Simplot Biography

The Simplot Family

This biography was compiled and submitted by Alan N. Miller

The Simplot family of Dubuque, Iowa had its origin in the Department of Doubs, France where, on March 7, 1777 at Franois, John Claude Simplot, father of the Dubuque Simplots was born. He was the son of Phillipe Simplot, farmer, of Laissey and of Jeanne Baptiste Corne. On January 3, 1803 in Besancon he married Francois Colard, daughter of Jean Baptiste Colard, formerly a plowman, and Ann Claude Chaillet. She had been born at Scey-en-Varais, a village ten miles south of Besancon, on May 3, 1776. Their children were as follows (spellings Americanized): 1) Henry Frederick Simplot, b April 1, 1804, Besancon. 2) John Henry Simplot, b July 7, 1808, Besancon. 3) Joseph Simplot, b September 15, 1810, Besancon.

Francois died on January 14, 1813 in Besancon while a resident of the Mill of St Paul in the First Section of the town. On July 17, 1814 in Besancon John Claude Simplot filed his promise of  marriage to Susanne Simon, age 31 years, daughter of Hubert Francois Simon,  miller, and Anne Begot, his wife, of Abbans.  This couple had the following children: 1) Charles Henry Simplot, b May 27, 1815 in Besancon. 2) Francis Simplot, b May 26, 1820, Constantia, Oswego Co, NY. 3) Josephine Simplot, b abt 1821, Constantia. 4) Elizabeth S. Simplot, b 1823, Constantia. 5) Frances Simplot, b September 28, 1824, Constantia. 6) Napoleon Simplot, b in 1827 and died 23 May 1841 in Dubuque.

Susanne apparently died in the late 1820’s as John then married Mercy Simons, probably in 1828-1829. Their only child was Olive Minerva Simplot, b abt 1830.

John Simplot supported his family as a baker, but became an adherent of Napoleon, even an officer in his army according to one account. Following Waterloo the situation for Napoleon’s supporters was bleak, with violent reprisals making their further stay in Besancon unwise. So in 1816 or early 1817 John, Susanne, and their two youngest children migrated to the United States, settling in Constantia, Oswego Co, NY. On July 24, 1820 Henry, John and Joseph followed, landing at the Port of NY on the ship Stephania from Havre, Miles Burke, Master. Napoleon apparently died either on the voyage or shortly after their arrival. In Constantia the Simplots farmed and prospered to the extent that between 1824 and 1827 he was able to make three land purchases totaling 173 acres in Oswego Co. By 1830 the family had moved to Parish, a community a few miles north of Constantia. In 1825 there was enacted a law in New York forbidding the passage by inheritance of land owned by aliens who had not filed their formal Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. Perhaps anticipating his death, John Simplot did so on February 2, 1831. He died the following August and is buried in the cemetery at Colosse, near Parish. His tombstone reads "John Simplot, Died Aug1830 [sic], Aged 51 years. Erected by his son, Joseph Simplot". Mercy Simplot and Joseph Torry were appointed Administrators of the intestate estate. The land was lost in a legal battle following Mr Simplot’s death, and the family soon headed west.

Probably the three eldest brothers were the first to immigrate to Iowa. First to arrive in Dubuque was Henry. After stopping briefly in Chicago and Nauvoo, Illinois, he arrived in Dubuque by 1835, and on May 20, 1835 he purchased a lot on the East Side of Main Street from Mary Good. There he established a mercantile business and was quite successful, later expanding into grain brokerage and meatpacking while continuing to engage in many more land transactions. His wealth grew as did his stature in the community, and he was elected a member of the first Board of Aldermen. Marriage had been to Susan LeClare in Parish, on May 17, 1831. Their children were as follows: 1) Alexander Simplot, b January 5, 1837, m Virginia Knapp on November 11, 1866, d Oct 21, 1914. 2) Charles LeClare Simplot, b April 24, 1838, m 1st Mary Ellen Bonson on March 26, 1867, 2nd Mary Jane Day aft 1892, d December 2, 1900. 3) John F. Simplot, b January 4, 1840, d September 28, 1840. 4) Josephine Simplot, b December 9, 1841, m Robert on Yates July 6, 1870. 5) Joseph Simplot, b Dec 21, 1843, d March 5, 1845. 6) Henry Frederick Simplot, Jr, b March 6, 1846, m Anna C. Wickler on May 8, 1888, d 1904. On Christmas Day of 1846 Henry dropped dead as he was called to eat Christmas Dinner. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Dubuque, later moved to the Linwood Cemetery.

John Henry Simplot, second son of John C. Simplot, came west along with Henry. On April 16, 1835 in Nauvoo he married Annie (Nancy) Moffitt, with the consent of her father, Thomas Moffitt. They soon removed to Iowa, arriving in Dubuque on June 1, 1835. Their only child, Marianne, was born May 25, 1836 in Dubuque. Annie died in April 1838 in Potosi, Wisconsin, and on April 23, 1839 in Dubuque John married Mary Moffat, probably a cousin of Annie. In 1839 John traveled to Harrisburg (now Harris) Co, Texas, where on December 11, 1839 he received a headright certificate for 320 Acres. He did not stay in Texas to patent the land, however, as he arrived back in the United States at New Orleans 15 February 1840 on the ship Neptune and had returned to Dubuque in time for the 1840 census. Initially a grocer, he later carried on an extensive trade in the iron and heavy hardware business. Children of John and Mary were as follows: 1) Frances Eugenie Simplot, born 1848, married Henry Rooney. 2) Ida Maude Simplot, born 1854. 3) John Henry Simplot, born 1858, died August 10, 1903 in Dubuque. Marianne, the child of John and Annie married Almanzon Houston Newton on March 30, 1865 in Nauvoo. They moved to Osage Mission (now St Paul), Kansas in 1870, then to Austin, Texas in 1875 or 1876. Marianne died in Austin on October 28, 1909. John Henry Simplot died September 9, 1883, leaving considerable property to his children.

