By: Jonesborough Genealogical Society
I am Phyllis Simerly Kitzmiller, the daughter of John Wilder and Ethel Woodby Simerly. I was born and grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. After being away from Johnson City for about thirty-nine years, I and my husband, Carl, moved back in January 1986. It was after moving back to my native area that I became interested in the Simerly roots and began some research.
The different spelling of the Simerly name was quite interesting and the following are some examples that were found on documents and records: Zimerly, Zimmerlin, Zimmerly, Zimerle, Zimmerle, Zumirly, Semerly, Simerton, Simmerly, Simerlin, Simerley, and Simerly.
An ancestor, John Simmerly, came to America in 1766 from Altdorf, a village in Bavaria. He lived in Lincoln, NC, until after 1776. He then moved to Washington County, Tennessee. John owned property near what is now Hampton, TN.
While my branch of the family does not come through Elijah Simerly, I discovered a good bit of history concerning Hampton, TN which will probably be of interest to the readers. This pretty little town encircled by mountains was named for Mary Hampton Simerly. Mary was the wife of Elijah, who at one time owned a large portion of the land where Hampton is located.
The territory where Hampton is located was an unsettled valley until after the war of 1812. At the close of the war this land was given to a soldier, Henry Simerly as a bonus. It was said that he traded the land for a horse and gun. Later, Henry did own land near Hampton.
About the middle of the century Elijah Simerly bought the land from a man named Badgett. At that time there were only a few families living in this valley. The Lacy and Campbell family were two of those families.
Elijah Simerly owned a large portion of this valley and was responsible for helping in its growth. He helped plan it and was the one to lay off the streets. He named it Hampton for his wife. Her father was Johnson Hampton and her mother was a devout Christian, a good wife and mother, a good neighbor and always was doing some kind deed for those in need. Elijah built the finest brick home in Hampton. The woodwork inside the historic old home was hand carved by Sam Bishop and the brick burned on the Simerly farm. The place was sold to the Governor of Georgia and became known as the Butller home. The spring that was behind the home was the main source of water supply. The structure still stands today.
Elijah was high sheriff of Carter County from 1854-1860, served in the 34th Tennessee State Legislature, 1865-1867, was president of the E.T. & W.N.C. Railroad 1867-1871.
In 1866 the E.T. & W.N.C. Railroad was founded. The railroad was one of the town’s first enterprises. It was built to haul out the high grade Cranberry iron ore to Johnson City, Tennessee. One lady remembered very well that when the narrow gauge railroad was finished they all went down to the tunnel to see the first train come through and it nearly scared them to death.
About 1889 the first school was started. The school was destroyed by fire in and about 1922 a new school was built. C.J. Wine was the principal and Mrs. Wine was one of the teachers. Some of the first teachers for the new school were: Miss Maude Allen, Mrs. Edith Brumit, Miss Mary Allen, Miss Martha Allen, Miss Irene Hart and Miss Irene Collins.
In 1890 Hampton was incorporated and the name changed to Allentown. The post office changed its name but the depot did not change its name. The majority of the people did not want to become incorporated but the ones who did were able to have the law passed by the legislature. It was about four years later the people had the law repealed. During the four year period the three Mayors of the town were: Nat G. T. Simerly, J. W. Williams and Tom Jenkins.
Other industries of Hampton and the area nearby besides the railroad were: The Pittsburg Lumber Company and The Hampton Roan Mill. Another industry was the manganese mine on Cedar Hill. After about twenty five years it closed in 1939. This was a tunnel mine and produced the highest grade manganese ever mined in this area. It was operated by R.U. Butler from 1936-1939.
In May 1901 there was a flood with the water rising higher than it had ever been known in that section. There were no deaths but several thousand dollars of property damage.
In 1924 there was a cloud burst at Cardens Bluff resulting in four deaths and many injuries. The mountains were damaged from the terrific force of water. Some $20,000 of damage was done in Hampton. A concrete bridge was washed away.
In 1928 there was a mountain fire that destroyed good timber, but no homes were burned.
In 1950 the old drugstore on the corner across from the Rittertown Bridge burned. For most of the sixty-five years that it stood it was the hub of the community.
In doing this research it has been very interesting to find out something about the area in which some of my own ancestors lived.
I am Nathaniel George Taylor Simerly’s great granddaughter Jacqueline Mary Fisher Baringer (married name). My mother’s maiden name was Betty Lucille Simerly and was Nat’s granddaughter. Her father was Nat’s son, Frank who married Mary Alice Drake. My mother’s brother was also named Frank Simerly who married Pamela Wolton. Uncle Frank did a geneology search and in the book all is recorded including the Simerly fire tower near Steelwood named after Nathaniel. We come from the line of Elijah Simerly, so it was wonderful to read this confirmation of what my Uncle Frank wrote in his book of the Simerly’s! You may even have met him when he came through, probably in the 1990’s. My Uncle Frank passed away in December of 2015, but his wife Pam is 97 and still with us.
Very interesting! I am the granddaughter of Frank Oscar Simmerley from California. I have been looking for a branch of my family line, but so far I haven’t seen one!
So interesting the different spelling of Simerly. I live on Simerly Creek in a home that was built in the late 1800’s. We are just the 3rd owners. Honeycutt and Gouge were the previous owners. I really love diving into the history of the area. If only walls could talk!!
That you so much for sharing this little bit of history.
My name is Bob (Robert Earl) Winter. I just published a book on the Civil War “A HILL TOWARD HOME” using Elijah Simerly in his role as Sheriff, Major in the Carter County Militia, and founder of the town of Hampton, Tennessee. It is rewarding to encounter descendants of the people in my book. The principal character is a fiction, but I tried to stay as close to fact as I could and still make a story