Rewriting the Biography: When Did James Sims Die?

Many of my West Virginia cousins and genealogy acquaintances know my 5th great-grandfather James SIMS (1754-1845) of Nicholas County is one of my favorite ancestors to research. I worked with a group of descendants sixteen years ago and wrote a lengthy biography which is attached to hundreds of trees on Ancestry. It is now time to review the information I used in writing the biography and attempt to find more of the missing pieces.

One question which has not been settled is the year of death of James SIMS. The exact location of his grave in the Simms Memorial Church Cemetery in Swiss is in doubt as the original stone marker was displaced and lost many years ago. Two memorial plaques are in the cemetery.

James Sims, Sgt VA Militia, Revolutionary War, 1754-1838
Revolutionary Soldier, James Sims, 1754-1845

The marker with the year 1838 was secured from the Veterans Administration in 1979 by George R. Penick, Jr. Mr. Penick who compiled information on the descendants of James Sims spoke with some older family members who assumed James SIMS died in 1838. Mr. Penick did his research over 40 years ago and did not have the resources we have today. He likely did not consult the 1840 census as James SIMS age 80 thru 89 was enumerated with his wife, his youngest son George Washington Sims, and a younger male – perhaps a grandson who was helping on the farm.

I have not been able to find out who placed the marker with the 1845 year of death which is more likely as James was living in 1840.

In 1848 a bill of complaint was filed by attorney John Reynolds in the Circuit Supreme Court of Law and Chancery for Nicholas County with George H. Lee, Judge, seeking to have the court provide for the sale of the 125-acre farm near Beech Glen left by James SIMS when he died. The transcript names heirs who would have been living at the time and has also been referred to as a partition suit. The date of death of the deceased was given in the bill as 1836 which cannot be correct due to his being alive at the time of the 1840 census.

Although FamilySearch now has many records online for Nicholas County, I have yet to locate the original partition suit. The transcript was found by Willard E. Simms of Cozaddale, Ohio, in the DAR file of Virginia Bondurant Johnson and shared in a letter to John T. Simms, of Charleston, West Virginia, in 1947. Without a copy of the original record, I cannot be sure that the information in the transcript is correct.

When did James SIMS die?

FamilySearch now has many “new” browse-only record collections available for Nicholas County, West Virginia.

In the Order books, 1844-1928 I found four documents which mention James SIMS in the volumes for the years 1844-1871.

At a Court continued and held for the County of Nicholas on Wednesday the 13th day of November 1844 present William D. Cottle, Bernard Hendrick, John Mc Hamilton.

A power of attorney from James Sims to John McClung was presented in court and ordered to be recorded.1

This now places the death of James SIMS at after this date, 13 November 1844. Eight months later another record was recorded in the Order Book.

August Term 1845

At a Court held for the County of Nicholas at the Court house by the Justices thereof on Tuesday the 12th day of August 1845. present Bernard Hendrick, William Sims, James G. Neil, David Hanna, Jeremiah Odell & William D. Cottle Gent. Justices.2

James Sims Senr. is released from the payment of County & parish Levies in future.3

As we see here on 12 August 1845 James SIMS was still living. Was he exempted from paying the levies due to his age or infirmity? James was born in 1754 per his own declaration made in 1834 and would turn 91 years old on 8 October 1845.

The last two records found add a new date to the equation.

At a Court held for the County of Nicholas at the Court house by the Justices thereof on Tuesday the 10th day of March 1846 present John M. Hamilton, William D. Cottle, William Sims & James G. Neil Gent Justices & John McClung Gent Justice.4

On the motion of William Sims who made oath & together with Joshua Stephenson and Dryden Sims his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of Two hundred Dollars conditioned as the Law directs certificate is granted the said William Sims to obtain Letters of administration on the Estate of James Sims decd in due form.

On the motion of William Sims administrator of the Estate of James Sims Decd. George Hardway William Summers & John Morris are appointed appraisers of the personal Estate of the said decd. after being first duly sworn for that purpose and that they return the appraisment under their hands to the Court.5

Sometime between 12 August 1845 and 10 March 1846, James SIMS passed away. He did not leave a will and letters of administration and the appraisement of his estate were ordered.

His son William SIMS was one of the justices of the court. How long after his death would he have waited to start proceedings to have his father’s estate administered and appraised? Previously the court was held on 10 February 1846, 13 January 1846, and 12 November 1845? Could it be he died in 1846 and the year 1836 seen in the partition case was an error of ten years?

For now, I will list the death of James SIMS as between 12 August 1845 and 10 March 1846. Previously I had between 1840-1848 as these were the last census year he was found and the year the partition suit was filed. I am quite happy with the range I have been able to narrow down to.

The next question I have may not be as easily answered. If the estate of James SIMS was appraised6 then the appraisement would be found in the West Virginia Will Books collection at FamilySearch. Although I have not checked page by page, I found that at one point in the Nicholas County will book for the period there are records missing between July term in 1844 and 1865 with one will from the October term in 1857 serving as a placeholder between the 1844 and 1865 records. Are the records out of order? Where could the missing years be?

I asked this question in the Nicholas County WV Genealogy group on Facebook. One researcher has been to the Nicholas County courthouse several times to do research. She was told at least two wills books may be missing and was lead to believe they are unsure of what became of the books.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Nicholas County (West Virginia), County Court, Order books, 1844-1928 (images), <i>FamilySearch</i>, (11 microfilm reels of original records at the Nicholas County courthouse, Sommersville, West Virginia), DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 3, image 37 of 840. 13 Nov 1844 Power of attorney from James Sims to John McClung,( : accessed 6 February 2018). 
  2.  Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 40, image 54 of 840. 12 August 1845 James Sims exempt from levies (page with date court was in session), ( : 7 February 2018). 
  3. Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 41, image 55 of 840. 1845 James Sims exempt from levies (left page, last entry), ( : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  4. Ibid., Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 65, DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, image 67 of 840. 10 March 1846 date court was in session, ( : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  5. Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 69, image 69 of 840. Letters of administration and appraisement order for estate of James Sims decd, ( : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  6. William Sims adm. of the Estate of James Sims decd. presented in Court an appraisment & Sale Bill of the Estate of the said Decd. which being seen and inspected by the Court is ordered to be Recorded.
    Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 92, image 81 of 840. ( : accessed 7 February 2018) 

Fourth Blogiversary!

If it were not for Amy Johnson Crow and her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge I may not have started blogging in 2014. During my first year, I wrote about my American ancestors on the paternal side of my family tree. In 2015 I wrote about my children’s European ancestors, from their grandparents to their 4th great-grandparents and continued with their 5th great-grandparents in 2017. In my last post, I finished the endeavor just in time to celebrate my 4th Blogiversary.

Four years! Sometimes it seems like yesterday and then it feels like I’ve been blogging forever. 2017 A Year in Review and What’s Coming in 2018 took care of the statistics for the past year but I left my readers hanging with the What’s Coming in 2018 question.

Although the majority of my articles have been about the ancestors, visitors to my blog have been interested in other content.

All-Time Top Posts and Pages

6 AncestryDNA Notes for Easier Comparison
James SIMS (1754-1845) Pioneer of Nicholas County, West Virginia
Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can – page
52 Ancestors: #47 Johnny CASH’s 1C5R – Kesiah LIVELY
How I Use and Manage AncestryDNA Notes
Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 1
Step by Step Guide to Accessing Browse-only Records on FamilySearch
About Cathy Meder-Dempsey – page
Using the Back Door at FamilySearch for Missing Records
52 Ancestors: #36 William JOHNSON Jr. 1793-1845

Top posts show people are being drawn to my blog for the how-to posts: DNA and FamilySearch. My About page, which I hope everyone visits, was updated in November 2017. James SIMS is on the list twice and – his son-in-law William JOHNSON Jr. just made it into the top 10.

