In 1894, about twenty-five ex-slaves and about 250 of their descendants came to the reunion, as did about a hundred of John Sims’s descendants, and also two hundred more white people, either old settlers or their descendants. In 1896, 3,000 people attended the Sims Family Reunion. It had been extended to include other old white settlers and their former slaves.
Dallas Morning News, 28 July 1894, page 3. Unique Reunion, Italy, Ellis County, Texas, July 27. The reunion of the ex-slaves took place at the old Sims homestead, about two and a half miles northwest of Italy on the 25th instant. This reunion was instigated over a year ago by Gilbert Sims, an old ex-slave and now a prosperous and contented citizen of Italy, for the purpose of bringing together all the former slaves of the lamented John Sims and their descendants for social intercourse and to talk over the times of long ago.
About twenty-five of the ex-slaves were present and about 250 of their children and grandchildren. The descendants of John Sims to the number of about 100 were present and also about 200 more white people, either old settlers or their descendants.
Anderson Brack, black, now of Waco made a speech in which he alluded to the kindness of his old master, and reviewed the good old times of long ago. He said he was now looking forward to the bright day of promise for his race. Will Burnett, a young descendant of one of the old ex-slaves spoke on the advantages of education and the advances that were being made by the black people, and complimented them on their strict adherance to law and order. He talked very feelingly to the young people, advising them to be honest, honorable, lawabiding citizens, loyal to home and loyal to the government.
The black people called on Rev. J. H. Douglass of Italy, one of the pioneers of Ellis County, for a talk, which was given and seemed to be much appreciated.
Among the ex-slaves present were Henry Sims, Ben Sims, Henry Richards, Bob Sims, Andy Bell, Ming Coffee, all of whom are prosperous farmers, owning their own homes; also Gilbert Sims, Wash Pendleton, Owen Hardiman, Sam Watson, and Anderson Sims.
Among the early settlers of Ellis County present were Rev. J. H. Douglass, George Cunningham, Jeff Dunaway, Joe and Ben Williams, Jim Johnson, and others. One old ex-slave was heard to say: “Would to God old master could have been spared to see this day.” No politics were heard all day.