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Four Generations of the Davis Family
The Davis Family Reunion has met annually for almost 60 years, bringing together descendants of Jenkin Davies of Cardiganshire, Wales. The Davises attending these reunions have mostly been members of one branch of the family, that of Jenkins great-grandson George Davis, who spent his adult life near Frederick, Maryland, and died in 1850. A history of Georges clan would require many pages, but the story of him and his forefathers can be told fairly simply.
In hopes of strengthening the bonds of mutual esteem among the Davis Family, that story is told here in preliminary sketches of the lives and immediate families of Jenkin Davies (d. 1747), his son John Davis (17061774), his son Richard Davis (17511791), and his son George Davis (17751850). It is the hope of the author that these sketches will be given greater detail and accuracy as research brings more facts to light.
Please remember that this document represents a work in progress. While many of the facts stated below are certain, many of the inferences adduced are not. Additional information is needed to fill in the missing details of these biographies and to establish the historical context in which these Davises lived. The author welcomes any and all corrections and suggestions for new research.
Jenkin Davies, d. 1747
Jenkin Davies holds the title of the earliest unquestionably Davis ancestor. We know a small body of certain facts that we have adduced from his will, his Bible, and the records of his lands. He had emigrated from Wales to Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, by 1719. His wife was named Mary, he was prosperous, and he died in Earl Township in 1747, leaving Mary a comfortable inheritance and a considerable brood of descendants. He had a brother named Evan who lived in Walesand with whom he was still on speaking terms in 1747. We know nothing for certain about his parents or his wife's, or their final resting place.
The Davis Family Tree drawn in the 1940s seems to add a little to these bare facts. It states that Jenkin Davies had a sister Martha, a brother Evan, and a brother John. All four supposedly emigrated to Pennsylvania, but Evan returned to Wales. here seems to be no other extant document that lists John and Martha as siblings of our Davis ancestor.
A little research clarifies this picture somewhat. Jenkin came from County Cardigan, near the Welsh coast looking westward over the Irish Sea. His ancestral home was probably the cottage called Esgerwen, in the hamlet of Cilcennin. Modern Welsh maps show the place as Cilcennin, but Jenkin's neighbors would have written it "Kilkominm" or something similar, thanks to a long English attempt to Anglicize all those bizarre Welsh spellings. Esgerwen cottage was still standing in 1995, although it has not been in Davis hands for at least a generation. Davis relatives dwell in the vicinity, however, and in the early 1980s at least one of them was still receiving an annual pittance from the then-owner of Esgarwen.
Jenkin's family, or his wife's, also held a small plot by the seashore at nearby Llansantffraid. Both parcels are mentioned in his 1747 will, in which he took pains to ensure that they would stay in the Davis blood come what may. The coincidence of owning two plots suggests kin or in-laws in both hamlets. This in turn might be a clue to Jenkin Davies' ancestors. There are two major paths that might lead back into his lineage.
The first path was discovered by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, the Mormonswho of course did not exist as such in the lifetime of Jenkin Davies. The Mormons have nevertheless implied an official interest in him. The Mormon Church teaches that ancestors can be posthumously baptized, and Mormons are thus some of the world's most assiduous promotors of genealogy and family history. Mormon researchers have fanned out to ancient parishes across Europe copying names recorded for baptisms, weddings, wills, and funerals. They have visited Wales, and their findings are available to the public through a meticulous if ponderous reference service. No fewer than three Jenkin Davids were born in Cilcennin or Llansantffraid in the latter part of the 17th Century. While no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the records collected by the Church of Latter Day Saints, some tantalizing clues are at hand.
The most promising record lists the children named in the 1686 will of a David Prutherch and his wife (her maiden name was Rebeca Thomas), of Cilcennin. David and Rebeca had seven living children. In birth order, they were: Richard David, Lewes, Gwenlynn, Evan, an unnamed daugher who married Morgan John, Jenkin, and John. The Mormon researchers who recorded these names estimated that the eldest child had been born around 1648, and the youngest around 1660. This family has a Jenkin, an Evan, and a John, plus a married sister who could have been named Martha. One problem remains: If the Mormons guessed correctly when listing the childrens' birth years, Jenkin Davies was born in 1658. He was thus 38 at the birth of his first child, 61 when he bought land in Radnor and Earl, and an astounding 89 when he died in 1747.
