As the blushing rose sheds its perfume, and by its beauty in spring-time
delights the soul of mankind, so the good works of noble men live, radiantly
and sublimely beautiful, in the hearts of their fellows long after the turf
grows over the earthly tenement that shuts them out from the light of the
world. The immortal Scottish bard, Robert Burns, wrote of a deceased
"An honest man here lies at rest
As e'er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age and guide of youth;
Few hearts like his with virtue warmed,
Few heads with knowledge so informed.
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this."
Such an epitaph would be extremely apropos to the subject of this sketch, whose name appears at its heading. As a pioneer of Pike county, with reminiscences of his early days, we wish particularly to deal, the aim of the publishers of this work being to do honor to the early settlers those hardy yeoman who, in the primitive days of the county, braved the dangers that beset them on all sides, and the uncertainties of the seasons, and, through their exertions, brought the present generation into possession of the Eden of the world.
Thos. Simpkins was born in Yorkshire, England, in the year ____, and there resided until he was ___ years of age, when, becoming impressed with a desire to dwell amid the scenes of a wild and new country, he left "Merrie England" for the land where universal freedom reigned, and royalty existed with the high, the low, the rich, and the poor. Liberty, the beautiful Goddess, beckoned him, and he steered for the beacon light which she burned upon her shores, to light safely into her elysium the oppressed of all nations. On the 22d day of October, 1831, a hardy young man, this noble scion of old England struck his tent in Morgan county, in this state, determined to commence his life-struggle for fortune there; but, as time moved on, the broad prairies of old Pike, then but a wild garden, perfumed with the rich and beautiful flowers planted by the hand of Dame Nature, with but few farms and settlers, offered him a broader and better field for operation, and in 1833 he moved in, and immediately began a busy toiler in the hive with those who were then working the grand old prairies of the county, which have since made her so famous throughout the nation. His first labor was performed for Mr. W. W. Jones, who, at the time of this writing, lives in Griggsville, a hale old man, and an honored member of the community. For a long time, exposed to the rays of the scorching sun, or breasting the tempestuous winds that drove mercilessly over the waste fields, or withstanding the pelting rain and rattling hail, he delved into the soil, and with his ploughshare turned the sod of the grand prairie, receiving for his arduous labors eleven dollars per month a very large salary at the time. Industry and prudence were his traits, and adherence thereto brought him his reward his accumulations amounting to enough, in a very short time, to enable him to purchase an ox team, with which he set out for himself, and a very few months sufficed to find him in possession of land of his own, upon which he had the proud satisfaction of seeing, as results of his labor, waving corn and golden wheat spring up in abundance. This land is now known as the Butz farm, and is one of the many productive places in the county known as No. 1. In the year ____ he purchased the home farm.
Encouraged by his property, and becoming enamored of an estimable young lady, Miss Ann Wharton, in the year 1836 he married. To them were born six children, five of whom are living four daughters and one son - than whom there is none in Pike county more honored and respected. Thomas, jr., succeeded to the home place, at which he now resides, where can be seen, in the thrifty and prosperous appearance of the fields, fences, outbuildings, etc., the industry and prudence of the father transmitted to the son. Sarah, the oldest daughter, is the wife of Mr. John Lasbury, one of he most prominent stock raisers, as well as one of the most thrifty farmers, in the county. Two other daughters, Anna and Mary, are married and now living in Pike county, and are most estimable ladies. The youngest daughter, Vinand, resides with her aged mother, in the lovely village of Griggsville, a comfort and a help to her in her declining years.
Mr. Simpkins, recognizing the world as a progressive one, was among the first to adopt such improvements in the manner of tilling the soil as made their appearances, from his early days to the time of his death, and is a well known fact that he was one of the first to introduce into the county a wheat drill and a self-raking reaper. Perfection in all things seemed to be the spirit that moved him, and at a very early day he imported blooded cattle, and in his latter days possessed one of the finest herds of cattle in the state. As an artist delights in his peculiar science, so delighted Mr. Simpkins in fine stock, improvement in stock raising, and the production of cereals. Hence it is no wonder that we find him one of the first to favor the establishment of agricultural and horticultural societies, and a firm friend and supporter of county fairs, and one of the founders of the Pike county organization.
The years of hard toil and anxiety he experienced in building a foundation for his family bore heavily upon him, and disease marked him as a victim as he had reached the zenith of affluence at the time when he had just prepared to dwell among his people and be happy in seeing all of his flesh and blood enjoying the fruit of the trees planted by his own hand. In 1860 he left America to visit the scenes of his childhood, and reached there in time to tarry awhile with the friends of his youth and behold the changes that had taken place, when, called by the almighty, his spirit forsook its earthly tenement and winged its way to that haven of rest prepared in the realms of bliss for the good, while the body was laid away in the old Moulton churchyard, wherein were many whitened monuments familiar to it in life, years and years before.
A better man could not be found.