lot of the social life that would otherwise have existed among the residents of the section at that time. I always heard him well spoken of by the neighbors and believe that he was a worth citizen in every sense of the word. My own personal impressions of him as I saw him in those days bear me out in writing him down as a gentleman filled with generous impulses and manly qualities.
Mrs. Simpson was one of the famous (Frances) Parker sisters, of whom I wrote just a few weeks ago. I do not recall now that I ever came into contact with her at all, but in spite of that fact I know that she was a most excellent woman because one always hears a lot of things talked about the neighborhood when he is a lad, and the neighborhood talk, as a rule, does not go far astray in its estimation of the worth and character of individuals. And so, measured up by his standard, Mrs. Simpson was a most excellent woman. I was thrown much in contact for a year or so with those who were most intimately acquainted with his family and the mother was always referred to in highest terms. I am told that she is now the wife of my old time friend, Rev. John W. Rice.
If my memory serves me right William Simpson was married twice, and the children of the first marriage comprised three boys, Gideon, James and William. I was brought much into contact with these boys in those earlier days before the war, and occasionally during the war. I was well acquainted with all of them, and, as a boy I liked them for they were always good to me. Really, as I recall them now, I think of them as among the best friends I had at the Keller school in the old Baptist church. They were old enough not to "pester" me in any way, and yet they were companionable for me.
"Gid," the oldest one, was a genial fellow with a fine appearance. He was good-looking and that fact always appealed to me. I recall very distinctly one thrilling incident in my usually monotonous existence in which Gid played a very conspicuous part. In those days during the war, many people who lived north of the Point used the "east road," the one running north from Piasa to Summerville, hilly though it was, that they might avoid going through the Point. One who did not live in those days cannot appreciate the tense feelings that swayed men in the different political parties at the time. One day my father (Luther Bateman Palmer) sent me out of Brighton alone with a two-horse "thimble skein" wagon, and I drove along the east road for the reasons already stated, for I had had a taste or two of things that were not pleasant while going the other road. I was letting the horses swing along at a good lively pace down one of those long hills over near where the Overton Brothers used to live, when all of a sudden something happened which caused me to "sit up and take notice" about the quickest I ever did in my life. Without any sort of warning the "off" front wheel had come off the thimble and allowed the front axle to drop down cornerwise, with the thimble dragging in the dirt. I brought things to a stand-still as speedily as possible and hopped out of the wagon to investigate. The wheel had chased itself away off to one side of the road and had landed in a big ditch which the rains had cut in the "yaller clay" which comprised the hill. I soon discovered that the cause of my calamity was the fact that the nut had come off the thimble and hence there was nothing to hold the wheel on. Making the team secure I began to "hike it" back up the hill hunting for the lost nut.
Up the long hill I went, and still no signs of it. Then along the level stretch southward as far as I could go, for already it was getting dusk. At last I saw the fog of dust rising from a team coming away down the road near the home of Painter Yeatman. In a short time I had met it, and out from the midst of the cloud of dust came a shout, "Whoa! Hello, Lyman, is that you?" "Yes," I replied demurely, for that was the first time I had spoken to Gid Simpson for several years, although I presume I had seen him a hundred times. "Have you lost anything?" he asked. The I told him of my disaster. "Does that look like the thing you are looking for?" he asked, throwing the black, axle-grease-besmeared nut at my feet. "That is the very thing I am looking for," I replied in ecstasies of delight. Say, but I could have hugged him right there if I had had a chance. I was profuse in my thanks, but he only said, "Take it and be happy, and just remember all your life that a 'secesh' can do a kindly act just as well as a Yankee." Then he invited me to get into his wagon and ride back to where my outfit was anchored in the "yaller clay." When we got there he jumped out of his wagon, went to the fence and secured a rail, and in a few moments we had the wheel on again. O how my heart did go out to him for that kindly act, and I am only too glad of the chance, even at this late date, to acknowledge my obligation to my "secesh" friend. I wonder where he is there days. If these lines should reach him I hope he will again accept my hearty thanks for the kindly deed of long ago.
The next boy was "Jim." He was a good boy and was much liked in the community as a young fellow, except for the war sentiments. I never heard that he took any active part in matters which caused trouble. Near the close of the war he went to California with the Joseph Hooper outfit which comprised, among others, Henry Kemper and Dr. N. Jayne. After I had in California a number of years, I was visiting Mrs. Jayne, who was my aunt, and she informed that Jim had been at her home, up in the San Joaquin Valley, just a few days previously. I always regretted that I had missed seeing him. She said that he seemed to be prosperous, and that he made a good report of himself and family, for he had married out in that country. I do not remember what address she gave. The next boy was "Bill," and I saw but little of him after the old school days. During the war he drifted out of sight so far as I was concerned, and I never have seen him since.
The children of the second marriage so far as I ever knew, were Reuben, Stella and Lucella. Reuben was a dear, good boy, and I loved him as the apple of my eye. Many a happy hour I have had with old "Rube" in those days when he was clerking in the Butler Store in Medora. He was full of fun but there was not a "streak" of any kind in him from first to last. I have never seen in since those old days, nor do I know of his whereabouts at this time, but if he is alive, and should he see these lines, here's a hearty handclap across the chasm of years for the friend of my boyhood days.