Another Jenkin David was born in Llansantffraid, the son of David Griffith and his unnamed wife. Jenkin was the eldest of nine, born apparently between 1668 and 1684, so he would have been of a more realistic age than the Jenkin David of Cilcennin. He also had a brother John, but no brother Evan or sister Martha are listed. The omission of Evan is serious, because we can confirm his existence from Jenkin Davies' will.
The third Jenkin David would simply have been too young to be the Jenkin Davies of Radnor and Earl. The son of David and Mary William of Llansantffraid, he would have been born around 1686.
One more path that perhaps leads to Jenkin Davies' ancestors has been hinted at by fragments and coincidences in the surviving records of Colonial Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania frontier in the second decade of the 18th Century began only a few miles west of Philadelphia. There was not much there to cheer the Welsh families huddled in simple homes during the long winters. The Welsh stamped their memories of the old country on the districts outside Philadelphia, which echo with the place names of Wales. Bryn Mawr, Montgomery, St. Davids, and Radnor were all named after Welsh towns and places; indeed, that part of Chester and Delaware counties was long called the Welsh Tract.
We know that Jenkin Davies lived on 200-odd acres in Radnor Township. He worshipped at nearby St. David's church, where some of his descendants are no doubt buried. Jenkin's creed was Anglican, not Quaker, a fact that set him somewhat apart from his many Quaker neighbors.
Scattered evidence suggests that one of Jenkin's relatives, perhaps his father, might have settled near him in Pennsylvania. Land records of Uwchlan Township show that a Jenkin David, almost certainly a Welshman, purchased 200 acres in 1715. He lived there with his wife, Martha, until his death in 1727. Martha survived him, but we do not know where she died, or when. Jenkin and Martha had a son named Evan, who inherited the Uwchlan farm.
Were Jenkin David and Jenkin Davies related, perhaps as father and son? Their names could suggest kinship: Jenkin was an old English name (known as early as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales), but it was not a common one among the Welsh of southeastern Pennsylvania. What was common in the Welsh Tract, however, was for the son to take his father's Christian name as his surname. Jenkin David's generation of Welshmen seems to have been one of the first to adopt surnames, but they did so with little orginality. The Welsh Tract is full of David Davids, Thomas Thomases, and Evan Evanses. Hence, Jenkin David, if he was in fact Jenkin Davies' father, would have been born in the mid-1600s, the son of David, born in turn in the perhaps the 1610s or 1620s. Jenkin David's own firstborn son might well have called himself Jenkin Davies. Thus it is plausible that that the Jenkin David who died in Uwchlan in 1727who left at least three grown childrenwas of the generation preceding Jenkin Davies'.
The second clue is Jenkin Davies' Welsh Bible, which was long in the Davis family but now is held by the Tri-County Historical Society in Lancaster. Printed in London in 1678, it is inscribed "Jenkin David his book 1702," and just below that "Jenkin Davies his book 1726." Neither inscription was written by either of the two Jenkins, because both were illiterate (as attested by the marks on their respective wills). Jenkin Davies could have had his name inscribed in his Bible twice; he apparently called himself Jenkin David for a time, although he had obviously changed to Davies by 1726. But if both inscriptions refer to the same owner, why would he want his Bible inscribed twice, 24 years apart? The logical assumption is that Jenkin David and Jenkin Davies were two men, perhaps father and son. Both presumably worshipped at St. David's church in Radnor (which owns an identical 1678 Welsh Bible), and that Jenkin the elder had handed the Bible to Jenkin the son by 1726, not long before his own death.
How can we know for certain whether the Jenkin David named in the Davies Bible was the Jenkin David of Uwchlan? There is one more clue. Various books on the Welsh Tract mention no other Jenkin David or Jenkin Davies; a significant fact in itself, given the unimaginative names chosen by Welsh parents of the time and the consequent confusing welter of Thomases, Edwards, Evans, Reeses, Pricesand Davids. The wills of the two Jenkins both mention Evan Davids, who could have been the same person. Jenkin David in 1727 left his Uwchlan farm to a son Evan; Jenkin Davies in 1747 mentioned a brother Evan, then living in Wales. Was this the Evan David who in turn sold the Uwchlan farm out of his family in 1752? If so, then the father-son relationship would seem undeniable.