What projects do I have for 2018?

Continuing Themes and Tying up Loose Ends

The Slave Name Roll Project posts will continue in 2018.

The Old Photographs Saved from Trash Can series came to an end after the last nine posts in January through March 2017. A final post, a synopsis of the family connections made during the process of writing about each of the over 150 photos was pushed off to the back burner but not forgotten. I want to get this done during the year. I have this mind mapping idea to show the connections using text and images but still working on the how to do it.

Spring Cleaning

A New Look for Opening Doors in Brick Walls in December 2016 brought a fresher look to my blog. Unfortunately, with all the research for the posts in 2017, I did not find the time to go through and fix formatting which didn’t conform to the new theme. I want to go through the old posts, fix images (too large, not centered), add footnotes to early work, add Genealogy Sketch boxes to the ancestors’ stories, and fix links in earlier posts. I am always linking back to older posts but sometimes forget old posts can also be linked forward to new content.

I’m hoping to come up with a few ideas for future posts when I check and fix the older posts.

In my last post 52 Ancestors: #47 Michel Trausch and Catharina Hames of Mamer I started using Markdown to format footnotes. This is going to be a real timesaver in future posts. I plan to go back and re-do the ones in previous posts.

DNA Discoveries

I’ve managed my brother’s DNA on Ancestry for a little over a year and a half. I’m not in the league with the genetic genealogists but I think I’m grasping it better by reading as much as possible. For the past six months a few hours a week, I’ve been setting up profiles and importing chromosome data to Genome Mate Pro. Going slow and getting it done right the first time.

So far it looks like the family tree data is matching up with the DNA results. I’m still waiting to make an earth-shattering discovery in my tree – and not in someone else’s. Why is it so easy to see the connection when it’s not your own tree? I’m not committing but I hope there will be a few DNA discoveries I can write about during the year.

Evergreen Content to be Updated

For nearly 18 years the SIMS family has fascinated me. I worked with a group of SIMS descendants in 2001-2002 per email. Everyone shared their information, photos, and documents. The result was the biography of James SIMS, Pioneer of Nicholas County, (West) Virginia, written in early 2002 with a revision in 2013. The original version has been attached to hundreds of trees on

James SIMS was the only child of Jeremiah SIMS of Culpeper County, Virginia. Many family historians have tried to prove the parents of Jeremiah were Thomas SIMS and Rebecca PETTY. But not Rose Mary Sims Rudy, one of the original members of the SIMS research group, who sent me 25 pounds of books and papers several years ago. It’s time to go through the research material to see what may have been overlooked. It’s also time to lay out and test a hypothesis Rose Mary shared with me concerning the ancestry of Jeremiah SIMS.

This should get me through the year.

Thank you to all my followers for the visits, views, likes, and encouraging comments that motivate me to continue.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

52 Ancestors: #52 Resolution: A Visit to the James SIMS Property

Week 52 (December 24-31) – Resolution. A resolution can be something that you resolve to do. It can also be the end or conclusion of something. What ancestor do you resolve to find more about in 2016? What ancestor have you resolved conflicting evidence about?

We’ve come to the end of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks : 2015 Edition. 2015 was the year of my children’s ancestors in Luxembourg. It’s been a wonderful year of discovery, correcting errors, adding new information and SOURCES, finding even more distant ancestors, and, best of all, stories were written for nearly 100 ancestors. Two weeks were dedicated to my cousin Joe Rooney’s ancestors as I could not pass up the chance to feature them and the wonderful collection of old photographs he shared with me. It may be the end of the challenge but I resolve to continue researching and writing about my genealogical discoveries in the year to come.

There are no favorites but one of my American ancestors, James SIMS 1754-1845 of Nicholas County, (West) Virginia, has placed himself in the limelight several times this year. Early in 2002 I wrote his biography with the help of several cousins. I posted an updated version of the biography on my blog, backdated 25 March 2013 as I began my blog on 23 January 2014.

In February 2015 I wrote Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS (in three parts). It gave Schalene Jennings Dagutis of Tangled Roots and Trees the wonderful idea of creating the Slave Name Roll Project. It was also published in The Trading Path, the journal of the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society in April 2015.

In May 2015 Mark Smith approached me and we agreed on my being a guest blogger on his blog Hampshire County Long Rifles. I wrote a post on James SIMS and his sons discussing their gun-making. This allowed me to focus on an aspect of this ancestor’s life I did not know very much about.

These posts have become chapters in James SIMS’ life and times. This week I’m happy to share with you another chapter written by my 5th cousin Jason N. Lombardi.

A Visit to the James SIMS Property

In August, I had the pleasure of making an impromptu four-hour trip to visit a home built by James SIMS near Swiss in Nicholas County, West Virginia. It has been on my to-do list since I first saw a post published on the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy Facebook group detailing its existence.

Even though I was battling a summertime cold bug that had bitten me, complete with runny nose and cough, the genealogy bug had bitten me as well….and it prevailed! It’s amazing what a genealogist will overcome in effort to search out history when, under similar circumstances, might afford a day off of work or school.

What an experience! Seeing firsthand the property that once belonged to my 4th great-grandfather was without words. Knowing that he was here….his family was here….my people were here. Little did James know that 200 years later, seven generations down the line, someone would be standing in awe at a place he owned.

A perfect last-minute trip. I stood at the front corner of the home and placed my hand on the paint-deprived door frame of the ancient building. The awesome power of family seemed to rush through my veins. At that moment I was connected to James and his family. It was a phenomenal experience as a genealogist for 25 years as many of the homes occupied by my family in the past have been destroyed to time.

James SIMS….you have family that still care and are breathing new life into your legacy.

© Jason N. Lombardi

Thank you, Jason.

52ancestors-2015This is my LAST weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

James SIMS (1754-1845), Gunsmith of Nicholas County

Happy 4th of July!

Although my 5th great-grandfather James SIMS’ service during the Revolutionary War was not accepted as proof for a pension, the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) accepted his “providing supplies” and approved him as a Revolutionary War patriot.

Early in 2002 I wrote the biography of James SIMS (1754-1845) with the help of several cousins. On 25 March 2013 I posted an updated version of the biography on my blog. In May Mark Smith of Hampshire County Long Rifles requested permission to run the biography on his blog.

I was thrilled at the request to share my work. But I had a different idea. I suggested my writing, as a guest blogger, a shorter piece on James Sims and his sons discussing gun-making with a link back to my blog with the full biography.

Sims Rifle from Rose Mary Sims RudyThis was a great opportunity to focus on an aspect of my ancestor’s life that I did not know very much about. Please take a moment to read James Sims (1754-1845), Gunsmith of Nicholas County and visit Mark’s blog.

Many thanks to Mark Smith for letting me be a guest blogger and to Jeff Prechtel, a wonderful artist, for the drawings used to illustrate my post.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey


Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Cate, Jenney, Tom, Fanney, and Anthony

Following my three part series on the slaves of my 5th grand-father James Sims I’ve made a commitment to write a post on a monthly basis until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors. Today I’m RELEASING Cate, Jenney, Tom, Fanney, and Anthony.

True's statementCate‘s name helped to link several documents and played an important role in proving the parentage of seven Sims brothers.

