By Muriel Bristol | November 22, 2020
Bray Underwood Simes was born in Portsmouth, NH, circa June 1801, son of William and Hannah (Underwood) Simes. (His father, William Underwood, was a goldsmith. He died in Portsmouth, NH, April 15, 1824, aged fifty-one years).
Bray U. Simes left his native Portsmouth, NH, in the same year that his father died, 1824 (Brewster, 1853). Portsmouth had been capitol of New Hampshire until 1807, and was still its major seaport and entrepôt. Many of his relatives and associates were tradesmen or merchants of one kind or another. He presumably set out from home in order to open his own store at Milton Mills, which he ran there for nearly fifty years. (He preceded fellow storekeeper Asa Fox by about ten years).
A country storekeeper of his time did not simply sell retail goods. They functioned also as a middleman: taking in local farm and home products in trade, aggregating them, and passing them on to larger markets, hopefully at a profit. Simes’ Portsmouth connections likely came in handy for such trading. (The arrival of the railroad at Union in the mid 1850s would have made this easier).
Not every transaction in Simes’ store would have involved an exchange of money, which was sometimes scarce. (Think of the current “change” shortage). Account books were kept. One might obtain a “credit” on the merchant’s books – likely after some “sharp” Yankee trading – by turning in some goods or product, such as foodstuffs, maple syrup, butter, leather, wool, firewood, etc., and then drawing upon that credit either then or later to purchase retail goods. Settlement of estates often involved a final settling of such accounts. Such establishments served often as post offices and were certainly active social hubs.
Bray U. Simes married, apparently in neighboring Middleton, NH, June 4, 1828, Martha Spinney, he of Milton and she of Wakefield, NH. Rev. William Buzzell (1775-1841), a Free-Will Baptist minister of Middleton, NH, performed the ceremony. She was born in Kittery, ME, circa 1808.
B.U. Sims headed a Milton household at the time of the Fifth (1830) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 20-29 years [Bray Sims], one female aged 15-19 years [Martha Simes], and one female aged under-5 years [Elizabeth E. Simes]. His household appeared in the enumeration between those of Jere. [Jeremiah] Goodwin and Nathl. [Nathaniel] Dearborn.
Bray Sims headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixth (1840) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 30-39 years [Bray Sims], two females 20-29 years [Martha Simes and someone else], one female aged 10-14 [Elizabeth E. Simes], two males aged 5-9 years [William Simes and George Simes], one female aged 5-9 years [Caroline Simes], one male aged under-5 years [John Simes], and one female aged under-5 years [Ann Simes]. One member of his household was employed in Commerce. His household appeared in the enumeration between those of Susannah Nutter and Asa Fox. ([Dr.] John L. Swinerton appeared after Asa Fox).
A certain “Ada” [Adaline Simes] of Portsmouth, NH, addressed a letter – in the period 1840-55 – to Mrs. Martha Simes and Bray U. Simes in Milton Mills, NH, in which she addressed them as Sister and Brother. Her letter mentioned family matters; the sailing of the ship Athens; visiting family; seeing an eye doctor in Boston; having received a letter from William, who had sailed from Charlestown, SC, to Mobile, AL, with William Sises; deaths in Portsmouth (Mrs. Betterham) and Aunt Dame; Mother having fallen on the ice and strained her ligament; and Louise [Simes] being determined to remain an old maid (Portsmouth Athenaeum, 2017).
Adeline [Simes] of Portsmouth, NH, addressed a letter – circa 1848 – to Bray U. Simes in Milton Mills, NH, in which she addressed him as Brother. Her letter mentioned ordering butter; family matters (sister Caroline [(Simes) Chase] having a cold); and Masonic activities in Portsmouth (John Christie having been elected grand master) (Portsmouth Athenaeum, 2017).
(Simes’ widowed mother, Hannah [(Underwood)] Simes, aged seventy-four years (b. NH), headed a Portsmouth, NH, household at the time of the Seventh (1850) Federal Census. Her household included [her daughters,] Louisa Simes, aged thirty-four years (b. NH), and Adaline Simes, aged thirty-two years (b. NH). They shared a two-family residence with the household of John Chase, a sea captain, aged thirty-nine years (b. NH), Caroline E. [(Simes)] Chase, aged thirty-seven years (b. NH), and their family).
Milton Representative Asa Fox submitted a petition to the NH legislature on behalf of Bray U. Simes and others, on Saturday, June 9, 1849. Their petition sought a reorganization or reform of the NH state militia. (Simes himself would have been above militia age).
Bray U. Simes, a trader, aged forty-nine years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Seventh (1850) Federal Census. His household included Martha Simes, aged thirty-seven years (b. ME), Elizabeth E. Simes, aged twenty years (b. NH), William Simes, a student, aged eighteen years (b. NH), George Simes, a student, aged sixteen years (b. NH), Caroline Simes, aged fourteen years (b. NH), John Simes, aged twelve years (b. NH), Ann Simes, aged ten years (b. NH), Edward Simes, aged eight years (b. NH), Shadrach Simes, aged five years (b. NH), and Adaline Simes, aged two years (b. NH). Bray U. Simes had real estate valued at $1,500. His household appeared between those of James Parker, a weaver, aged twenty-five years, and John L. Swinerton, a physician, aged forty-five years (b. ME).
Bray U. Simes of Milton Mills, N.H., a trader, visited the Sons of Portsmouth Jubilee, on Monday, July 4, 1853. It was a reunion or “Old Home Week” of sorts for Portsmouth, NH, natives and those who had formerly resided there. Simes had moved from Portsmouth in 1824 (Brewster, 1853).
B.U. Simes’ perception and subtlety in detecting a sneak thief, circa 1855, would be remembered at the time of his death thirty years later in 1885.
Brother-in-law John Chase (husband of sister Caroline Simes), appeared in the Portsmouth directory of 1857, as a ship master, with his house at 15 Elm street. Sime’s mother, Hannah (Underwood) Simes, widow of William Simes, resided with them at 15 Elm street. Brother-in-law Edward F. Sise (husband of sister Anne M. Simes), appeared as a coal and crockery merchant at 75 Market street, with his house at 10 Middle street. Hannah (Simes) Underwood died in Portsmouth, NH, September 11, 1858.
B.U. Simes, a merchant, aged fifty-nine years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Eighth (1860) Federal Census. His household included Martha Simes, keeping house, aged fifty years (b. ME), Elizabeth Simes, aged thirty-one years (b. NH), Ann Simes, aged twenty-one years (b. NH), Adda Simes, aged twelve years (b. NH), and John Simes, a merchant, aged twenty-four years (b. NH). Bray U. Simes had real estate valued at $1,200 and personal estate valued at $3,000. His household appeared between those of Elbridge W. Fox, a farmer, aged twenty-five years (b. NH), and George Simes, a carpenter, aged twenty-seven years (b. NH).
Sister Adaline Simes – she of the letters summarized above – married in Portsmouth, NH January 29, 1862, William Stavers, Jr., she of Portsmouth, and he of Philadelphia, PA. He was a widowed clerk, aged fifty-five years, and she was aged forty-nine years.
Bray U. Simes was taxed as a retail dealer in Milton’s US Excise Tax of 1862, US Excise Tax of 1863, and US Excise Tax of May 1864. His store was one of Milton Mills’ “four regular stores” mentioned in the Vulpes Letter of January 1864.
Son Shadrach S. Simes, of Milton, NH, aged nineteen years, enlisted in Company C of the Ninth NH Regiment, at Portsmouth, NH, January 5, 1864.
Military Items. Two hundred conscripts for the 6th and 9th New Hampshire regiments passed through Louisville on Wednesday, to join their regiments. They are from Concord, N.H. (Evansville Daily Journal (Evansville, IL), January 26, 1864).
He was captured by the Confederates on May 12, 1864, during the Battle of Spotsylvania, VA. He died in the notorious prison camp at Andersonville, GA, June 30, 1864. (Its commandant would later be hanged as a war criminal).
Bray U. (or B.U.) Simes appeared as a Milton Mills variety merchant, or a dry goods & grocery merchant in Milton business directories of the years 1867-68, 1869-70, and 1871. (Son John U. Simes had also his own mercantile listing from at least this period).
Bray U. Simes, a retail grocer, aged sixty-nine years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Ninth (1870) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Martha Simes, keeping house, aged sixty-two years (b. ME), and his children, Elizabeth E. Simes, aged forty-one years (b. NH), Ann S. Simes, aged thirty-one years (b. NH), and Adda Simes, aged twenty-two years (b. NH). Bray U. Simes had real estate valued at $1,500 and personal estate valued at $2,880. His household appeared between those of [his son,] Edward S. Simes, a carpenter, aged twenty-six years (b. NH), and Asa A. Fox, a retail grocer, aged thirty-two years (b. NH).
George W. Tasker and B.N. [B.U.] Simes were elected as Milton’s representatives in the NH House of Representatives, on Tuesday, March 12, 1872 (NH General Court, 1872). In the gubernatorial portion of that same election, Milton gave 222 votes (61.2%) to the Republican candidate, Ezekiel A. Straw (1819-1882) of Manchester, NH; 131 votes (36.1%) to the Democrat candidate, James A. Weston (1827-1895) of Manchester, NH; 6 votes (1.7%) to Labor-Reform candidate Lemuel P. Cooper (1803-1890) of Croydon, NH; and 4 votes (1.1%) to Temperance candidate Dr. John Blackmer (1829-1895) of Sandwich, NH (Boston Globe, March 13, 1872).
Bray U. Simes of Milton made out his last will, February 3, 1879, probably in Portsmouth, NH. He devised a token $5 each to his four sons, George Simes, William Simes, John U. Simes, and Edward S. Simes, as well as cancelling the $1,000 notes of hand given him by each of them. He devised to his daughter, Elizabeth E. Simes, $2,000. (Other children, Shadrach (d. 1864), Caroline (d. 1868), Adaline (d. 1875), and Ann S. Simes (d. 1878), died prior to the drafting of the will). He devised all the rest and residue of his estate to his “beloved wife,” Martha Simes, “to have and to hold the same, free from the control of any person, and at her disposal forever.” He also named her as executrix, and released her from the need to pay an executrix’s bond. John T. French, Geo. Annable, and Chas E. Green signed as witnesses, likely in Portsmouth, NH (Strafford County Probate, 102:420). (John T. French (1821-1889) was a Portsmouth merchant, George Annable (1820-1894) was a Portsmouth fire insurance clerk, and Charles E. Green (1857-1912), was a Portsmouth druggist’s clerk).
Bray U. Simes, a retired merchant, aged seventy-eight years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Martha Simes, a housekeeper, aged seventy-two years (b. ME), his daughter, Elisabeth E. Simes, at house, aged fifty-one years (b. NH), and his grandson, William C. Simes, works peddling fancy goods & c., aged seventeen years (b. NH). His household appeared between those of [his son,] Edward S. Simes, a carpenter, aged thirty-seven years, and Ira Miller, a storekeeper, aged fifty-three years (b. ME).
Bray U. Simes died of a heart ailment in Milton, July 15, 1885, aged eighty-four years, one month, and twelve days.
Martha Simes conveyed land in Milton to [her son] John U. Simes, for $1, as recorded in 1888 (Farmington News, May 18, 1888).
Martha (Spinney) Simes died in 1891.
Brewster, Charles W. (1853). The Portsmouth Jubilee: The Reception of the Sons of Portsmouth Resident Abroad, July 4, 1853. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=lipAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA77
Brewster, Charles W. (1869). Rambles About Portsmouth. First Series: Sketches of Persons, Localities, and Incidents of Two Centuries: Principally from Tradition and Unpublished Documents, Volume 2. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=j6amPQWixN0C&pg=PA296
Christian Union. (1885, August 20). The Death of B.U. Simes, of Milton Mills, Recalls. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=37c_AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA7-PA29
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. (2020). Bray Underwood Simes (1801-1885). Retrieved from emuseum.history.org/objects/58174/bray-underwood-simes-18011885
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. (2020). Martha Spinney Simes (1808-c1883). Retrieved from emuseum.history.org/objects/58175/martha-spinney-simes-mrs-bray-underwood-simes1808ca-18#
Find a Grave. (2016, October 15). Caroline E. Simes Chase. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/171330981/caroline-e-chase
Find a Grave. (2013, August 17). Bray U. Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/115612041/bray-u-simes
Find a Grave. (2013, August 17). Edward S. Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/115612171/edward-s-simes
Find a Grave. (2013, August 17). George E. Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/115612433/george-e-simes
Find a Grave. (2013, August 17). John Underwood Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/115612563/john-underwood-simes
Find a Grave. (2016, July 11). Louisa A. Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/166833508/louisa-a.-simes
Find a Grave. (2010, April 15). Sherdick S. Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/51143762/sherdick-s-simes
Find a Grave. (2013, August 17). William Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/115612785/william-simes
Find a Grave. (2016, July 11). William Simes. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/166833728/william-simes
Find a Grave. (2008, January 22). Adaline Simes Stavers. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/24110196/adaline-stavers
NH General Court. (1872). Journals of the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=CYAlAQAAIAAJ&pg=RA1-PA272
Portsmouth Athenaeum. (2017). S901, Letter from Adeline to Bray U. Simes. Retrieved from athenaeum.pastperfectonline.com/archive/94B6F817-A07B-4B05-BD9E-854194515470
Portsmouth Athenaeum. (2017). S905, Letter from Ada to Martha Simes. Retrieved from athenaeum.pastperfectonline.com/archive/DC85A076-B5EB-4819-9A0B-612659962236
Straw, Ezekiel A. (1872). Message of His Excellency E.A. Straw, Governor of New Hampshire, to the Two Branches of the Legislature, June Session, 1873. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=3AYWAAAAYAAJ
Wikipedia. (2020, October 22). Andersonville National Historic Site. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andersonville_National_Historic_Site
Wikipedia. (2020, November 8). Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Spotsylvania_Court_House