Meredith J. Simms

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Chris & Kerry
December 4, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II

Meredith J. Simms, now a prominent citizen of Charleston, achieved his
conspicuous place in business and public affairs in Fayette County, West
Virginia, where for thirty-five years he was active as a merchant, banker and
was also president of the County Court.

The Simms family is an old one in America, of an English ancestry running back
for four or five centuries. The grandfather of Judge Simms was P. William Simms,
who was born on the Gauley River in West Virginia, February 2, 1804, was a
farmer and blacksmith by occupation, and died in 1895. He married Elizabeth
Dorsey, a native of Greenbrier County. One of their eight children was Franklin
Pilcher Simms, who was born on the Gauley River in 1831, and for many years
owned and operated a large farm in Nicholas County. He married Eliza Simms, who
died in 1910.

Meredith J. Simms, one of the thirteen children of his parents, was born on a
farm in Nicholas County, April 9, 1862. After 1873 the family moved to Fayette
County, where he finished his public school education, and he began his business
career in 1886 at Montgomery as bookkeeper for the Straugham Coal Company. He
resigned in 1889 to become postmaster through appointment of President Harrison,
and after retiring from that office four years later he engaged in merchandising
and in the wholesale bottling business, and gradually his interests took on a
wide scope, involving affairs of great financial prominence in that section of
the state. He was formerly president of the Montgomery & Cannelton Bridge
Company, and was also president of the Montgomery National Bank. He
relinquished these various interests when he moved to Charleston.

Judge Simms was a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1896 when
William McKinley was nominated, and to the convention of 1912 when William H.
Taft was nominated. He was for four successive terms, twenty-four years, a
member of the County Court of Fayette County, and was president or judge of the
court about twenty years. On account of this judicial service he is always known
as Judge Simms. He is a member of the Elks Order.

At St. Albans, West Virginia, January 3, 1887, he married Alwilda Ramson,
daughter of William and Mary (DeFore) Ramson. She was born in Jackson County,
West Virginia, December 25, 1860, and is likewise descended from a long line of
ancestry reaching back to pre-Colonial days. Mary DeFore was of Huguenots
descent, the founders of the family in America having been among that colony of
Huguenots who came from France to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1689. The
DeFore family later located in Appomattox County, Virginia.

Five children were born to Judge and Mrs. Simms, as follows: Forest DeFore,
born December 29, 1887, died February 16, 1914. Ira, born December 22, 1889,
married Ruth Shrewsbury, of Charleston, and has a son, Meredith, now five years
of age. Ira served with the American army during the Mexican border troubles and
following this volunteered for service in the war with Germany, being assigned
to the aviation service. Mary Mabel, born January 28, 1892 died September 20,
1894. Maude was born May 13, 1895. Agnes Gene, born June 28, 1897, is now the
widow of Dr. Ira M. Derr, whom she married June 3, 1918. Doctor Derr enlisted in
the service of his Country, was commissioned a first Lieutenant, and assigned
to duty at Spartansburg, South Carolina, where he died in the service, November
6, 1918.

Judge Simms with his family removed to Charleston in 1920 to make his permanent
home. His residence occupies a beautiful and spacious site on Columbia Boulevard,
at the corner of Vine Street, on the banks of the Kanawha River and overlooking
the beautiful valley. It is one of the handsomest homes in the city, with
spacious lawns and grounds.

In conclusion the writer cannot fail to draw some significance from the
immediate and generous welcome given to Judge Simms and family on their removal
to Charleston. This has been in the nature of a tribute to his high standing as
a successful man of affairs. Though in the city less than two years, he has
served as a member of the Charleston City Council, is active vice president of
the West Side Business Men’s Club, is a member of the Charleston Chamber of
Commerce and the Real Estate Board. While he does not consider himself an
active business man, he still has large interests in real estate and to some
extent in oil development.