The distance of 300 years, however, clouds any certain knowledge of the relation between the two Jenkins. Certain circumstances suggest that the Jenkin David of Uwchlan was not the father of the Jenkin Davies of Radnor and Earl Township. Jenkin David's will does not mention a son Jenkin, nor the two properties in Wales that so exercised Jenkin Davies thoughts as he prepared his own will in 1747. Since Pennsylvania did not have primogeniture, this omission is significant. It means either of two things: that Jenkin and Jenkin were not father and son, or that the father gave his son his inheritance before his own death. If the latter were true, the logical date for the transfer would be 1719, when Jenkin Davies purchased 200-odd acres in Radnor and another thousand acres on the frontier in Lancaster County.
The odd chronology of the land records throws another doubt into the equation. Jenkin David bought his Uwchlan lot in 1715. If he was Jenkin Davies' father, he would have been in his fifties, if not already in his sixties. There seems to be no record of him in Pennsylvania before then. Jenkin Davies does not show in the records before 1719, when he was probably in his forties (his first child had been born in 1696). Why would the elder Jenkin David, presumably an aging man of modest but comfortable means, pull up roots in Wales and emigrate to a wild America ahead of his eldest son?
What all this long digression means is that we simply cannot say for certain who was Jenkin Davies' father. We have no sure knowledge of when he came to Pennsylvania, what he left behind in Wales, or came with him. What we do know is that Jenkin Davies was in Radnor by 1719, and that he and his wife Mary had had, by then, seven children over two decades. After this the picture grows clearer.
Around the time Jenkin Davies purchased the Radnor farm, he also acquired 1000 acres on the Conestoga River in Earl Township, Lancaster County. We do not know for certain when he moved there for good, but when he did he left the Radnor farm in the hands of his son Evan. Evan's family occupied the land until the second decade of the 19th century, according to census returns and local tax records.
Jenkin Davies almost certainly went west to Lancaster County with a party of Welshmen surveying the land in 1719. Thomas Edwards, who apparently was there at the time, mentions ye Company in ye woods, traveling with surveyor Isaac Taylor. Jenkin had Taylor lay out 800 acres along the Conestoga and another 200 for his son-in-law, Rees David, husband of his daughter Catherine. Rees and Catherine settled on their land at that time or soon afterward, building a little cabin and clearing three acres, but within a year or two, before the Spring planting, Rees and Jenkin quarreled. Whatever the cause of the row, Jenkin withdrew his promise to pay for the land on which Rees and Catherine lived, and they seem to have sold their share and moved away. Jenkin was still angry about the incident a generation later. His will left Catherine a small sumfive pounds current money of Pennsylvaniato be paid to her if she outlive her husband"
The fact that Jenkin was close enough to quarrel with Rees suggests that he lived on his land in Earl Township at least part of the year. Perhaps he raised a crop there but wintered in Radnor. In any event, he seems not to have built a home in Earl until 1740. A few years before his death he apparently constructed a brick house at the confluence of the Conestoga and Muddy Creek. It was still standing in 1996, close to the east bank of Muddy Creek, broken and abandoned and overgrown, behind a huge 1830s farmhouse that is now in Mennonite hands. Occasional flood waters had lapped the foundation, leaving a deep and never-drying pool around one corner before receding. Just over the waters is the cornerstone for the house, showing the date 1740. Since Jenkin Davies unquestionably owned the land at that time (having paid for it in full by October 1735, according to local land records), the house must have been his. It is small by later standards, but it was solid and must have ranked with the more substantial residences in the district when constructed.
Jenkin Davies' 1747 will is a fount of information about him and his family. He made it on February 12, 1747, being weak of body but of perfect mind and memory. It describes him as a yeoman, and strongly suggests he was still an Anglican in his creed. The will notes that Jenkin and Mary had recently conveyed their plantation in Radnor to their eldest son Evan, who been living on that tract for some yearsperhaps since Jenkin had moved to Conestoga. Evan also received a house and 200 acres in Earl (one Owen Williams was living there at the time). Sons John and Zaccheus each received the houses and land where they lived (400 acres each). This acreage must have been in addition to the 805 acres that Jenkin and Mary had apparently given to John in October 1744. Mary and John were the executors of Jenkins will, which was witnessed by several of Jenkins Welsh neighbors: Owen Williams, Rees Morgan, Thomas Edward, as well as by John McHaffney. The will was probated on December 5, 1748.
