Songs Selected by Mother (Maggie R. Gant Sims) in 1952
|Big boss down at the old crate mill
Put’n in a good word or two
For the fellow they fired, now can’t pay his bills
Said, one more chance ought to do.
Sister Dixon’s sick, some soup she’ll be wish’en
Gonna take her some, but can’t stay
Cause I’m on my way to City-Wide Mission
That was the Day Before Yesterday.
Five or six at the house on Castle Street
Dancing, telling jokes and more
Or sitting on the porch watching the whole world meet
On the corner at Miss Mattie’s store.
Riding our bikes, or letting them rest
But getting our of the hot sun’s ray.
Listening to the radio and doing our best
To make the most out of Yesterday.
|Connecting by phone, no matter the rate
To gather and party a while.
It doesn‘t matter, what town or state
The bonding is what gives it style.
The younger ones stick together like glue
And fight if some get in their way.
The closeness of it isn’t something that new
Its been trickling down to Today.
To help the little ones along, we do what we must
To get their minds family set.
We can’t sit around waiting for the bus
Cause Time is taking the jet.
They’re scattered all around like seed
But there’s no need for sorrow
They’ll go to their roots and find what they need
To bring it together Tomorrow.
By Cynthia Sims Cann ‘93
Laura, the first born of Elic and Mahaley Sims, was born in Opelika, AL in 1865. She was at least 12 years older
than her sisters and brother, and is shown in the Opelika, AL census living with Mahaley and Thomas, and as she
was 15 at that time she may have married before moving to Fort Meade, Florida with Thomas, Mahaley, Isaac and
her other siblings. Research has yet to find her in Florida records. Again, we must take into account that the 1890
census were destroyed by fire, and therefore if Laura died between 1890 and 1900, we will be hard pressed to find
information on her. Also, there is the possibility that she married, and moved to another part of Florida during that
same time, however, her married name is not known to us. Additional research is required.
Rosalee Powell referred to her as Aunt Sylvie, but she is listed in the 1900 census records as Cilvia Young, She
was the second child born to Elic and Mahaley Sims in Opelika, AL. She was born May 18, 1874, and married Paul
Young. There is not much written about Silvia, but quite a lot written about her husband, Paul. This in itself may
give us an idea of what Silvia’s life in Ft. Meade was like. Like Thomas Sims, they didn’t rent, but owned their
home. They were married in 1893, when Sylvia was 19 years old.
In Canter Brown’s book, “Fort Meade 1849-1900”, he stated that Paul Young was the 2nd black entrepreneur in Ft.
Meade. He wrote that, “Paul Young, one of our colored citizens, a correspondent noted in October 1895, has
undertaken to supply the town with fish once a week. He gets the fish from Punta Gorda on ice in order to supply
the demand for fish”. This explains how the Young household could afford a servant, as Minnie Murphy, a servant
is listed in the 1900 census as living in their home. It also makes one wonder why they needed a servant when
Sylvia was only 26 and childless. Sylvia died at the early age of 44, in Ft. Meade in 1918. Was she in good
health? Paul had a son, Thomas Young from a union other than Sylvia, and who was only 10 years younger than
Josie, as some referred to her was the last child born to Elic and Mahaley
Sims. She was born in May of 1882, in Opelika, AL. After moving to Ft.
Meade, FL with her family, and at the age of 15, she married the Florida
born Verger Saulter. She and Verger had three children. Their first child
was Alfred, who was born in September of 1899, followed by Pearl, born in
1900 and Irene, born 1901.
Ten years later, Josie was married to Joseph Thomas, and had given birth
to Columbus in 1907, and to Bernice in 1910. Alfred Saulter, from her first
marriage was now being cared for and living with Josephine’s sister, Pinky
and her family. Pearl may not have lived long, as there is no reference to
her in subsequent census records, nor has any current family members
spoken of her. Irene’s name surfaces again in 1920, and after she moved
to Lake Wales, FL along with her Uncle Thomas Sims, she married Elijah
Gainor, yet another saw or crate mill worker.
The Sims’ and Gants took a leap of faith by traveling further south with their families to enhance their living
conditions. They moved to Ft. Meade, Florida when it was still transforming from wilderness and a cattle town
where the railroad had recently stopped, to a growing community where race relations were reportedly, quite
good for those times. The phosphate, turpentine and wood cutting (necessary to tame the thick Florida
woodlands) industries may have been the drawing cards, as many of our relatives worked in all three.