In 1981 Paul H. Arnot compiled 76 pages on the Sims of Hanover and Louisa Counties in Virginia. The initial objectives of Mr. Arnot’s research project was to develop the parents of Edward Sims, who died about 1790 in Warren County, North Carolina, and the parents of his wife Elizabeth. During his research he discovered errors in a 1940 publication by Henry Upson Sims, The Genealogy of the Sims Family of Virginia, the Carolinas and the Gulf States.

The errors Mr. Arnot found in H. U. Sims’ book were developed with logically presented circumstantial evidence however the conclusions made were wrong as he did not have a key legal document which established John, Matthew, Edward and George Sims of Hanover County Virginia,  as sons of William Symes of James City County, Virginia, as well as William, Robert and James Sims.

Cate and the Key Legal Document

Mr. Arnot found an unindexed document as the last item in Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Book A & B, 1742-1759. Later he also found an abstract of the document in the book Louisa County, Virginia Deed Books A & B, 1742-1759 by Rosalie Edith Davis, 1976.

Arnot “abridged” the important court document as follows:

Sims versus Sims, Detinue

Please before the Court of Louisa County on the 24 December, 1745 John Sims, Matthew Sims, Edward Sims and John Sims (the son of George Sims) with their lawyer William Waller brought into the court their bill against James Sims being in the custody of the sheriff a plea of Detinue to wit: John Sims, Matthew Sims, Edward Sims and John Sims (son of George Sims) complains of James Sims a plea that he renders them of four negroes named (viz.) Jenney, Tom, Fanney, and Anthony of the value of two hundred pounds current money and that on the fifth day of December, 1745 that the plaintiffs were possessd of the said negroes out of their hands.

On the 10 Jan., 1746 the said plaintiffs by their attorney and the said James Sims by his attorney Zackery Lewis, and defends the force and injury and that he doth not detain ye slaves and puts himself upon the Country; and the plaintiff did likewise. A jury was authorized, but the formation was delayed until the 20 August, 1746, when the said plaintiffs and their attorney and the defendant and his attorney appeared before the court and a jury was formed to wit: John Moss, Robert Anderson, John Hall, Thomas Kembrow, Thomas Paulet, Alexander Freeman, James Watson, Richard Brooks, Richard Palmer, Richard Yancey, Benjamin Arnold and (Lewis       ), who being duly elected tried sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined, upon their oaths do say; that William Sims was seized and possessed of an estate consisting in lands and tenements, slaves, and personal estate and being seized and possessed made his last will and testament bearing the date of eighteenth day of December in the year of our Lord MDCCX (1710) and thereby among other things did bequeath to his four eldest sons (viz.) John, Matthew, Edward and George the offspring of his negro girl Cate and their heirs and by a latter clause did give and bequeath the rest of his personal property to his three youngest sons (viz.) William, Robert and James to be equally divided among them three when they come of age and appointed his son William Sims sole executor of the said will in these words In the Name of God Amen, I Wm. Sims of James City County being very sick and weak but of perfect sense and memory . . . (usual will introduction omitted) . . .  I give and bequeath as followeth (viz.) I give and bequeath to my son William and his heirs of his body male or female lawfully begotten my mannor (manor) plantation that I now live upon (viz.) from the White meadows to Domar’s line to Dismun along a deep bottom called Cooks Springs branch down to Wolf’s swamp: up thence to the South line so away Easterly it comes to road to Phillips path. 2ndly I give and bequeath to my son Robert and his heirs of his body male or female lawfully begotten all the land that is within the bounds of the following (viz.) beginning at the White meadows and so running . . . (balance illegible).

William Symes’ will was made on 18 December 1710. John, Matthew, Edward and John (son of George Sims, dec’d) did not institute the law suit against James Sims for the recovery of the four specific slaves until 35 years later. The death of George Sims before 12 June 1740 may have been a factor. Arnot read the court minutes for the year 1746 but the results of the trial were not recorded.

The rest of the will of William Symes was illegible. As only the offspring of Cate were bequeathed to John, Matthew, Edward and George it is possible that Cate was given to William, Robert or James. James mentioned in the plea of detinue is most likely the one who became her owner and had to assume responsibility for the raising of her offspring to a certain age although they were supposedly owned by the four older brothers.

Cate and the 1774 Will of James Sims of York County, Virginia

The disposition of the slave girl Cate and her offspring were covered by the 1774 will of James Sims presented in detail as follows:

York Co., Va., Will Book No. 22, page 243, James Sims’s will. County of York, Virginia and Parish of Bruton – (the opening phrase omitted) – I give and dispose in the following manner: item, I give and bequeath to Francis Booth of the County of James City and Elizabther Pierce daughter of John Pierce  twenty pound each, item, I give to Mickings Green, William Sims son of Bruster Sims and Mary Green the sum of twenty five pounds each. My further desire that my negro woman Cate and all her children shall be left to her free choice to be sold on my plantation to the person she shall choose to be her master or go up country and be sold there and I do earnestly request my executor which I have after named that he will truely and faithfully fulfill this part of my will and I desire further that my lands and the rest of my slaves with all the rest of my estate may be sold to the best advantage and the money arising from the sale after the above mentioned legacies are paid I give and bequeath to my beloved John Hawkins of Hanover County. Lastly, I do consitute my beloved friend John Hawkins my whole and sole executor . . . signed 16 Sept., 1774 by James Sims. Signed and sealed in the presence of William Eaton, Thomas Bates and Henry Brown. Probated 21 Nov., 1774, York County, Va.

James Sims of York County, Virginia, had possession of a slave named Cate and her children. His special compassion for the future of Cate and her children as clearly expressed in his will as well as his plea that his desires for their future be faithfully fulfilled. Arnot believed that this was unusual treatment for Cate who must have been an old woman by 1774.

Paul H. Arnot, compiler, Notes on the Sims of Hanover-Louisa Counties Virginia, 1981. Mr. Arnot donated a copy of the compilation to the North Carolina State Library in Raleigh to assist Sims researchers.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: James SIMS
Parents: William SYMES
Spouse: Elizabeth [maiden name unknown] PARRISH
Children: Edward (stepson), Jeremiah, John, Robert, Bartlett, George
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 7th great-grandfather

  1. James SIMS
  2. Jeremiah SIMS
  3. James SIMS
  4. Nancy Ann SIMS
  5. Huldah JOHSON
  6. Irvin Lewis INGRAM
  7. Laura Belle INGRAM
  8. Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY
  9. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
  10. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Note: A 5th great-grandson of Jeremiah SIMS had his Y-DNA tested in 2013 (Kit#314849). Results indicate a close match (possibly brothers) to John SIMS of Culpeper, a son of James SIMS of Hanover-Louisa and York.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

I Got An Article Published In a Genealogical Society Journal!!

This morning I received an email from Ginger R. Smith, editor of The Trading Path, the journal of the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society, with the link to their latest issue. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On February 25, 2015, I wrote the first of three blogposts about the slaves of my ancestor James Sims. Ginger, who blogs at Genealogy by Ginger, was the first to comment:

Hi Cathy, This was a great post about how you can learn the names of slaves held by our ancestors, which can be valuable information for the descendants of those slaves. I was wondering if you would be interested in submitting this post (and part 2?) as an article in our local genealogical society journal called The Trading Path? I am doing a special section on African American Research and I would like to include your post because it illustrates the various resources used in learning the names of slaves….If you are interested, please email me…. I would love to hear from you. Ginger R. Smith

And oh what a comment! It came as quite a surprise. She’d only read the first part and did not even know how many parts I had planned.

