FRANK SIMMONS - The business life of Frank Simmons forms an integral chapter in the commercial history of Springfield, where first as an errand boy, then as a salesman and for about thirty years as a merchant, he has been known for almost a half century. His energies have always been directed along mercantile lines, and his unremitting diligence and persistency of purpose have been the capital upon which he has builded his success, his achievements being such as many a man might well envy. As a dealer in books and stationery, he controls the largest trade in Springfield, and the popularity of his house has caused a consecutive increase in his stock to meet the growing demands of the trade.
Mr. Simmons is a native of Hamilton county, Ohio, born October 22, 1849, and is the third child of Moses and Ann (Riggs) Simmons, who came to Sangamon county about 1853 and settled on a farm about three and a half miles east of the city of Springfield, where they remained until the outbreak of the Civil war, when they took up their abode in the city. The father's death occurred in 1868, and the mother, long surviving him, died May 30, 1899. Their children were Martha, the wife of Dwight Scott, of Springfield; Levi, who died while serving in the army in the Civil war; Frank; and Eugene, who is in the employ of his brother.
Frank Simmons acquired his education in the country schools, being a schoolmate of Judge Colby, now the first probate judge of Sangamon county. When about thirteen years of age he started out to earn his own living and secured employment in a book store as bundle boy. He was taken in on trial, and that his service gave eminent satisfaction is indicated by the fact that he remained there for seven years, being gradually promoted. At the death of his father he assumed the position of the practical head of the family and nobly met the responsibilities that devolved upon him. He was ambitious to engage in business for himself and in 1873 invested a small capital in a stock of books, which he opened for sale in a room at the northeast corner of Monroe and Sixth Streets. The new enterprise prospered from the beginning, for as a salesman he had won the favorable regard of the public, from whom he now received a fair share of patronage. He afterward removed to the Central Hotel block, the site of the Bressmer dry-goods house, and in August, 1876, he purchased the stock of Patterson & Company, at assignment sale. In May, 1880, he removed his stock into the Hay building, where he has continuously remained, constantly increasing his stock to meet the demands of a trade which has long since reached extensive proportions, making the business a very profitable and gratifying one. He carries a very large line of school supplies, together with a very extensive line of general books, stationery and art goods. His is the oldest establishment of the kind in Springfield and one of the oldest in the state. He employs a large corps of clerks and in connection with his retail trade also does a jobbing business. The Simmons store needs no introduction to the public of central Illinois, for it is the most popular in the county and the business is constantly increasing, so that his stock now invoices about forty thousand dollars, and the sales reach sixty and sixty-five thousand dollars annually. Mr. Simmons is very methodical in his habits, systematic in his control of affairs and gives his attention in undivided manner to his mercantile business.
In the spring of 1875, Mr. Simmons was married to Miss Lucinda Robinson, a daughter of Judge and Mrs. William P. Robinson, natives of Kentucky, who removed from that state to Illinois and thence to Harrison county, Missouri. Her father served his country in the Mexican war and in the Civil war was in command of an Illinois regiment as colonel. In an engagement he was wounded. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Simmons were born seven children: Frank R., who is assisting his father in the store and was an enlisted soldier of the Spanish-American war, going, however, only as far south as Newport News, Virginia, when the war ended; Ralph, who died at the age of five years; Anna Belle, the wife of W. H. McConnell, of Springfield; Elsie; Clay, who met death by accident; Ray; and Robert, who died at the age of nine months.
Mr. Simmons is identified with various fraternal organizations, including the Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Elks, the Modern Woodmen of America, Loyal Americans and the Court of Honor. He is pre-eminently a self-made man, who without special advantages of education or of financial assistance has won a prominent and honorable place in the business world. His entire attention has been devoted to the upbuilding of the enterprise which he now owns and controls, and while he has never been active in political circles or sought to figure in any way before the public he belongs to that class of reliable, substantial citizens, who uphold the material progress and the legal status of their respective communities. That he has succeeded in his undertaking is shown by his accumulation of realty interests in Springfield, outside of his mercantile investments.