We do not know for certain when Mary Davies died, in keeping with our ignorance of her birth. Nor do we know where she and Jenkin lie today. But we can make an educated guess. A mile or so the east of the Conestoga house near Lancaster Ave, just to the west of Terre Hill in East Earl Township, a low hill rises along the north side of the road. Toward the top of that rise sits a substantial and tidy Menonnite farm. Behind their barn, tucked in a notch of the cornfield, is an ancient cemetery containing the dust of several dozen of the area's first white settlers in a square plot bounded by a low stone wall. The graves of Jenkin and Mary's sons, John and Zaccheus, alongside their wives, lie in a line in the middle of the cemetary. The crumbling and barely legible headstones of John and Elizabeth make one pair, and a few feet away the stones of Zaccheus and his wife Joanna make the second pair. Between the two pairs is just the right space for two more graves, although no stones survive to witness for their inhabitants. One would like to believe that Jenkin and Mary lie there.
For the record, the children of Jenkin and Mary were:
Catherine (b. November 6, 1696); she married Rees Davis
David (b. January 20, 1699)
Jean (or Jane; b. January 14, 1702)
Evan (b. June 7, 1703)
John (1706-1774); he married Elizabeth Anderson
Zaccheus (b. February 21, 1710; d. 1788); he married Joanna Morgan
Sarah (b. May 28, 1713; d. 1802); she married John Edwards
John Davis, 17061774
We know that John Davis was born on June 25, 1706, but we can only guess that he was born in Wales, possibly even in Esgerwen cottage. He was the fifth child of Jenkin and Mary Davies, and their third son; at least one older brother, Evan (b. 1703) lived to adulthood. His father Jenkin came to Pennsylvania and bought land in 1719, but he may have left his family in Wales until he got settled in the Colonies. In any event, there seems to be no evidence that Jenkin left Wales before 1715, and thus we can surmise that John was an older child or even a teenager when he first caught sight of the Delaware River and America.
John it was who shortened the family name. His father Jenkin referred to him as John Davies in his 1747 will. By 1765, however, John was spelling his surname Davis, as seems to have been the preferred spelling for Davises in America.
John eventually married Elizabeth Anderson (d. 1796). They must have seemed an odd couple, because he was at least twice her age. Indeed, she may have been as young as 17. She was a daughter of Richard Anderson, Jr. and Mary Anderson of Lancaster County, and her grandfather Richard Anderson, Sr., was a neighbor of Jenkin Davids (Jenkin witnessed his will in 1747). We do not know for certain when Elizabeth was born, but it must have been after 1726. She is mentioned in her grandfather Richards will; he left her 19 pounds to be paid when she reached 21.
John and Elizabeth probably married around 1748. We have no information to explain why John married so late in life; perhaps he had had a wife and even a family when he was young. John and Elizabeth had four children of whom we know; all four lived to adulthood and married. That fact alone suggests that another sibling, or siblings, now forgotten, did not survive infancy or childhood. Of those who did, Sarah was the oldest. Richard, born in 1751, was next. Martha was the third child; the fact that the fourth, Isaac, was born in 1754, suggests that Martha was born in 1752 or 1753.
Calvin E. Schildknecht of Gettysburg, an amateur historian and genealogist, noted in a 1982 article that John Davis was an early Methodist preacher. We have no information to confirm this.
John died on March 21, 1774. Elizabeth lived another 22 years. The accountings of their estates provide clues to how they lived.
Johns estate, when liquidated, amounted to 433 pounds. Elizabeth and Richard, her oldest son, served as his executors. 59 pounds had to be divided among his creditors. John had owed small amounts to a dozen or so of his neighbors; the largest amount, 26 pounds, he owed to his son-in-law Robert Wallace. After Johns debts were paid, the estate was left with 323 pounds. A third of that, 124 pounds, went to his widow Elizabeth, and the remainder was split in four equal parts of 61 pounds each among John and Elizabeths four living children. If these amounts seem small, it should be recalled that cash was a rare thing in Revolutionary America. Most families functioned perfectly well with only a few shillings a month, and even businesses operated largely on credit and barter, without large sums of actual currency changing hands. Johns estate was not by any means small or poor, and the 61 pounds received by each of his children went a long way.