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 1

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 2

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 3

I waited until after the last post to email Ginger. I thought it might be too much for a newsletter and left the decision to her. She wrote back:

Your blog posts are exactly what we are looking for to publish in the Durham-Orange Genealogical journal, The Trading Path. You use a great combination of your own personal family history and primary documentation to tell a story about both your own family members and about the lives of the slaves who lived with your family.

By the time that she got back to me Schalene Jennings Dugatis had already started the Slave Name Roll Project. The resonance of my blogposts and Schalene’s project was unbelievable. True A. Lewis of NoTe’s To MySelf and several other bloggers who descend from slaves were very encouraging about everyone who was getting involved. What could I do but allow my article to be published in The Trading Path?

Thank you so much Ginger R. Smith!

This morning I saw “The Slaves of James Sims” in print. What a fantastic feeling! Imagine my amazement as I skimmed through The Trading Path and saw Schalene and Slave Name Roll Project mentioned. And, after a closer look, I was thrilled to see my blog sister True A. Lewis also had an article published in the same issue about her paternal great-grandmother, a daughter of a slave. Please take a moment to visit her blog and read about her Grandma Eddie.

This is a first for me and I had to write about it! I got an article published in a genealogical society journal!!

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 3

Celebrating Black History Month – I did not want February to end without giving recognition to African-Americans in the United States. I hope that by sharing this information I may help someone open the door to their African-American brick wall.

If you missed the first installments, here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Isaac Sims, a Free Man

As seen in the petition drawn up and signed by the residents of Nicholas County, Isaac Sims was considered trustworthy and industrious. He was allowed to reside in Nicholas County where he remained until his death.

Several newspaper articles have been written about Isaac Sims. Some of the information in these articles may have been word of mouth or the storyteller laid it on thick.

Isaac Place On Gauley Settled By Old Slave, a newspaper clipping that was shared with me, does not have a date or name of the newspaper. I believed that it was written before 1951 as it was clipped by Edward Sims (1878-1953), a great-great-grandson of James Sims.  Similar information was found in several articles written by Clarence Shirley Donnelly (1895-1982) in his daily column “Yesterday and Today” for the Beckley Post-Herald.

As the wording of the first article was so similar to Mr. Donnelly’s later writings I searched again for the original source of the information. And I found the same article with a slightly different title, History of “Isaac Place” – A Bit of Pioneer History Relating to Slavery. It was contributed (unknown date) to the Nicholas Republican by A. J. Legg and reprinted in the Raleigh Herald on 4 February 1916. The Nicholas Republican was a weekly paper which started up in 1903. I could not find it on the Newspaper Archives or Chronicling America.

Yesterday Amy from Brotmanblog: A Family Journey wrote this comment:

I do wonder how Isaac managed to obtain the money necessary for emancipation. Did James pay him wages?

I haven’t found documentation to prove this but the pioneer history by A. J. Legg gives a good account of how Isaac (may have) earned the money to buy his freedom.

1916 History of Isaac Place A Bit of Pioneer History Relating to Slavery
The Raleigh Herald (Beckley, West Virginia), Friday February 4, 1916, page 2, column 1 (bottom) and 2 (top). [ : accessed 26 Feb 2015]
I did find one record that confirms that Isaac, when he was still a slave, was allowed to have business dealings. When the storekeeper Mr. Landcraft died his store inventory and appraisal were received and recorded by the Fayette County court at the September 1834 term. Isaac’s account is included on this list, two years before he was emancipated.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (,179689902 : accessed 26 February 2015), Fayette > Will book, v. 001 1832-1866 > image 26 of 292; county courthouses, West Virginia.]

On 20 October 1837 Isaac Sims was granted 17 1/2 acres of land in Nicholas County on both sides of the Gauley River.

By 1850 Isaac was seen on the census in the household of James Sims’ son-in-law Mathew Hughes, widower of Margaret Sims. Next to Isaac’s name in parenthesis is the word Free. His real estate, the 17 1/2 acres he was granted in 1837, are valued at $87.

1850 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Fayette > 43rd District > Sheet No. 371A > HH #407-407 []
In 1855 Isaac bought several items at the estate sale of Joseph McNutt. Sadly, also on McNutt’s inventory were Isaac’s children George Addison and Harriett Jane. The estate items sold are found following the inventory however the fate of Isaac’s children is not mentioned. Tradition is (also seen in article above) that they were bought by Robert L. Neil, husband of Jenetta McNutt, a daughter of Joseph McNutt.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (,179689902 : accessed 26 February 2015), Fayette > Will book, v. 001 1832-1866 > image 273 of 292; county courthouses, West Virginia.]

In 1860 and in 1870 Isaac Sims was listed on the census in his own household. He did not have anyone living with him. In 1870 he was listed as a mulatto instead of a black person as seen in 1850 and 1860. His real estate was valued at $1000 in 1860 and $500 in 1870; his personal estate was valued at $200 in 1860 and $400 in 1870.

Isaac Sims died before 9 Jun 1875 leaving a last will and testament in which he lists more land that he acquired after the 17 1/2 acres in 1837. He left the land to Robert L. Neil in exchange for his supporting Isaac’s granddaughter Rebecca Jane (Sims) Johnson. He also named Mr. Neil his executor. I have not transcribed or extracted all facts from the will.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (,179686002 : accessed 26 February 2015), Nicholas > Will book, v. 001 1820-1899 > image 90 of 158; county courthouses, West Virginia. and
“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (,179686002 : accessed 26 February 2015), Nicholas > Will book, v. 001 1820-1899 > image 91 of 158; county courthouses, West Virginia.]

Rebecca Jane Sims, daughter of one of Isaac’s two children, was raised in the Robert L. Neil family. She was listed as a mulatto on the 1870 census in his household. She married David Johnson on 1 May 1874. It is possible that the 5 year old mulatto child named Myrta E. Johnson, living in the Robert L. Neil household in 1880, was the daughter of Rebecca Jane who died in childbirth on 1 November 1878 as reported by her neighbor Robert L. Neil.

I have not been able to locate Rebecca’s husband in 1880 or later. No trace of Myrta E. Johnson, who I believe was Isaac’s great-granddaughter, has been found.

Hopefully, if Tom, Juda, George, Jinncy, Jude, Fanny, July Hulen, Robert and Isaac Sims’ lines did not die out, a descendant will find this and be able to fill in the missing pieces in their family tree.

My blog sister True A. Lewis of NoTe’s To MySeLf… commented on my post:

“It’s Honorable to do… You’re RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day. Every time this Happens they are Rejoicing. They have been in a book or what have you for so long.”

True’s statement about this being honorable may change people’s minds about sharing what they might be ashamed of.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 2

Celebrating Black History Month – I did not want February to end without giving recognition to African-Americans in the United States. I hope that by sharing this information I may help someone open the door to their African-American brick wall.

If you missed the first installment, go here.

Isaac Sims, a Slave

James Sims to Isaac Sims Deed

By March 1836 James Sims had disposed of all his real and personal estate including his slave property except for his Negro man Isaac who he intended to emancipate and set free. The steps he took were not as easy as one would think.

James had a deed drawn up detailing the conditions. Isaac had to pay James $150 in three instalments of $50 for his freedom. This sounds like a lot however he continues to note that if he (James) should die before all three instalments were paid Isaac would not have to pay the rest. Further if Isaac should die before him then James would use the monies received for Isaac’s children who were mentioned in this document as was their deceased mother Emily.

