Hattie Louise Cook Simmons

Hattie Louise Cook Simmons

1877 – 1951

Hattie Cook Simmons 1897. Courtesy of her granddaughter Grace McKivergan.

Hattie was her given name.  It was not short for Harriet or any other name for which Hattie could be a nickname.  Her name was just Hattie.

Hattie Cook Simmons was born in Portsmouth, RI.  in 1877. Her father, George Cook, was a caretaker for the Sheffield family, who owned the farm on Stone Church Road (now the Moniz Farm). She never actually said where they lived in Adamsville. Perhaps there was a caretaker‘s house on the property, but by the 1940’s the only house on the property was the one which the Moniz family built.  As adults, she and 2 of her three siblings lived in neighboring houses in Adamsville.  Of course, she and Fred lived in the house on the corner of Main Street and Crandall Road, right beside the store.  Her brother George and his wife, Lila, lived in the next house up Crandall Road. Her brother , Walter, and his wife, Blanch, known to us as, ”Auntie B” lived in the Main Street house next door as Walter was the storekeeper for Manchester’s Store.  Her third sibling, Laura, married Charles Wood and lived at the Wood Farm in Central Village.

She and Frederick Almy Simmons married and lived on Crandall Road in Tiverton until he bought Head’s store.  The reason for this article is that while she was “just a wife and mother”, it is easy to see evidence in her life that she was a strong, smart, and independent woman. 

At some point early in the 20th century, she must have asked for some money.  My grandfather, like most men of his time, could see no reason for her to have money.  Her reaction to this was to “take in laundry”.  On Mondays people would send their linens to her and the cellar of the house in Adamsville became a laundry.  An old wringer washer, set tubs and clothes lines in the back yard was the equipment she used.  I even remember her ironing clothes with two irons that were heated on the stove and alternated as each got cold.

In 1936 Hattie decided that they needed “indoor plumbing”.  When she asked Fred about it, once again he replied that the outhouse was good enough for him.  She used her laundry money to have a bathroom built on the second floor of the house.  Fred was allowed to use it once a week to take his bath, but the rest of the time he used the outhouse or shaved at the kitchen sink. 

She also had the greenhouse in the lower yard built and raised plants and flowers that she sold.  She had a coal stove in the greenhouse and on really cold winter nights she would sleep on a bed under one of the benches. 

She had a bookcase with the sliding glass doors. It was full of books including poetry.  My favorite was the book that included “Crossing the Bar”. To a six year old, that was a poem about the beach.  Of course, she also owned a copy of Bertrand Shurtleff’s book of poetry. too.

Hattie didn’t drive an automobile, but she made sure that her son taught his wife how to drive.  After that she had a driver to take her to Beano games.  She also could go to Portsmouth to visit the cemetery on Decoration Day.  Some of those flowers from the green house were taken and planted in front of her parents’ stone.

Hattie Louise Cook Simmons’s adult life spanned the first half of the 20th century.  It began with no electricity, telephone, automobile, airplane, or indoor plumbing.  By 1951 all of those things were part of life. She only missed the space race (Sputnik, etc) by about 8 years.   

Many people thought of Hattie as a formidable woman much as they later thought of her daughter, Grace, but to us she was just Gram. 

Grace Simmons McKivergan, Marie Simmons Corey, and Anne McKivergan

March 2020

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