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Levi Leander Simons

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Levi Leander Simons

Posted: 23 Mar 2002 2:29PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Simons, Ault, Merritt, Maxwell, Powell, Woods, Pitzer, Tracy, McCord
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington county, 1901, pages 709-713

The practice of the law appeals more strongly to the sense of right and justice than any other of the so-called learned professions, and the man whose love of fairness and inclination to assist in the righting of wrongs leads him to enter upon the study of the law, has his views broadened and extended as nothing else to which he can turn his attention. The many complications arising in the manifold intersection of the various lines of commercial life demand the attention of the trained mind at serious junctures, else the business world would soon become so overcharged with dissensions that it would be difficult to separate the right from the wrong; a line of action that is eminently right and just at one time being diametrically the opposite under different conditions, so that, while broad principles are well established, the details and the shades of difference that are constantly arising require legally trained minds to prevent conflict.

He who stands at the head of the bar in this section of the county, and whose attainments are widely recognized as an able and conscientious lawyer, and to whom we would direct the attention of the reader for a brief and modest review, is Levi Leander Simons, of Warren.

He is a native of the county, being "to the manor born," first having seen the light some four and a half miles west of Warren, in Jefferson township, on the 20th of February, 1847. His parents were William Simons and Anna Mariah Ault, both of whom were born in Darke county, Ohio, being married near New Madison, when quite young, December 27, 1842, the fifty-eighth anniversary of which event has just been celebrated, many of their old friends being present in honor of the happy event. They are both well preserved, making their home in Warren, and are among the most popular of the older citizens. His grandfather, Adriel, a family name, was born in Pennsylvania, and was married in New York to Patty Merritt, a native of that state, and soon after the close of the last war with the mother country, removed to Ohio, settling in Darke county, where William was born, in 1820. Of eleven children born to the grandparents, six are still living, the eldest being Henry, whose residence is in Grant county, Indiana, he being now past eighty-six, while the youngest is about sixty. The last years of the grandfather were passed with his son, Henry, dying at the age of eighty-three, having survived his wife, whose death had occurred several years previously in Darke county, Ohio. In the spring of 1844, William and his wife and one child, who died but a few weeks later, established themselves on the banks of the Salamonie, going into a hewed-log house, which has stood the test of years and is still used as a residence, being one of the oldest now standing in the county. A frame house was erected later, however, in which the family resided during their later years on the farm, though they removed to the village some twenty years ago. When William came to this region the paths lately trod by the stealthy red man were yet plainly visible, and afforded the routes of travel for the new comers, especially to this family, as his house was set in the midst of the heavy timber, the stillness being broken only by the cry of the wild animals, the whistling of the wind through the trees or the rippling of the waters of the Salamonie in which the dusky maid had often admired her wild beauty; and many a red man had turned, when about to leave its banks forever, to catch one more reflection of his own swarthy countenance as it was thrown back from its glassy surface. In a few years the forest gave way to a productive farm as the result of the constant and untiring energies of the owner, ably seconded by his wife and eleven children, who had been born in the original, though primitive, home. Too much credit can not be accorded the earlier residents of this section of the state, whose zeal and indefatigable industry made it possible for the youth of to-day to enjoy the present advantages of superior schools and modern social amenities, not inferior to what is found in the eastern states where many generations have passed since the conditions compared to these of which we speak existed. Ever holding the confidence and respect of his neighbors, William Simons at an early day was chosen by them as the township trustee, a position that he filled most acceptably to all, great credit being accorded him for the efficiency of his conduct of public affairs. He has retained his earlier formed views upon matters of a national character, holding tenaciously to the principles enunciated by Jefferson and Madison, reiterated by Jackson and Benton, largely supported by Lincoln and emphasized in these latter days by that incomparable campaigner, William Jennings Bryan. While he has been a believer of the Bible, regulating his moral life to attune with its teachings, in matters temporal he has not yielded the power of the American Constitution or the tenets of Democratic faith.

To this aged couple five sons and two daughters survive: Adriel Olondo died two years since, aged forty-four; John Henry resides at Bucyrus, Ohio; Oliver Walcott is a stone contractor at Huntington; Idelphus Monroe lives at Marion; William Edward is a teacher and editor at Bluffton; Sarepta Jane is the wife of Jonas Brown, and operates the old farm; and Mary Eliza is the wife of Allen W. Maxwell, of Hartford City; one daughter, Armintha Ann, married David Powell and died at thirty-three; two others died in infancy.

Levi remained on the farm until reaching his majority, having received such education as the district school afforded, with one term at Roanoke Academy, which gave him a chance to see that he had very little real knowledge and created in him a desire for something more substantial, though it was some years before circumstances permitted him to carry out his plans. Learning the carpenter's trade, he devoted the succeeding five years to it, making but slow progress in the accumulation of funds; but, when he found himself twenty-six years of age, he took advantage of the opportunity to enter the high school at Winchester, where the year's labors enabled him to complete the common branches. What a contrast to the many boys and girls of to-day, who, having the finest opportunities, will not avail themselves of them. Desiring to teach he attended the normal school at Huntington in the summer of 1873, receiving his license to teach from M. L. Spencer, county examiner. His first school was taught in the Barnett district, south of Warren, the succeeding one being taught in Lancaster township. He taught each term, attending the normals during the summer, and found himself making rapid progress. After teaching for some four years he decided to take up the study of law, which he did in the office of William H. Trammell, at Huntington, in the spring of 1876, entering the law school of the State University the next year, finishing the junior course. In August of that year--1877--he opened an office at Warren, receiving an appointment as notary public and taking the local agency for some insurance companies; and, having a few books, he commenced the transaction of legal business, though he had not as yet been admitted to practice in the courts. The following winter he taught school near the village, and though experience had given him a confidence in his ability he did not assume that importance which, like Goldsmith's master, made the people wonder that one head could contain all he knew.

