Volume 8 - #3 - Summer 1985
The Family of John Davis
John and Sarah Ann White Davis
By Ruth Davis Ishmael Of Atoka, Oklahoma
JOHN DAVIS, born July 30, 1831, in Tennessee, was the eldest child of Roswell and Lavenia Davis. Having spent his childhood in Warren County, Tennessee, he said goodbye to that part of our great country in the fall of 1852. Travelling with his parents and their children was another Davis relative. James M. Davis, and his family. Their original destination was Van Buren County, Arkansas, where an older brother, Jesse Davis, with his son, Andrew B., and their families had come earlier. Desiring not to impose on their family members during those hard economic times, Roswell and James M. ended their journey in the Denton area of Lawrence County, where they remained and raised their families. Roswell, better known as "Ross", and Lavenia were the parents of ten known children, all born in Tennessee: John; Elizabeth, who married John Rhea McCarroll; Davis, the husband of Siene Denton; Cornelius, known as "Uncle Kiel"; Susan Ann "Susie" who married Wilson Price; Sarah C. "Sallie" who married Jack Richardson; Martha, called "Patsy"; Mary and George Washington.
Roswell was born in 1804-05, in North Carolina, and died before 1860. Nothing more about him is known at this time. He had purchased one-hundred and sixty acres on a "donation deed" in August of 1853. That property is located in the northeast quarter of Section 24, Township 17 North, Range 3 West, a short distance directly west of the Old Bethel Memorial Cemetery where many of our Davis family members have been laid to rest. It was on this farm that Lavenia, who is said to have been one-half Cherokee Indian, raised their three youngest children and her eldest grandson, Nathaniel, son of John and Martha McCarroll. Born in Virginia in 1805, it is thought that her death occurred in the late 1870's.
John was married to Miss Martha McCarroll, the daughter of prominent Lawrence County pioneers, James and Mary Beasley McCarroll, on March 26, 1853. To this union were born five children: Nathaniel, Frances, David, James Mack and Zachariah.
Martha died on June 18, 1860, at the age of twenty-seven soon after the birth of Zachariah and is buried beside her parents in the Old Bethel Memorial Cemetery.
Nathaniel, also known as Nathan and "Bud", was raised, as earlier stated, in his grandmother Lavenia's home. This home is thought to have been located near highway 115, just south of the old John Rhea McCarroll farm. It was there that he brought his young bride when they were married January 1, 1874. "Bud" and "Meda", Sarah Almeda Hastings, the daughter of Mrs. Ninetta "Nettie" Hastings, who became the second wife of Wm. Phillips, were the parents of eleven children, all born in Lawrence County: John William, Lillie Belle, Addie Lee, Zella, Crockett, Rosa May, Alexander W., Homer, Ruff Edmond, David and Della Virginia. Lillie Belle and Della Virginia died early and are buried in Old Bethel. Lillie Belle died from burns received when she backed too close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire while Meda had been called outside to help Bud. Her rock tombstone bears the handcarved inscription, 'L.B. Davis, Died 1879". No stone was found ' for Della Virginia who died from diptheria in September of 1900, only weeks before the family removed to the Indian Territory. Bud died October 16, 1916, near Clarita in Coal County, Oklahoma. Meda lived until March 31, 1938, partially paralyzed the last sixteen years of life from a series of strokes and cared for by my grandparents, Ruff Edmond and Ora Mae Davis.
Frances "Fannie", was married to Henry Jasper Buchanan and had twelve children, all but the youngest born in Lawrence County: Allie, Joseph, Tom, Herbert, Buleah Bertha, Susan, Eliza, Luster Arizona, Gertrude, Zemruh (born June 11, 1894, and still living in 1986), Willie Mae and Jud. The Buchanan family left Lawrence County for the Indian Territory on October 1, 1897. and Zemruh says she can remember the three-week trip in the covered wagons. Fannie died at the age of fifty-three in 1909, at her home south of Clarita, Coal County, Oklahoma, and was buried beside her husband' in the Moore Cemetery.
David D., called "Dave", is said to have at one time owned practically all of Denton before moving his family to Imboden where he had part interest in the bank, owned a lumber supply company, a general store, and also for a while had stores in Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge. He is said to have been almost a millionaire before losing his business to fire. Without any insurance, he was left almost a pauper in his later life.
Dave was married to Miss Eliza A. Price, the daughter of Valentine and Carolina Hargett Price, on April 28, 1878. Eliza was an industrious woman whose neighbors reported that it was not unusual to pass by their house at night and see her outside working by the light of a lantern if the moon was not brightly shining. They had twelve children: Martha, who married B. Frank Matthews and was the mother of Jeff Matthews, the present owner of the Matthews' General Store in Imboden; William H.E.; Fanny, wife of G.G. Guthrie, who conducted the singing school at the New Hope Baptist Church in 1903; Judson, known as "Judd", husband of Mary Etta Borah; Bolayer; Lilly; Guy, the father of Dorothy Davis who was Miss South Omaha and later Miss Nebraska Of 1952; Cleo; Laurie Ollie, mother of Marguerite Wells Lavender of Little Rock; David Elmer, known as "Shortie"; and an unnamed infant born in 1902.
