The Sims family is another example of a Sycamore Great Migration story. The story starts in Tennessee, moves to Sycamore, and from there branches out to include the first Black graduate from Sycamore High School who attended graduate school classes at Northwestern University and a favorite female restaurant owner/community leader.
The journey begins when Eugene “Dixie” Sims travels from Humboldt, Tennessee in 1899, at 17 years old. He first arrived in Chicago, and he was sent to Sycamore for work. A few years later he married Arder Motley, also from Humboldt. However, records show she remained in Tennessee for the first few years of her son Allen’s life, but finally moving to Sycamore until 1906.
Dixie was a talented pugilist, known as the “Champion Middle-Weight of the South” (Sycamore True Republican, August 11, 1909). When he was not boxing he had a gym where he trained other boxers.
Sycamore True Republican, March 31, 1926.
Dixie actively continued fighting – traveling to the south and throughout Illinois. He even was known to spar with another famous local boxer, “Cyclone” Johnny Thompson. Below are two newspaper clippings covering his fights. First is a “friendly” spar as part of the local July 4th celebrations, and the second article is about match held where Rock Cut State Park is today – in this match Thompson is the referee.
Sycamore True Republican, July 3, 1935 (page 3, column 2)
Sycamore True Republican, December 28, 1929
Dixie was also known as an amazing chef. He head his own restaurant (across from the Anaconda plant) and his cooking was mentioned in a July 4th event at Sycamore’s Electric Park.
Sanborn Map, 1929 – the grey box shows Dixie Inn.
Sycamore True Republican, May 5, 1933
Sycamore True Republican, July 14, 1920
Arder and Dixie’s son Allen also led an impressive life. Born in Humboldt, Tennessee, he attended Sycamore schools and was the first Black graduate from Sycamore High School in 1923. He went on to attend Lane College in Tennessee and was a principal for ten years. He was well known for his singing, and led the boys and girls choir at this school. During the summer he attended classes at Northwestern University. He married Fannie Springs while living in Tennessee. Sims also served during World War II. As his parents got older, the couple moved to Sycamore to help run the family restaurant. Unfortunately, he died at the young age of 46 in 1952.
Oracle, Sycamore High School yearbook, 1923.
Allen’s wife Fannie Springs also had an interesting life and played an important role in Sycamore. She was born in 1910 in Dewmain, Illinois. Her mother, Dr. Birdie Springs, a Comanche Indian, severed this community a doctor in 1919 after graduating from Loyola University’s Medical School. Fannie married Allen Sims while he was living in Tennessee. After her husband passed away, she continued running the family restaurant, but eventually changed the name to Fannie’s Dixie Inn. Fannie was very active in the community – she was on the Sycamore Planning Commission and Sycamore Human Relations Committee in the 1960s. While she was on the Sycamore Library Board, she personally paid a subscription of “Ebony” for the library. Fannie died at age 67 in 1978.
Sycamore Tribune, June 21, 1963
Sycamore True Republican, May 5, 1967