MRIN02312 1836-03-09 James Sims to Isaac Sims 1MRIN02312 1836-03-09 James Sims to Isaac Sims 2MRIN02312 1836-03-09 James Sims to Isaac Sims 3 cropped“1836 James Sims to Isaac Sims
(note in margin “Delivered to Isaac Sims Sept. 9th 1842”)

Know all men by these presents that I James Simms Sr. of the County
of Nicholas and State of Virginia having heretofore made my last
Will and Testament in which I have disposed of all my Estate real
and personal including my slave property except one slave ….
my Negro man Isaac which said Negro slave Isaac I heretofore
intended to emancipate and set free according to the laws of this
Commonwealth upon certain Conditions thereafter to be mentioned
and put to writing. Now this Instrument of writing Witnesseth
that in Consideration of the premises and for others ……
good causes moving me thereto. I do hereby and by virtue and force of these
presents emancipate and set free forever my aforesaid Negro slave Isaac upon
the following condition to wit that is to say that the said Isaac causes to be
paid to me one hundred and fifty dollars good and lawful money of Virginia
fifty dollars of which is to be paid in hand which said fifty dollars is this
day paid to me and the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged fifty dollars
of which the said Isaac shall cause to be paid on or before the 1st day of
April 1836 and fifty dollars the last payment thereof the said Isaac
shall cause to be paid to me on or before the first day of May 1836 and
it is furthermore agreed to on my part and which I hereby in addition
to the foregoing make known that in the event of my death before the
payment of the fifty dollars which is next due after the date of this writing
that then and in that case the said fifty dollars nor the aforesaid fifty
dollars the last instalment or payment above mentioned nor either of
said payments or instalments shall be required or exacted by my heirs,
Executors, administrators or assigns nor shall they or either of them
cause the said Isaac to pay either of said payments or instalments of fifty
dollars nor shall his failure to pay the same in any manner affect or
do away with the force of these presents in emancipating and setting free
the said Isaac after my death according to the laws of this Commonwealth
now in force. And it is furthermore agreed to on my part that in the
event of my death after the payment to me of the aforesaid fifty dollars
which next becomes due after the date of this writing as above mentioned
that then and in that case the last payment or instalment of fifty dollars
the said Isaac shall be exempt from the payment of in the same manner
and to the same effect as I have exempted him from the payment of the
fifty dollars which first becomes due as is mentioned and set forth in the
preceding paragraph. And it is furthermore agreed upon my part
that in the event of the death of the said Isaac before my death that then
and in that case I do hereby promise and agree that any money or monies
or payments which the said Isaac may cause to be made paid to me
or which may have been in any way paid to me on account of the promises
shall be appropriated by me or my heirs Executors ? in cause of my
death, in the following manner: That is to say that whereas the said Isaac
has two children named George Addison and Harriett Jane by his wife
Emily now dead and owned in her life time by Joseph McNutt
and feeling a natural love and affection for his aforesaid children and wishing
to provide for the comfort and happiness of the same I do hereby
promise and agree as before mentioned to appropriate the money
paid to me after his death that happening before mine as above
stated to such use or uses for the benefit of the above named children
of the said Isaac as will best promote their spiritual and temporal
welfare agreeable to their condition and character in this state and
according to the Laws and usages of this Commonwealth. To the
true performance of the above I do hereby bind myself my
heirs Executors Administrators
as witness my hand and seal this 19th day of March 1836
James Sims
Joseph McNutt
John Huddleston
Bernard Hendrick

I have this day received this full consideration
in good and lawful money cald for in this foregoing Instrument of
writing as witness my hand & Seal
James Sims
Joseph McNutt
John Huddleston
Bernard Hendrick”

Isaac Sims Manumission Letter

Below the “Information” sign at the Nicholas County Courthouse in Summersville, West Virginia, there is a framed letter written by James Sims freeing his slave named Isaac.

Isaac Simms emancipation
Photo © Rock Foster. Used with permission.

Sims Manumission Letter-1836

Know all men by these presents that I James Sims
of the County of Nicholas in consideration of a large
sum of money paid to me by my slave Isaac
as for the additional considerations of his fidelity
to me I have on this day manumitted and let
him the said Isaac free. To remain and continue
from hence forward to all intents and purposes
entirely free and discharged from servitude to
me my heirs and assigns forever. And for the purpose
of removing any difficulty as to the identity of the said
Isaac and to enable him to enjoy his Freedom in
the most absolute and perfect manner. I also hereby
certify and state that the said Isaac was born my
slave, that he has resided with me up to this date
that he is very black, his stature about five feet
five inches, of slender make and about forty three
years old, that he has had his right leg broken
just above his ankle. In testimony whereof I
have hereto set my hand and seal this 26th day of
September 1836.
                                                       James Sims
in the presence of
Andrew M. Dickinson
Joseph McNutt
John Huddleston
Edward Rion
Bernerd Hendrick
John Hill”

Petition to Grant Residence to Isaac Sims

Nicholas County residents signed a petition to the Legislature of Virginia to grant permanent residence to Isaac Sims. The original can be found in the archives division of the Virginia State Library. It reads as follows:


To the Legislature of Virginia

Your Petitioners humbly represent that JAMES SIMS
of the County of Nicholas has recently emancipated ISAAC
a blackman who is desirous of remaining in the Commonwealth,
your Petitioners represent that there are but very few
slaves in the County of Nicholas not exceeding sixty –
nor is there more than one other coloured person in the
County who is free — your Petitioners further state the
said black man ISAAC is an exceedingly honest industrious
and useful man addicted to no vicious habits whatsoever,
but peaceful & inoffensive & meek in all his intercourse
& business with the country — your Petitioners would be
truly gratified should this Legislature in its wisdom think
proper to grant his application — your Petitioners are
well convinced that no mischief can result to the country
by doing so and as a precedent in this part of the state
nothing of evil is to be apprehended.

