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.
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.
“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.