Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Rev. Simon Hobbs' time in Erving

Simon L. Hobbs was the only Clergyman listed in Erving's 1870 Federal census. He lived just north of the Main Street on "the road leading from nearly opposite the church to Northfield" in a home which was purchased in 1869 from Lewis Jennings for $1700. The deed includes a shop, that the seller wanted continued access to for a year. Simon lived with his wife, Mary C. Sears, and children John H (12) and Helen D. (8). He was 57, born in North Hampton, New Hampshire. The couple had married in Lenox, Berkshire County, on 25 November 1852. He was a teacher in Pittsfield that year. His bride was fifteen years his junior, 24 at their marriage. Previous to coming to Erving, the Hobbs family lived in Southborough, Worcester County, where they are found on the 1865 Massachusetts census. The notation on the 1870 census that his son was born in Indian Territory twelve years before is notable.

The published "Missionary Herald" for 1853 lists Simon and Mary, with another couple and a female teacher, going to Choctaw territory. Their mission lasted several years, and they were still there when John was born in 1858.

Simon's report was published in an 1858 journal, when they were working separately from the others who left with them. He says, "It would be some relief to us to see and talk with a white woman once in a while. It is now twenty-five weeks since Mrs. Hobbs has looked upon such a person; and for twenty-four weeks she has been incessantly toiling in the day school, the female prayer meetings, the Sabbath school, and in family duties; all the time living in this little log-hut, with its puncheon [split log] floor. But we have been borne along by something better than human power, safely, happily, swiftly, having had hardly time to look back, except for a moment's wonder and gratitude. Our religious prospects are still encouraging. Three hopeful converts have been added to our number from beyond the Dividing Ridge, towards Fort Smith, about twelve or fourteen miles distant. A Sabbath school was immediately formed, and twenty-three are now members of it. You can judge of the latest in our meetings from the fact that, at our weekly prayer meeting last Wednesday evening, fifty-two were present, and one of whom came less than a mile, and some came four miles. Request all Christians to pray for us and our people"

Fort Smith, in western Arkansas, was a supply depot for westward expansion, and a pre-Civil War military garrison. It is now the site of a National Park on the Arkansas River.

They had returned to Massachusetts by the time Helen was born in 1862.The start of the Civil War may have been their catalyst for moving back east. Their experiences among the Native Americans certainly shaped their vision.  John likely had many stories to tell his schoolmates when he arrived at the school in Erving Village.

They only served in Erving for a short time. In 1869, Simon performed two of twelve marriages in the registry. Both of the weddings that he performed in 1870 were in January. In 1871, Simon was officiant at four of five marriages registered in Erving, including a Chauncey Sears from Lenox. He performed three marriages in 1872 before they sold their house and moved on. In 1880 they were living together in Amherst, Hampshire, MA. Simon was listed as "retired" and the children were still in school.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful little bio of my great-great Grandfather Simon Hobbs! I found your post just after visiting his school site in southeast Oklahoma (which looks surprisingly like western Massachusetts), which he named Lenox, OK after his wife Mary Cornelia Sears' home town. Ben Hobbs, Baltimore

    1. When I found "Indian Territory" listed in the census of this tiny little town, I just had to find out more. Then I found John was a minister in Utica, and was honored at Hamilton College, in my home town, I knew we were meant to connect somehow. If you want any of the documents I based this profile on, please let me know.

  2. Thank you for offering! I would dearly like to obtain copies of any letters or other materials, since I don't have anything of Simon's. His son John (who says that he spent time as a cowboy in Ft Smith before moving east to Amherst and starting his career as a Presbyterian minister) has a bio at (oddly, he was the minister at the church which, later, had D. Trump in sunday school). Ben