Hart, Simeon (1816–1874)

By: W. H. Timmons

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Simeon Hart, flour merchant, secessionist, and pioneer El Pasoan, was born in Highland, New York, on March 28, 1816. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, received training as a civil engineer, moved to the Southwest in 1848 as an adjutant in a Missouri cavalry unit, and fought with distinction in the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales on March 16, 1848. He married Jesusita Siqueiros, daughter of a wealthy Chihuahua flour miller, in late 1849, after which he took his bride to the Pass of the North, where he established his flour mill, El Molino. Several years later he built his residence, later La Hacienda Cafe, which was still standing in 1990. Described by United States circuit-riding attorney W. W. H. Davis as a large and luxurious residence built in the Mexican style, it served for years as a haven for travelers.

Hart's first contract with the army, signed on March 28, 1850, provided that he would furnish flour for one year to the posts of Doña Ana, the post opposite El Paso del Norte, and San Elizario for eleven cents a pound. In 1851 he accepted a contract to furnish the same three posts plus the escort to the United States Boundary Commission for a year at 12½ cents a pound. Although he frequently complained that the terms he received from the army fell short of what he thought he ought to receive, he always managed to do better than his competitors, and in the census of 1860 he reported the value of his property, real and personal, to be $350,000, a sum that made him the wealthiest man in the area. He served as a county judge from 1852 to 1854.

The outbreak of the Civil War found Hart, like almost all of the Anglo-Americans in the area, pro-Southern and secessionist. At a local election held in Ben Dowell's saloon only two votes in opposition to secession were cast, and everyone in town knew who they were-Anson and W. W. Mills. "Champagne for the secessionists," shouted Hart when he saw W. W. enter the saloon, "and the noose for all Unionists." Mills never forgave Hart's role in getting him incarcerated at Fort Bliss, and they remained enemies for a decade or more.

Mills almost succeeded in taking over Hart's extensive assets. Under the color of authority granted by the federal district court at Mesilla, in Doña Ana County, Territory of New Mexico, a United States marshal for the district, Abraham Cutler, supervised the seizure and sale of properties of those El Pasoans known for their Southern sympathies. Even though Hart had received a presidential pardon, his property, including the flour mill, dwelling houses, corrals, ranchhouses, machinery, and stables, sold for $3,000. In time El Paso County residents who had lost properties appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ruled that the Mesilla district had no jurisdiction. In 1868 the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision in the case of United States vs. S. Hart.

Even so, Hart had to battle W. W. Mills for the recovery of his property, a long struggle which finally came to an end in May 1873, when the Mills brothers accepted a payment of ten dollars. Hart died on January 19, 1874. At the time of his death, he was the editor and proprietor of the El Paso Sentinel. He and Jesusita lie in an unmarked grave in the El Paso area, the mausoleum built by his son Juan having been destroyed in the construction of a highway overpass.

J. Morgan Broaddus, The Legal Heritage of El Paso (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963). William Watts Hart Davis, El Gringo, or New Mexico and Her People (New York: Harper, 1857; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1973). Denison Daily News, February 17, 1874. Robert W. Frazer, "Purveyors of Flour to the Army: Department of New Mexico, 1849–1861," New Mexico Historical Review 47 (July 1972). Nancy Hamilton, Ben Dowell, El Paso's First Mayor (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1976). Anson Mills, My Story (Washington, 1918; 2d ed. 1921). William Wallace Mills, Forty Years at El Paso (El Paso?, 1901; 2d ed., El Paso: Hertzog, 1962). Rex W. Strickland, Six Who Came to El Paso: Pioneers of the 1840's (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

W. H. Timmons, “Hart, Simeon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hart-simeon.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995