Rolin Clay Simmons

Simmons, Rolin and dog

When I think of my Grandpa Simmons, I picture him coming home from work.  He’s wearing a white t-shirt and brown jeans, carrying his black metal lunchbox, his white hair shining in the sun and a twinkle in his blue eyes.  His name was Rolin Clay Simmons and I wish I had known him much longer than I did.

Rolin came into this world on the 20th of February in 1918.  He was born in Ontario, Oregon to Clay Taylor and Martha Alameda (Rowe) Simmons.  Rolin was the youngest of three children.  His two older siblings, Alta and Estel, were his half siblings.  Martha had been married to Thomas Sager previously in a marriage that ended in divorce.  After meeting and marrying Clay, Rolin was born.  I don’t remember there ever being any talk of “half brother and sister”, Alta and Estel were simply his sister and brother.


Here Rolin is 7 years old and eating ice cream on the 4th of July.  Look at those shoe’s!

The only thing that I know about his childhood years is that the family lived in the Ontario, Oregon area and his dad was a farmer.  By the 1930 census, the family had moved to Oroville, California and Rolin’s dad was doing bridge work.  Rolin was 12 that year.

Simmons - Clay, Martha, and Rolin

(Clay, Martha, and Rolin Simmons)

When Rolin was 21, he married Leoma Nesta Dallas in Reno, Nevada on December 23rd, 1939.  The couple made their home in Mineral, California where Rolin was working as a miner.

Simmons, Rolin and Leoma - California

Leoma and Rolin – I don’t have a year or a place on this picture, so if anyone else knows, please let me know!

Rolin and Leoma’s first daughter, Marvelene Jean, was born in Oroville, California on February 2nd, 1941.  A son, Philip Clay, followed the next year on June 14th, 1942, in Redding, California.

The family had moved to Redding and Rolin was working on the construction of Shasta Dam.  He worked in the rock quarry that was being used to build the dam.  Rolin was 24 years old.

The family was growing!  Next came a daughter, Janice Sharon on January 9th of 1944, (my mom!), then Judith Leoma on May 24th, 1945.  The youngest child born into the Simmons family was Randy Neal born on the 10th of July, 1946.

Around 1946, the Simmons family moved to the northeastern corner of Oregon, to Elgin.  There’s much that I don’t know about why they choose to move there and what Rolin did in their early years in this part of Oregon.

For a few years when my mom was a teenager, the family had moved to Wallowa and Grandpa and Grandma had a hardware store there.  I believe they only lived in Wallowa for about two years.

When I was growing up, Rolin was a contractor and they owned and operated Elgin Hardware, later known as Simmons Supply and Lumber.  I loved going in to the hardware store and helping grandma.  She would put us to work doing inventory, counting out the nails one by one.  It has only occurred to me as I’ve gotten older, that she was simply keeping young hands busy and out of her way.  Sneaky, Grandma, sneaky.

Simmons, Rolin House - Elgin Oregon

This is the house in Elgin where my Grandparents raised their family and the one that I have so many memories of myself.  Behind the house, there was a fire-pit with Grandpa’s great big fat hotdogs roasting away and long stone benches that were so cool to lay on on a hot summer day. So many cousins running around, so much love.

Leoma and Rolin Simmons

Que once again my grandfather coming home from work, his lunch box swinging in his hand and a twinkle in his eye.  His grandkids accost him, hoping for one of those special candies that he always has in his lunchbox.  He chases us a minute, affectionately tells all his “poopdecks” to simmer down, and goes inside to place a kiss on grandma’s cheek.

I remember him as a fairly quiet man with a dry sense of humor.  Gruff at times, but never really meaning it.  Grandpa was a collector of stamps, of coins, of books.  I loved going in his office and looking through his books full of the art of Charles Russell and Norman Rockwell.  The times when he would sit with me, his big magnifying glass in hand, and tell me about his stamps were some of my favorite times.

Those special candies that were always in his lunchbox were because Rolin was a diabetic and needed them for when his blood sugar would dip too low.  One of my earliest memories is getting up in the morning after having stayed the night with them, to find Grandma boiling Grandpa’s needle on the stove and then giving him his insulin shot.

Grandpa had a way about him, a special spark that made each one of us feel special. For me, he said he loved my biscuits and always asked that I make them for him.  Now, I know I wasn’t a spectacular cook, but Grandpa knew that I liked to do it, so he always made me feel like I was the best biscuit cook this side of the Mississippi, quietly, simply by asking me to bake them for him.  It was just his way.

Rolin passed away far too soon.  He had his health struggles;  carbon monoxide poisoning on a job in the 1970’s, a stroke about 1980, then he frostbit a toe and, being stubborn, didn’t go to the doctor until it was too late.  They were going to need to amputate, but before that could happen, Rolin suffered a heart attack while in the hospital and passed away.  It was the 17th of February 1982.  He was only 63 years old.  I still remember that evening like it was last week.  Forever missed.

Simmons, Rolin Clay Headstone - Elgin Oregon

Rolin is buried in the cemetery at Elgin, Oregon between his beloved wife, Leoma, and his daughter, Janice.   I remember standing at the graveside after my grandmother’s burial, when it was only the family left, and in a moment of lightness my uncle quipped, “Poor Daddy.  Now he’ll never get any rest.”


Please please share your memories and I’ll add them in right here.

“The summer of 1980 I worked for my Grandpa Simmons. He was building a small shop just a few blocks from Grandma and Grandpas house. I was 15 at the time and had my drivers permit. Grandpa tried to teach me to drive his stick shift “Scout”. He had the patience of a saint. I killed it every time so we would walk the short distance to the job site.
One of my favorite Grandpa quotes is “You’ve got to get up early to get ahead of me.” ” – Stacey Sannar Roth

” He was a very caring and loving father. He worked very hard to support a family of seven. Sometimes we would not see him for one to two weeks at a time. He would be working out of town, doing construction. When he did return home, he would always have a surprise for us. One time it was a wild caught Badger, it was so mean. He wanted us to learn about it and then he took it back and let it loose. I was about 7 or 8 at the time.  He taught us so much. I truly miss him a lot.” –  Judy Simmons Hulse

“I remember Rolin as you aptly described him. He was a hard -working, soft-spoken man. He was very polite and helpful in his store.
I have fond memories of teenage years with Jan, Judy and Phil.
The greatest gift Rolin and Leoma gave me is a wonderful sister-in-law Judy, whom I dearly love. Such good memories!” ~ Elaine Hulse Durrer



Clay Taylor Simmons

Clay and Martha Simmons 1939

Clay Taylor and Martha (Rowe) Simmons, taken in Ontario, Oregon in 1939.  This picture is one of my favorites.  It reminds me of the classic American Gothic painting and just seems so iconic.  Clay Taylor Simmons is my great grandfather and this is the only picture I have of him.  I don’t know much about him or Martha either, so if anyone reading this knows more, please share!

Clay was born on November 8th, 1882 in Millville, California to Shelby Huggins and Nancy Jane (Newton) Simmons.  Sometime around 1890, the family moved to Harney county, Oregon where Clay’s father passed away when Clay was sixteen years old.

In 1918, Clay registered for the draft for World War I.  From that draft card, I know that he was a farmer and he was of medium height with a slight build, light blue eyes and brown hair.  I like that we can see his signature on this card.

Simmons, Clay Taylor WWI Draft Registration Card

1918 also brought the birth of my grandfather, Rolin Clay Simmons.  I haven’t been able to find a marriage record, so not sure what year Clay and Martha got married, but it would have been sometime before 1918.

In both the 1900 and 1920 censuses, he was listed as a Farmer, living in Harney county, Oregon in 1900, still in 1918 on the draft record, but then listed in Malheur county, Oregon in 1920.  By the 1930 census, the family had moved to Oroville, California where Clay was listed as a laborer doing bridge work.  He was 48 then.

When Clay was 61, his wife, Martha passed away in Redding, California where Clay lived until his death in 1953 at 70 years of age.

Simmons, Clay Taylor family line


Shelby Huggins Simmons

Shelby Huggins Simmons -

Shelby Huggins Simmons was born in White county, Tennessee on September 8th, 1831 to James and Margaret (Plumlee) Simmons.  About the time Shelby was 10 years old, the family moved to Carroll county, Arkansas, I believe in the Berryville area. In 1854 Shelby married Darlutha Jane Daughtery and the couple headed west.

