June 27, 1793 to November 3, 1858
From the notes of Kirke Wilson, May, 1991.
William Simpson (1793-1858)
The following was copied from pages 116 and 117 of "FOR WE CANNOT
TARRY HERE",by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, 1990.
William Simpson (1793-1858), the youngest son of Thomas Simpson who signed the
Copied from pages 11 and 12 of "THE PLATTE PURCHASE, The Simpson and Cooper Families, 1836 - 1846", by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, August, 1999.
THE SIMPSON FAMILY IN THE PLATTE PURCHASE
William Simpson (1793-1858) was listed on the 1839 tax roll for Platte County and in the 1840 census where his family of nine included his wife, an adult daughter and six children.35 He had been born in Rockingham County, North Carolina and moved with his parents to Middle Tennessee about 1804 where in 1813 he married Mary "Polly" Kimsey (1797-1858) of Virginia.36 William and Mary Simpson established a farm in Warren County, Tennessee where he became active as an anti-missionary Baptist preacher. In 1820, William and Mary Simpson relocated to Howard County, Missouri accompanied by his parents, her mother, three small children and several other relatives. In Howard County, William Simpson and his Kimsey brothers-in-law Benjamin and Thomas claimed land a few miles east of land Benjamin Cooper owned near the Missouri River. In 1831, the Simpson and Kimsey clan moved to Johnson County, Missouri where they acquired land in Post Oak Township and lived until 1838 or 1839 when land became available in the Platte Purchase. William Simpson claimed 160 acres in Pettis Township in the southern part of Platte County. His land was the northwest quarter of Section 6 of Township 51 North, Range 34 West and was near land claimed by several Simpson and Kimsey relatives. The William Simpson land is seven miles due south of Platte City on Road N (4th Street in Platte City) and approximately three and a half miles east of the Little Platte River. The quarter section consists of rolling hills along the east side of Road N and is approximately one mile southwest of what is now Kansas City International Airport.37
Several other Simpson and Kimsey relatives were among the early Platte County settlers. William Simpson's older brother James (1780/1784-1852), his sister Jane Simpson Mathews and his Kimsey in-laws also participated in the migration from Johnson County. The William Simpson land in Platte County shared a comer with a quarter section owned by his brother-in-law James Kimsey and was immediately north of land owned by his sons-in-law James Anderson and Alvis Kimsey. The land was a half mile east of a quarter section owned by his brother James and one mile west of land owned by his brother-in-law Benjamin Kimsey (1802-1865). Two miles to the north, another brother-in-law, Thomas Kimsey (1803-1866) owned a quarter section on the Platte River near a quarter section owned by William's son Thomas K. Simpson and an additional 240 acres 12 owned by William's brother James Simpson. In all, the extended Simpson-Kimsey clan acquired 1720 acres of land in southern Platte County on the east side of the Platte River.38
In addition to the family members who obtained land during the early years of settlement, the 1840 census listed several other Simpson relatives living in Platte County. These include William Simpson's brother-in-law Lazarus Mathews as well as the young families of his nephews Thomas Mathews, James Mathews and Johnson Kimsey.39 Lazarus and Jane Simpson Mathews had nine children between 1811 and 1830. Their older sons, James and Thomas, married in Johnson County in 1836 and 1838. Soon after, the Mathews family moved to Platte County where their daughter Sarah Ann was married in 1839 and their daughter Susan was married in 1845.40 In contrast to the William Simpson family, most of which moved on to Oregon in 1846, the James Simpson family remained in western Missouri. James Simpson lived in in Pettis Township, Platte County to his death in 1852.41
The Kimsey family, older brothers of Elizabeth Kimsey Simpson and Mary Kimsey Simpson, were also part of the extended clan which resettled in the Platte. By 1841, Samuel Kimsey (n.d.-1844) and Thomas Kimsey had moved to Platte County where they remained for the rest of their lives.42 James Kimsey, another Simpson brother-in-law, went to Oregon.43 The multiple linkages between the Kimsey and Simpson families were continued into a younger generation when William Simpson was the minister at the May 1839 wedding of his daughter Cassia (Casey) Simpson (1822-1846) and Alvis Kimsey (1816-1856).44 William Simpson also presided at the November 1840 wedding of John F. Kimsey and Mary Price.45 Harriet Simpson, a daughter of William and Mary Simpson, married Larkin Price. Alvis Kimsey and his family, Larkin Price and his family and Duff Kimsey were among the extended Simpson family who moved to Oregon in 1846.