Elizabeths executorher son Isaacinventoried her possessions a few weeks after her death on December 19, 1796. She had lived comfortably, with gold and silver jewelry, pewter, a horse and two cows, a clock, and five volumes of Mr. Henries Works and some old books. The value of everything amounted to roughly 480 pounds, but more than 350 pounds of that was the principal and interest on three debts owed to Elizabeth by her sons Isaac and Richard, and her nephew Gabriel Davis (the son of Catherine and Rees David, with whom Jenkin had had his falling out). More will be said about these later.
John and Elizabeth lie in the Old Welsh Cemetery in Earl Township. Beside John and Elizabeth, a few feet away, are Johns brother Zaccheus and Joanna.
The children of John and Elizabeth Davis were:
Sarah; who married Joseph Kittera
Richard (1751-1791); he married Catherine Hinkle
Martha; she married Robert Wallace in 1768
Isaac (1754-1838); he married Lydia Carter
Richard Davis, 17511791
Richard Davis must have been born in Earl Township and grown up on his father Johns farm. John would have been about 45 years of age when Richard, his eldest son, was born. Richard had at least two younger siblings born within a few years of himself; one suspects that his mother Elizabeth bore other siblings who did not survice infancy.
Richard may well have been the first of the four Davis men profiled here to learn to write his own name. We know that his grandfather Jenkin could not write; he made his mark on his will in 1747. Similarly, Richards mother Elizabeth, who made her mark on the document attesting to her service as executor of her husband Johns estate in 1776. But Richard could write; his signature is right there under his mothers mark.
Catherine Barbara Hinkle, Richards bride, was two years his junior. She and Richard probably had known each other since childhood; her family lived around nearby Hinckletown, and her parents, George and Barbara, owned the farm next door to Richards. The Hinkles were a respectable local family of German origins; they had come to Earl Township in the 1730s. Modern-day Hinkles trace the family line in America to the Rev. Anthony Jacob Henckel, Catherines great-grandfather, who was born in Germany in 1668 and died in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1728. Hinkle ancestors (with various spellings of the name) can be tracked as far back as the 16th Century in Upper Hesse, in western Germany.
Richard and Catherine probably married in 1773 or 1774, when he would have been 22 or 23, and she 20 or 21. Their first child, George, was born in 1775.
Georges birth came at an uncertain time for America. The Revolution began in Boston that year, and in 1777 serious fighting spread to eastern Pennsylvania. Family legend has it that Richard fought with General Washingtons army at the Battle of Brandywine.
That legend may be true, although it may omit an interesting detail of Richards military service. The National Archives in Washington holds the pay records of many of the thousands of Continental soldiers who fought for the young United States. Richard Davis is not an uncommon name, but only one Richard Davis in the pay records seems to fit the facts about our ancestor. That Richard Davis enlisted for the duration in Captain Santfords company of Col. William Malcoms Regiment on June 14, 1777. He apparently fought in the battles around Philadelphia that autumn, seeing some of the most intense combat of the Revolution as Washington tried in vain to keep the British out of the city. The Americans lost the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, and then came up empty again at Paoli ten days later. Admiral Howe and his British occupied Philadephia on September 26, but Washington did not quit without trying another battle, and losing, at Germantown on October 4. After that the two sides drew apart and prepared for the long winterthe British in comfort in Philadelphia, the Americans in the cold at Valley Forge.
For some reasonperhaps disciplinaryRichard Davis was demoted from corporal to private on October 31. His company was now down to 32 officers and men. On or about November 21 Richard did not answer the roll. He had gone absent without leavein short, he deserted.
Desertion among Revolutionary soldiers was not the crime it became in modern timesit was more a fact of army life, like blisters and bad footthat commanders did their best to minimize but never expected to eradicate. Hundreds, or thousands, of General Washingtons men drifted away that winter at Valley Forge. Richard Davis would have had ample motives and opportunities to take to the road and rejoin his wife and young son in Earl Township, just a few days distant by foot. Catherine Davis bore him a son, Jonathan, in 1777; perhaps his birth, or some complication with her pregnancy, prompted Richard to return home.
Richard and Catherine Davis had at least seven children over approximately 16 years. George and Jonathan had five younger siblings of whom we have a record. Sarah was born in 1783, and grew to adulthood. There may have been a child (or even two) in the years between Jonathan and Sarah; a gap of four years between siblings in the 18th and 19th Centuries not infrequently means that a child died in infancy and was subsequently forgotten by the time modern relatives got around to sketching the family tree. We know that Jonathan, Sarah, Mary, Richard, and Catherine survived to adulthood and married.