Saml Price                              David Mays
John H. Robinson                 William Sims
E. S. Duncan                          Robert Hughes Jr
Johnson Reynolds               Edward Sims Jr
Benj. H. Smith                       Jeremiah Sims
P. B. Wethered                       Martin Sims
John McWhorter                   Co. John Sims
Ro Hamilton                          Anderson Sims
L. D. Wilson                           Charles Sims
Addison McLaughlin         William Morris
John McDermott                   Joshua Morris
Thomas Miller                      John H. Morris
Jacob D. McClain                  Thomas Elliott
Thm. Hill                                Aron Loyd
Mathew Hughes                   G. C. Landcraft
Charley Reynolds                William Sims
Robert Hill                              Edward Rion
Harrison A. Low                  William R. Summers
George Reynolds                  Edward Campbell
Andrew Odle                         George Rader Sr
John Kincaid                          John Foster
James Nichols                       Jas. G. Murray
James Walkub                       James Bryant
William Hamrick                 G. W. Grose
John Dunbar                          David Bare
Robert McCutchen               Lemasters Stephenson
William Miller                      Jacob C. Chapman
Allen Ewing                           John Groves
Jacob Drennen                       John G. Stephenson
Joseph Darlington               Jacob Chapman
J. D. Sutton                              Michael Rader
J. M. Alderson                        John Linch
J. McClung                              Andre Skidmore
James R. Henderson           Isaac Gregory
James a. Walker                    Fielding McClung
R. Duffield                              Abner Stephenson
Seth Thayer                            Wm. Bell
Thomas Legg                         Cortes Stephenson
Joshua Stephenson              John Rader
Wm. D. Cottle                        J. G. Neel
Samuel Nichols                    T. B. Thomas
Joel Hamrick                          Alexander Grove
David Stuart                          James Simany
Jefferson Grose                      Joseph McClung
(?) Dorsey                                Daniel Falkler
J. Warren                                Henry (?)
Richard A. Arters                 William Chapman
William Taylor                     David Moore
Wilson Arters                        David R. Hamilton
Philip Duffy                           Moses Hill
R. Kelly                                   Ira Davis
Elij. Lightner                          Jacob Odell
James Lightner                      Wm. Hughs
James Kelly                            Wm. Bryant
J. M. Hamilton                       George Fitzwatters
John McCue                           Andrew Neil
John McClung                       Robert Neil
S. A. Hamilton                      Samuel Hutchison
Edward McClung                George Hardweg
Nathan Groves                     John Morris
Peter Duffy                             John Duffy
J. McMillian                           B. L. Boggs
Wm. Livesay                          M. A. Triplett
Jacob Hutchison                   William M. Boggs
David Hanna                        John Trout
David Peebles                        James Grose
Adam Given                          Robert Keenan
Elverton T. Walker               Isaac Fitzwater
Thomas M. Fitzwater         Nathaniel Hughes
Thomas B. Morris                Hiram S. Marsh
W. Summers Sr.                    S. Backhouse
Henry Morris                         Jos. Montgomry
John Smith                             L. C. Buster
Thomas T. Marton               Thos. Hawkins
Peter Coleman                       Thos. Hines
John Backhouse                    Cyrus Hedge
William Bird                          John Slack
Cornelius Dorsey                 James B. Cole
Pascal Backhouse               Austin McCorgil
Joseph Backhouse                Nathan Huddleston
Jeremy G. Odel                      William Kincaid
Joseph Backhouse                James Settle
William Hillard                    Bolen Ballenger
William Smith                      John Johnson Jr.
Bernard Hendrick                James Likens
Mathew Kaincaid              John P. Huddleston
John Dorsey                           W. Tyree
John Fitzwater                       Hiram Curry
John Dorsey Sr                      P. Keenan
Dryden Sims                          E. Hutson
Hudson N. Dickenson       Henry Montgomery
Miles Hansen                        John Huddleston
Jas. H. Miller                          John Hill
P. W. Buster                            Joseph Huddleston
Pleasant Hawkins               Henry Tritt
Seaton B. Prowsy                  William Huggins
James B. Murray                   Robert Huggins
James J. Sims                         Robert Heuse
(Name Illegible)                    John Heuse
Leonard Cury                        S. A. Masterson
William Johnson                  Joseph W. Nutt
Jno. McNutt                            Jno. Carton
F. T. Hughes                           Adam Johnson
Fenton McMorrow               Wm. Kelly
Job Huddleston                     Taswell W. Hues
Nelson Sims                          Andrew Kenan
Joseph Reams                        (?) Price
Francis Cincaid                    E. R. Hutchison
William Loyd                        Joseph Young
Thos. S. Buster                       Edda Young
Moses Coleman                    William Martin
T. B. Hamilton                       Thos. L. Lewis
John Kincaid                          Wm. Myles
Thos. J. Huddleston            William Kincaid Jr.
John Johnson                         Gataspher Kincaid
Me_?_ J. Conly                      Benjamin Darlington
Levi B. Murrey                       H_?_ Long
Edward Hughs                     Joel Alexander
Joshua Foster
[Source: Webster County Historical Society, Nicholas County, (West) Virginia Records of the Pioneers, 1818-1860. Upper Glade, West Virginia, Webster County Historical Society, Inc., 1985. 929.3 N597w.]

Isaac Sims, a Free Man

continued in Part 3…..

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 1

Celebrating Black History Month – I did not want February to end without giving recognition to African-Americans in the United States. I hope that by sharing this information I may help someone open the door to their African-American brick wall.

My 5th great-grandfather James Sims (1754-1845) of Nicholas County, (West) Virginia was a former slaveholder at the time of his death. Over a dozen years ago I had the privilege to work with several other researchers who shared their information and documentation that I used to write a detailed biography for James SIMS in 2002.

James, born in Culpeper County, reportedly brought eighteen slaves with him to Nicholas County (then Kanawha County) when he moved there from Bath County, Virginia, sometime around 1798-1800. The number may be exaggerated as he had 5 slaves in 1810, 9 slaves in 1820, 5 slaves in 1830, and 1 in 1840.

The known names of nine slaves owned by James SIMS are:

Tom, Juda and George

Jeremiah SIMS, the father of James SIMS, wrote his will on 4 March 1768, it was probated on 18 August 1768 in Culpeper County, Virginia. In his will he left one half of his estate to his wife Agatha and the other half to his son James. There was no mention of slaves in the will however the inventory returned to the court on 19 October 1769 listed:

One Negro man Tom £60. One negro Woman Juda & her child George £70

The slaves were valued at £130. The entire inventory totaled £195 making Tom, Juda, and George the most valuable part of Jeremiah’s estate.


John Nalle, the maternal grandfather of James Sims, wrote his will on 16 September 1780. It was probated in Culpeper County, Virginia, on 19 August 1782, and mentions amongst his legatees his daughter Agatha Hill, wife of Russell Hill and widow of Jeremiah Sims, and mother of James Sims.

“Item. I Lend to my daughter Agatha Hill half the Service of a Negro Woman named Jinncy During my Daughters life the other half of the said Negroes Service to my Grandson James Sims from the time of My Daughters marriage to Russel Hill, and after My Daughters Descease I give the Said Negro Woman Jinncy and her Increase to my Grandson James Sims to him and his Heirs for Ever also Ten Shillings to my Daughter Agatha Hill and her Heirs for Ever.”
[Source: Culpeper County, Virginia Will Book B, pg. 519.]

Jude and Fanny

William Griffee Brown in his History of Nicholas County, West Virginia (Dietz Press, 1954, 425 pages) mentions on pgs. 165-166 while discussing the Bethel Methodist church that he owned an old class-book dated 1821 which includes the names of members of the class in 1821 including black Jude and black Fanny, slaves of the Sims family. James Sims “brought the first negro slaves to Nicholas County” according to Mr. Brown on pg. 30. Note: Jude and Fanny were “slaves belonging to William Simms,” a son of James Sims.

July Hulen and her mother

Lawrence M. Huddleston, author of The Huddlestons My Kin had in his possession the original bill of sale from James Sims to John Huddleston for the slave July Hulen when June Settle Ciocca visited him at home in 1990. At the time she did not realize her relationship to James Sims. On 9 February 2002 in an e-mail in which she shared the photo of this bill of sale, she wrote: “Larry told me that James Sims had previously sold July Helen’s mother to the Huddlestons and that both mother and daughter were so heart-broken, he agreed to sell them the child also. Larry had no children and my understanding is that his immense genealogical collection was donated to the archives in Charleston. I would assume that is where this document can now be found.”

MRIN02312 1833 Sims bill of sale for slave

Robert Sims

Clarence Shirley Donnelly (1895-1982) wrote in his column “Yesterday and Today” in the Beckley-Post Herald:

“Isaac’s brother, Robert Simms, ‘flew the coop,’ as a saying of that day had it. Keeping his eye on the north star as he traveled at night, he reached Canada and freedom.”

Isaac Sims, a Slave

continued in Part 2….

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52 Ancestors: #37 Nancy Ann SIMS abt. 1793-bet. 1860-1870

52ancestors“The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”

This is entry #37 in Amy Johnson Crow’s Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

52 Ancestors: #37 Nancy Ann SIMS abt. 1793-bet. 1860-1870

My fourth great-grandmother Nancy Ann SIMS (1793-1860s) was the youngest child of James SIMS (1754-1840)  and his first wife Phebe (1755-1794). Their marriage record, which would show Phebe’s maiden name, has not been found. Old family lore, which has not been substantiated, tells of James marrying his cousin. This has led many on a wild goose chase as they only considered that she may have been a SIMS. It is believed that they married before 1777 in Culpeper County, Virginia, as this is where James was known to have been living.