Joseph Simplot probably came west with or soon after his two older brothers. Family tradition states that he also traveled to Texas, perhaps with John, but, if so, he left no record. Joseph married 1st Mary Keller in 1831 in New York, 2nd Johammah Dillery on November 2, 1876 in Jackson County, Wisconsin, and 3rd Annie McDonald on May 22, 1886 in Jackson Co, Wisconsin. In the early 1840’s Joseph and Mary and their family removed to near Blackriver Falls, Wisconsin, where they farmed for the remainder of her life. Mary died December 9, 1873 and is buried in the Simplot/Brooks cemetery in Manchester Twp, Jackson Co. Children of Joseph and Mary Simplot were as follows: 1) Lavina Simplot, born April 25, 1832, married Mr. Oaker, died February 4, 1908. 2) Elizabeth Simplot, born June 3, 1833, died September 1, 1888. Eliza Simplot, born April 7, 1835, married Mr. McCumber, died September 20, 1902. 4) Rachel Simplot, born May 25, 1837, married Henry Brooks, died September 5, 1874. 5) Benjamin Franklin Simplot, born June 14, 1840, died September 30, 1840. 6) Ben Simplot, born July 6, 1842, married Jane Hubbard, died June 18, 1921. Late in life Joseph married twice more, to Johammah Dillery on November 2, 1875 and to Annie McDonald on May 22, 1886. Joseph died on July 21, 1891 and is also said to be buried in the Simplot/Brooks Cemetery.

Charles followed his brothers to Iowa. A deed made in Oswego County in 1842 lists him as being in Dubuque with Henry, John, Joseph and Frances, but he apparently died soon thereafter, unmarried.

Of Napoleon little is known. He seems to have survived the trip to America but died young, certainly before removal of the family to Iowa.

Francis married Julia ___ in New York and came to Dubuque in 1846 or 1847. He was a blacksmith in Dubuque, also a successful farmer with land valued at $2000. In about 1863 the family removed to Iowa Falls in Hardin Co, Iowa, where he continued the blacksmith trade. Their children were as follows, all but George and William born in Dubuque: 1) George W. Simplot, b abt 1841 in NY. 2) Julia Simplot, b 1850. 3) Frank Simplot, b abt 1855. 4) Walter Simplot, b abt 1858. 5) Oatie Simplot, b abt1861. 6) William C. Simplot, b 1865 in Iowa Falls. Francis died July 26, 1893 in Iowa Falls and is buried there.

Josephine remained in Oswego Co after the death of her father. On February 3, 1832 upon the request of Joseph Torrey, administrator of her late father’s estate, Isham Simons was appointed her guardian. She married Samuel VanOrden, a painter, and had the following children: 1) Alice, born abt 1848. 2) George, born abt 1854. She died after 1880, he before her.

Elizabeth remained in Oswego Co., where in 1842 Leander Babcock was listed as her Guardian. Later she also came to Dubuque, where, on March 14, 1843, she was married to Christopher Pelan, a native of Belfast, Ireland, a pioneer of Dubuque, and a successful lumberman. Their children were the following: Charles H. Pelan, James Pelan, Leroy Pelan, Willie Pelan, Fannie Pelan, Eva Pelan, and Hattie Pelan. Mr Pelan died April 12, 1877, Elizabeth after 1880.

Frances was still in Oswego Co as late as 1842, where Leander Babcock was her Special Guardian. On April 13, 1848 she married Leroy D. Randall, a native of Cambridge, NY, and a wholesale dealer in leather and saddlery. Their children were as follows: 1) Leroy W. Randall, born Jan 23, 1849, died January 1, 1855. 2) Ella Frances Randall, born January 14, 1852, died January 18, 1855. Frances died on September 28, 1854, along with her children a victim of cholera.

Olive Minerva, the youngest, remained in New York. She married George Thayer, a farmer. Her only known child was Frank Thayer, born abt 1854.

Some of the better known descendants of the Simplot’s might be mentioned. Alexander, son of Henry, became well known during the Civil War for furnishing many of the sketches used by Harper’s Weekly in their coverage of the war. After the war he continued to utilize his artistic talents as a lithographer but was less successful as a businessman, losing a large portion of his inherited fortune in grain speculations. A well known industrialist of the current era is John Richard Simplot, born January 9, 1909 in Dubuque to Charles Richard (son of Charles Leclare Simplot) and Dorothy Ann (Haxby) Simplot. Quitting the eighth grade after a disagreement with his father, J. R. migrated west, finally settling in Boise, Idaho, where he built a huge fortune in agriculture, mining, frozen potatoes, and most recently as a major investor in Micron. He is sometimes called the "French Fry King" because of the financial rewards reaped from an early contract with Ray Kroc of McDonalds for use of his frozen potatoes.

Sources for these records as well as further information on the French ancestry of this family may be obtained from the submitter, listed below.

Submitted by:
Alan N. Miller
1225 W Grauwyler
Irving, Texas 75061