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Eliza Sims and Two Libraries

by Clinton F. Cross


This is a story about Eliza Harlan-Cross-Tannehill-Dunlap-Sims (#2871)(Harlan, 644), wife of Nicholas P. Sims and mother of Oscar E. Dunlap and Samuel Meriwether Dunlap, Jr. For future reference, a number in this paper after the name of someone (in this case #2871 for Eliza) refers to the number in Alpheus Harlan’s book that identifies the particular individual about whom the author is writing (Harlan).

N. P. Sims and O. E. Dunlap founded the Nicholas P. Sims Library in Waxahachie, Texas. Samuel Meriwether Dunlap, Jr. founded the Samuel M. Dunlap Memorial Library in Italy, Texas. Both the Sims and the Dunlap libraries have copies of the Harlan book referred to in the preceding paragraph.

This paper is about Eliza and her family history—-Harlan, Sims, Cross, and Dunlap histories. It is also a tribute to Eliza, after whom no library was ever named.


William Sims and Judy Cross Sims were the grandparents of Nicholas P. Sims and Eliza Harlan Sims, first cousins who later became husband and wife. Eliza and her third husband, Samuel Meriwether Dunlap, parented Samuel Meriwether Dunlap, Jr., the founder of the S. M. Dunlap Memorial Library in Italy, Texas. Eliza was Nicholas P. Sims’ second wife; Nicholas P. Sims was Eliza’s fourth husband.Eliza was born in 1814, the year Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner,” the first of three children born to Elijah and Elizabeth Harlan. She died in 1877, shortly after John Marshall Harlan, her second cousin, wrote his famous dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)(Supreme Court, Plessy), in which Harlan condemned the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Hopefully, this paper will remind the reader that we are all connected to each other in many different ways, and also to the past.

The Texas Migration

In 1848 Frances Sims Daniel, youngest daughter of William Sims and Judy Cross, moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Texas with her eight children, slaves and relatives, making a party of thirty-one. They camped on what is at present the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus. In time, Frances purchased a total of two thousand one hundred acres in what is now University Park and North Dallas. P.C. Sims may have been a member of the party. In any case, P.C. Sims purchased land in what is now Ellis County, Texas from Archibald Greathouse around 1850. At the time, Texas was a part of the American frontier. The United States had just waged a war with Mexico that established the Rio Grande River as the boundary between the two countries. The region was sparsely settled. There were numerous Indians living in the Dallas-Waxahachie area (“Waxahachie” is, incidentally, an Indian name), and the Indians constituted a potential threat to the new-comers. It is believed Nicholas P. Sims arrived shortly after his Aunt Daniel. Nicholas built a mill on Greathouse Creek (Texas) around 1851.

Judge Brack, married to Lucy P. Sims, Nicholas’ sister, also built his house near what is now the Greathouse Cemetery.






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