Thursday, May 21, 2020

2020 Prompt - Travel - Simmons Homestead

#52 Ancestors - Week 20
Prompt - Travel
Simmons Homestead in Franklin, West Virginia

Pendleton County, West Virginia

As we drove down West Virginia Hwy 220 south out of Franklin in the county of Pendleton, the view was beautiful.  We drove along the south branch of the Potomac River with the river to the east and high bluffs just off the road to the west.  The County of Pendleton is engulfed with the Appalachian Mountains with the Allegheny range to the south west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.  The south Potomac River cuts a small valley through the eastern part of the county. We were told the Simmons homestead was almost 10 miles south of town. The road made twist and turns with the river flowing close to the road at times and then off to the left a quarter mile or so. Homes were scattered along the road with those on the right up close to the road and those to the left off in the small valley. We were looking for the Simmons Cemetery that was northwest of the house close to the road. We drove ten miles and then eleven. Turned around and traveled back finally catching a glimpse of a two-story brick house off to the east. As we drove by there was a small driveway that wandered through some shrubs and small trees and then opened to the brick home. We slowed down and pulled into the drive. We could see a small flat wooden bridge with planks to drive your car across that led up to the house.  I thought to myself, I will walk across that bridge, but no way was I going to sit in a car that drove across it! The house had a flagpole and a US flag was flying but no other signs of life existed. There were no cars or pickups like most homes in the area. Then we noticed the fence. Off to the south east was a fence with a double gate. No drive but a small footpath. We got out of the car and followed the path that led us to a small cemetery with about 25 stones. Yes! This was the Simmons Cemetery. 
Simmons Home built in 1812 and remodeled in 1932

Simmons Cemetery seen from Highway 220

Captain Henry Simmons who was born in 1760 and died in 1824[1] built the brick house but was not buried in this family cemetery. His son, Henry Simmons II, born 1798 and who died in 1868 was buried there with his wife Rachel Simmons.[2]  Captain Henry Simmons acquired the land from his father[3], Leonard Simmons Sr, who was born about 1730 in Germany and died about 1808 and is assumed to be buried on the property. Leonard Sr deeded the middle part of his farm to his son Captain Henry[4] who built the two-story brick home about 1812.  Captain Henry Simmons had seven sons. Henry his fourth son received the part of the farm with the brick home.[5] His fifth son, my direct descendant, Peter Simmons, received the middle part of the farm[6] that he farmed for 20 some years and then sold it and moved to Ritchie County 200 miles east of Franklin in the early 1850’s. 
Henry Simmons' tombstone on the left and his wife Rachel Simmons on the right
Buried in Simmons Cemetery in front to the Simmons' home

Henry Simmons II, son of Captain Henry Simmons, lived on the Simmons homestead until his death in 1868.[7] He had four sons that fought for the Confederate army during the Civil War. History of Pendleton County states that after the Battle of McDowell Stonewall Jackson chased the union forces toward Franklin, but due to the smoke that the union army ignited in the forest Jackson, only got within 10 miles of Franklin and then spent the night at the Simmons’ homestead.  Family members still treasure a bed that Stonewall Jackson slept in and the dishes he ate his meal on while at stating at the house.[8]

Simmons Home built in 1812 and housed Stonewall Jackson in May 1862
Henry Simmons III on the horse and his wife Mary at the door
photo taken about 1892
Margaret Simmons wife of Edward Simmons showing me the china and the bed
that Stonewall Jackson used when he stayed at the home in May 1862
Photo taken July 1997
My first trip to the Simmons house was when we traveled to Pendleton County, West Virginia the summer of 1997.  Then in 2010, the Pendleton County Historical Society had their summer meeting at the Simmons House with a tour of the house and property.  I met several Simmons cousins at the meeting and a Simmons cousin that lives in the area gave a history of the family and the house. The pictures of the rooms inside the house are from that trip. The historian mentioned that a portion of the barn was built in 1788 and would be 130 years old this year. The family also believes that the earliest ancestor, Leonard Simmons Sr, who died in 1808 and his son, Henry Simmons, who died in 1824 are probably buried out beyond the barn in an old family plot that has no markers. After seven generations of Simmons family members owning the home it was sold in the 1990's for the first time to someone outside the family who purchased it for hunting property.  The house still stands along the south branch of the Potomac and will be 208 years old this summer in 2020.

[1] Grave Register Pendleton County, West Virginia 1977, The Pendleton County Historical Society, Inc. / 1977, p 13.
[2] Ibid. p 13; Find A Grave, Memorial # 31684395 (
[3] West Virginia, Pendleton County Will Book, v.3, 1808-1816, pages 45-46, Image 30. (
[4] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Find A Grave, Memorial # 31684395, Henry Simmons
[8] Interview of Mrs. Edward Simmons, August 1997, home across the road from the Simmons home and Simmons Cemetery. She showed me the china and bed that Stonewall Jackson ate and slept in while at the house.

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