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The Deer Park Community

West family joins city's 125th annivesary celebration

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

SHW SquareIN OUR COMMUNITY
The city’s 125th anniversary celebration continued this week with a visit from family of Deer Park founder Simeon H. West. Descendants of the Illinois businessman attended receptions in their honor on Monday and will be part of the Fourth of July celebration.

WestFamily and BillieDeer Park Historian Billie Mann (right) chats with Lori Neisler (left) and Charlotte Tyrell, great-great granddaughters of Simeon H. West. Several descendants of West, the founder of Deer Park, were in town to help the city celebrate its 125th anniversary. Photo by Bobby Vasquez.Many of the descendants of Simeon H. West were aware of his business exploits that took him from central Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast. This week, several members of the West family visited Deer Park, the thriving town he founded in 1892.

The city of Deer Park and the Bedford family hosted receptions for the West’s descendants as the city celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.

“We’re so happy to have them here and show them what our town and community has become,” said City Councilwoman Sherry Garrison, who heads the city’s historical committee. “To get to meet his family has been wonderful.”

Garrison said having West’s family in the city has allowed the historical committee and the family to exchange stories and artifacts pertaining to West’s travels that led him to the Pacific Coast.

Gene Etherton, one of West’s great-great grandsons, is one of several descendants who made the trip to Deer Park. He said the family is honored that even 97 years after his death, West is held in such high regard in Deer Park.

“We think it’s fantastic that the community thinks so highly of him. We were so excited to find out there’s a picture of him hanging in your City Hall,” Etherton said. “We’ve heard stories about his travels and to know that part of his legacy lives on and continues to thrive is very, very exciting for our entire family.”

“The fact that this city has preserved so much of its history is just fabulous,” said Lori Neisler, who is a great-great granddaughter. “Simeon had a vision when there was nothing here and to see something that he started thrive the way Deer Park has is very, very rewarding.”

Several of West’s family members were impressed that West’s eclectic nature and spiritualism beliefs are overlooked in Deer Park. Back home in central Illinois, West’s name still carries a stigma.

“It’s almost like he’s a hero here, but back home he’s still taken with a grain of salt,” Etherton said. “He owned a lot of farm ground, he was state senator and was involved in all kinds of politics, so he also made a lot of enemies along the way. He took no prisoners.”

His spiritualism is just a part of his lore, Neisler said.

“And besides, if it was real, why doesn’t he come back and visit us?” she laughed. “And if he did, he would still be looking to the future.”

As the family pieced together pictures, stories, historical documents and other lore, they have come to a unanimous conclusion.

“He was quite a guy,” said Etherton. “I think he would love to see what Deer Park, Texas turned out to be. I think he would be very proud.”

“I wish I had 30 minutes to talk with him to see how his mind worked. He must have been a quick thinker and a hard worker who always felt like he had to give to the world,” said Neisler. “In Deer Park, he made a huge contribution that he didn’t live long enough to see, but so many people are reaping the benefits from it.”

That contribution became home to the largest petrochemical complex in the United States and the epicenter of the nation’s economy. That contribution led to one of the busiest ports in the nation which lead’s the country’s fourth-largest city, and one of the most culturally diverse regions in the US.

Neisler said she hopes other members of West’s family visit Deer Park.

“It’s a part of who we all are. All of us have a piece of Simeon in us,” she said. “This is a good reminder to anyone and everyone that you never know what kind of legacy you will leave in 10, 20 or a 125 years.”

Many of West’s descendants still live in the farmlands of central Illinois, however none have the West last name.

“But at least here in Deer Park, Texas the name lives on and we appreciate that,” Etherton said.