Victor James Simmons MD – Bermuda & Arkansas

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants. I found today’s V offering in a different way than I have found the others. At a doctors appointment yesterday I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years.  We started talking and the conversation came around to my blog and family history.  She began to tell me about her grandfather who immigrated from Bermuda and ended up practicing medicine in Arkansas. I asked her what his name was and was overjoyed to find that his name was Victor.  I had been wondering who I was going to find with a name that started with the letter V. I came home and spent some time finding him in the records and then Shirley came by with some documents and several papers that he had written. So today I am writing about Dr. Victor James Simmons of Bermuda and Arkansas.

Top L to R: Arkansas Medical, Dental & Pharmaceutical Association card, below is the Meharry Medical College Junior class card; center Class of 1904 Meharry College; Dr. Simmons funeral program. Bottom: Marriage License, Journal of cases cover, page 1 of cases treated 4 Dec 1933; signature inside of journal; Two of Dr. Simmons children.  Click to enlarge.

dr simmons born
Birth information note on scrap of paper. Click to enlarge. The information is included below.

The slaves in Bermuda were freed in 1834, Thirty years earlier than those in the Southern United States. Victor J Simmons was born on November 7, 1875 in South Hampton Parish,  Bermuda Island.

A brief biography. Click to enlarge. The information from these is transcribed below, with a few changes for clarity.

Dr. Victor J Simmons, at the age of 15 years, won a scholarship to apprentice at H.M. Dockyard School, Bermuda Island. In three years he mastered his trade as blacksmith. And at the age of 16 years old, on Good Friday he became a Christian and joined the Catholic Episcopal Church at St. Ann’s Cathedral, Bermuda. He was good and faithful in all his studies, then left home as a young man at the age of 23, September 1, 1900 for the USA to practice medicine, which he accomplished at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn. Then came Arkansas.

After completing his studies at Meharry in 1904, Dr. Simmons took the advice of a fellow student to locate his medical practice in Pulaski County, Arkansas, outside of Little Rock. He met Mary Morris. They were married in 1906. He was 30 and she was 20. Her father gave them land on which to build a house and raise their family.  There was enough land for fruit trees and a large garden. That land is still in the family.  Over the years, the couple had six children, Lillian, Alena, Victor, McDonald, John and Roscoe. All but one survived to adulthood.

The oldest child, Lillian, was born in 1907 and the second, Alena was born in 1910. Both appear in the 1910 census.  Both parents were literate and they owned their home free of mortgage. Victor had not been naturalized. Everybody else was born in Arkansas.

Victor J. Simmons was described in his WW 1 draft registration as having a medium build, slender with brown eyes and black hair. His granddaughter says he was light complected while his wife Mary was dark, with their children blending the two shades.

By the 1920 census, three more children had been born, Victor in 1912, McDonald in 1914 and Johnie in 1919. In that census it also mentions that he immigrated from Bermuda in 1900, and he had not been naturalized. This is the only census Johnie appears in. He died in early childhood. The school age children were all in school.

In the 1930 census we learn they lived in the country but not on a farm and that they didn’t own a radio. That he was 30 when he married an  d that his wife Mary was 19 (She was actually 20).  The five surviving children were all at home. The oldest, Lillian, was a public school teacher. The rest were all attending school. Everybody was literate. Victor was working as a doctor on his own account. Mary was not working outside of the home.

Between 1930 and 1940, Dr. Simmons became a naturalized citizen. On the 1st page of his Case Journal, which covers cases from December 1, 1933 to January 29, 1934, we can see that he treated cases dealing with a fractured leg, bronchitis, tuberculosis, lumbago, boils, facial paralysis, pneumonia and more. The payments ranged from $0.75 for an office visit to $1.50 and up for a home visit. You can see this page by clicking to enlarge the collage above.

In the 1940 census, Victor Simmons was a naturalized citizen. He owned his home free of mortgage (same home). He had four years of college. (Actually, as a doctor, he had more). His income is listed as $400.00 for 1939. His wife Mary had finished high school. Twenty four year old Victor was still living at home and had completed 2 years of college. He was not employed. Sixteen year old Roscoe had completed one year of high school and was attending school.

On April 17, 1940, one month after the 1940 Census was taken, Dr. Victor J. Simmons died. He was 64 years old.  His home going service was celebrated at Fairview C.M.E. Church.  He is buried in Hickman Memorial Cemetery, Pulaski County Arkansas.

His wife, Mary lived many more years in the family home. She never had to go out to work and lived a comfortable life until she died on August 15, 1973.

I do not yet have his parents names but hope to add that information later.  I do know that several of his siblings immigrated to the United States and stayed in New York.

26 thoughts on “Victor James Simmons MD – Bermuda & Arkansas

  1. I found Dr. Victor Simmons’ story interesting and positive. I wondered how his life changed from census to census and who were his parents and whether all of his children were born in the same ten year period, stuff like that. How did he die?

    keep doing what you do! i like it!


    1. I did look through the censuses and because so much of the information was available through the papers and information that was shared with me, I decided to write this one without reference to them. However, I just added the info above for you.

      Arkansas is one of the states that does not make death certificates available online and the cause of death was not listed in the index.

  2. Kristen,my heart is heavy from reading what you compiled on my grandfather and as I read the piece my eyes were tearfilled.Thank you so much for this inspiration to dig deeper in to my family’s rich history.
    Thank you just doesn’t express my gratitude,but for now thank you,thank you!

    1. Hi Shirley,

      I am a distant cousin of yours 1st cousin 2x removed of Dr. Victor J. Simmons. This is a remarkable story and a great contribution to our Bermudian history.

      I can go back to Victors grandfather William Simmons, my database connects every Bermudian family and you are a cousin of actor Dorian Harewood .. His grandmother Maud Isabel Simmons is from our family.

  3. incredible detail! I found myself envious of the beautiful and simple life he was able to begin with his wife. Can you imagine the freedom of no mortgage, no traffic, no Internet – just a home to build and keep up, a grove of trees? Beautiful simplicity.

    So glad I found you through the A to Z Challenge.

    ~Eli@CoachDaddy (#878)

    1. I so agree with Eli. As I think back on the life my grandmother lived even after my grandfather’s untimely death, she had a good life.

      1. Shirley,
        This is a great compilation about your grandfather, Dr. VICTOR Simmons . I had no idea that you had such outstanding artifacts. They are amazing, especially the class picture which includes several women. Please share this with Meharry. And thanks to the historian blogger who summarized a great American immigrant’s story. Sounds like a movie script in the making to me. I enjoyed it very much.

        1. I found a small, small copy of that class photo online. So small you can’t see the names of who is who. I sent Shirley the link. It is in the Arkansas Archives and she could probably get a copy big enough so that she could see the names on it if she gets in touch with them.

    1. Especially is any one in the family saved stories or letters or anything to flesh out the information found in the records.

    1. And I don’t think they had to wait 2 hours to see the doctor for 15 minutes either. I was talking about back in the day of 75 cent visits but on re-reading I think you were saying it was a good time for ME to have that appointment! And yes it was. I had had an appointment a month before but the doctor was detained so I rescheduled because he was running 2 hours behind schedule. I shouldn’t even have been in the waiting room when Shirley was.

  4. See how V came along just when you needed it!
    The life Dr. Simmons and his wife made was so clearly a decent and honorable one, whose legacy shines through the years. Victory over physical, legal, and mental slavery can never come soon enough; whether in freedom or unfreedom, stories of human lives and human striving are always so moving to me. Documenting and remembering them is a noble task.

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