A Guide to the John S. Simonson Papers, 1850-1860
Born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, John S. Simonson (1796-1881) served with the United States Army during the War of 1812. Honorably discharged in 1814, he moved to Charlestown, Indiana, where he married Elizabeth Watson. After serving in the state Senate from 1828 to 1830, Simonson farmed and manufactured flour. In 1841, he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives and became its speaker in 1845. The following year, President James K. Polk appointed Simonson captain of the mounted riflemen of the United States Army, a position he held through the Mexican War, including the siege and capture of Vera Cruz. In 1852, Simonson was ordered to Texas, where he served on the frontier and Rio Grande, and commanded an expedition against the Apaches to protect the El Paso road in 1855. Reassigned to New Mexico in 1856, he participated in the 1857 campaign against the Coyatero Apaches and established a camp and military depot near the Mogollon Mountains. In 1859, Simonson commanded an expedition against the Navajo Indians and explored the San Juan River country, Tuni-Cha Mountains, and Canyon de Chelly. He retired from military service in 1861 at the rank of colonel in the 3rd U. S. Cavalry, but continued to work through the next decade as superintendent of the volunteer recruiting service in Indianapolis as well as its mustering and disbursing officer.
Nowland, John H. B. Sketches of prominent citizens of 1876, with a few of the pioneers of the city and county who have passed away. Indianapolis: Tilford & Carlon, 1877.
Comprising correspondence and journals, the John S. Simonson Papers, 1850-1860, document Simonson’s career as an Army Officer throughout New Mexico and the West. The papers include his accounts of military affairs, including travel conditions and events on marches between forts, negotiations with Navahos, campaigns against Apaches, and Mormon activities as well as observations of native plants and Native American artifacts and customs. In addition to Simonson’s military activities, letters to his wife Elizabeth (1852-1858) concern family and social affairs.
This collection is open for research use.
John S. Simonson Papers, 1850-1860, , Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers