Lucy (King) Sime & Christopher Sime
Among the intrepid California pioneers, there were a few women, but not many. My database shows about 7 percent of those that went to California from the Pioneer Valley were women.
From Palmer, two sisters went west to California to begin new families with their new husbands. These sisters were Mary Elizabeth King and Lucy (King) Sime, descendants of James King, the town’s first settler. Lucy King had married Christopher Sime in Belchertown just two months prior to their sailing in August of 1850. Upon arriving in California, Mary Elizabeth was to marry Christopher’s brother, John Sime, who was already making a substantial living as a builder around San Francisco. Unfortunately, Mary Elizabeth, whose health was not good to begin with, died from consumption about half-way through their six-month journey around Cape Horn. John Sime met them at the wharf, only to learn of his intended’s death. John Sime would marry another and go on to achieve wealth and influence as a merchant and banker in San Francisco, dying in 1871.
Lucy Sime wrote in February 1851:
We arrived here in what they call the rainy season, but they have had little rain this winter, They say this is the most pleasant time of the year. We were very much surprised at the appearance of San Francisco. It is a place in point of appearance and many other things much better than I had an idea of. It is a much larger place and much more pleasant than I expected, It is now, I should think, nearly as large as Worcester.. The streets are all laid out and the sidewalks planked, There are a great many handsome buildings here. Many of the largest and handsomest public buildings are gambling sa¬loons and they open right on the public streets. I walked past them a few mornings ago, They are beautifully fitted up, They are visited by thousands of gamblers. They are not private about it at all,.
The streets are crowded with people of many nations. I do not like it on that account, but there are plenty of people and a good many females from all parts of the world. There are some very fine people, I have not got much acquainted yet, of course, I do not care about forming acquaintances with any but Americans and there are not as many of them as other nations. There are many French people and many Chicanos. The women never wear bonnets, but wear a shawl over their heads or a black lace headdress. They are a singular looking people and there are Indians and Chinese and everybody you can think of, both good and bad and rich and poor. Two years ago they were shooting rabbits and hunting squirrels and there were but nine houses. It is true they had no chimneys to their houses and though now many of them have chimneys, but still many do not. They run their stovepipe through a hole in the wall. But they are building good houses now with chimneys, but it costs a great deal though lumber is very cheap.
According to the genealogy published by Virginia Simes in 1981, Christopher and Lucy staked a claim which was “jumped” when they left it to go to market. They then went to Marysville, where their first child was born. However when the Sacramento River flooded, they lost everything except what they could wrap in a blanket and put into a boat with their baby. From there, they settled in San Francisco where they were burned out of their home in one of that city’s many fires. Still, they had managed to save $700 – which was quickly consumed with the birth of their second child and when Christopher took ill with a fever.
They settled on a ranch north of San Francisco, where three more children were born. But when Lucy’s health began to fail, she returned east bringing with her three of her children. Two remained in California — John Sime raised one of their girls and the oldest boy went to live with another family. Lucy’s health eventually improved and, just as she was planning to return to California, she received word that her husband Christopher had been killed by a falling tree in a lumbering accident.
Lucy (King) Sime died in 1881 at Gilbertville, Mass. and is buried in the King family lot in Palmer.