|Above: Excerpt from an 1871 plat may showing Section 27 of Rock Run Township.
The green outline shows the 160-acre parcel which was sold from the Samuel
Davis estate after his death. Most of the property was hilly and rough and not
well suited for crop production.
The map shows areas of trees and many small parcels of wooded land that were
sold to those without abundant trees on their properties. In those days, wood was
an important source of heat and building material. Today, certain areas of
Stephenson County are still divided into these small parcels, as they were in the
Click on map above to see a larger version. The complete 1871 Rock Run Township plat map is
available here (large file - 14MB).
|Above: Excerpt from an 1876 map of Stephenson County, Illinois.
The Samuel Davis home is shown at the corner of Eggert Road
and Farm School Road. The Davis Mill pond does not appear on
either this map or the 1871 plat map, suggesting that the
railroad had already put the sawmill out of business.
Our house does not yet appear on the map, but the mill pond on
Knoup Road is still visible to the southeast. Although the pond is
long gone, the stone mill structure still stands today, and is the
last of the old mill structures remaining in Stephenson County.
Click on map above to see a larger version. The complete 1876 Stephenson
County map is available here (large file - 6MB).
Illinois. Why he departed was unclear, especially when his two youngest children had no mother and would have
been preteens. But we know Horatio had an entrepreneurial spirit, which may have drawn him to the California
Gold Rush. In his book The Davis Connection, local historian Gary Zimmerman explored this question and suggested
this possibility. However, no evidence has been found to substantiate the reason Horatio Davis left Rock Run
After Horatio died, his two youngest daughters lived with Hiram, who was reported as 23 and single when the 1850
U.S. Census was compiled. Son Gates moved in with George and Mary Brennan after his father passed. He was
listed as 15 years old in the 1850 census. In that year, the Brennan's were boarding two other unrelated young
men, as well as an infant boy. Gates died in September of that year, his tombstone listing him as 14 years old.
Hiram died in September of 1851. What came of Maria and Charlotte is unclear, as there is no record of them living
with Samuel or John after Hiram's death.
The Davis Legacy
The Davis family legacy is the most substantial of all the owners of our property. While several families who owned
our land exhibited signs of wealth, none left such a long Google trail - for positive reasons, anyway. The most
complete record of the lives of Horatio's children comes with Samuel and John, who were active in the community
and owned land.
Samuel J. Davis
Samuel Davis was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania on January 6, 1822. Like his father before him, became
Postmaster of the Rock Run post office in 1855. In 1858, he erected the first store in the village of Davis, which had
been formed a year earlier when he and his brother John, along with Thomas Turner and Ludwig Stanton, donated
160 acres of land to start the village. The Western Union Railroad (later the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific)
was on its way to Rock Run Township, so Samuel apparently took advantage of the business opportunities that lie
The first owners of the land on which our house was built were Horatio Davis and his son John.
Horatio and his family settled very near our house in 1838, when he and his wife, Sarah, came to
Stephenson County from Western Pennsylvania. Horatio was born in 1796; Sarah in 1802. Before
moving here, Horatio was the first postmaster of Cambridgeboro, Pennsylvania (now Cambridge
Springs) in the 1820s. He also operated a tavern in Cambridgeboro. After purchasing the sawmill
on Rock Run Creek, he served as Postmaster when the Rock Run post office was located there.
For the 1840 U.S. Census, he served as an enumerator for several districts in Stephenson County.
We believe Horatio and Sarah Davis were parents to at least eight children, six of who were born
in Pennsylvania. A seventh child arrived about the time they moved to Illinois, and an eighth child
was born here after they moved. Eldest sons Samuel and John were teens when the family moved
west, and apparently they inherited their father's business acumen. Both became land owners at
fairly young ages and operated businesses. Oldest daughter Sarah L. Davis married local farmer
James B. Wright in 1850 and would later move with her husband and children to a farm near
Moweaqua, Illinois in 1870. Sons Hiram and Gates would have been around 9 and 3 years old,
respectively, when the Davis family arrived in Rock Run Township. Daughter Maria was a year
older than Gates, and youngest daughter Charlotte was born about two years after the family's
arrival in Stephenson County. Their son Harvey was born around the time they left Pennsylvania.
Sarah Davis died on January 5, 1841 at the age of 39. She had already lost her son Harvey exactly
one year earlier, when he was just 2 years old. Eight years later, on his way to California, Horatio
died of congestive fever in Galena on April 23, 1849. On January 2nd of that same year, he had
already transferred his land holdings to Samuel and John. He had apparently decided to leave
|Horatio Davis endorsed homeopathic remedies
for health issues, as seen here in a letter he
wrote to the editor of the Water-Cure Journal
and Herald of Reforms in December 1848.
Water-cure was a nineteenth-century remedy for
a variety of ailments. His daughter-in-law, Amy
Davis, also practiced in water-cure remedies.
As an adult, Amy embraced the Universalist faith, after growing up in a home and a
community that was "uncompromisingly orthodox", as she described in My Life Story.
When Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones of the Chicago Universalists announced his intentions to
erect the Abraham Lincoln Centre on the city's south side, Amy decided to honor her
late husband by providing an endowment for what became the John A. Davis Guest
Room. The Lincoln Centre was the Universalist's version, more or less, of the Hull
House. The Davis guest room was formally dedicated in a special ceremony on May 26,
1907. The Rev. Jones and Jane Addams were two of the featured speakers that day.
The Abraham Lincoln Centre is still in operation today, but in a different location on
Chicago's South Side. We wonder if the John Davis legacy still lives in the Centre's new
facility. The original building was initially designed by the nephew of Rev. Jones, a young
man named Frank Lloyd Wright, but the two could never agree on its external
appearance. The design work was finished by another architect.
John Davis was remembered for many years through two different posts of the Grand
Army of the Republic ("G.A.R.") who were named for the Colonel. The G.A.R. was a Civil
War fraternal organization. Freeport's Post 98, as well as Post 53 in Jesup, Iowa were
both named "John A. Davis Post".
John and Amy’s son, John Jefferson Davis, also left an interesting legacy. John J. was
born in 1852 and grew up in Rock Run Township. He enrolled at the newly formed
University of Illinois in 1868 and was the youngest member of the university’s first
|From 1871 Stephenson County plat book
|Above is a drawing of the Samuel Davis house from the 1871
plat book. It's not clear if this is the home shown next to the
village of Davis, or the unmarked residence on his farm property.
The homes illustrated in the book were usually owned by
affluent individuals who probably paid to have their homes
highlighted in the plat book. With the amount of land Samuel
Davis owned, he would have been well-off financially.
Joshua Springer), in 1849. He was an Illinois congressman from 1856-60. After the Civil War broke out, John was asked to round up volunteers
from Stephenson County to join the Union war effort. These volunteers eventually became the 46th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry,
where John Davis was named Captain of Company B. In 1861, he was promoted to Colonel. In April 1862, he was wounded at the Battle of
Shiloh and returned home to recover for several months, determined to return to battle as soon as he could sit on a horse. He returned in time
to participate in the Battle of the Hatchie Bridge on October 5, 1862. He was wounded again, this time more seriously, and died five days later.
John is also buried next to his family in the Davis Cemetery.
John and his wife had four children, losing two before the age of three. In her 1920 memoir, My Life Story, Amy wrote heartbreaking accounts
of the loss of her children, one son at 20 months because of undisclosed health reasons, and another son at two years, eight months from
drowning in Rock Run Creek. She also describes her husband’s political career leading up to the Civil War, and their time spent in Springfield,
where a man named Lincoln was making a name for himself. She attended five of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates and wrote of several
encounters with Abraham Lincoln and his wife. Nine years after John’s death, Amy Davis married Eugene Winship of Racine, Wisconsin and
resided there many years. She enjoyed the last years of her life enrolling in college courses at various universities, including The Ohio State
University, University of Southern California, University of Kansas, and University of Wisconsin.
A Legacy Ends - But Lives On Through Google
Several members of the Davis family are well represented in the archives of long-forgotten newspapers and books, now resurrected through
digital imaging that can be searched using key words. The Amy Davis memoir is one of those books, and offers a look into her life that would
otherwise be known by few. She describes meeting John Davis through visits with his sisters. She was also friends with the Addams family of
Cedarville, who happened to have a woman named Jane within their clan. Amy supported the Women's Suffrage cause and was active in
attending lectures by some of the leaders of the movement. She became moderately famous in 1921, when the national press ran a story
about her studies at the University of Wisconsin. At the time, she was a 90-year-old college girl.
|Amy Davis Winship, in her college days (circa 1920).
|graduating class in 1872. He was a classmate of Nathan Ricker, the first in the United States to earn an undergraduate degree in architecture.
After earning a medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1875, John J. practiced for many years in Racine, Wisconsin,
where his mother lived after marrying Eugene Winship. In 1911, he retired from medicine to become Curator of the Wisconsin State
Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
John J.'s daughter, Marguerite Davis, became a research chemist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she co-authored a 1913
nutritional study which identified Vitamin A and Vitamin B for the first time. She would later inherit the home in which her grandmother, Amy
Davis Winship, lived while in Racine. Upon her death, Marguerite willed the historic home to the Wisconsin State Historical Society, to be used
as a historical museum. Neither the Historical Society nor the County of Racine wanted to develop the home into a museum, so they rejected
the gift. The property is now a parking lot.
Perhaps the most significant legacy was unintentionally left in the history of case law by Mary Estes Davis. Before Mary died on April 8, 1889,
she had been ill for some time. We don't know the extent of her illness, but about 6 months before her death, she was an invalid being cared
for in the home of her sister, Permelia (Estes) Reed. In the weeks leading up to her death, Mary decided that Permelia should be compensated
for the care she had provided, both in her own home and in Mary's home prior to the time they lived together. Mary had already established a
will in 1887, which gave Permelia a 200-acre farm and some other miscellaneous assets. The rest of Mary's estate was to be divided between
Permelia, and the two children of John and Amy Davis (John Jefferson Davis and Elizabeth Davis Wooster).
