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  • Family Legends: The Simpson Story

    as told to F. Elmo Simpson by his grandmother Lucy Mason Simpson

    Published Date : February 1986
    Thomas Simpson was allegedly a Pennslvania “Dutchman.”  With his wife Amanda and family he moved about the year 1800 into the state of Tennessee and settled near what is now the city of Memphis, where they lived while the children, six in number (five boys and one girl), were growing up.  The children were William, Thomas, Margaret, Elias, John and James.  John and James were bound out to a tanner to learn the trade, but they ran away.

    Later the family moved to Kentucky, where John married in April 1827 Lucy H. Mason. She was a daughter of James Mason, an Englishman of genteel birth.  John and Lucy left Kentucky in the spring of 1831 and settled at Belleville, Illinois, where Margaret was born.  James Simpson had gone in advance and settled at Hennepin, Illinois, where he was building a house of logs, the material used in those days.  That same fall, James went to Belleville and helped John move his family to Hennepin.  They traveled by steamer to Peoria, then on a keelboat to Hennepin.

    The house was not completed, so .John and Lucy kept house in a tent for three weeks.  It was while living there that Lucy had her first experience with the Indians.  One day while the men were away working on the house, an Indian, in all the glory of paint and feathers with weapons in his belt and a dog at his heels, suddenly confronted her, asking for something to eat.  Lucy could not understand but pointed to everything, and when the Indian found what he wanted, he left contented.  She was nearly paralyzed with fright.

    In 1835, John built the Hennepin house, the first hotel in Hennepin, and lived there ten years.  Lucy, their second child, was born at the hotel in 1838.  Two years later, William Henry Harrison Simpson was born, November 9, 1840.  John rented the hotel and in 1845 moved to a cottage across the street where A. Judson was born the following December.

    Early in the spring of 1849, when the gold fever broke out in California, John Simpson left with a party of prospectors to go by way of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, then across the mountains on foot. While ascending the Missouri, cholera broke out on board, and John was among those who died April 18, 1849.

    After his death, Lucy moved to Sheffield where she married Louis Durley, December 18, 1854.  They moved to Bureau, Tiskilwa, and later to Hennepin agam.  He died at Sheffield June 19, 1881.  After his death, Lucy lived with her children.  She was a kind, loving old lady of eighty-five years when she gave this information to her grandson F. Elmo Simpson.

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