State vs. Jeffrey Simms.

To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances.

On 11 December 1866, Rebecca Barnes admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace Washington Barnes that she had given birth to a child whose father was Jeffrey Simms. Barnes ordered that Simms be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Barnes’ charge.


In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jeffrey Simms, 24, wife Caroline, 22, and an unnamed one month-old infant, plus Bryant Simms, 80.

Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

1213 Washington Street.

The one hundred-seventy-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; Hattie Sims house; bungalow with gable roof and prominent gable-front porch; asbestos veneer; Sims was a tobacco worker.”


In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Hattie (c) h 1213 Washington

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1213 Washington, owned and valued at $1500, Hattie Simms, 61, and sister Louvenier Hales, 55. Both worked in “green tobacco & tobacco factory.”

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Hattie (c) tob wkr h 1213 Washington

Hattie Simms died 20 September 1943 at her home at 1213 Washington Street. Per her death certificate, she was 56 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ben Artis and Faribee Barnes; was married to James Simms; worked as a farm laborer; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hales Louvenia (c) dom h 1213 Washington [Louvenia Hales [or Hayes] died in 1947.]

Wilson Daily Times, 17 December 1949.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, North Carolina: at 1213 Washington Street, railroad mail carrier James M. Artis, 40, and wife Sarah F., 38, cook in domestic service.

James McKinley Artis died 7 April 1961 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 August 1909 in Wilson to Wade Artis and Martha Gardner; was married to Sarah Artis; and lived at 1213 Washington Street. [James Artis’ father Wade Artis was a brother to Hattie Artis Simms and Louvenia Artis Hales.]

Sarah M. Artis died 16 January 1948 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 March 1908 in Gaston, North Carolina, to Walter McClure and Ella Lightner; was a widow; and lived at 1213 Washington. Informant was Marie Everette, 1213 Washington Street.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 December 1984.

Marie Everett inherited 1213 Washington Street from her aunt Sarah McClure Artis. The E emblazoned on the house’s storm door is her touch.

Detail from plat prepared for Marie Everett in 2003. Plat Book 32, page 69, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2022.

Lula Simms Deans’ well-known twins.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 1946.

“… the well-known twin-brother’s Doan and Dock Sims; saw-mill owners and lumber dealers here”?

Given the prominence of business owners among Wilson’s early 20th-century African-American community, I was surprised never to have heard of the Simms brothers or even any Black-owned sawmills in Wilson. What I can readily find in digital records does not shed much light on the brothers’ business operations, but does provide some details of their lives.

Lula Simms Deans was born in Nash County in 1871, most likely in Jackson township, which borders Wilson County west of Elm City. Her parents, Wiley and Rachel Simms, had been enslaved in Wilson County and registered their two-year cohabitation there in 1866. Lula was about 23 years old when she gave birth to Doan E. and Dolphus F. Simms in either Wilson or Nash County. She was not married, but one source lists their father as John Taylor. When the twins were about 14 years old, Lula Simms married Wiley Deans of Wilson County.

Doan and Dolphus, known as Dock, were earning their own money as early as 1910, and soon after set out on the separate paths that would eventually lead to their lumber business.

Doan Simms was in Franklin County, North Carolina, by 1912. He fathered a son that year, whom he named after his twin brother, and married the boy’s mother in 1917, the year little Dolphus died. The same year, when he registered for the World War II draft, he described his job as a millhand for John K. Barrow, a sawmill and lumber manufacturer near Zebulon in southeast Wake County. By 1930, Doan and his family were living near Whitakers in extreme northern Nash County, and Doan was described in the census as a sawmill foreman. Ten years later, he and his family were living just over the Wilson County line in Wayne County.

Dock Simms remained in Jackson township (or nearby Zebulon) for decades before relocating to the Edgecombe County side of the Whitakers area during the Depression. In 1930, the census described his occupation as lumber mill manager and in 1940, a sawmill logger.

By 1940 (and perhaps ten years earlier), the Simms brothers had established their lumber business(es), but I have not been able to determine where it was located and even what it was called. I’ll continue to search, and any clues are appreciated.

  • Lula Deans

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willie Simms, 32; wife Racheal, 23; and daughters Mahala, 1, and Anna, 7.

In the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Rachael Simms, 52, widow; daughter Lula, 27, farm laborer; and grandchildren Loyd, 7, Doan and Dolphus, 6, and Maud, 2 months.