On the 18th day of February 1834 James SIMS personally appeared before the Justice of the Peace of Nicholas County (who happened to be his son William) and gave oath and made his declaration to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed 7 June 1832 for service rendered during the Revolutionary War. In the statement he told of his living in Culpeper County in June 1777 when he was drafted.

James Sims Revolutionary War papers ( accessed 7 Oct 2011)

James SIMS and his wife Phebe had seven children before their youngest, Nancy Ann was born about 1793 in Bath County, Virginia.

  • Sib 1: Jeremiah SIMS (1777-1824) born 24 May 1777 in Culpeper County, Virginia
  • Sib 2: William SIMS (1780-1854) born 6 November 1780 in Culpeper County, Virginia
  • Sib 3: Elizabeth SIMS (1782-1845) born 1782 in Culpeper County, Virginia
  • Sib 4: Martin SIMS (1783-1853) born about 1783 in Virginia
  • Sib 5: Edward “Ned” SIMS (1785-1852) born 7 June 1785 in Virginia
  • Sib 6: John SIMS (1787-1869) born 15 May 1787 in Virginia
  • Sib 7: Mary “Polly” SIMS (1788-1824) born between 1788-1792 in Virginia

On 17 December 1779[1] James and Phebe sold 118 acres of land in Bromfield parish, in the Great Fork of the Rappahannock river in Culpeper County, Virginia. The land had been acquired 30 October 1762[2] by Jeremiah SIMS and left to his only child James. It is not known if James and Phebe left Culpeper immediately for the area which would become Bath County, in 1790, where their youngest was born, or if they lived in different locations between 1780 and 1793.

Baby Nancy’s Mother Phebe Dies in a Tragic Accident

Nancy’s mother Phebe died shortly before 22 January 1794 in Clifton Forge, Bath County, Virginia. Nancy, who was seen as 66 years old in the 1860 census, was born in 1794 or earlier. It is more likely that she was born in 1793 and not during the early part of January 1794. Family tradition is that James’ wife was coming home from caring for a sick friend, fell from her horse, and drowned in the Jackson River. I cannot imagine the mother of a newly born baby leaving home to visit a sick friend. The story of the drowning has been verified with the coroner’s inquest report dated 22 January 1794, which includes the following statement: “Phebe was accidently drowned occasioned by the horse whereon she rode rearing and plunging and throwing her into the water.” There is no mention of who was travelling with Phebe when this happened.

MRIN02312 1794-01-22 Phebe Simms Inquisition 3
Bath County, Virginia records, Coroner’s Inquest Report. Photocopy of original courtesy of Rose Mary Sims Rudy, descendant of James SIMS and Elizabeth COTTON through their son James SIMS Jr. (received per email 9 October 2001)
MRIN02312 1794-01-22 Phebe Simms Inquisition 4
Bath County, Virginia records, Coroner’s Inquest Report. Photocopy of original courtesy of Rose Mary Sims Rudy, descendant of James SIMS and Elizabeth COTTON through their son James SIMS Jr. (received per email 9 October 2001)

Transcript of the Coroner’s Inquest

Phebe Simms
Inquisition Taken
the 22nd of January
1794 Before John
Dean Gent. Coroner

Bath County to wit

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Inquisition indented taken [illegible]
[illegible] in the County aforesaid on the twenty second day of January in the
year One thousand seven hundred and ninety four before me John Dean a
Gentleman and of the Coroners of the Commonwealth for the County aforesaid
upon view of the body of Phebe Sims late of said County then and there lying
dead; and upon the Oathes of Robert Armstrong Jr., William Morris, John Scott,
John Bird, Andrew Baurland, Thomas Barber, James Armstrong, Robert
McClintic, William McClintic, John Somwalt, Paul Harpole and
Adam Kimberlan, good and lawful men of the County aforesaid, who being
Jurors and charged to inquire on the part of the Commonwealth, when where how and
after what manner the said Phebe Sims came to her death, do say upon their
Oathes, that the said Phebe was accidently drowned occasioned by the horse
whereon she rode Rearing and plunging and throwing her into the water.
The witness whereof as well the aforesaid Coroner as the Jurors aforesaid
have in this Inquisition put their Seals on the day and year aforesaid
and at the place aforesaid.
John Dean                Robt. Armstrong
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Morris
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Scott
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Bird
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Andr. Baurland
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Barber
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jas. Armstrong
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robert McClintic
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William McClintic
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Johannes Zumqualt
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Paul Harpole
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Adam Kimberlan

Nancy’s Brother Jeremiah is Accused of Causing Phebe’s Death

This was not the last that would be heard of Phebe’s death. Her oldest son Jeremiah SIMS was accused by John SCOTT of causing his mother’s death. His father James defended him and brought suit against Scott demanding damages of 100 pounds.


Sir Please to Issue a Writ vs John Scott for saying my son
was the Dam son of a Bitch that Drowned his Mother
Col. C. Cameron                                              Jas. Sims

MRIN02311 1794-04-16 Jeremiah Simms court case 3MRIN02311 1794-04-16 Jeremiah Simms court case 4






A Stepmother for Nancy Ann

James SIMS married Elizabeth COTTON on 25 October 1796 in Bath County, Virginia. During the first 4 or 5 years of their marriage they did not have any known children. James was making plans to move to Kanawha County where in 1800 he bought land “lying & being in the County of Kanawha Containing one hundred & twenty three acres on Gauley River above the Ferry.” This would later be the location of Swiss, Nicholas County, West Virginia, where all of the children of the second marriage were born.

  • Half-Sib 1: James SIMS (1801-1860) born about 1801 in Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 2: Margaret SIMS (1801-1840) born between 1801-1804 in Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 3: Sarah SIMS (1804-1837) born between 1804-1806 in Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 4: Mildred “Milly” SIMS (1806-1882) born about 1806 in Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 5: Jane L. SIMS (1810-1880) born about 1810 in Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 6: Charles Fulton SIMS (1815-1891) born 13 August 1815 Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 7: Dryden SIMS (1818-1880) born about 1818 Kanawha County
  • Half-Sib 8: George Wasington “Wash” SIMS (1821-1880) born about 1821 in Nicholas County

Nancy’s Siblings Marry Within Eight Years of Each Other

When Nancy’s father James and her stepmother Elizabeth were beginning to have children, her older siblings were marrying:

  • Martin SIMS married Susannah JOHNSON (1784-1840) on 28 March 1800 in Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia[3]
  • Jeremiah SIMS married Sarah MILHOLLEN (1777-1838) on 26 November 1800 in Bath County, Virginia[4]. Jeremiah had not made the move with the rest of the family and would later move to Ohio.
  • Elizabeth SIMS married John Brown JOHNSON (1777-1861) on 2 June 1802 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
  • Edward “Ned” SIMS married Hannah Mary ROBINSON (1786-1858) on 8 August 1805 in Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio
  • William SIMS married Elizabeth WINDSOR (1784-1852) before 1806 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia [William Sims was the son-in-law of Jonathan Windsor]
  • Mary “Polly” SIMS married John FOWLER ( -1808) on 28 February 1808 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia. She was widowed during the year and then married Thomas HUGHES (1778-1853) on 25 August 1809 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia

By the time that the enumerator came around visiting the families all of Nancy siblings except for John were married. Her father James did not have a young lady of her age in his household. I’ve studied all of her siblings’ census listings and only her brother William, the oldest of James’ children living in the area, had a female of the correct age group.

