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George & Elizabeth Jeannette Simons

Special thanks to  Evelyn Kunz Gaffney, who wrote a portion of this section.



Elizabeth Jeannette Apperson Simons


Elizabeth Jeannette Apperson Simons

The pearl fish shaped pin is now in the possession of Cindy Curtis, a great-granddaughter of E.J. 

            The site that George and Jennie Simons had chosen for their home had a perfect panoramic view of the Columbia River, the Kettle River Mountain Range, and Whitestone Ridge across what is now called the Jump canyon.  A mile or so walk to the edge of the bluff opened to a vista of the big bend in the river and the white stone where the Native Americans crossed to get their supplies.  There was a spring of water at the site – surely a important reason for the settlers' choice.  Their children George Jr. and Jeannette seemed to think that their father had planted a patch of oats in that first summer, as well as built the open wagon shed in which the family lived that first year (1881).  Possibly they spent their winters at Frank's. 


            During the second year (1882), George Sr. worked for the Great Northern Railroad in either Sprague or Walla Walla in order to earn enough money not only to feed his family, but also to buy the supplies necessary to build the family home.  Frank and George would take turns working for the railroad those first few years until they were economically stable in farming.  There is a story that one time while George was away with the railroad work, Jenny heard rumours that the Indians were angered about something and that they might cause some problems.  Being alone with her two children William and Harry, Jenny got scared and decided to get on the saddle horse with her kids and go to Frank's.  Another time, she was working by the light of the open shed door when it got dark.  Jenny looked around and saw a big Indian standing in the doorway.  Since she had a pot of beans, she gave him some to eat.   He got enough to eat and off he went.  Jenny eventually became friends with some of the Sanpoil of the area.  There were stories of Sapeechie and Icot, Indian friends of Jeanette who would bring her huckleberries from the mountains in exchange for a place to bunk down on their journey to town for supplies.

Olive Myrtle Simons

            During the next several years, Jenny was either pregnant or nursing a newborn.  A new baby girl was born in Lincoln County on June 24, 1882 – four years after they had lain to rest their first daughter, Gertie May.  They named this girl Olive Myrtle.  They were still living in the shed when she was born.  A story goes that a rattlesnake slithered into the wagon shed, establishing itself between Jenny and the baby.  Jenny managed to whack the snake with a farm implement until she killed it, saving her baby. 

            On March 7, 1884, Elmer Frederick was born.  Because we know that he was the first child to be born in the log cabin, we can date its construction to the previous year.  It is about this time that the call went out to family still in Nebraska, inviting them to move out west and homestead in the developing territory. 


Milton Augustus Simons


         With the arrival out west of family, opportunities for socialisation must have increased considerably.  The presence of family also meant that there were women around to help Jenny through childbirth.  There was a Dr. Yount in Wilbur who would be fetched when women would go into labour, but often he was unable to arrive in time.  George's sister Harriet, living nearby, assisted Jenny with most of her births, and Jenny likely did the same for Harriet.  On October 5, 1885, a third daughter, Carrie Lee, was born.  And then, on February 24, 1887, Hattie Agnes was born.  Again were the hearts of the family to be broken.  Hattie died 16 months later on June 3, 1888.  One year and two days after Hattie's death, Milton Augustus was born on June 5, 1889.  In eleven years Elizabeth Jeanette had given birth to eight children.

            Birthing, nursing and raising these eight young children, as well as keeping the log cabin liveable, were only part of Jenny’s responsibilities.  Settling a home in this demanding environment required women to be physically and emotionally strong.  As a farm wife, Jenny’s days involved constant chores – churning butter, making soap, sewing, mending, patching clothes, planting, weeding, harvesting and preserving garden produce, making tallow candles, cleaning kerosene lamps.  Due to the rigors of homesteading, Jenny’s daily survival often demanded physical strength – whether clearing the land with her husband, tending to several children, farm animals and a home, or planting and harvesting acres of farmland.  Early on when George was away working on the railroad, Jenny managed to cut the crop with the scythe and bundle it, then also planted the next crop in the fall.  Neighbours were heard to declare that "that woman, Mrs. Simons, worked like a man."  Jenny had a self-reliance great as any man.  The ability of the homemaker to make the most of the environment determined the subsistence level of the family.  Western homesteading women knew their resourcefulness and hard work were essential, and Jenny received respect as the nurturer and center of life around the early farm.  Jenny liked the idea of the family working together and she took pride in being a real helpmate to her husband.  Pleasures needed to be simple, as a child’s first step, or a root cellar filled with home canned goods for the coming winter.

The Blackfan Place


Back (L>R): Elmer, Ernest, George, Harry, Bill

Front (L>R): Milton, Chester, Fosco, Rosco


L > R: Chet (in wagon), George, Ernest, Minnie, Tootsy


            As opportunity offered, George continued to purchase land until he owned two sections.  At some point, George, Jenny and family moved to the Blackfan place.  The Blackfans decided to move on to California.  They had lost a baby, as so many families did and Mrs. Minnie Blackfan asked Jenny to look after the grave site.  This must have reminded Jenny of her own infant buried in California.  She always brought flowers and cleaned the site of this baby's grave when visiting the cemetery.  On the Blackfan place the family built a beautiful two storey house for $1000.  The "estate [was]... one of the finest to be found in the Big Bend country.  His land [was] in a high state of cultivation, [was] supplied with all conveniences, implements, and so forth, while the imposing residence, beautifully and tastefully set, [was] one of the best in this banner county.  Mr. Simons [did] not attain this distinction and accumulate]  this magnificent holding without plenty of hard and trying labor, numerous deprivations, and tenacious weathering of tough places in stringent times.  He... succeeded and [was] of the most substantial men of the county."1

            George also had ten acres in Orchard valley down the canyons by the river, in what was called Peach.  There they had peaches and lots of berries.  He had paid $100 to have the land cleared of rocks.  They paid for the place with strawberries gathered the first year of production.