The oldest girl was Stella. I recall her as one of the handsomest young women of those days in that end of the community. She was just as popular as she was beautiful, and I was told by those who knew her that she was a sweet-souled, lovely girl. Of course I had no personal relations with her for reasons already noted in these sketches, but I saw her very frequently at church and at other public gathering and was much impressed with her dignified bearing, modesty and comeliness. But, truly "Death loves a shinning mark," and just in the very outburst of the bud into the perfected rose the fell destroyer overtook her, and in a deep sorrow which cast it pall over the entire community, they laid her earthly tabernacle to rest out under the tall swaying branches of the trees of the little grove which was in the field just east of the Calverd home. The next girl was Lucella. I recall her as a maiden of some sixteen summers when last I saw her with a pleasant face and a bright and happy disposition. I saw her often in public places, but that is as near as I ever got to any girl around Medora in those days. Since my return from the west I have met her frequently and have come to number Mrs. Johns and her husband among my best friends in Medora."
Medora Messenger / Medora Illinois - Friday, Oct 22, 1909. Palmer Reminiscences: by Lyman L Palmer.
"All's quiet on the Potomac!" Dear old John Simpson! How I would like to hear his cheery voice once more calling out to me, as he comes trotting down the hill with the mail pouch on his horse, "All's quiet on the Potomac."
The first time I ever saw him was away back yonder when I was a "broth of a lad" with nothing to do the whole long summer's day but follow the inclination of my own sweet will. That usually meant that I was off where the Chism boys were. They used to go over across the Macoupin creek to the old place for loads of hay, and that was "just duck" for me to go along with them. In those days John lived in a little cabin that was on the comer just north and west of the present residence of Francis Metcalf. John was a genial sort of a fellow and he used to come out to the roadside and "jolly" with us boys as we were passing by. Later on he moved over to Summerville and lived in a little house next to the residence of the "parish pedagogue," Stroud Keller. The family then consisted of the parents and two boys, William and Chester.
During those Summerville days John used to work around among the neighbors and he was often employed by my father, and so I came not only to know him well, but also to love him very dearly, for he was always kind to me and always had a smile and a word of cheer for me. Near the close of the war he got the contract for carrying the mail from Brighton to Greenfield. Of course that was before the days of the railroad. He was very accommodating and often brought our mail down to us from Summerville on his semi-weekly trips. In 1864 I "took French leave" from home and went and enlisted at Alton. My father came after me and brought me home owing to my "inadequate age" and from that time on there was nothing that ever pleased John half so much as to shout out to me whenever he chanced to meet me the greeting at the head of this sketch. Dear old friend of my youth, how I did love you, and I trust that now you are in the enjoyment of that "deep settled peace" which God gives to his well-beloved.
Mrs. Simpson was Miss Lottie Sherman, daughter of Barney Sherman, and sister of Lem Sherman, so well known in Summerville some forty years ago. She was a dear good woman, and a model mother.
The two boys, William and Chester, were both quite a bit younger than I, but I well remember their white heads sticking up above the back of the seats in the old Summerville school. They were manly, sturdy fellows and I always thought a whole lot of them. I remember that Will "wrestled" with the "straw raking" proposition once when we were threshing, and being a little slip of a lad, he was not heavy enough to hold the rail down. The result was that he and "old George," our straw raking horse were often bucked clear out of sight in the swirling chaff and straw until some of us came to their rescue. But he stuck to it with a bravery that was worthy a better cause. Old George could do the act all by himself; all he asked of the boy was to hold the rail down along the rail and unload it at the dump. It used to be a snap for me to rake straw with old George.
Dear boys, I have often wondered what a kindly Providence has brought out of his great treasure house for each of you."
Footnote from The History of Macoupin County, Illinois: biographical and pictorial" by Hon. Charles A Walker / 1911:
"In 1909, early in the spring, there began to appear in the Medora Messenger, a series of reminiscent articles from the facile pen of Lyman Palmer, that at once attracted the interested notice of the local readers of that excellent sheet and its exchanges throughout the county. Being a man of large mental calibre, broad experience and superior journalistic training, coupled to a retentive and reliable memory, these pen pictures of Mr. Palmer lent such a charm to his narratives and so clear an atmosphere of historic truth as to make for each article a value and importance all its own. Eventually, they came under the notice of the present historian and at a glance their value to the work in hand by him was apparent and quickly recognized. Hence, a condensation of Lyman Palmer's recollections of the early history and peoples of Chesterfield township and vicinity is here produced, with only one regret that the manuscript could not have been published in full in these pages.
A word or two as to Lyman Palmer : He tells us he was the firstborn of Luther Bateman Palmer and Louisa A. Brainard, daughter of Samuel D. Brainard, and that his parents were married in 1847 by Rev. Elihu Palmer, brother of General John M. Palmer, but of no immediate relation to Luther. That he grew to manhood in the vicinity of Medora and "stuck type" on the Carlinville Democrat. Moved to California, where he taught school and was connected with San Francisco papers. Returned to Macoupin county, then took up his residence in Chicago and, in 1911, finally settled in Florida. "
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