Dave spent his remaining days in the home of his sons in Imboden and Eliza stayed in Black Rock with daughter, Ollie. Their separation greatly grieved them both and death came only three and a half months apart. Dave died on February 22, 1923, and Eliza on June 5. They are buried in Old Bethel beside their young sons, WM. H.E., Garland, Bolayer, and the unnamed infant.
James Mack and Martha Lawson were the parents of six sons before his untimely death at the age of thirty-six years. They were: John H., who died in a wagon accident at age sixteen; Thomas D.; Garland; Charles; Luther and Lucien. J. Mack died of a heart attack on May 8, 1894, and is buried in Old Bethel. His wife, Martha, was married to J.T. Erwin and had six more known children. She later married a Mr. Jerry Davis, no relation to our Davis clan that we know of. Martha is buried beside J. Mack Davis in the Old Bethel Memorial Cemetery.
During the Civil War, John Davis enlisted at the New Hope Baptist Church as a private in Company F of the Confederate 45 Arkansas Calvary and was paroled as a prisoner of war at Jacksonport, Arkansas, June 5, 1865.
It was about this time that he was again married. John and Miss Sarah A. White added nine more children to his list of heirs: Mary Adeline, called "Addie", was the wife of Sam Faulkner; George Franklin, the grandfather of Grover and Paul Davis who presently live on part of the original John Davis property, near the now-abandoned town of Denton (Paul and Gussie's brick home being on the exact location of the big original log house with three fireplaces that John and Sarah shared); Henyretta Ann, known as "Nettie", whose son-in- law, William J. Richey, has written an informative book about the trials and sufferings of that family; Charles Cornelius, father of Gussie Cole, Marie Phillips, Roy Davis and Charletta Cornelia Guerin, all of the Denton and Lynn area; Martha Ellen, wife of Will Helm; John Melvin; Susan Agnes, who married Daniel Webster Puckett and was the mother of Ruth Lanell Puckett Andrews; and Barbara Elizabeth, the wife of Dr. Thomas Campbell Guthrie. It is said that "Lizzie" taught school while Dr. Guthrie obtained his medical degree.
John Davis went to his "long home", as the Indian would say, on January 8, 1904, and is buried just behind the sign at the entrance of Old Bethel.
Sarah was reared on Pigeon Mountain in the state of Georgia where her father taught school. He was also a shoe cobbler, using tiny maple pegs to fasten the sole to the shoe. Sarah spent her last days in the various homes of her children. Gussie Cole remembers her grandmother helping with the food preparation, making delicious fried pies, knitting warm gloves for the grandchildren to wear to school, and entertaining them with stories about "life in the olden days". She told how they had to hide their food from the "carpetbaggers" and the "jayhawkers" who came through the county during the Civil War. Her death came on August 8, 1922, and she now rests beside her husband.
This story would not be complete without sharing some of the precious family tidbits told to me by Frank Andrews, husband of Ruth Puckett Andrews. The following is in Frank's own words: "I knew nothing of the big Davis family except the Puckett family until we moved to Denton from Sitka, Arkansas in 1931 to teach Country School at "The Hall" as the old time people called it... The school was a large one and had a Masonic Hall up stairs. That was where Ruth's mother, Aunt Mag. McLeod, and all the others went to school. Not long before we came here the Hall had been demolished and a modern two room country school house had been newly built in its place. We soon learned that at least 3/4 of our school-both rooms- were either Davises, McLeods, Smiths, Penns et al were all related and all were descendants of John Ross Davis. (See explanation of this name later.--Ruth Davis Ishmael.)
John Davis and his last wife Sarah White had many children....Susie and Lizzie were last children left at home. Uncle George Davis who lived near by was a Crown Organ Salesman...Susie taught music... So she went with George on his selling trips...she would demonstrate and would-if he stayed in one community long enough-start a music school. On one of George's selling trips he made the Daniel Puckett house on Reeds creek near Grange and Cave City his headquarters....Daniel Puckett was dead at age 55 but his youngest son-home from working on the railroad had bought the 701 Acre creek farm with its story and '/z white house-three carved lime stone chimneys with its large cedar front drive - with south prong of Reeds Creek running near by with its spring at the edge of the creek-there was a North prong of Reeds creek and they merged on this farm....Here Old Daniel had built a dam-the stones may still be seen in the banks of the creek--Here Daniel had built and operated a grist mill and cotton gin.
