BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
The corner at 4500 West and Antelope Island Road was known as Simpson corner ever since 1913 when James Simpson started his family there.
The story of Simpson Corner began in the mid-1880s with a thriving salt industry extracting salt from the lake shore to the west. The land was owned by William Galbraith, who named the new town Syracuse, recalling the salt industry near Syracuse, New York. With the completion of the railroad spur to serve the salt industry in 1887, Galbraith sold the corner to Daniel Adams and Fred Keisel. On the lake shore straight west, Adams and Keisel built the Syracuse Resort, with bathhouses along the beach, a boat pier, a boat house, and a large dance pavilion, part of it on stilts out over the lake. There are recreations of these bathhouses in the Syracuse Museum today.
As part of the resort, Adams and Keisel added a large grove of shade trees and the Syracuse Bowery, with beautiful gardens and gravel walkways. The Syracuse Bowery and grove were used for many purposes, such as the 4th and 24th of July celebrations, concerts, and outings of all kinds. Church conferences were held annually for six or seven years.
The lake shore receded, and the bathing resort closed in 1892. The salt industry along the lake shore ended in 1899, and in 1906 the railroad removed its tracks due to lack of business. Fred Keisel sold out to Daniel Adams when the salt industry closed, and Adams himself died in 1908, leaving the property to his sister in New York City. The property lay dormant until it was sold to the Simpsons in 1913.
James Simpson had worked for both Galbraith and Adams, running the pumps for the salt plant. James Simpson and his wife Sarah lived in Hooper but also had a house on Antelope Island for summertime hay-cutting, moving by boat to Syracuse. Simpson also used his boat to move other commodities between the island and Syracuse, as well as other sites on the lake.
James’ son John, known as Jack had worked at the resort and the salt works, and he was also a ranch hand on the island. The Adams property included the first house at Simpson Corner, built for Charles Barber, a superintendent of the Syracuse resort and manager of Adams’ and Keisel’s farm and fruit orchards. After his dad moved back to Hooper, Jack built a new house on the corner. That house is the same house on the corner today.
By 1913 the Barber home and other buildings on the property had fallen into disuse, and the orchards were in bad shape. The Simpsons bought a steam tractor and began clearing the land for use as field and pasture. The purchase in 1913 had included the former Adams house across the street, and they lived there temporarily for four years. Father and son also built barns, corrals, and fences. James moved back to Hooper and in June 1916, Jack married Edith Hardy of Hooper. They moved into the newly completed house, starting a family which eventually included seven sons and three daughters, born between 1917 and 1938. The family farm included a small but successful dairy operation, and the family grew all manner of fruits and vegetables for their own use, and for sale locally and as far away as Ogden. They always had pigs and sold pork meat. The pastures were used to raise cattle, and the beef was also sold locally. There were a lot of ducks along the lake shore, and the Simpsons fed them during the winter, then killed large numbers for the family, and for sale. In later years, the family raised chickens and sold their eggs and the chickens to residents and stores. They also raised grain, using the steam tractor for threshing.
Jack died in 1956. His son Joseph was the fifth of the seven sons and bought the Simpson farm from his widowed mother in 1958.
Joe Simpson had married Louise Cook in 1948 and lived in another part of Syracuse. Their family included four daughters and two sons. Joe Simpson continued farming and ranching while raising a family and long afterward.
Joe and Louise Simpson were life-long residents of Syracuse. They served on the committee to raise funds for the Syracuse Museum, and helped with the celebration of the monument placed at Alice Frary’s Grave on Antelope Island. Joe’s grandfather and grandmother, James and Sarah, had helped the Frary family children after their mother, Alice Frary had died on the island. James Simpson sailed to Syracuse to bring back a coffin for Alice Frary and bring folks from Syracuse to attend the funeral.
In 1999 the Syracuse West Stake Center was built is on the land of the Simpson Farm. The current Simpson Springs subdivision was started in 2017 on the last remaining large piece of the Simpson property following Joe Simpson’s death in 2015. Louise Simpson had passed away in 2005.
Today Simpson descendants are still on the Simpson property. Joe and Louise Simpson’s son Russell and his wife Dixie have a home there. Their daughter Barbara Lovell-Wadell also has her home on the Simpson property, as does Barbara’s son Mason and his family. Joe and Louise’s granddaughter Jami Lovell and her family are in the original 1916 family home. Most recently, granddaughter Cindy Petersen and her family built a new home west of that original home, continuing a legacy into its second century.