On 13 April 1908, Wiley Deans, 22, of Nash County, son of Pete and Catsey Ann Deans, married Lula Simms, 34, of Nash County, daughter of Wiley and Rachel Simms, both deceased. Free Will Baptist minister C[rockett] Best performed the ceremony at his residence in Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Wiley Deans, 27; wife Lula, 36; stepsons Loyd, 18, Doane and Dolphus, 16, and Theodore R., 5; brother-in-law Hubbert Simms, 19; and niece Mary Simms, 12.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: on Wilson and Stanhope Road, farmer Wiley Deans, 36; wife Lula, 45; children Thedo, 15, and Van, 9; and brother-in-law James Sims, 43.

Lula Deans died 18 September 1946 near Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 November 1871 in Nash County to Wiley Simms and Rachel Simms, both of Wilson County; was a widow; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. D.F. Simms, Whitakers, was informant.

  • Doan E. Simms

Also in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Doc and Doanie Simms, 17, odd jobs laborers in the household of N. Harriss Perry, a white 35 year-old farmer.

Dolphus Simms died 21 June 1917 in Harris township, Franklin County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 June 1912 in Franklin County to Don Simms of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Roxana Davis of Dinwiddie County, Virginia.

In 1917, Doan Sims registered for the World War I draft in Franklin County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County; lived in Louisburg, N.C.; and worked as a millhand for J.K. Barrow.

On 9 September 1917, Doane Sims, 28, of Louisburg, Franklin County, married Anna Morgan, 26, of Louisburg, daughter of Wyatt Morgan and Rebecca Morgan, in Zebulon, Wake County. [Presumably, “Anna” was Roxanna.]

On 31 July 1918, Doan Simms, sawyer, was sent to Camp Greene, Charlotte, N.C., for basic training.

U.S. Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917-18,

In the 1920 census of Little River township, Wake County, N.C.: Doan Sims, 26, sawmill sawer; wife Roxanna, 27, born in Virginia; daughter Mary, 9, born in Virginia; and boarder Nelson York, 27, sawmill cutter, born in South Carolina. [Mary Beatrice Simms was born 3 September 1910 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She died 16 September 2003 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson.]

On 5 May 1927, Mary B. Simms, 18, of Zebulon, daughter of Doan and Annie Simms, married Rubert Weaver, 22, of Zebulon, son of Gus and Ida Weaver, in Raleigh, N.C.

In the 1930 census of North Whitakers township, Nash County, N.C.: sawmill foreman Doan Sims, 36, and wife Roxanna, 31. Sharing their household: Rubert Weaver, 25; wife Mary B., 19; and their daughters Doris, 2, and Ruby V., 11 months. [A number of saw mill laborers were listed in the vicinity, including Nelson York, the Simms’ Wake County boarder.]

In the 1940 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, N.C.: farm manager Don Simms, 46; wife Roxanna, 48; grandchildren Doris, 12, Ruby, 10, Anna, 9, and Myrtle, 4; and Jimmie Joyner, 25, laborer.

In 1940, Jefferson Albert Howard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1918 in Wilson County; lived at New Grabneck (Gen Del), Wilson; his contact was Doane E. Simms, R.F.D. Lucama, who was his employer and landlord. The card noted that Howard had a “severe burn scar on left arm & foot.”

In 1940, Jimmy Joyner registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1912 in Bailey, Nash County; lived at R.F.D. 1, Lucama, Wayne County (updated: 53 K Street N.E., Washington, D.C.); and his contact was friend Don Simms.

Doan E. Simms died 22 December 1962 at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Nash County to Lula Deans; was married to Roxanna Simms; lived at 200 Pender Street, Wilson; was a World War I veteran; and was a retired businessman.

Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family.

  • Dolphus F. “Dock” Simms

On 30 August 1919, Adolphus Simms, 35, of Nash County married Bessie Lucas, 18, of Nash County at the Wilson County Courthouse.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dolphus Simms, 25, and wife Bessie L., 17.

On 1 October 1923, Dock Simms, 28, of Zebulon, N.C., married Mary Lou Fennell, 22, of Wallace, N.C., in Burgaw, Pender County, N.C.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: lumber mill manager F. Dock Simms, 36; wife L. Mary, 39; and lodgers, D. John Fennell, 25, lumber mill laborer, and wife Mary, 25.

In the 1940 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: sawmill logger Dock Simms, 46; wife Mary L., 39; and daughter Evelyn, 4. Per the census, the family lived in Wilson County in 1935.

