Tuesday, May 7, 2024

2024 Prompt – Love & Marriage – Aaron Simmons

Simmons Family Crest
made by Ramona Simmons

Nancy Simmons

   Paul Simmons

      Walter Simmons

         Andrew Simmons

            Aaron Simmons – 1838-1924

            my Great-Great-Grandfather

Aaron Simmons 1838-1924
my great-great-grandfather

There is no better time to share the romance story of my great-great-grandfather, Aaron Simmons than with a prompt, Love and Marriage. Aaron Simmons was born October 17, 1838, in Chestnut Ridge, Pendleton Co., Virginia. Aaron was the only son born to Peter and Sarah (Moyer) Simmons who also had six daughters. His love life became very complicated!

Aaron was born in Pendleton County, WV and moved to 
Ritchie County, WV in 1855

Aaron's romance story cannot be told without mentioning the political turmoil in the United States as he grew up. Pendleton County sits on the eastern edge of what is now West Virginia. Pendleton County had Southern sympathies even though it became part of West Virginia which was pro-union. I believe this conflict had a strong influence on why Aaron's father sold his land in Pendleton County about 1855 and picked up his family and headed across West Virginia to Ritchie County. Aaron was about 17 years old when this event occurred and there is no evidence that Aaron ever participated in the Civil War. So maybe Peter and Sarah Simmons moved trying to protect their only son from the national conflict?


Phebe Rexroad 1833-1904 
Aaron Simmons married his first wife August 11, 1859
my great-great-grandmother

Shortly after arriving in Ritchie County Aaron fell in love with 15-year-old Sarah Louise Webb and asked for her hand in marriage. For some reason, Sarah's parents prohibited the marriage and Aaron was not allowed to marry his sweetheart. A year later, on August 11, 1859, Aaron married 24-year-old Phebe Rexroad. It is interesting that seven months later, on March 27, 1860, Sarah Louise Webb at age 16 married Lewis Hammer, Aaron’s first cousin, on March 27, 1860. So why didn't Sarah's family allow her to marry Aaron but seven months later allow her to marry Lewis Hammer? We can only speculate that maybe the Webb family didn’t approve of the Simmons pro-union stance or maybe they just didn't approve of Aaron?

        1870 Federal Census Murphy, Ritchie County, West Virginia

On the Left -- Aaron Simmons and Phebe with six children and his parents 
On the Right -- Lewis Hammer and Sarah (Louise) and four children 
They lived on Dog Run (a creek) with 6 households between them

In 1860, Aaron and his bride, Phoebe, started their family and had seven children born between 1860 and 1873. Meanwhile, Sarah Louise and Lewis Hammer had four children between 1860 and 1870.

Sarah Louise Hammer proceeded to have two more children after 1870, while she was married to Lewis Hammer; Violet Alstyne born January 9, 1872, and Sarah Alice, born May 21, 1878. Both, Violet and Sarah claim Aaron Simmons as their father on their marriage and death certificates. This certainly creates a few questions! Was Aaron their father? Violet would have been ten and Sarah four when their mother married Aaron so did they claim Aaron as their father because he was the father in the household as they grew up? In the 1870s Aaron and Louisa were separated by only six households. Oh, the tangled web we weave


Phoebe Simmons vs Aaron Simmons
Divorce decree June 29, 1882, Ritchie County Chancery Court Orders

FamilySearch Film # 008614461, image 44, Bk 4, p. 424
On the 29th of June 1882, after 23 years of marriage, Aaron was granted a divorce from Phebe.  Four months later, on October 17, 1882, after 22 years of marriage, Sarah Hammer was granted a divorce from her husband Lewis Hammer.  Yep! A week later, on October 25, 1882, Aaron Simmons married his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Louise Webb Hammer. This had to be the talk of the town!!

Sarah Louise (Webb) Hammer Simmons

This story certainly is bittersweet. After 23 years, Aaron marries the girl he wanted to marry in 1859 but not without a cost. In Ritchie County, West Virginia in the late nineteenth century, everyone knew everyone and the emotions involved had to be tense. The two families only lived about five miles apart. Aaron and Sarah proceed to have two more children during their marriage. Jettie Matilda Simmons was born on April 24, 1884, and William Aaron Simmons was born on August 14, 1887.

Aaron’s father, Peter Simmons, born in 1801 died April 14, 1884, two years after Aaron’s divorce. His mother, Sarah (Moyers) Simmons, was born in 1809 and died on December 28, 1897, 15 years after Aaron’s divorce. Aaron’s parents were buried in the Peter Moyers Cemetery in Ritchie County, West Virginia. Aaron’s first wife, Phebe (Rexroad) Simmons, lived with their son Peter after the divorce until she died on November 24, 1904, and she is buried in the Peter Moyer Cemetery, the same cemetery as her divorced husband’s father and mother, Peter and Sarah Simmons.

Tombstone of Phebe (Rexroad) Simmons - first wife of Aaron Simmons
Buried at the Peter Moyers Cemetery, Ritchie County, West Virginia

also buried near her are Aaron's parents and three of his siblings

Sarah Louise and Aaron had been married for 40 years when Sarah died on March 4, 1922, and is buried in King Knob Cemetery. Aaron Simmons died two years later, on October 19, 1924, and is buried next to Sarah in the King Knob Cemetery in Ritchie County, West Virginia. The story of my great-great-grandfather, Aaron Simmons, is not the most pleasant family story to tell but it is a story of love and marriage.

Tombstone of Aaron Simmons  1838-1924 and
his 2nd wife Sarah Louise (Webb) Hammer Simmons 1844-1922
King Knob Cemetery, Ritchie County, WV

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