Franklin Barry Simms

FRANKLIN BARRY SIMMS. During a residence of thirty years or more in Topeka, a thoroughly public spirited citizenship has been one of the chief characteristics of Franklin Barry Simms. He has also administered his private affairs with success, has built up and made a name and reputation for one of the largest laundries and cleaning houses in the city, and has devoted himself with utmost unselfishness to the welfare of the community.

He started life as a printer and it was in that capacity that he was first known in Kansas. He was born at Alton, Madison County, Illinois, April 9, 1851, being one of the eleven children of Doctor David and Sarah (Manley) Simms. His parents were both of the same age and were both natives of Derbyshire England. They were married in England in 1814, and on the same day set out for America, coming with a party of relatives. David Simms was a physician and also an excellent business man. On coming to America they located at what was then called Frenchtown close to the City of St. Louis. Later he established himself in the City of Alton, and enjoyed a large practice as a physician there for many years. He also built up an extensive wholesale drug house. For a number of years this house furnished the oil for the Chicago and Alton Railroad. One day when leaving his store for home he loaded a gun for protection on the way, and it was accidentally discharged and caused a permanent injury to one of his hands. On this account he never became a soldier, though he was a northern republican and very active in exerting his influence for the integrity of the Union during the Civil war. Some years before the war he freed his two negro slaves, though they continued to live with him until their death. He was a man of the highest standing, was greatly loved and admired for his excellent judgment, and was frequently given public responsibilities. He was purchasing commissioner for the town, was supervisor of the poor, and was a director in the Central National Bank. In Masonry he attained the thirty-second degree, and was especially prominent in Odd Fellowship, serving as a delegate to its various conventions and acting as one of its organizers. He died in 1866. His widow survived many years and passed away in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1893. Both were laid to rest at Alton, Illinois.

Franklin Barry Simms grew up with the love of adventure. When eleven years of age he ran away from home and roamed about over the country until he was thirteen. In consequence his schooling was rather limited, though he attended one of the greatest universities, through his work in a printing office. During his period of wandering his father advertised all over the country for him, and finally he was apprehended on a river steamboat, the captain of which knew the boy, and he was then returned home. Instead of entering school, he found work with the old Alton Daily Telegraph turning press at wages of two dollars a week. He also learned the printing trade in all its departments and remained there until 1869. He was next at work for the St. Louis Democrat, but after five months his physician advised him to procure employment out of doors. His next experience was as brakeman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad running out of St. Louis. He began with that company in 1870, and was afterwards promoted and became a locomotive engineer. In 1883 he resigned, and the next year was spent partly in setting type and partly as an engineer.

When Mr. Simms arrived in Topeka in 1884 he had only a quarter to his name. He spent that for a bed, and the next day found work in the office of the Topeka State Journal. He remained in that office about twenty months. From Topeka he went to Atchison with the intention of opening a laundry. In the meantime the Santa Fe Hospital in Topeka had been completed and he was offered the con- tract to run its laundry. He conducted that for some time, and on June 10, 1899, opened the present Gem Laundry, which he has conducted with signal success to the present time. He also has a cleaning plant at Ninth and Kansas Avenue.

On June 12, 1893, Mr. Simms married Miss Mary Emma Lee. In 1904 he was elected a member of the council from the first ward during the term of Mayor Davis. In 1906 he was elected a county commissioner from the first district, and was chairman of the board for six years, and served altogether as a county commissioner eight years. It was a high tribute to his personal popularity that he was the only democrat on the board and probably the only one who had been elected from his district to that office. He made a most creditable record, and his friends say that he was largely responsible for the building of some of the highways through Shawnee County. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Elks and with the Knights and Ladies of Security.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by Preston, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, November, 1997.
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