Richard and Isaac Davis seem to have managed their farms and affairs in close conjunction for more than a decade. They were neighbors, and in 1785 they each borrowed 100 pounds from their widowed mother Elizabeth. This may have provided them the capital to build the grist mill that stood on the property in 1791 (Mrs. Jane Evans Best believes it stood at the Kurtz Road crossing of the Conestoga). The bonds had not been paid at the time of Elizabeths death in 1796; by then 70 pounds interest had accrued on each.
We know that Richard and Catherine left Earl Township for Maryland, but we do not know why or even when. Richard was the eldest son, and would have stood to inherit a substantial farm from his mother, Elizabeth (remember his father John had died in 1774). Instead, Richards brother Isaac (1754-1838) kept up the family farm in Earl and no doubt cared for Elizabeth in her old age. Isaacs descendants still live in the vicinity, although the Davis farmland was sold long ago and is now in the capable hands of Menonnites in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country.
The year of Richard and Catherines migration must have been 1791. The 1790 censusthe first taken by the new federal governmenthas a Richard Davis in Earl with a household consisting of 3 males under the age of 16 (they would have been George, Richard, and Jonathan), and 4 females (Catherine, Sarah, Mary, and perhaps baby Catherine or even Richards mother, Elizabeth). There were no slaves in this household. The following spring, Elizabeth gave to Richard Davis and his brother Isaac her interest (or dower) in a plantation containing 450 acres and a grist mill. That same day, April 18, 1791 Richard sold his 450 acres to Isaac for 200 pounds sterling.
That transaction gave Richard and Catherine the wherewithal to join the migration to Virginia. Settlers had been moving gradually westward from Philadelphia through lush, rolling country since the early 1700s, but when they reached the vicinity of present day Harrisburg they reached a wall of low mountains stretching from southwest to northeast. Following that wall westward turned the settlers southward as well, and soon brought them into the broad and fertile Valley of Virginia, now named after its principal river, the Shenandoah.
Frederick County, Maryland, lies somewhat to the eastward of this great highway of settlement, but that is nonetheless where Richard and Catherine and their family ended up. Apparently they came to the country just east of present day New Market, liked it, and decided to stay. They apparently bought 230 acres, called "Pleasant Valley," along the road between Baltimore and Frederick and established, or entered, a mercantile business.
Richard Davis did not live long to enjoy his new home in New Market. Driving a wagonload of goods from Baltimore one night (either February 14 or December 15; the records do not agree), he was near present-day Ellicott City when his wagon tipped and a barrel crushed him, although it did not kill him outright. Richard died the following day, after remaining conscious long enough to write a will. He was buried at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, but there is no headstone for him. All the remains in that churchyard were later moved to nearby Mount Olivet cemetery; those with no headstones, or remains that could not be otherwise identified, were re-interred together near the grave of Thomas Johnson, first governor of Maryland.
Catherine survived Richard by more than thirty years, and not unsurprisingly remarried along the way. She married Jesse Wright of Frederick Countywho also came down from Earl Townshipand it seems that she bore him several children. Catherine outlived her second husband as well before she died in 1823. Richard and Catherine may both have been buried in the Bush Creek (Quaker) cemetery at Monrovia, although their stones can no longer be identified there.
Richard and Catherines children were:
George, (1775-1850); he married Elizabeth Hyatt
Jonathan (1777-1800); he married Mary Smith
Sarah, (1783-1862); she married William E. Salmon
Mary (b. 1787); she married Samuel Penn in 1804
Isaac (b. 1789)
Richard, Jr. (b. 1790); he married Elizabeth Penn in 1814
Catherine (b. 1791); she married Samuel Talbot
George Davis, 17751850
George Davis was born on February 3, 1775, probably on his father Richards farm in Earl Township, Pennsylvania. He moved to Maryland as a teenager, when his family relocated to Frederick County. Shortly afterward Georges father died, and it must have fallen on George, now 16, to provide for his mother and his six younger brothers and sisters. Richard had been born a farmer but had become a merchant; George seems to have stuck to mercantile pursuits. Indeed, we can speculate that he built up the business that his father had started, and that he did a pretty fair job of it.