In the next spring he was admitted to the bar before Judge Slack, and then embarked as a full fledged lawyer upon the general practice, though he had to supplement its earnings by teaching another term of school, during which time he was married, February 20, 1879, to Miss Della Woods, widow of John N. Woods, whose maiden name was Pitzer, who was born in Ohio, came to Indiana a young girl, had at the time of her marriage to Mr. Simons was the mother of three children, Rose E., Winona C. and Bertha M. Woods.

The results of his practice has placed Mr. Simons in fair circumstances, though constant application and attention have ever been demanded. He has taken part in almost every important action originating in this section of the county during the past twenty years, his ability as a careful lawyer, an honest counselor and a conscientious advocate having made for him a constantly widening circle of friends, who hold his opinions and advice in the highest estimation. With a naturally keen intellect, supplemented by carefully reading all the standard authors who have written from primary principles of legal truth, weighing right and wrong, he has been able to sweep away the cobwebs of sophistry so frequently advanced by the "sharp" lawyer, and, placing the essence of the case before the court or jury, has thrown light upon the questions that were obscure, thereby affording an opportunity to get at the gist of the matter in dispute. This quality of analytical reasoning has won for him the commendation of both court and the profession; those who have been his keenest opponents in the practice being the first to recognize the strength of this line of procedure. One of the latter uses the following language in referring to him: "As a public speaker he makes no effort at flowery declamation; but in a methodical and logical argument brings his case before the court, and in his address to the jury analyzes the testimony and concentrates it on the point at issue. He pays constant attention to the adage that 'method and preparation are the true cause of a lawyer's success,' and he never comes into court without having his case carefully prepared beforehand."

One case which created a great deal of attention at the time, and which is of considerable interest, was that of Beck Vs. Cook, in which Sylvester Cook was sued under a civil action for destroying the barn of William Beck, a neighbor, which resulted in a verdict of one-half the amount asked. The evidence was all of a circumstantial character, being worked up in the neighborhood by a shrewd detective who gathered here and there a point, which, when woven into a web, became of that texture that it was sufficient to convince a jury, while was not thought strong enough by the public prosecutor to bring a state charge of arson. For the greater part of the past twenty years, Mr. Simons has been designated as deputy prosecutor, his handiwork being seen in pretty nearly every criminal case that has gone from the southern part of the county. The legal standing of the village depends upon him, as he drew the charter, assisted in obtaining the incorporation, was the first clerk and treasurer, opened the first set of books and has prepared every ordinance governing the town. He was also school trustee for three years and assisted in planning and building the present public school building. Much of the present advanced status of the streets of the town are due to his energies in advocating good streets, there now being some three thousand, four hundred feet of first quality of brick pavement, an unusual thing for towns of fifteen hundred population to be able to boast of. The system of water works and electric light plant, for which contracts have recently been let, were also advocated for months, yes, years, by him, before the council could be prevailed upon to incur the expense. There has been a tendency on the part of some to defer those improvements; but they are now realizing their importance, some of the former most conservative being now the most ardent in making the town a desirable place to live in.

Being well trained in the Democratic faith his principles are well grounded, believing in the everlasting right and justice in the extension of human liberty and individual freedom, for which that grand old party has ever stood. He is ever present in the councils of the party, his voice being heard in the interest of better and more liberal politics, and his suggestions being accorded due weight by those who shape the course of local campaigns. He has attended two national and numerous state conventions, and keeps in touch with every movement that affects the public policy. He was named as the party candidate for prosecuting attorney upon one occasion, suffering defeat with the entire party nominations. In the Simons family are two daughters: Ethel Anna, a brilliant young lady who completed the high school course, following this with a business course in the Huntington Business College, becoming proficient in stenography and typewriting, and is now assisting her father as his correspondent and amanuensis; Ethel Elaine is a school girl; Don Heber Tracy, a boy of nine, is also included as one of the family, being the child of the eldest daughter of Mrs. Simons, already mentioned; Rose E. Woods, who was reared the same as his own child, and after completing the course became a teacher in the Warren school, later becoming the wife of Prof. P. S. Tracy, the former principal of the home schools, and whose death came some four years after the marriage. She was again employed in the home school, continuing until her own death, October 12, 1897, at the age of 27. She was a very popular and able teacher, having that faculty of imparting information and that sympathy with the children that drew to her all the students of the town, regardless of the grade she happened to occupy. Winona Woods, graduated in the high school, is now the wife of Ernest McCord, of Warren; she also spent some time with his father, and being a notary public, was widely known as a capital business woman. Bertha M. has identified her life with the work of the Master, being active in all the demands of the Christian church, though specially related to the Junior Endeavor Society, in which she is doing a remarkable and valuable work in shaping the moral tone of the youth of the village.

No other family in the place can show four graduates from the high school, which illustrates the importance attached to the value of education by the father, whose own schooling was obtained with such a struggle, being a school boy at a time of life when most young men feel that they ought to be the heads of families. No more popular home is found in the county than that of Mr. Simons, the cultured and affable parents ably supplementing the youth and vivacity of its youngest members; the air of refinement and the genuine sociability rendering a hospitality doubly enjoyable. This sociability is further illustrated by the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Simons are both influential members of the Odd Fellows, Masons, Maccabees, and Knights of Pythias Lodges of the town, each having filled the chairs in the various offices of these lodges, and the several branches of the same.

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