Having been relocated in 1915 from his original burial spot near Westport, Mo., now a neighborhood within Kansas City, Mo., Duke Williamson Simpson gained the distinction of being the oldest person, by date of birth, buried in Mount Washington Cemetery.
Born in 1795, Simpson became an assistant blacksmith, with his father, for the Shawnee Indians in Westport in the 1840s. Later he founded the Westport Christian Church. In 1842, with James Hunter, Simpson purchased the John Fitzhugh mill, which became the Stubbins Watts Mill along Indian Creek at 103rd Street and State Line Road. Famed mountain man Jim Bridger’s homesite was just across the creek to the south.
Simpson married Louisa Lipscomb (1809-1844). The Simpson home at 312 Westport Ave. (directly opposite John McCoy's store), built after Louisa had died, was long famed as being one of the most expensive and lavish houses in Kansas City. It was said that each front-facing window had $100 worth of draperies. In 1863, one of the five known, handwritten copies of General Order No. 11 was signed by Gen. Thomas Ewing in the Simpson home. In 1949, this landmark of early-day Westport was razed to make room for a business block.
The Simpsons had five children: Nathan (1831-1897); William (1836-1915); Richard (1838-1895); Nancy (1840-1902); and Elizabeth (1843-1910).
Simpson’s sister, Henrietta (1804-1881), married innkeeper John Harris, owner of the Harris House Hotel. That couple’s home, now known as the Harris-Kearney House, dates to 1855 and is the oldest two-story brick residence in Kansas City. Located at 4000 Baltimore Ave., it is maintained by the Westport Historical Society.
In 1860, the Simpsons’ son Richard — who served as a private in the Kentucky Cavalry during the Civil War — married Missouri A. Majors, daughter of Alexander Majors (1814-1900), founder of the Pony Express. Richard and Missouri’s granddaughter, high-school teacher Louisa P. Johnston (1890-1979), is credited with helping to save the Alexander Majors home at 8201 State Line Road. Johnston purchased the home in 1930, moved in two years later and carried on an extensive program of restoration and reconstruction until her death in 1979. Today the Alexander Majors House is one of few surviving antebellum houses in the Kansas City area and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
When Louisa Simpson died in 1844 and Duke Williamson Simpson in 1853, they were most likely buried in the one-acre Westport/Yoachum Cemetery at Pennsylvania and Archibald streets in the heart of Westport, within sight of the Simpson home. The cemetery had been established in 1835, but by 1915 it had been redeveloped into a lumber company complex, and most of the remains had been removed to newer cemeteries, including the Simpsons to Mount Washington.
Source: Ford Collection, Missouri Valley Special Collections