            On February 20, 1891, Fosco Garfield and Rosco Raymond, twins, were born.  Just a year later Ernest Columbus was born on August 19, 1892.  George Franklin was born February 19, 1894.  George Jr. and his sister Jeannette (Tootsy) were great friends and both survived into old age.  They had great stories and arguments.  

            In 1892 the first school house was built in the Brent area near Frank's farm.  A few years later Mountainview school was built very near George Simons' farm.  Most of his children attended this school.  According to The History of the Big Bend Country, p. 491 we learn that...[George] "assisted to organize the first school district in the county.  He was then appointed director and has since been constantly in office by the election of the people."     Foot note 

            On December 3, 1895, Jenny gave birth to her namesake – Elizabeth Jeannette, who soon received the nickname "Tootsy" from her dad.  Tootsy had beautiful, curly hair.  Minnie Bell, the fourteen child of George and Jenny, was born on December 12, 1897.  Chester Moses (Chet) was born October 10, 1899.  And finally, on August 7, 1901, Violet Hazel was born, one month shy of her mother’s 44th birthday.  All together, George and Jenny had sixteen children.

            Having all those children was a lot of work for Jeannette in addition to all the work that a pioneer woman had to do to survive in those early years.  The two older girls, Ollie and Carrie were remembered by the younger children as being a lot of help.  They remembered Ollie as being full of fun and jokes.  One time she put bluing in Tootsy's toe head hair when she was helping to wash Toot's  hair.  Their mother was not amused and made her wash it all over again to remove the bluing.  However the kids would depend more on Carrie for most things.  She would always get up and get to work.  Ollie was the kind that would stay in bed as long as she could, not for meanness... but she was always the late one.

            In total, sixteen children were born to George Simons and Elizabeth Jeannette Apperson:





Hattie A.



June 3, 1888


15 months





George Simons Family (circa 1898)

Back row (L>R): Carrie, Olive, Harry. William

Middle row:  Mother Jenny, Father George, Milton, Elmer

Front row:  Minnie (on lap), George Franklin, Elizabeth Jeannette (Tootsy),

Fosco, Rosco, Ernest


George Simons Family (circa 1911)

Back row (L>R): Minnie, Jeannette (Tootsy), Elmer, Ernest

Middle row:  George Franklin, Fosco, Rosco, Milton

Front row:  Harry, Olive, Father George, Carrie, William

Standing in front:  Chester, Violet


            "On November 1, 1902, Mr. Simons and his children were called to mourn the death of his beloved wife, who had always been affectionate and devoted. A brave and noble woman, whose sons and daughters lived to perpetuate her memory, she can hardly be too highly spoken of as the grand work she did on the frontier to rear and care for this large family entitled her to first place both in the hearts of her loved ones and in the esteem and deep respect of all."2

Tombstone of Elizabeth Jeannette Apperson Simons

Sherman Cemetery, WA


Elizabeth Jennett Apperson

Wife of George H. Simons,

Born September 9, 1859.

Died November 1, 1902,

Aged 43 years, 1 mo., 22 days.

Dear Mother, In earth's thorny paths,

How long thy feet have trod!

To find at last this peaceful rest,

Safe in the arms of God.

            Violet was just a few days short of 15 months old when her mother passed away of an infection following a miscarriage.  I’m sure that the older girls,  Ollie and Carrie, cared for the little ones although Ollie was already married and in her own home.  George Sr.,  though, needed help to care for his large family.  A neighbourhood acquaintance, Henry Keys, suggested that his mother, living back east in Virginia, might be willing to come work as a housekeeper for the Simons family.  And so in about 1903, George Simons went to Virginia in search of Jennie Keys-Louthain (née  Overbay) who agreed to come with two of her children, Glen and Amy to Washington.    Her daughter Amy was just two years old, but her son Glen was a little older.  He lived with neighbours George and Laura Callahon [Gallavan?], while Amy stayed with her mother at the Simons house.  Jennie Overbay's other children were placed in the Masonic Home for Children when she left. (Some suggest this home was in Richmond, VA, but recent internet research has not turned up such a home.  There is a Masonic Home for Children in Oxford, NC, however – relatively close to the Virginia border – that has served as an orphanage since 1873.)  George Simons married Jennie W. Overbay on January 10, 1904 in Creston, WA.  George and Jennie were divorced, however, in 1910.  George Jr. and Tootsy remember  that some of the older boys were not too kind to their stepmother and wonder if she would have stayed if they had been more accepting.

            In the fall of 1913, George Sr., and his son, George, took a trip to Spokane. George Jr. and a neighbour Herb Blaisdell  were going to Montana and George Sr. was either going with them or seeing them off in Spokane.  When they arrived in Spokane George Sr. wasn't feeling well so he stayed in the hotel and told the other two to go on ahead that he would return to Creston when he felt better.    But he never went home, he went into the hospital.  George the younger was contacted in Montana and told that his father was not doing well and that they thought he would die.  Young George didn't have money to get home so he hopped trains and worked his way back to Spokane on freight trains.  He was just a kid but had to get home.  He got back in time to see his father before he died.     

            George Henry Simons died on November 18, 1913, when his youngest child, Violet, was only 12 years old.

Tombstone of George H. Simons

1851 - 1913

Sherman Cemetery, WA


Continue reading about the other children of George and Jeannette:

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1 Richard F. Steele and Arthur P. Rose.  An Illustrated History of the Big Bend Country Embracing Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin Counties, State of Washington, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1904, p. 491.

2 Ibid.