Dock F. Simms died 30 March 1953 in Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1894 in Wilson County to John Taylor and Lula Simms; was a sawmill operator; and was married to Mary Lou Simms.

Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family. His widow, Mary Lou F. Simms of Whitakers applied for a military headstone, which was to be shipped to D.E. Simms, 200 Pender Street, Wilson.

Lane Street Project: James “Sunny” Simms.

Sunny Simms‘ grave marker bears the three links symbolizing Odd Fellows membership. 

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Ceasar Simms, 61; wife Adline, 41; and children Elizthesbeth, 16, James, 14, Mack, 12, and Tamar, 4.

On 28 January 1908, James Simms, 21, of Taylors township, son of C. and Adline Simms, married Victoria Joyner, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Reubin and Millie Joyner, at “the old Simms [illegible].” Missionary Baptist minister Jeremiah Scarborough performed the ceremony in the presence of Orlando Williams, Schaird [Sherrod] Ellis, and Mary Jane Simms.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Sonnie factory hd h Stantonsburg rd extd

Sunnie Simms registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 3 June 1885; lived at Route 4, Wilson; worked as a farmer on Fred Washington’s farm; and his nearest relative was Adeline Simms Barnes. As a disqualification, the registrar noted: “Left Foot been cut very near off.”

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Sunny Simms, 34; wife Victoria, 29; and children Fannie B., 9, James C., 7, Willie A., 5, Mary G., 3.

James Sims died 18 August 1924 at the Colored Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 August 1905 in Wilson County to Sonny Sims and Mariah Harris; worked as a farmer for John Drones; and Rhodie Strickland was informant. Sims was stabbed in the shoulder in a homicide.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: public service laborer Sunny Simms, 58; wife Victoria, 50; and children Matthew, 19, tobacco factory laborer, Annie and Nannie, 17, and William, 13. 

William Harold David Simms registered for the World War II draft in 1945. Per his registration card, he was born 9 July 1927 in Wilson County, N.C.; lived at 1015 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; was unemployed; and his contact was Sonny Simms, 1015 Stantonsburg.

Pfc. William Simms, son of Sunny and Victoria Simms. Wilson Daily Times, 23 March 1953.

Victoria Simms died 23 September 1947 at her home at Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 June 1893 in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Ruebin Joyner; was married to Sonnie Simms; and was buried to Rountree [Odd Fellows?] Cemetery. [Her grave marker has not been found.]

Wilson Daily Times, 27 September 1947.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2021.


Pfc. Simms’ remains returned.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 June 1948.

Five years after his death in India, Herbert Lee Simms‘ body was returned to Wilson for burial.


In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Marcella [Marcellus] Simms, 30; wife Tempie, 30; and children Annie M., 7, Herbert L., 5, and Guthra [Gertrude] M., 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: cotton oil company truck driver Marcellaus Simms, 40; wife Tempie, 41; and children Annie Mae, 17, Herbert Lee, 15, Gertrude, 12, Doris O., 9, Robert L., 7, Roland, 4, and Willie Jr., 7 months.

Herbert Lee Simms registered for the World War I draft in 1941. Per his registration card, he was born 12 March 1923 in Wilson County; lived at Route 4, Box 39, Wilson; his contact was mother Tempie Simms; and he was unemployed.

The application for Herbert L. Simms’ military headstone.

Rev. Edward C. Simms, Presiding Elder.

This brief bio of Rev. Edward C. Simms is found in souvenir volume issued for an A.M.E. Zion General Conference. I do not have the access to the full volume, its title, or its date of publication.


Rev. Simms hails from Wilson, North Carolina, and of the year 1862; he graduated from the Wilson Academy in 1883; was converted there in 1875; joining the Farmer A.M.E. Zion Church at the same time. He became a preacher in 1896 at Norfolk, Va., and joined the Virginia Conference. Later on, he was ordained deacon at Hickory, N.C., in 1897, and ordained elder at Franklin, Va., in 1899.

His pastoral labors were exerted at Mosley Street A.M. E. Zion Church, Norfolk, Newport News, Va., and Mount Sinai Church, Tampa, Fla. He built the Centreville Chapel in Norfolk County, and Zion Chapel at Bear Quarter, Va. Rev Simms is a prominent member of the South Florida Conference, and a preacher who draws and holds an audience. As a pastor his success reaches the best average. This will be his first official appearance in the General Conference. He makes a highly acceptable administrator and his constituency love, honor and revere him. 

Biographical Souvenir Volume of General Conference A.M.E. Zion Church

Norfolk Virginian, 9 May 1897.

