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The Deer Park Community

Garrison wraps up city's celebration with West discussion

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

The City of Deer Park and the Historical Committee closed out the city’s 125th celebration with a discussion on Simeon H. West. Committee chair and Councilwoman Sherry Garrison, presented new writings and information on West, the city’s founder.

Garrison WestAt a recent presentation at the Deer Park Public Library, Sherry Garrison discussed the life of Simeon H. West, the founder of Deer Park. She also revealed the contents of letters written by West that were recently transcribed. Photo by Bobby Vasquez.By the time Simeon H. West founded Deer Park in 1892, the Illinois business man had already blazed a trail of success that eventually reached the United States West Coast.

Deer Park City Councilwoman Sherry Garrison, who heads the city’s historical committee recently spoke about new findings pertaining to the eccentric businessman. The presentation at the Deer Park Public Library was the final event of the city’s year-long 125th birthday celebration.

Simeon H. West was a complicated, adventurous and a bit eccentric,” she said.

Born in Bourbon County, Kentucky Jan. 30, 1827 to Henry and Mary Liter West. By the time his schooling ended at age 16, he was already working on his father’s farm but continued to read and self-educate,” Garrison said.

From negotiating and closing land purchases to gold mining to stints in the Illinois state legislature, West had already embarked on a lucrative career.

In December of 1892, West founded Deer Park. “Building a town was a time-consuming and difficult task, but Simeon West was up to the challenge,” she said. West also reserved rights for utility lines and roads in Deer Park.

While in Deer Park, West also named three streets which retain their present-day names: P Street, X Street and Luella. Luella was named for his youngest daughter, who died in 1973.

West Avenue was the original name of Center Street. Garrison said there are no official records that show when the name was changed to Center Street.

He built a road that led near to the present-day Shell complex and built a wharf on either side of Buffalo Bayou with permission from the secretary of war. The wharf was destroyed during the Great Galveston Hurricane.

West also granted land for the first railroad to go through Deer Park for $1.

He was always impressed with the waterfront in Deer Park and knew it would be important to manufacturing and shipping in Deer Park. In 1902, he granted the deed right-of-way to the ship channel to the United States of America, said Garrison.

Before leaving, he established the first Deer Park Post Office by contacting then-Vice President Adlai Stevenson, a personal friend in 1893.

Stevenson personally saw that the documents were issued to establish the post office.

West wrote two books, both of which are in the holdings of the Deer Park Public Library – his autobiography “The Life and Times of Simeon H. West,” and “Goddena, the Unknown God.”

“He wrote many articles. He had an opinion and was never afraid to express it,” Garrison said. “We knew there was a third pamphlet.”

At the Crumbaugh Public Library in Leroy, Ill., Garrison found the pamphlet, which was dedicated to Luella and was able to copy the piece.

During her presentation, Garrison spoke about a fountain West donated at Kiwanis Park in Leroy. Garrison presented the program from the dedication in 1912.

Garrison also discussed West’s devout spiritualism.

“During this time it was accepted. He had a belief in god, a supreme being and doing good in this world,” she said. “A spiritualist believes in communication between a person and the spirit world by means of a spirit guide by means of a séance.”

West’s spirit guide was named Pansy. His belief played a large part of who he was and was the basis for many of his good deeds, said Garrison.

Unfortunately, the town that he dreamt did not prosper as he hoped. A 22-inch snow storm in 1895 and the Galveston Hurricane in 1900 continued to dash hopes he had for Deer Park. In 1905, he sold the land.

Garrison said much of the new information about West centers around his 18 gold mining expeditions, the last of which he took when he was 80 years old.

Garrison said West’s descendants located his leather satchel that he took on these journeys and a picture of it will be placed in the city’s museum holdings, Garrison said.

The image will be placed with letters that West wrote that are in possession of the University of California – Berkeley. The city was able to receive a high-definition version of the letters. City volunteers are transcribing West’s handwritten letters.

Garrison said the Historical Committee presented copies of the letters to West’s descendants when they visited during the city’s July 4 celebrations.

“The collection of letters is important. Simeon talked about the hardships, the loneliness and the camaraderie of the people that he met,” she said. “He described the beauty of California, the Gold Rush era and how it affected the people there. He talked about the politics of California and the politics of the United States before the Civil War. It gave us a glimpse into who Simeon West was.”

She said five of the eight letters have been transcribed, and the city will rotate the display of the letters throughout the year.

West had stated he did not want to live so long that he was no longer a help to those around him. He died April 2, 1920 at the age of 93.

“Simeon H. West was a special person,” Garrison said. “He was more than just the founder of Deer Park. He was a very, very special man.”

There is nothing in the city named for West, she said, so earlier this year a bench was dedicated in his honor. Volunteers from the Maxwell Center made a quilt depicting West and the city’s 125th celebration. West’s descendants also visited Deer Park over the summer and participated in several activities relating to the celebration.

Garrison and many city leaders and elected officials participated in a historical musical which included the life of West and the city’s history.