The probate court records1 dealing with the appraisal of John Andrew Simison's estate, some nineteen pages, tell us some about how he lived and worked.
Both John Andrew and his brother, Boyd Denny lived near Mt. Vernon, Alabama. His land was adjacent to the land of the former U. S. Arsenal, which is now occupied by Searcy Hospital. The records mention that he owned 800 acres of pine land. The land also contains a grist mill and saw mill.
The 1850 Census2 lists him as farmer, but he obviously was more than that. In addition to farming, he was a small businessman. He had at least five men working on the property. (The census showed three laborers and, as much as we hate to admit it, two slaves. The court records showed two male slaves, named Monday and Bob. They were valued at $800 each - about $20,000 in today's money.)
The grist mill would have enabled him to grind grain into flour or meal for other farmers in the area. In addition to the grist mill, John Andrew Simison owned a saw mill. Since he owned 800 acres of pine forest it is probably safe to say that he was cutting down his trees and using his mill to prepare lumber for the burgeoning population in Mobile. According to another researcher, John Andrew and his brother, Boyd Denny, sold shingles for homes in mobile. (During the time John Andrew had lived in Alabama the population of Mobile had increased tenfold.)
Carpenter's tools are listed in the appraisal. Since his grandfather constructed the courthouse back in Pennsylvania, you might expect him to have been taught the skills to be a carpenter. He owned oxen and cattle as you would expect of a farmer, as well as a mule, and hogs.
He must have had some education since the estate contained 'One Lot of Books'. (In wills of his ancestors, money was left for the education of children and grandchildren, so education appeared to have been important in the family.) I would imagine that his daughters may have had some education.
Someone in the family had musical training, since a piano and music stand were listed in the estate. I can easily visualize Eliza Ann entertaining guests by playing the piano in the parlor of a plantation style house in the antebellum south.
1. "Alabama, Probate Records, 1809-1985." Images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org : accessed 2014. Mobile County Administrative Accounts Book 33 page 538-556
2. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.Year: 1850; Census Place: , Mobile, Alabama; Roll: M432_11; Page: 477A; Image: 407.