William Simpson's son Benjamin was 21 years old in 1839 and was not a property owner when the 1839 tax list was prepared. On May 28,1839, with his father serving as the minister, Benjamin Simpson (1818-1910) married Eliza Jane Wisdom, the daughter of Joseph and Mary Scott Wisdom.46 Benjamin appeared on the 1840 census for Platte County and on June 20,1841, John T. Simpson (1841-1920), the son of Benjamin and Eliza Wisdom Simpson was born in Platte County. Ten days later, Eliza Wisdom Simpson died.47 Benjamin Simpson and his infant son John lived in Platte County where Benjamin Simpson served briefly as a Justice of the Peace.48 In 1846, they moved to Oregon with the Simpson family.
Copied from pages 23 to 26 of "THE PLATTE PURCHASE, The Simpson and Cooper Families, 1836 - 1846", by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, August, 1999.
THE NEXT FRONTIER
Disappointed by their experience in Missouri, many of the farmers and shopkeepers who had settled the Platte Purchase were soon considering their alternatives. They knew or had heard that the prospects for settlement in the area immediately to the west, in what is now Kansas and Nebraska, were not good. The area was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It was dry, treeless and, by all accounts, populated by particularly fierce Indians. The area was a place to hurry across not a place to settle. The place to settle was 2000 miles away near the Pacific Ocean in an area called Oregon which was the subject of a long- standing territorial dispute between the United States and Great Britain or a territory of Mexico called California.
The Platte residents were familiar with the continental drama unfolding in front of them. Some, like William Cooper and his cousin Stephen Cooper, had first-hand experience on the Santa Fe Trail and in the Rocky Mountains. Others had neighbors or knew ofprominant Platte County residents who had crossed the plains and established themselves in Oregon or California. As early as 1840, residents of Western Missouri had convened in the Platte County town of Weston and formed the Western Emigration Society. In 1841, John Bidwell, a Platte County school teacher, was one of the leaders of the 34 person Bidwell-Bartleson party that reached California by overland trail. The following year, nine members of the 1841 party returned to Missouri following a Southern route along the Santa Fe Trail. Joseph Chiles of nearby Jackson County, Missouri, traveled overland to California in 1841, returned to his Missouri home in 1842 and took his family to California in 1843. During the winter of 1842-1843, Oregon missionary Marcus Whitman returned from the northwest and spent a week in western Missouri promoting Oregon settlement before continuing to Washington, New York and Boston. Peter Bumett, a prominant Platte City lawyer was one of the leaders of the 1843 emigration to Oregon and Cornelius Gilliam of Platte County was one of the organizers in 1844.97
Local residents were aware of the excitement each spring at the nearby communities of Independence and Westport where emigrants outfitted themselves and organized to cross the plains. By the mid-1840s, emigrants were reporting their observations and experiences in letters to friends and family in Missouri. Some of these letters were published in local newspapers and provided a source of information, not all of it accurate, about the overland journey and the paradise awaiting on the Pacific shore. In some cases, early travelers returned to Missouri to promote migration.