They were lucky to have each other as both families worked together to help each other and to help build their
community by being trailblazers as it relates to voting, religion and entrepreneurships.
Thomas Sims and family took yet another bigger leap by moving to Avon Park, FL, where in 1886, the city’s
founder, O.M. Crosby, “in an advertisement of ‘no liquor’ and ‘no Negros’ for his new settlement.” (Maxwell, pg.
111), was quoted. Yet, Thomas lived, thrived and pretty much made that city his own.
The information in this work was gathered from books, a newspaper, several ancestry databases, interviews with
Rev. Sims (deceased), Pastor of Galilee M.B. Church and one of Rosalee Powell’s Ft. Meade friends, and most
helpful, through word-of-mouth from family members. Hopefully there are works out there yet to be tapped for
more documented information, the search for those will continue. However, it is important that the older family
members share stories about the family with the younger members so that our history may always be recorded.
With this writing, I chose to start at what I will consider, “the beginning”. Of course we know that the beginning
didn’t start in Alabama and Georgia. But until I can figure out a source to the beginning of our roots, this will
have to serve as the start. In this first volume, I have written of our first three generations. I hope to write of the
generations that followed at a future date. But, I have also included a family tree so that each of you can make
As our family’s historian, I am continuously searching for and following new leads to our story. My goals are:
a. With the help of the family, to keep abreast of family births and deaths.
b. To gather and maintain interesting facts of our ancestors and current family members.
c. To keep the family informed of my findings.
I take this moment to thank those who took the time to answer my questions about their immediate family
members. I ask that you search you memories because I’ll be back with more questions for volume II.
Brown, Canter. Fort Meade 1949-1900, Tuscaloosa, AL University of Alabama Press, 1995.
Maxwell, Leoma. First Hundred Years of Avon Park, Florida, Avon Park: Florida Historical Society of the
Settlers Association for the City of Avon Park, Florida, 1980.
Fenton, Horace. History of Avon Park, FL. 1886-1956, New York, Vantage Press 1958.
Fort Meade Leader. 1916.
On the following pages, family members are able to see how they fit in this rich family history. To include both
the Sims and the Gant sides of the family, it was necessary to duplicate those who are descendants of both the
Sims’ and the Gants.
Pinky, born in Opelika, AL in 1877 and only a year after Thomas, was the fourth child born to Elic and Mahaley
Sims. She married McKillop “Caleb” Howard in Ft. Meade, FL and had three children. Amy, Annie and Cornelius.
Pinky also helped raise her sister Josephine’s oldest son, Alfred Saulter as Alfred is shown in the 1910 federal
census as living in the Howard’s household. Annie owned and operated a boarding house in Lakeland, FL, and
Amy moved to Avon Park where she was a teacher in a private school.
The registry of the family bible mentions Rebecca and Bryant Boyd, and Thomas and Maggie’s children often
spoke of their Aunt Rebecca. However, no biological connection to either the Gants or the Sims could be found at
this time, other than she was also born in Thomasville, GA, and it was said that Maggie got her middle name from
Rebecca. This would lead us to believe that she may have been either Fannie or Peter’s sister.
Nevertheless, Rebecca was born in 1873, in Thomasville. She was married to John Boyd and lived in Lakeland,
Florida until her death in 1933. The only child born to John and Rebecca was Bryant. John owned a wood yard
and he worked in the turpentine industry, while Rebecca was a laundress.
Josephine is described as a very kind, tall woman, with the “Sims like”
features who like Maggie Sims, pretty much served as Mama to many of
her grandchildren. She worked as a cook, laundress and seamstress.
She was said to have been able to sew so well, that it was difficult to
distinguish her homemade clothes from store-bought ones.
Aside from Columbus and Bernice, the first two children of Joseph and
Josephine Thomas, they also had Geneva Thomas, born January 1, 1912,
and *Flora “Cleo” Thomas, born in 1917. There is not a lot of information
offered about Cleo at this time, but Geneva has been described as a
“character”. She lived in Ft. Meade until 1994, six months before she died
in Winter Haven, FL. She is shown in the picture to the right.