COL. JOHN HELFENSTEIN SIMMONS, one of the prominent citizens of Bunker Hill, Macoupin County, and a survivor of the Civil War, now lives in easy retirement surrounded by all that makes advanced life pleasant. Colonel Simmons was born February 26, 1831, at Frederick, Maryland, and is a son of Zacharia Taylor and Louisa C. (Helfenstein) Simmons.
Zacharia Taylor Simmons, father of our subject, was born at Frederick, Maryland, and died at St. Louis, Missouri, aged 71 years. He was a son of Col. John H. Simmons, who won his rank at Fort Henry, during the War of 1812, and was a prominent and wealthy farmer of Maryland, a Democratic politician and long a member of the State Senate. Zacharia Taylor, who was one of his father's family of eight children, married a daughter of Rev. John Helfenstein, who was a minister in the German Reformed Church at Frederick, Maryland. They had five children, namely: John H., of this sketch; Mrs. Mary E. Glenn, deceased; Mrs. Harriet Rebecca Gee, of Wisconsin; Albert, who died young; and Edward C., who is at the head of the Simmons Hardware Co. of St. Louis, which is the largest wholesale and retail concern of its kind in the world. Until his health failed, the father of this family engaged in farming and merchandising, removing to Philadelphia in 1841, and to St. Louis, in 1844. He was a man of exemplary character and was firm in his convictions of right and wrong. In politics a Democrat of the old school, he boldly upheld the principles of that party. The religious associations of the family away back to his grandfather, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, have always been with the Protestant Episcopal Church, in which our subject is a licensed lay reader.
Colonel Simmons was 11 years of age when the family removed to Philadelphia, and remained at the home in St. Louis until 1877, as the eldest of the children, having many responsibilities on account of his father's delicate health. For 20 years he engaged in the mercantile and commission business at St. Louis, but in the latter part of 1861 enlisted in the Confederate service, in which he remained through the war, during the greater part of the time being connected with General Price at headquarters. After the close of the war, Colonel Simmons returned to St. Louis and embarked in the manufacture of machinery with the G. & W. Todd Company for two years and then took an interest in the foundry and machine business of Smith, Beggs & Company. In 1877 he went to Lake City and Leadville, Colorado, where he was engaged for a time in gold mining and then returned to Bunker Hill and was engaged in merchandising until he retired.
In 1879 Colonel Simmons was married to Lucy D. Pierce, who was born in November, 1853, at Belleville, Illinois, and died in Bunker Hill in February, 1902, aged 48 years. Her death was induced by nervous prostration and pneumonia brought on by the burning of the family home. She was a daughter of John Orrin and Clarissa D. Pierce, the former of whom was born in St. Clair County, Illinois, and the latter in Tioga County, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Pierce had six children, viz: Lucy D.; Mrs. Clarissa Adelaide Jardine of Denver, Colorado; Mrs. Cynthia J. Milton of Bunker Hill; Mrs. Jessie M. Richards, who died June 21, 1898; John Orrin of Denver; and Mary, of Bunker Hill. Mrs. Pierce was a Floyd and her grandmother was Lucy S. Tozer, who was born June 5, 1796. Her father, Julius Tozer, was a Revolutionary soldier, and thus, on both sides of the family, Colonel Simmons' two charming daughters are eligible to the society of the Daughters of the Revolution. They bear the names of Garrie Adel and Jessie Floyd.