Oliver Oglethorpe Simpson was a prominent citizen of Norcross during the early years of the 20th century, and his wife Mattie came from a pioneer Gwinnett family. One of the homes that they built here, at 273 North Peachtree Street, is a major contributor to our town’s historic character.
Simpson’s parents, William R. and Susan Mitchell Simpson, had 11 children, and moved to Southwestern Gwinnett with their family after the Civil War. Oliver, born in 1860, studied medicine at Atlanta Medical College and married three women from the Norcross area.
The first two, sisters Sarah Elizabeth and Leslie Alice Bolton, both died after only a few years of marriage; he was married to the third, Mattie Rakestraw, for over 40 years, and they had eight children.
Mattie was the daughter of Gainum T. and Sarah Rakestraw. G. T. Rakestraw served as Gwinnett sheriff in 1850-1851, and moved with his family to the Norcross area in the 1860s. The Rakestraw family home, which was near the intersection of North Peachtree and Rakestraw Streets, no longer stands.
In addition to his medical practice Dr. Simpson was active as a cotton broker and politician. He served two terms as Norcross mayor and spent time on the county commission and in the state legislature. He had national connections as well - John Adams, writing in the book Norcross, remembered that as a young man in the late 1930s he drove Dr. Simpson to Gainesville for a private meeting with Franklin Roosevelt when the President made a visit
to the city.
Two of Dr. Simpson’s nephews, Joe and Orien Simpson, were stopped near Duluth by Gwinnett county deputy sheriff Vic Dowis in February, 1922, while Dowis was on the lookout for contraband moonshine. A few moments later both unarmed Simpson brothers lay dead on the roadside from the deputy’s gunshots, and no moonshine was ever found. After a hearing that September had exonerated the deputy there were rumors that Dr. Simpson expressed his angry that justice was not done on the courthouse steps, and perhaps vowed vengeance. That did indeed occur - Vic Dowis died a few months later of a shotgun blast while plowing his farm fields. No one was ever convicted of the crime (but a Simpson family member is said to have confessed to the Dowis shooting many years later, on his deathbed.)