Webster Puckett was a bachelor---between tunes he and Susie Agnes fell in Iove...Webster bought one of George's Crown Organs for Susie and George went home empty handed....Webster and Susie were married on Christmas Eve...They had seven children. Six boys and one girl and she right in the middle of the lot. Three boys older and three younger- all seven still living. Well it was a long rough muddy road from Grange to Denton and Susie said she never did get to go back home but just a few times....Once she stayed with us a few days while we were there....but said Susie she wanted to be buried at Old Bethel-that way she could go back home....Everybody tried to talk her out of it....all of her immediate family were buried at Fairview, Wilkersons Cemetery or Mount View-their church....However she got her nephew-a Helms Boy-to drive her to Grover's house one day and she got Grover to pick out two nice burying places in Old Bethel and stake them off for her....Still all thought they could talk her out of it-we had long been gone from that community...But luck was with Susie Davis- her husband died first-and she buried him at Old Bethel-when she died there was nothing else to do but bury her beside him....and there they are today on the upper side of Old Bethel with nice head stones. She went home at last.
While living at Denton I have helped build or dig graves and lower caskets into same using harness reins for lowering same...While digging graves we would build a fire, boil coffee and talk...only two could dig in a grave at a time. Now back hoes- operated by one man dig them in no time....l saw the first Ambulance (hearse) come into Old Bethel-right after Burial Insurance came in-it got stuck.
There is a buried money tale about barking of dogs on the night that John Davis died....the hired hand leaving....about him having had money buried in a barrell of field peas out in an out house....
Susie said she and Lizzie rode to New Hope in a wagon to an all day meeting with dinner on the ground...They wore bustles or bussels which they had made...filling them with saw-dust....She said Lizzie had been running around the dinner on the ground not knowing that a mouse had gnawed a hole in her bustle...Lizzie had been leaving a trail of sawdust all around the dinner.
Now this Davis family is the largest in this country and/or county....unless it should be the Penn Family....Last year (1980) that family had a family reunion in the park and had over 400 people...lf we ever have a Davis Reunion I would like to equal that...The Penn tribe barbequed a whole cow." ----by Frank Andrews
At the time of my first writing to Mr. Frank Andrews, I gave him the name which had just been given to me of JOHN ROSS DAVIS as the name of our oldest known ancestor. After two years of researching that name and a possible connection to the Indian chief named John Ross, the name was found to have been Roswell Davis, better known as "ROSS" DAVIS. (See 1840 and 1850 Warren County, Tennessee census; The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeastern Arkansas, pub. 1889, pg. 813, and Donation Deed issued 2 August, 1853, by C.C. Danley, Auditor of Arkansas and witnessed by A.J. Smith. No relationship to the Indian chief named John Ross has been found.)
When speaking of the Cherokees being herded down the old Davidsonville military road through Smithville, to Batesville, and on over the Trail of Tears, Frank related that Ruth's mother said her people were afraid to talk of the matter for fear they would be sent with them. Those Davis members who came later to the Indian Territory at the turn of the century did not speak of their Indian blood either. We found out only a few years ago just before the death of Bud's daughter, Rose. She said her father qualified to have been given a land allotment in the Indian Territory, but he would not sign up. Zemruh, Fannie Davis Buchanan's daughter, said her mother's family was ashamed for anyone to know of their heritage and almost disowned her when she married a full-blooded Chickasaw.
There is another tale about John Davis having been carried off by the Indians when only a boy. At that time, they would have been living in Warren County, Tennessee. There were two routes that the Cherokee Indians were taken over on the Trail of Tears, the northern route going through Warren County, Tennessee. My purpose for first contacting Frank Andrews was to find out the details of this story, but he didn't remember. If anyone now reading this should know, please get in touch with me! Just a final note: When I began my research on our Davis family history in 1979, we came to Lawrence County having only one day to seek information. I had first written to the postmaster in Imboden and asked to be put in touch with some member of the Davis family. The success of that short trip is attributed to two Imboden ladies, Minnie Mae Matthews and Geraldine Smith Davis. Minnie Mae answered my request to the postmaster with a very informative postcard telling us whom to go that might help us most, and Geraldine, wife of Larry Davis, the son of Walter Eugene and Katie Decker Davis, loaned their copy of a loose- leaf history started by Harry Davis son of Albert W. and Ina Janes Davis, before his untimely death in the middle 1960's, to a complete stranger....a most grateful stranger!
There are others working on our Davis history: John R. McCarroll, of Waco, Texas; Marigenne Ryburn Elliott, the granddaughter of Judd and Mary Etta Borah Davis, of East Alton, Illinois; John W. Hogue, Jr., of California, from the Buchanan family; and Paul "Bix" Smith, of Jonesboro, the grandson of Margaret J. McLeod and great-grandson of "Uncle Kiel" Davis.
Dear family members and friends, Please help us to record our current family data and to preserve our family heritage of Lawrence County. Looking back is not travelling backwards, rather than wings to lift us above and beyond what our ancestors were able to accomplish by learning from their experiences. It has been said, "Families Are Forever" and there are those of us in other states who have never had the opportunity to meet all of you, but care deeply about you, our DAVIS clan of Lawrence County, Arkansas.
'til later, Your Oklahoma cousin, Ruth Davis Ishmael, great granddaughter of Nathaniel "Bud" Davis, great-great-granddaughter of John Davis of Lawrence County, Ark.
© 2002 by Jeri Helms Fultz. All rights reserved. This information may be used by libraries and genealogical societies, however, commercial use of this information is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.
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