Emigration during the 1840-1844 period relied on experienced guides to locate the route and avoid the dangers of the trail. By 1846, several of the participants from earlier years had returned and were preparing guidebooks for the overland traveler. Lansford Hastings of the 1842 party returned in 1845 and published a guidebook in 1846. Overton Johnson and William H. Winter of the 1843 party and John M. Shively all returned from the West that year and began writing trail guides. In November 1845, Elijah White and others arrived in Missouri carrying 541 letters written that summer in Oregon. There was no shortage of information about the trip. Although California and Oregon remained outside the United States, they were permanently connected to the Platte by trail, family and expectation.98
In March 1846, Stephen Cooper published an open letter in the St. Joseph Gazette announcing his intention to go California and inviting others to join him." At the same time that Stephen Cooper was organizing his wagon train at Council Bluffs to travel to California, his cousin Nancy Cooper Simpson and her Simpson in-laws were assembling a family group for the trip to Oregon.
William Simpson was 53 years old and the patriarch of a family of more than twenty sons, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren who started for Oregon in April 1846. He was a veteran of previous migrations with his family to Tennessee, to Missouri and twice within Missouri. These moves had all been westward but they had been incremental. They involved selling land, loading wagons with possessions and traveling through settled country to areas where government land had recently become available. In their earlier moves, William and Mary Simpson had been accompanied by their Simpson and Kimsey siblings and their families. The trip to Oregon would be different. It would be far longer and far more dangerous than the previous moves and it would be made without many of the relatives who had accompanied them from Tennessee to Missouri.
Bamet Simpson (1836-1925), the youngest child of William and Mary Simpson, many years later remembered that his mother had been apprehensive about the many risks of the overland trail and had prepared for the worst. According to Bamet Simpson,
When we started across the plains, all our neighbors told mother what a dangerous trip it was and how we were sure to be killed by Indians or drowned or die of cholera or be run over by buffaloes.100 Aware of the hazards, Mary Simpson was concerned about the perfunctory style of trailside burials. Rather than allowing her loved ones to be wrapped in the nearest blanket, she spent the winter of 1845-1846 carding, spinning, weaving and dying cloth from which she fashioned shrouds for each family member should they be killed or die on the trail.
From the perspective of ten year old Bamet Simpson, the expedition to Oregon was a festive family event,
Our whole family came to Oregon in 1846, except my brother Thomas...all the rest of my brothers and sisters were along so there was quite a clan of us.
According to Bamet, his oldest brother Thomas K. Simpson (1815-1852) and his wife were cautious about abandoning their Platte County farm before they knew more about life in Oregon.
Tom...decided to let us come out and see if we liked it and if we did, he would sell out and come.101
In 1852, Thomas Simpson rejoined his parents and siblings in Oregon.
The Simpson family that traveled west in 1846 left a far larger clan in Missouri including members of the extended family that had been part of their life in Tennessee and in three Missouri counties. In addition to his oldest son Thomas, William Simpson was leaving his older brother James and sister Jane S. Mathews in Platte County. Mary Simpson was leaving her sister Elizabeth K. Simpson as well as her brothers Benjamin, James and Thomas Kimsey. For Nancy Cooper Simpson, it was her parents William and Susan Higgins Cooper who were remaining in Platte County. The elder Coopers left for Oregon in 1848. William Cooper died on the trail. His widow Susan H. Cooper continued to Oregon where she remarried in 1856 and settled near her daughter.102
On April 18, 1846, three generations of the Simpson family left Missouri with two wagons and four yoke of oxen.103 William Simpson the frontier preacher, and his wife Mary were the leaders of the family group moving to Oregon but the trip across the continent was made possible because they were accompanied by 17 vigorous young adult relatives. The traveling party also included six or more children under the age often. In a century and a half, their Simpson ancestors had moved from the shores of Chesapeake Bay to the Missouri River. In one long, hard spring and summer, the William Simpson family would travel twice as far to the Pacific. They were beginning the journey that Samuel Simpson, then an infant in the wagon, would later describe in his poem "The Campfires of the Pioneers" as "A hundred nights, a hundred days," toward the "sweet horizons of dreams."104 The hundred days and nights would stretch into 150 before they could rest in Oregon.