Managing a new business and a large family probably took all of young Georges time for the next dozen years. Another untimely death disrupted the household in 1800, when his brother Jonathan died, leaving a young widow. Nonetheless, the family pulled through, and George, with his younger sisters now grown, was soon interested in marriage himself.
George married Elizabeth Hyatt, apparently in Frederick, on August 12, 1803. Elizabeth was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Eli Hyatt and Mary Ann Warfield, and the niece of locally prominent Jesse Hyatt. Uncle Jesse had recently bought and developed land along the road between Frederick and the port of Georgetown just inside Montgomery County; he called his new settlement Hyattstown. Elizabeth was ten years younger than George, and their first child, Julia Anne, was born on December 30, 1804.
George and Elizabeth lived in or near Hyattstown by June 1804, when he put a notice in the Frederick-Town Herald about a horse thief in that area; it may well have been his horse that the thief took. In 1809 George bought a lot in Hyattstown, and within two years they were building a brick house on it; theirs was the 12th residence in the village.
By then they had a rapidly growing family and no doubt needed a bigger house. Their second child, Mary, was born in 1806; she may have been the twin of William, born the same year. Eli followed in 1809, then Maryann in 1811, and Charlotte in 1813, making seven children in a decade.
George was almost certainly in Hyattstown in the summer of 1814, when the War of 1812 briefly convulsed Maryland. He and perhaps his brother Isaac as well enlisted in the Maryland militia on August 7, as the British raided with impunity along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and even threatened Washington. George and Isaac joined Henry Kemps 2d Regiment, 1st Cavalry District, which was present at the Battle of Bladensburg. One could hardly say any of the militia units fought in that action, in which veteran British troops brushed aside a pick-up defense force on their way to burn the capital. After the battle, Kemps regiment was sent to guard some Potomac River batteries at Indian Head in Charles County; a British flotilla traded shots with the batteries after sacking Alexandria, Virginia. Pay records in the National Archives show that George Davis and his comrades were mustered out of service in Charles Countymany miles from homeon September 15, 1814. George received $10.45 for his troubles, and another $14 for the use of his horse.
Georges Hyattstown home is still called the Davis House on the historical marker in front of it, but George and Elizabeth did not live there long. They had sold it before 1818, when the buyer himself re-sold it. They purchased or at least moved to a farm, probably between Hyattstown and Monrovia. Once again, the Davises needed bigger quarters. George D. Davis was born in 1816, and Isaac followed in 1818.
The 1820 census shows George and Elizabeth Davis living in Frederick Countys Ninth Election District. George Davis household included 2 white males under 16 (they would have been William and Eli), 2 white males under 10 (George D. and Isaac), 1 white female under 45 (Elizabeth), 2 white females under 16 (Julia Ann and Mary), and 3 white females under 10 (Maryann, Charlotte, and baby Catherine, who died in 1822). In all, three persons in George Davis household were engaged in agriculture; that meant George and his two oldest boys, William and Eli. George owned no slaves in 1820.
Elizabeth Davis would bear George three more boys in the 1820s: John in 1823, Rufus in 1825, and Richard in 1828. In all she had given birth to 12 children over 24 years. Even more remarkable is the fact that 11 of her children lived to adulthood; of those, nine married.
The extant records no longer show where some of her married sons and daughers moved away to, or even whether they had children of their own, although we know that George and Elizabeth had at least one grandchild, William Wolfe (born of Mary Davis) by 1830. That years census shows George and Elizabeth Davis household again in Frederick Countys Ninth Election District, with one male aged 10-14 (he would have been George D. Davis), 2 males aged 5 to 9 (John and Rufus), one male under 5 (Richard), and two females aged 15 to 19 (Maryann and Charlotte). As in 1820, there were no slaves on George Davis farm.
George and Elizabeths second son, Eli, made a fine catch of a wife in that neighborhood. The wealthy William Morsell, Jr. had a thousand acres along what is now Green Valley Road (Route 75), but had only one child, his daughter Rachel. In 1830 or 1831 she and Eli fell in love but feared their families would not consent to their marriage. So they did the most romantic thing a young couple could do in those timesthey eloped. One day they sneaked out and walked to nearby Clarksburg to be wed. Whatever the true feelings between their parents, particularly between William Morsell and George Davis, Eli and Rachel had misread their parents feelings. The Morsells and the Davises were pleased by the match, and immediately gave it their blessings. Rachel bore her first child, Mary, in 1832.
