Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DNA Circles: Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles

I've been trying to write this post for weeks. First, I had second thoughts that I could find paper evidence of my connection to Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles. Then I met some other Simmons descendants and together we were drawn deeper and deeper into Simmons and Soles research. I'm glad I waited, because this week the research has led to a discovery that I hardly expected.

It's been years now since I found my paternal great-grandmother Fannie Smith's application to the Dawes Commission for Cherokee citizenship. Although denied, the application was full of genealogical gems. Among these was a statement from Fannie's mother, Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton, in which she named her mother as Priscilla Soules. If she had just named her father as well, she could have saved me a lot of frustration. To my mind I just never could find sufficient evidence to prove that Elizabeth's mother Priscilla was the wife of Luke Russell Simmons.

Elizabeth Cotton's Dawes Commission affidavit

In any case, it appears that Ancestry DNA believes that Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles are my ancestors, so I am trying to prove them right, even though Ancestry has recently removed the mother of Luke Russell Simmons, Leodosia Gore, from my DNA Circles. I think it may be because one of our Simmons researchers removed her from his tree due to new evidence he uncovered, causing me to have fewer than the required number of DNA matches to belong to the circle. However, she is an important part of the story, so I'll start with what I know about her and her husband, John (not Isaac!!) Simmons.

The Ancestors

In June of 1832 Congress passed a provision giving pensions to soldiers who had served in the Revolution. In November 1832 John Simmons appeared before the County Clerk of Columbus County, NC and made the statement that he was then 69 years old and had served as a Private in the Revolutionary War, beginning in the year 1780. John Simmons was awarded $87.50 per annum, which he apparently received until his death in 1844. Widows or children of the former soldiers were also due any monies accrued from the time of the previous payment until the death of the recipient, so after his death his wife Leodosia applied for the remainder due on his pension. She named five surviving children: John A. Simmons, Luke R. Simmons, Priscilla Powell, Susannah Johnson, and Dorcas Neeley.

Part of Revolutionary War widow's pension application,
listing names of 5 surviving Simmons children

(By the way, a great number of trees on Ancestry show this Revolutionary War veteran as John Isaac Simmons. I don't know why. I have yet to see a document in which he is named as such. John Simmons was a common name in North Carolina in that era; so was Isaac Simmons. It makes me wonder if someone just combined a John and an Isaac on Ancestry, and everyone else copied the name without questioning it. As a matter of fact, an Isaac Simmons, age 76, appeared before the county court at the time of Leodosia's application and testified that he was present at the wedding of John and Leodosia in September 1789. He could have been a brother or cousin of John's. Thank you to my Simmons cousin, Sam Casey, who has spent many hours trying to disentangle the Johns and the Isaacs. (See his very helpful website at

John A., Priscilla, Susannah, and Dorcas have been hard for me to trace and identify, even though I have the names of the girls' spouses from documents generated after the death of Leodosia. Luke, their brother, is another story.

According to a transcription of the births recorded in the Bible of Luke R. Simmons, found in the Simmons folder at the Troy AL Public Library, he was born 20 May 1791. And here, for the first time in a written document is the name of Luke's wife--Priscilla--born 5 April 1792. (Thanks again, Sam!) Their marriage date is given as 24 January 1811. The transcription goes on to list the names and birth dates of Luke's children: Elizabeth, born 10 December 1812 (although the date my Elizabeth gives for her own birth is 11 November 1812); Jemima, born 13 October 1815; Susannah, born 14 August 1817; Patience and Nancy, born 2 January 1821; Leonard M., born 20 February 1823; Rebekah, born 8 June 1825; Elizur (Eliza), born 7 August 1827. The Bible was published in 1827, so most of the names and dates were recorded many years after the fact and may be in error. The youngest two children, Daniel Monroe and Dorcas, were not listed, which is understandable if the owner of the Bible failed to keep up with the new births. (There is evidence in Luke's estate file that Daniel and Dorcas were his children.) More surprising is the fact that his eldest children, according to most descendants' trees, are John R. (born 1806) and Luke Jr. (born 1809), who are not listed as children of Luke in the Bible and couldn't be according to his listed birth date or date of marriage.

Luke R. Simmons is listed as head of household on the 1820 census of Columbus Co. NC, with 1 male, age 26 to 44; 2 females 26-44; 1 male under 10; and 3 females under 10. Luke is obviously the adult male; Priscilla would be one of the adult females, but who is the other? Elizabeth, Jemima, and Susannah would be the 3 females under 10, and the 1 male under 10 could be John R. or Luke Jr., although they should both be over 10.

On the 1830 census of Columbus Co. there is 1 male 30-39 (Luke); 1 female 30-39 (Priscilla); and 1 female 50-59 (same female from 1820 census?) In addition, there was 1 female 10-14 (probably Susannah, just going by birthdate); 3 females 5-9 (Patience, Nancy, and who was the 3rd?); 2 females under 5 (Rebekah and Eliza); and 1 male 5-9 (Leonard.)

In 1837 Luke R. Simmons bought land in Pike Co. AL, and by 1840 he appears on the census there. Boy, this one is really confusing. There is 1 male 40-49, which would be Luke, but there is no corresponding female (Priscilla) in that age range. Instead, the oldest female is 30-39. There is 1 male 30-39 (which could be John R. or Luke Jr.) and 2 males 20-29 (don't have a clue.) There is 1 male 15-19 (Leonard) and one that is 5-9 (Daniel.) The 2 females 15-19 could be Patience and Nancy; the 1 female 10-14 would be Eliza; and one of the 2 females 5-9 would be Dorcas, but I don't know who the other one is.

Luke's political career began in Columbus Co. NC, where by 1832 he was the magistrate that attested to witness statements in the application of his father for Revolutionary War pension benefits. In 1872 William Garrett, former Alabama Secretary of State, wrote a book called Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama. He wrote that the Hon. Luke R. Simmons had been a state legislator in North Carolina from 1821-1833; then, after he moved to Alabama, he was elected to the state legislature from Pike Co. and served from 1837-1841. Garrett remarked that Simmons "...was always a Whig in politics." Simmons is also credited with suggesting the name for Troy, the county seat of Pike Co., named not for the legendary city but for one of his political opponents, Alexander Troy.

An oft-quoted short bio of Luke R. Simmons also floats around Ancestry; I don't know its origin. It claims that he was married to Priscilla Hargette, and that he and his wife were charter members of the Beulah Primitive Baptist Church in Troy and are probably buried there. I have found no evidence of the name Hargette for Priscilla, but neither have I found proof that she was Priscilla Soles, except for the statement her daughter Elizabeth made in the Dawes Commission application previously mentioned. It seems unlikely that Priscilla had married before she married Luke R. Simmons, although I guess it's possible.

Luke died in late 1844. His 99-page estate file is available for viewing in the Alabama Estate Files, 1830-1976 on, the LDS site. In addition to providing a glimpse into the debts and possessions of a Southern man of the mid-19th century, I hope it also provides some clues about family relationships. One of the attached documents, dated 11 December 1844, shows a debt from Luke R. Simmons to Peter J. Coleman for "1 coffin for his wife." While not perfectly clear, the dates on this and other documents lead me to believe Luke and Priscilla died within days of each other.