1810 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Kanawha (

1810 U.S. Federal Census
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
Simms, William
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2 (sons, William Jr. and Jeremiah)
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44 : 1 (William)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 1 (daughter Nancy)
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1 (sister Nancy Ann)
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 1 (Elizabeth)
Number of Household Members Under 16: 4
Number of Household Members Over 25: 1
Number of Household Members: 6

Nancy’s absence her in father’s household lead earlier researchers to assume that she married in 1810. This was not the case. Before she would marry it was her brother John’s turn. John SIMS and Mildred HUNTER (1790-1850) were married by Edw. R. HUGHES on 13 April 1811 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia.

Nancy Marries at about 21 Years of Age

Close to the end of the War of 1812 (18 Jun 1812-24 Dec 1814) Nancy Ann SIMS married William JOHNSON Jr. in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia, on 15 October 1814.  They soon started a family and by 1839 had eleven children:

  1. Nelson JOHNSON (1815-1855) born about 1815
  2. Huldah JOHNSON (1817-1880) born about 1817
  3. Alexander JOHNSON (1819-1887) born 10 June 1819
  4. Mary JOHNSON (1820-1898) born 20 August 1820
  5. John Brown JOHNSON (1823-1902) born 23 December 1823
  6. Amy JOHNSON (1825-1904) born 4 November 1825
  7. Lewis JOHNSON (1828-1845) born 6 March 1828. He died 31 August 1845 of typhoid fever.
  8. Elizabeth JOHNSON (1829-1833) born about 1829. She died at the age of 4 years of flux.
  9. William Hunter JOHNSON (1832-1899) born 27 July 1832
  10. Nancy JOHNSON (1835-1915) born August 1835
  11. Morris Houston JOHNSON (1839-1845) born 21 January 1839. He died 11 August 1845 of typhoid fever.

In 1824, Nancy lost two of her siblings. Her oldest brother Jeremiah, who had gone to Ohio soon after his marriage, died on 12 January 1824 in German Township, Clark County, Ohio, and was buried in Callison Cemetery in that township. Her youngest sister Polly, who had married Thomas HUGHES, died leaving 4 young children. It is very likely that she died in childbirth as her youngest was born about the time that she died.

After the birth in August 1835 of their tenth child Nancy, named after her mother, William and Nancy’s children began to marry. At the time they had only nine living children as four year old Elizabeth had died of flux a about 1833.

  • Ch 1: Nelson JOHNSON married Elizabeth HUGHES (1817-1900) on 14 September 1837 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia
  • Mary JOHNSON married David Alexander MILLER (1820-1871) on 13 December 1839 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia[5]
  • Huldah JOHNSON married Robert INGRAM (1819-1902) about 1841 in Fayette County (West) Virginia

Another marriage that took place around this time was that of Nancy’s brother Martin who was recently widowed. Martin SIMS married Margaret “Peggy” HUGHES (1801- ) on 6 June 1840 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia

Typhoid Fever Epidemic in 1845

Nancy’s sister Elizabeth, wife of John Brown JOHNSON, died 1 June 1845 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia and was buried in Johnson Cemetery in Kincaid. Their father James SIMS died between 1840-1848 in Swiss, Nicholas County, (West) Virginia.

A typhoid fever epidemic is said to have been raging in 1845. This infectious, often fatal, febrile disease caused by the typhoid bacillus which is usually introduced with food or drink came to plague the JOHNSON family. The disease usually seen in the summer months, characterized by intestinal inflammation and ulceration, quickly took two of Nancy’s youngest boys. Morris Houston died on 11 August and Lewis followed him 20 days later on 31 August.

Nancy’s husband William JOHNSON died 18 December 1845 in Loup Creek, Fayette County, (West) Virginia and was buried in Nichols Cemetery on Loop Creek, also seen as Nichols Hollow Cemetery, Robson.

Following these deaths the family moved on and there were several more marriages:

  • John Brown JOHNSON married Mary Ann SETTLE (1821-1896) on 14 July 1846 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia
  • Amy JOHNSON married Charles McClung HUFFMAN (1826-1913) in 1849 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
  • Alexander JOHNSON married Isabella HUGHES (1827- ) before 1850. He was living in Fayette County at the time of the 1850 census with his wife Isabella and their daughter Lucinda.

Nancy Moves to Sissonville with her Single Children

The 1850 census was enumerated as of 1 June 1850. Nancy, her son William Hunter and her daughter Nancy were missed on this census. Family tradition is that they moved about 1849 from Nancy’s farm in Fayette County to Grapevine in Kanawha County after the death of Nancy’s husband and their father. Nancy’s oldest son Nelson, a cabinet maker, had moved to Madison County, Missouri, before the 1850 census but would return to Kanawha County where he died in 1855.

Once Nancy was settled in Kanawha County the last of her children married:

  • Nancy JOHNSON married William B. MARTIN (1831-1920) on 7 September 1853 in  Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
  • William Hunter JOHNSON married Louisa Lavinia SAMUELS (1839-1884)  on 26 October 1856 in Sissonville, Kanawha County, (West) Virginia

Nancy’s brother John SIMS, whose wife had died after the 1850 census was enumerated, married(2) Elizabeth NEAL, a widow, (1794-1861) in Sept/Oct 1850 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia.

In the years that followed Nancy lost three more of her siblings: Edward “Ned” SIMS died 31 March 1852 in Cass County, Missouri and was buried in Orient Cemetery in Harrisonville; Martin SIMS died after 1853; and William SIMS died on 15 October 1854 in Nicholas County, (West) Virginia. Only Nancy and her brother John remained.

Nancy lived with her youngest living son, William Hunter JOHNSON, and was seen in his household in 1860. Next door was her son Alexander and a few households away was her daugher Amy HUFFMAN.

1860 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Kanawha > Sissonville > HH #787 and #788
1860 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Kanawha > Sissonville > HH #784

By 1870 we no longer find Nancy Ann SIMS with any of her children and it has been said that she died in the 1860s in the Poca District, Kanawha County, West Virginia. She may have predeceased her last living sibling, John SIMS who died 15 October 1869 in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Nancy Ann (SIMS) JOHNSON was survived by her children Huldah INGRAM (died between 1880-1900); Alexander JOHNSON (died 8 Apr 1887 in Sissonville); Mary MILLER (died 4 Mar 1898 in Legg District, Kanawha County); William Hunter JOHNSON (died 6 January 1899 in Sissonville); John Brown JOHNSON (died 30 Jul 1902 in Clifton, Kanawha County); Amy HUFFMAN (died 28 Feb 1904 in Sycamore, Clay County); and Nancy MARTIN (died 1 December 1915 in Sissonville). She was also survived by five of her eight half-siblings: Milly SETTLE, Jane DARLINGTON, Charles Fulton SIMS, Dryden SIMS, and Wash SIMS.

[1] Culpeper County, Virginia, Land Records, Deed Book H, 1775 – 1778, pages 475-477
[2] Culpeper County, Virginia, Land Records, Deed Book D, 1762 – 1765 c, pages 547-550 (digital copies of photocopies)
[3] Larry Heffner, email dated 10 August 2004 in reply for request of information on marriage papers of Martin Sims and Susanna Johnson in the archives of the Greenbrier Historical Society
[4] Eliza Warwick Wise,  Bath County Marriage Bonds and Ministers Returns 1791-1853, (Bath County Historical Society, Inc. 1978)
[5] Sissonville A Time to Remember, The Sissonville Historical Awareness Committee of The Sissonville Village Association, 1988, pg. 108  (

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey