Lauderdale County, Alabama
Contributor: Pat M. Mahan
Biography of an Old Citizen of Florence
Referring to the historical matter in this and other editions of this paper we have been reminded of one of the men of other times who occupied an important position in Florence for so many years that it seems strange that his name has never been mentioned. John Simpson came from County Tyronne in Ireland to Florence in 1818. He had been unfortunate in business there (by being security for his friends) just as he was about to marry so he left his lady love there, came to Florence, remained here seven years and returned to claim his bride. He called all of his creditors and against their protests insisted on paying every cent of principal and interest whether due as surety or otherwise. This was such an unusual thing that his creditors rendered him a public dinner, which he refused. He had been regularly educated as a merchant according to the good customs of those days and was a man of wonderful business sagacity, accumulated rapidly and yet was one of those men who scattered with a liberal hand always. He was a Reader in all public enterprises, ready to aid every benevolent cause and with a hand ever open to the needy.
He accumulated a large fortune for those times. The building now used as the Commercial Hotel was built and used by him as his store and the building in which Mrs. V. F. Irvine resides was erected by him and occupied as his residence until his death which occurred in 1865. He owned large property in town and in the county and for many years stood among the first businessmen in the State. He was genial and companionable and dispensed a generous hospitality at his home. His plantation was managed with the same system and order that he practiced in his mercantile business; his slaves provided with every comfort, and their spiritual wants looked after by having a minister of the gospel regularly employed to hold services with them
To see him regularly at his pew in the Presbyterian Church and then have knelt with him at family worship one would have said he should have been an elder; but he belonged to that Scotch Irish race, who were like their brethern of whom McCauly said that they were too proud even to kneel to their Maker. He claimed that he was a member of the church from his baptism (which was the custom of the church in the old country.) and when the pastor here would not recognize his membership so far as to baptise his first child, he vowed that he never would join and he kept his vow though his good wife afterwards committed herself with the church and was one of the first consecrated members of that body.
Source: Florence Times, June 29, 1894