Shelby and Darlutha Simmons - abt 1855

Their oldest daughter, Truckee Margaret was born on the trip while they were in Truckee, California.  She is the baby in the picture above.  I remember my grandfather talking about his Aunt Truckee when I was small and telling us the story of her name.  Here is a note that Aunt Truckee wrote herself and some wonderful person shared on

On April 15, 1855, Darlutha not yet ninteen but married and five months pregnant and her husband, Shelby N. Simmons, left Carroll County, Arkansas for California.  From the D.A.R. Pioneer records we learn that Darlutha delivered her baby en route:

 “I was born at Truckee August 19, 1855, in a covered wagon as my parents, Mr.  and Mrs. Shelby Simmons, were coming from Arkansas to California with my grandfather, Capt. Hill Daugherty, at the head of the party.” ~Mrs. Truckee Rose 

The Simmons were in Millville, California in Shasta county for a number of years.  Six more children were born to the family before Darlutha passed away in 1874 at the age of 38.  The couple had been married for 20 years.


Darlutha is buried in the Millville, California cemetery.

Shelby Huggins Simmons

Three years later, at the age of 46, Shelby married Nancy Jane Newton who became my 2nd great-grandmother.

Nancy Jane Newton

Shelby and Nancy had seven more children. My great grandfather Clay Taylor Simmons was born in Millville in 1882.  Sometime between 1886 and 1890, the family moved to Harney county, Oregon to an area known as The Narrows and raised stock.  Shelby was listed as a Farmer in all census’ between the years of 1860 and 1880.

Simmons, Shelby and Nancy Headstone - Burns Oregon

Shelby Huggins Simmons died on November 26th, 1898 at the age of 67.  Nancy continued to raise their stock on the farm until her own death in 1907 of stomach cancer.  They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Burns, Oregon.

“Not Lost, But Gone Before”


From An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur, and Harney Counties

“He grew to manhood in Butte county and there on September 18th, 1883, he was married to Miss Sadie E., daughter of Shelby and Darlutha (Daughtrey) Simmons.  Mr. and Mrs. Simmons were pioneers from Arkansas to that county in 1850, crossing the plains with ox teams. ”


(Shelby is my 2nd great-grandfather.  He and Nancy are the parents of Clay Taylor Simmons.)

Shelby Huggins Simmons Line

Nancy Jane (Newton) Simmons

Nancy Jane Newton

Nancy Jane Newton was born on January 4th, 1845 to William and Nancy (Haley) Newton.  I believe she was born in Mississippi.  By 1850, the census found the family living in War Eagle, Arkansas.  Nancy married Shelby Huggins Simmons.  The couple lived in Millville, California for a number of years where my great-grandfather, Clay Taylor Simmons was born in 1882.  About 1890, the family moved to Harney County, Oregon where they farmed and raised stock in an area that was known as The Narrows.  Nancy passed away on May 11th, 1907 from cancer at the age of 62.  She is buried in the cemetery in Burns, Oregon next to her husband, Shelby.

Simmons, Shelby and Nancy Headstone - Burns Oregon

The inscription on the headstone says, “Not lost but gone before”


(From the local newspaper, The Times-Herald)

~Died – at her home in this city at 2:30 am today, Mrs. Nancy J. Simmons, aged 62 years.  She had been suffering from cancer of the stomach for several months and her death was not unexpected.  The funeral will take place from the Presbyterian Church tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock.  Reverend A.B. Minake will conduct the services.  Deceased was a highly respected pioneer lady of this section.  She was the mother of seven children, all of whom survive her and all have been with her during her last days getting as much aide and comfort as possible.  Her husband died eight years ago.  The children are Mrs. J.V. Cawlfield, Mrs. F.J. Cawlfield, Mrs. W.C. Brown, Mrs. Fred Scott, Miss Maude Simmons, Geo W. Simmons, and C.T. Simmons.  Four step-children James Simmons, H.S. Simmons, Mrs. C.M. Como, and Mrs. S.C. Johnson.  Geo Newton, now residing here, is a brother to Mrs. Simmons.  The Times-Herald regrets its inability to publish an obituary at this late hour, but will give it attention next week.


(Nancy is my 2nd great grandmother.  She is the mother of Clay Taylor Simmons.)