Debt to Peter J. Coleman for "1 coffin for his wife," dated 11 Dec. 1844 

Elizabeth Simmons was born 11 November 1812, according to her own statement, or 10 December 1812, according to her father's Bible. She married John Mansell (Mansel, Mancil, Mancill, sometimes even Mansfield) in 1826 when she was 14 years old. She had seven sons and one daughter. William A., born about 1826 in NC, survived his enlistment in the Confederate Army, lived close to his mother for most of his life, and died after 1880 in Waterloo, Lauderdale Co., AL. Samuel, whose birthdates vary from 1828 to 1833, was born in NC, joined Company C, 15th Alabama Infantry, in 1861 and died in 1862 in Richmond, VA. Daniel Monroe Mansell was born about 1832/33 in NC, married Margaret Brooks in 1854, fought for the Confederacy, had a large family and died in Waterloo in 1876 at age 43. Benjamin Franklin Mansell was born in the late 1830's in Pike Co. AL and died a prisoner of war at Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin, in 1862. John E. was born about 1841/42 in Alabama, joined Company C, 15th Alabama Infantry, in July 1861 and was dead in Virginia by December of the same year. Amos P., born in 1843 in AL, enlisted in Company C., 15th Alabama Infantry, and died at Gettysburg in 1863. Elizabeth's husband, John Mansell, died in 1844. Simeon C. is transcribed as 14 on the 1850 census, but the age is smudged and hard to read. It could be 14 or 16 or even 4, as Simeon appears again on the 1860 census as a very clear age 15. I have not been able to find him in any other records.

Daughter Francis, my great-grandmother, was born in 1849, five years after the death of John Mansell. Her father is unknown. When she married my great-grandfather, Stephen A. Smith, in 1868, she used the maiden name Mancil. Elizabeth remarried to William W. Cotton in 1863. William appears to have died sometime between the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Elizabeth was apparently alive in Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory, when she appeared before a notary public to give the statement attached to her daughter's Dawes application. Family in Alabama believe her grave to be in the Mount Olive Cemetery, Waterloo, AL. It is thought she may have traveled with her daughter's family to Oklahoma and then returned to Alabama with other family members.

Marriage license of Stephen A. Smith and Francis Mancil

So are Luke and Priscilla my 3rd great-grandparents, and is Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton their daughter? I can finally say that I think so, due to a fair amount of circumstantial evidence.

  1. Luke R. Simmons had a wife named Priscilla and a daughter named Elizabeth who lived in Columbus Co. NC and Pike Co. AL. My Elizabeth Simmons had a mother named Priscilla and written sources show that she lived in both North Carolina and Pike Co., Alabama. The birth date for daughter Elizabeth given in Luke's Bible is within a month of the date of birth Elizabeth gave for herself. The dates written in the bible were years in the past and could be in error, or Elizabeth could have been in error about her own birth date.
  2. My 2nd great-grandmother named herself as Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton in an affidavit attached to the Dawes Commission application of her daughter Francis. She gave her mother's maiden name as Priscilla Soules.
  3. Elizabeth Mansell purchased items at the estate sale of Luke R. Simmons, along with Luke's daughter Eliza Simmons, his son Leonard M., and Sarah Simmons, the wife of Luke Jr. Elizabeth bought a loom, Eliza and Sarah both bought beds, and Leonard bought a Bible, possibly the one in which were written the birth dates of the Luke R. Simmons family.
  4. When Timothy Soles passed away in 1820, Amelia "Milley" Soles named Luke R. Simmons (her son-in-law?) as guardian of her minor children: Joseph, William, Nathaniel, Lemuel, and Helen.
  5. DNA evidence places me in Ancestry's DNA Circles for both Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles.
Purchases at estate sale

Descendants of Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles in DNA Circles

There are 12 members of the Luke R. Simmons DNA Circle. There are three individuals and a family group of three individuals (so a total of 6) Ancestry members in the circle with whom I share DNA. The three members of the family group are descended from Nancy Simmons, one of the twins born in 1821. At least Ancestry now has some additional information you can derive from your matches. The three family group members and I share single segments of 5.6, 5.9, and 7.4 cM's. One of them also has a shared match with my 2nd cousin Charles, a proven descendant of Elizabeth Simmons.

The largest match I have with an individual in the circle is one of 23.5 cM's across 1 segment. This member is a descendant of John R. Simmons, according to the accompanying tree, and also shares a match with my cousin Charles. Another individual member of the circle shares 23.2 cM's with me across 3 segments. This individual is a descendant of Dorcas Simmons, the youngest daughter of Luke and Priscilla. The 6th member of the circle with whom I share DNA is also a descendant of Dorcas; we share 11.3 cM's across 1 segment.

In addition to myself there are only 2 other members of the Priscilla Soles DNA Circle. One of them is the same individual with whom I share 23.2 cM's in the Luke R. Simmons circle. The other shares 5.6 cM's with me in the Priscilla Soles DNA Circle, although he shows her in his tree as Pricilla Hargette. Don't know how Ancestry figured that one out.

Discoveries and Conclusions

I think I might have finally convinced myself that Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles are my ancestors. I have met several new Simmons cousins, none of whom join me in the Luke or Priscilla DNA Circles, because our connection is further back. We are still gathering information; trying to disentangle the Johns, Isaacs, fathers, sons, nephews, and cousins; looking for our most recent common ancestor; and veering off to study collateral families, like the Soule/Souls/Soles families of Massachusetts and North Carolina. Believe me, that little extra research into the Soles family was one gratifying job! More on that in the next post.


  1. I very much enjoyed reading this. I am Luke Simmons' Great-Great-Great-Great Grandson, and it was wonderful to get this insight into his life from a different perspective. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. I enjoyed writing it, once I finally got started! Would you have information about your Simmons line that you would be willing to share with us? We are still trying to untangle all the relationships and would appreciate the help. Maybe you can give us just the clue we need.

    2. Priscilla “Pricilla” as you spelled it: her last name IS Hargette and I did not get that info. from I have all of that Simmons family lineage going back to when it was surnamed: Simons” You can reach me on Facebook.

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  3. Priscilla “Pricilla” as you spelled it: her last name IS Hargette and I did not get that info. from I have all of that Simmons family lineage going back to when it was surnamed: Simons” You can reach me on Facebook.

    1. I tried to find you on Facebook but there are several people named Stacey Tompkins. I hope you can tell from my blog post that I am very open to whatever the facts happen to be about Priscilla. I just have never been able to find anything that proves Soles or Hargette. I would love to have the documentation for the surname Hargette.

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  5. Try looking for me under: Stacey Karen Pugh. I live in Wallsboro.

  6. Luke R. Simmons Sr. was married to Patricia Hargette. I'm not sure, I'll look under my lineage where the Priscilla falls. I look forward to sharing this as I've just learned all of it myself. Also the Soles family of Pike county were of the first white settlers there when it was named Deer Stand Hill.

  7. I just looked under my lineage again and Luke was married to Patricia (Soles) Hargette. I'm guessing the name Priscilla might have been in error. I look at it like this: both names Patricia and Priscilla start with a P and end with an A. I tried looking for you on FB as well. I found one I think may be you and sent a message. I hope this info I placed here has helped to lead you in the right direction. I look fwd to speaking more in depth bc there's a lot more to these stories. 💜 -Stacey Tompkins “Pugh”

  8. Becky, Your blog is very interesting.....I believe my husband is the match that you have with the DNA circles for Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles. He is the Dorcas Simmons descendant. I would like investigate if Priscilla is actually a "Soles" by blood and daughter of Timothy Soles. Timothy Soles has already been traced back to George Soule (from the Mayflower). Thanks! Melanie.

  9. Hi Mrs. Becky. My name is Pam and I have also traced back to Luke and Priscilla ( Patricia ) Simmons. I have them as my fourth great grandparents. According to what I have found, they had a son named Luke Jr. who married Sarah Hammond. Luke Jr.. and Sarah had a child named John Burrell Simmons who married Susan C. Harrison. John and Susan had a son names Daniel born in 1867. This man, Daniel married Annie Garret. After the birth of their second child, Rubin, Daniel changed the family name to Blair. I don't have a reason for this change and I am unable to find any records for Daniel. He is listed on a marriage certificate with Annie Garret as simmons and a few census reports as simmons. I hired a professional geniologist because I was unaware of the name change and couldn't get past the wall. She helped me with this information. I still have not been able to find any records for Daniel and he supposedly died in 1930. So far Daniel has been linked as my great-grandfather. If I could find some other piece of verification for Daniel, I would greatly appreciate it. I would really like to know for absolute sure about this. My email address If you have anything that could verify this fact for me. Thank you so much. Also, your post is wonderful. I really enjoyed it.