The First Simonton Family Comes to Texas
Three years after Texas became a Republic, the spirit of adventure called the Simonton family from North Carolina to Texas. It was 1839 when Henry Smith Simonton Sr., arrived with his family to settle in Texas. Henry Smith and Mary Simonton had six sons.
In 1840, Henry Smith Simonton and most of his sons each were given conditional land grants in both Sabine County and Robertson County. Their names were Theophilus Simonton, Robert Simonton, and Henry Smith Simonton Jr. with William Simonton arriving later. The exact date of James Simonton arrival is unclear. A fifth son, Joseph Simonton, would arrive in Fort Bend County many years later.
The Patriarch Dies
By 1844, both the family Patriarch, Henry Smith Simonton Sr. and Henry Smith Simonton Jr. had died and were each buried in Robertson County. The census of 1850 shows that Henry Smith’s widow, Mary, had moved to Fort Bend County along with sons Theophilus and James. Brothers William Simonton and Robert Simonton settled in Montgomery County.
The Simonton Brothers’ Plan
James and Theophilus began to plan to build their own dreams on their own land. They formed a partnership and bought 4000 acres of land in northwest Fort Bend County. Tax records for 1846 show property in the name of James and Theopolis. Together, the two brothers built a plantation and began raising cotton on a commercial scale. Therefore, 1850 is recorded as the year in which Simonton was founded.
In 1857, James and Theophilus’ brother, Joseph C. Simonton, arrived in Fort Bend County. Joseph was a merchant, and he initially lived in Richmond, Texas. Tax records for that year show that he bought land adjacent to his brother’s plantation in Simonton and began building his own plantation. He apparently assisted in administration of the small town.
Together, the three brothers worked to build what would someday become the City of Simonton.
The Founders’ Families
- James never married and had no children of his own.
- Theophilus was married and had two children.
- Joseph Simonton was married and had five children.
Like a chapter from “Gone with the Wind,” Simonton had its glory days rooted in southern plantation life. The Simonton family was one of the wealthiest families in Fort Bend County at the time. The census of 1860 shows that the Simonton family reportedly owned one of the largest and most prosperous plantations in Fort Bend County. The value of the Simonton brother’s combined properties was reported to be $440,000. Wharton’s History of Fort Bend County refers to the family lifestyle as “opulent.”
The Civil War
When the civil war broke out in 1861, the three brothers had a lot at stake and a lot to lose. Upon the end of the war, the Simonton brothers hoped to rebuild their plantation and their former lives. It was not to be for Theophilu Simonton. He died shortly after he returned to Simonton. Theophilus’ wife had died sometime before him, so James cared for and finished raising Theophilus’ children.
The Civil war took its toll on most of the south. So it was that after the Civil War, when the large plantation was no longer profitable, tracts of land were eventually sold to incoming settlers.
Responsibility for Simonton Falls to James
Joseph died some time after 1870. As the last surviving of the three Simonton brothers, it was James who remained to carry on the business of the town. James died some time after 1880.
Until now, history has recorded James as being the sole founder of Simonton, perhaps because he was the last surviving brother. However, the records actually show that Theophilus founded Simonton in partnership with James and certainly deserves his rightful place in our history.
Additionally, Joseph is reported to have owned land adjacent to Simonton and to have shared in the leadership of Simonton along with his two brothers. Therefore, it could be argued that he also should get some credit for his role in Simonton’s founding.
Simonton: Past, Present and Future
By 1910, there were no members of the Simonton family listed in the Census from Fort Bend County. What the Simonton family began over 160 years ago, we are now privileged to care for.
Since its founding, Simonton has seen many seasons; some good, some challenging. One thing is clear. Simonton has shown an ability to adapt and evolve resiliently through the adventure that is our history.
It is with this same sense of adventure that we now embrace our place in Texas’ future. From the Steven F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” to the incorporated city that we are today, the City of Simonton is preparing for a great future for many more adventurers.
Welcome to Simonton.
Special thanks to Vernon and Jackie Helmke, Marilyn Johnson, Mrs. Vera Niemiec, and to the Valley Lodge Women’s Auxiliary (now defunct), whose painstaking research has made this history possible.