In its coverage on the Philadelphia Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church, the 30 May 1908 edition of the Washington Bee noted that “Rev. E.C. Simms, a delegate from Florida, died suddenly from heart disease; a sum of one hundred dollars was raised by Conference for his funeral, and a Florida delegate was sent to accompany the remains home.”


In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Esther Simms, 45, and Ned Simms, 19, both farmworkers.

On 8 May 1879, Ned Simms, 25, married Nicy Best, 26, in Wilson. Benjamin S. Brunson performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion Church in the presence of Hayes Best, Jas. Harriss, and S.A. Smith.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Edward C. Simms, 33; wife Nicy, 26; and Edward, 7 months.

In the 1900 census of Norfolk, Virginia: at 62 Moseley, teacher Edward C. Simms, 44; wife Nicy, 43, nurse; and children Edward, 20, porter, Theodocia, 18, teacher, Sacona, 16, errand boy, Adonis, 14, Cicero, 12, Henny, 10, and Hattie, 6. All were born in North Carolina, except the youngest two, who were born in Virginia.

In the 1906 Tampa, Florida, city directory: Simms Edward C (m) pastor A M E Zion Church, h 952 Harrison 

In the 1908 Tampa, Florida, city directory: Simms Edward C Rev (m) pastor A M E Zion Church, h 952 Harrison

E.C. Simms died 14 May 1908 of diabetes at 313 North 38th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old and was born in Virginia to E.C. Simms of North Carolina and an unnamed mother born in Virginia. Informant was J.B. Harris [who apparently knew little about Simms.] He was buried in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1910 census of Tanner Creek, Norfolk County, Virginia: at 4 Byrd Street, widow Nicey Simms, 50, and children Adonis, 22, candy maker in factory, Henrietta, 18, and Hattie, 15.

Nicy Simms died 6 January 1922 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was 60 years old; was a widow; lived at 914 Dunbar; and was born in Wilson, N.C., to Daniel Bass [Best] and Jane [last name unknown]. Theadesia Simms of Norfolk was informant.

Adonis Simms died 9 July 1930 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1887 in North Carolina to Edward Simms; worked as a laborer; and was married to Vessie Simms.

Drunk on cider.


After the registrar noted that no physician had been in attendance at Washington Simms‘ demise, some other person added “getting drunk on cider” as a cause of death.

A newspaper article sheds some light.

Charlotte Observer, 19 October 1916.


There were at least two Washington Simmses in Wilson County in the late 19th century. This seems most likely to be the one above.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsuhrg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Washington Sims, 34, in the household of Rufus, 47, and Rebecca Edmundson, 34.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Washington Simms, 40, common laborer.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Washington Simms, 64.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Washington Simms, 71.

Wiley Simms house, part 2.

We first saw the Wiley Simms house here. Built about 1840 for either his uncle James or Benjamin Simms, the house still stands, empty but in decent shape, on Old Stantonsburg Road.

Exterior modifications include the closure of the right front door and two narrow windows spaced close together in the center bay of the second floor.

The northern elevation, showing one of the large stepped chimneys, now broken.

A glimpse through the left front window into one of the front rooms, showing a large plaster medallion and cornices.

In the same room, the original woodwork of the fireplace surround is intact, if terribly painted. (To say that the house is “empty” is an oversimplification. Rather, it is uninhabited. Otherwise, it appears to be used for storage.)

Paneled wainscoting in the right front room.

Generations of enslaved African-Americans served inside this house and in the Simms family’s surrounding fields.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

The estate of Patrick H. Simms.

On 8 March 1860, Benjamin E. Simms of Wilson County wrote out a will in which, in part, he left his brother Patrick H. Simms “my Negro woman Harriet & child.” (The Simms brothers were sons of Theophilus T. Simms.)

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 9.24.03 PM.png

When the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County was enumerated, P.H. Simms claimed three enslaved people — a 35 year-old woman, an 8 year-old girl, and a one year-old boy.

Excerpt from 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek district, Wilson County, showing listings for Patrick H. Simms, his mother Abigail Holland Simms, and sister Mary Abigail Simms.

When Patrick Simms died in 1864, an inventory of his personal property named “three negroes named Harriet, Frank and Ellen.” With the rest of his property, they passed to his mother Abigail Simms. (Who was forced to free them the following year.)

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 3.32.36 PM.png

Benjamin Simms Will (1860), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],; P.H. Simms Estate Records (1864), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,