Our oldest, best known and most highly respected.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Mr. Buckner Simmons, after an illness of ten years, died Tuesday morning. Mrs. Mary Simmons, better known to our old citizens as “Aunt Polly,” came to Cleveland 51 years ago with her two sons, and daughter from North Carolina. They settled in their present at 31 Newton street, and have lived there continuously since. Mr. Simmons was well-known and highly respected. His mother, aged 95 years, and sister, Mrs. Eliza Bryant, have the sincerest sympathy of the community. Funeral Thursday at 2 p.m., from the residence, Rev. J.M. Gilmore officiating.
Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 20 February 1904.
Mrs. Eliza Bryant, aged 80 years, died May 13. Funeral from the house May 15, conducted by Rev. Ira A. Collins, assisted by Rev. W.T. Maxwell. Interment in Woodland Cemetery. Boyd & Dean, undertakers.
Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 25 May 1907.
Mrs. Mary Simmons better known as “Aunt Polly” Simmons of 2188 E. 31st (Newton) St., mother of Mr. Buckner Simmons, deceased, one of our oldest, best known and most highly respected residents, died Monday night of old age and a complication of ailments. Mrs. Simmons was a North Carolinian by birth but came to Cleveland about 1860. Funeral Thursday afternoon from the residence, Dr. Chas. Bundy officiating, assisted by Rev. G.V. Clark. She was one of the church’s oldest members. E.F. Boyd, funeral director. Interment in Woodland cemetery.
Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 9 September 1911.
[…] if Moses were living – as well as the Maria Thompson named in Moses’ estate notice.) His kin Polly, Eliza and Buckner Simmons arrived in Cleveland in the early 1850s. Did he come with them? Why the myth of servitude? (And, […]
A colleague and I are working on an article about Eliza Simmons Bryant and have a few questions about her lineage. Her story also involves a myth of servitude–stating that Eliza’s mother, Polly, was a former slave. Your documents and others state that she was in fact apprenticed to a planter (Wm. Burnham?) who was likely white, before she moved to Cleveland. We wonder if you have found any family line links to the Cherokee? Apparently some NC Simmonses were related to the Cherokee and we wonder if Polly was among them. DO you have any ideas on why Polly would encourage–or at least not refute–the slavery tale?
I really don’t, other than it may have been a simpler and more identifiable narrative than “indentured apprentice.” The Simmonses were a deep-rooted free family by time Eliza was born. There is some suggestion that Polly’s likely mother or grandmother Phereby Simmons was Tuscarora based on her Bertie county link. Many modern-day Simmons are members of the Coharie tribe. (Most, however, identify as African-American.) “Cherokee” has often been used as a generic tribal identification for any NC Native American — the Lumbees were once known as Cherokees, though there is no known link. The Simmonses’ roots lay 400+ miles west of Cherokee territory, and I doubt there is any connection.
Thanks, Lisa. I might have more questions for you as we go along.
I’m happy to help any way I can.