In the 1830s George and Elizabeth, along with Eli and Rachel, became charter members of the Disciples of Chirst church in Hyattstown. George and Eli seemed to have had a rather easy going approach to matters of creed. Georges father Richard might have been a Methodist, while Georges mother Catherine seems to have been a Lutheran. Georges son Eli, however, later claimed to have been bred a Baptist (the Disciples of Christ were sometimes mistaken for Baptists), but Eli in later life called himself a Methodist. Eli married a Quaker girl, and two of their sons, moreover, married Catholicsthe Spalding sistersand converted to Catholicism.
George, Elizabeth, Eli, and Rachel were not buried at the Disciples of Christ church in Hyattstownthey all lie in Bush Creek Cemetery, Monrovia. Bush Creek was a Quaker burial ground, and it may well have been the burial place of Georges parents, Richard and Catherine. George died on May 10, 1850. Elizabeth died almost exactly five years later, on May 13, 1855. Williams History of Frederick County (published in 1910 but apparently using Elis grandson R. Lee Davis as its source) states that George and Elizabeth spent their latter years in Eli and Rachels comfortable home.
For the record, George and Elizabeths 12 children were:
Julia Anne (1804-1885); she married Ezra Greentree
Mary (1806-1885); she married George Wolfe Jr in 1828
William (born 1806); he married Charlotte Duvall, who died in 1831
Eli (1809-1887); he married Rachel Morsell
Maryann (born 1811); she married William Duvall
Charlotte (1813-1897); she married Thomas Fowler
George D. (1816-1879); he married Margaret Bailey
Isaac (1818-1901); he married Catherine Miles
John Wallace (1823-1855)
Richard (1828-1906); he married Ann Williams in 1852
Note: copies of all of the documents listed here are in the possession of the author.
Jenkin David will, marked August 9, 1727, probated ("exhibited") April 16, 1728, Uwchlan Township, Chester? County PA, 85-1728.
Jenkin Davies will, marked February 12, 1747, probated December 5, 1748, Earl Township, Lancaster County PA, 1-1-92.
Thomas Edwards, "Some Observations of Jenkin Jenkin's Petition Lately Presented to the Honourable Proprietor," October 18, 1738, Pennsylvania Archives (Originals), Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Richard Anderson, Sr. will, March 20, 1747, I-1-1 Lancaster County courthouse.
Account of Elizabeth Davis and Richard Davis, adminstrators of the estate of John Davis, June 5, 1776, Lancaster County Orphans Court, Miscellaneous Book, p. 20.
Inventory of the possessions of Elizabeth Davis, January 12, 1797
Eleanor Davis, "Early Residents of Uwchlan Township, 1715-1800," a manuscript apparently written in the 1950s and held at the Uwchlan Township building, Exton, PA.
Jane Evans Best, "The Old Welsh Graveyard Revisited," Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 88:2 (1984), pp. 51ff. Mrs. Best is a descendant of Richard Davis younger brother, Isaac, who remained in Earl when Richard went south toward the Valley.
Katherine Hewitt Cummin, A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor (Philadelphia: Owlswick, 1977).
Dona Cuttler and Michael Dwyer, The History of Hyattstown (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1998)
J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland (republished in Baltimore by Regional Publishing Company, 1968)
TJC Williams, History of Frederick County, Maryland (republished in Baltimore by Regional Publishing Company, 1967)
Calvin E. Schildknecht, New Information Uncovered on Early Monocacy Families, Frederick Post, October 22, 1982
Glenn F. Williams, The Bladensburg Races, Military History Quartery 12 (Autumn 1999)
Typed list of the Davis papers, family documents in the possession of Mrs. Jane Evans Best of Lancaster, PA, in 1996.
Frederick Sheely Weiser, ed., Records of Marriages and Burials in the Monocacy Church in Frederick County, Maryland and in the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in the City of Frederick, Maryland, 1743-1811 (Washington: National Genealogical Society, 1972) Family births recorded in the Jenkin Davies bible, Lancaster County Historical Society.
Records copied and microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints:
LDS microfilm roll 1553222, batch 8813936, sheet 57.
LDS microfilm roll 1553668, batch 9011733, sheet 68.
LDS microfilm roll 1553667, batch 9011731, sheet 71.
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