However, one week before her death, Mary felt she would not live much longer. On April 1, 1889 she wrote a letter to Stephenson County
judge Edward P. Barton, asking him to direct about $2,000 of her bank certificates of deposit to Permelia. In addition, Mary had loaned two
men (one of them being Judge Barton) a total of $4,000, of which she instructed Barton to take possession of the promissory notes and hold
them for Permelia. These assets, totaling around $6,000, would be a gift to Permelia.
After Mary's death, the executor of her estate discovered that Judge Barton was holding the notes and certificates, and demanded that he turn
them over to Mary's estate. Barton refused to turn over the assets without a court order, citing the letter Mary wrote on April 1st. The
executor sued in Stephenson County court and won the court order. Permelia appealed the ruling, which was overturned by an appellate court
in December 1889. The executor then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the original ruling of the Stephenson County court.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Mary's deathbed-letter was not enough to constitute a gift to Permelia, because Mary had not legally
transferred the assets. Therefore, the certificates and notes became part of Mary’s estate.
Permelia still received a portion of the certificates and notes, as beneficiary of Mary's will, but had to share those assets with John and
Elizabeth Davis. The farm she inherited was mostly in Section 22 of Rock Run Township, just north of our home. An 1894 Rock Run Township
plat map shows this land owned by Permelia’s husband, Charles W. Reed.
Like her sister-in-law Amy Davis Winship, Mary Davis was active in the Women's Suffrage movement. In the book History of Woman Suffrage
(Volume III, 1876-1885), a letter Mary wrote in 1877 was printed as an example of the "toils of circulating petitions" to draft equal rights
legislation. Mary wrote of her canvassing the village of Davis and receiving the quickest "no" from a man whose business was furnished by his
wife's capital and whose house was purchased with his wife's money. Susan B. Anthony, one of the editors of History of Woman Suffrage,
added a footnote to Mary's letter, stating that she had met Mary as a young woman at a convention in Rochester in 1853. When she visited
Durand, Illinois in 1877, Mary and Samuel attended her lecture and she remembered Mary from years earlier in Rochester. Mary had been
inspired by the convention and joined the suffrage movement because of it.
|The 1800s media did not seem to care much for Susan B. Anthony's cause. This
article appeared in The Belvidere Standard on April 1, 1879 and is representative of
many reports of Miss Anthony's activities. Some even made light of her inability to
attract marriage offers. She was persistent, however. The 19th Amendment to the
United States Constitution had been introduced the year before, and 41 short years
later, the amendment was approved by Congress in 1919. Ms. Anthony did not live
to see the amendment approved, or ratified by the States in 1920.
|Above: This excerpt of an 1859 plat map is the earliest we have found of Rock Run Township. The Davis saw mill is shown in Section 27, with most of the
mill pond filling the 160 acres Samuel and John Davis owned in Section 22. The railroad had come just a couple years earlier, and we believe the mill
didn't last much longer.
|Samuel Davis obituary (January 6, 1883 edition of
the Freeport Republican).
ahead. Samuel also teamed up with Thomas Turner to form the village of Dakota, six miles
down the Western Union line from the Davis village. According to his biography in the 1880
History of Stephenson County, Samuel was the first town clerk for the village of Davis and was
also an Assessor of Revenue. In 1859 he married Mary Estes, a farmer's daughter from Manlius,
New York. In the 1855 New York state census, she was listed as a 20-year-old teacher.
By the 1870s, the Davis land in Rock Run Township was owned entirely by Samuel Davis. Much
had changed since his family purchased their land from the U.S. Government in the 1840s. An
1871 Rock Run Township plat map shows that Samuel owned about 500 acres within the
township. The contiguous land around our house accounted for 360 of those acres; 40 acres
were adjacent to the village of Davis, and another 100 acres were about a mile south of our
In 1880, Samuel and his wife claimed the village of Davis as their place of residence, based on
information from the U.S. Census in that year. The 1871 Stephenson County plat map shows
the Davis farm carved out of what should have been a complete half-mile square where the
village of Davis was born. Apparently his 40-acre contribution had not been platted by the
village at that time. The 1880 U.S. Census reported Samuel and Mary as living in the village of
Davis with two Irish-immigrant laborers and a 13-year-old Norwegian girl listed as a “Boarder”.
Samuel died on December 29, 1882 in Rock Run Township, just shy of his 61st birthday. He
lived the final years of his life as a farmer. Due to an undisclosed heath issue, he did not serve
in the Civil War like many of his friends and neighbors. Samuel is buried in the Davis Cemetery
next to many of his Illinois relatives. Mary died on April 8, 1889 after a long illness that left her
an invalid at the time of her death. She and Samuel had no children.
John Andrew Davis
John Davis was born in 1824 and married his country neighbor, Amy Springer (daughter of