Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 13: No 2) >> Facts from Charleston Directories >> Page 39

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 39

Secondary Scholarship | 2005

Checking the Charleston city directories for the years 1782 and 1785
yields no Simms inhabitant of the city. Because we know that William
Gilmore Simms Sr. became a merchant on King Street there, the absence of
his name verifies that he came from Lame, Ireland, by way of Lancaster
District in Upcountry South Carolina after 1785. It is often said that Simms
Sr. came to Charleston "shortly after the Revolution." It was well after the
Revolution. John Guilds in his biography finds the Simms family, including
the author's father, grandfather, grandmother, and uncles in Lancaster
District, South Carolina in the Census of 1790. Simms Sr. does not appear
in Nelson's Charleston Directory of 1801. It may be that he arrived from
the Upcountry shortly after that date. Guilds finds the author's father in the
Charleston directory of 1806, as a tavern keeper at 16 West King Street,
His own father, another William, had been listed in the directory of 1803 as
a millwright on the upper end of King. In 1806, the millwright's address
was given as 13 West King, very close to his son. In the 1807 directory,
the author's father is listed as the keeper of tavern and store at 20 West King
Street Road. There is no millwright at this time, so perhaps the author's
grandfather had died.
There is no Gates listed in the 1801 directory. There are, however,
three Singletons: Mrs. Mary Singleton, widow, 4 Trott St., Mrs. Singleton,
widow, 16 Boundary St., and Lucy Singleton, seamstress, 18 Trott St.
Listed also is a Robert Giles, planter, 63 Tradd St. Simms's first wife was
Anna Malcolm Giles. Simms's mother was Harriet Ann Augusta Singleton,
daughter of John and Jane Miller Singleton. Simms Sr. married her 30 May
1804. After his mother's death in January 1808, young Simms, born in
1806, was raised by his mother's mother, soon to be the widow Jane Miller
Gates, previously the widow Singleton. No Gates, Singleton, Giles, . or
Simms had appeared in the directories of 1782 and 1785. In all Simms's
Charleston bloodlines, he would be strictly a new arrival. His father, born
in Ireland in 1762, would have still had his Irish brogue. A poet himself in
the words of his son, Simms Sr. must have demonstrated the Irish lilt of
poetry, song, and conversation. expressive, poetic language which Simms
Jr. must have heard in the cradle before his father left shortly after Simms's
mother died.