Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mother Elizabeth Simington and her Blood Purifier

Elizabeth and James Simington
Courtesy of Dannielle Petrick

My current favourite mode of research is checking out databases of historical newspapers. This led me to discover more about my three times great aunt, Elizabeth Crawford Simington, who was a minor celebrity in her corner of Iowa for her production of “Mother Simington’s Blood Purifier”. I am grateful to Dannielle Petrick for her permission to use the above photo, and for providing me with further information about Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Simington, born Eiizabeth Crawford, was the sister of my great great grandmother Jane Crawford Monk, also known as Jennie. Elizabeth and Jane were both born in Ireland, likely in the Belfast area, and came to Canada with their siblings, parents and at least two uncles and their families, in the 1840’s. Both Elizabeth and Jennie referred to themselves interchangeably as “Scotch” and “Irish”, which likely indicates that they were born in Ireland of Scottish descent. Elizabeth was born to John Crawford and Margaret Diamond Crawford, both Protestants, on September 9, 1831, and married James Simington, also Irish, in 1855 in Ontario, Canada. They had eleven children, at least the first six of which were born in Canada. Most, if not all, of the whole Crawford extended family moved on the United States in the mid 1850’s, the majority going to Iowa, and mostly to Winneshiek county, including Elizabeth’s sister Jennie and my great grandmother Susan Monk. Elizabeth and James were late to make the Iowa move, which occurred around 1869. They moved directly to the town of Dickens in Clay County, where Jennie and her husband Jacob Monk, a.k.a. “Jake”, also resided. It is not clear which of the two families moved there first, but it seems that the sisters must have been close, as it appears that there were no other Crawford relations living in the area. With their families, they are both considered to be early settlers of the area.

In about 1896, at the age of sixty-five, Elizabeth patented and started manufacturing her “blood purifier” out of her home. It was sold in drugstores, by agents in Iowa, and by Elizabeth herself. A family story related to me by her great great granddaughter, Dannielle Petrick, is that Elizabeth and her granddaughter Mabel used to travel the countryside in a covered wagon selling the elixir. She apparently knew all the old settlers in the district. It was also sold nationwide, and Elizabeth received testimonials from all over the country about its efficacy for many ailments. According to a newspaper advertisement I found in the October 4, 1899 Emmetsburg Democrat, it was apparently a panacea for every disease known to man, from liver ailments to cancer. I have not been able to ascertain the ingredients, but “blood purifiers” of the age were often potions of herbal ingredients such as sarsaparilla and echinacea.

From the Emmetsburg Democrat, October 4, 1899

Her husband James Simington passed away in 1899, the same year as the advertisement above. Elizabeth manufactured the blood purifier until about 1918, when at the age of about eighty-seven she was too old to continue. As a side note, as part of my research for this article, I discovered that Elizabeth must have visited her daughter Margaret Ann Chapman in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada in 1911,  at the age of eighty, as she appears on the 1911 Census of Canada with Margaret and her family. It was also interesting to discover that the Melvin Hart family was not the only family on my tree to migrate to Alberta from Iowa. So far, I have found no direct connection between the families, except that they were related and they would have known each other, both having lived in the same town in Iowa for many years.

Elizabeth Simington passed away on February 22, 1926 of old age and a heart ailment at the age of ninety-four, (the same age at which her sister Jennie died), at the home of her daughter, Della Marquette in Dickens. She is buried with her husband in the Dickens Cemetery. Only three of her eleven children had survived her.  Her funeral, held on February 23rd, was at the Methodist Church, as she, like Jennie, and many in the extended family, was a Methodist from an early age. According to one of her obituaries, she liked to read the Bible, and had a good portion of it memorized.

1 comment:

Sandy Faul said...

I have a bottle of Mrs. Simington's Blood Purifier in my china cabinet at home. It was found in the wall of a home that was being torn down in Milford. They knew I did genealogy on the Simington family and called and wanted to know if I wanted it. I will cherish it forever!