A Compilation History of Davis City
Burrell Township

Near the western limits of what would become Davis City there once was a spring. The Sac and Pottawattamie would come from miles around, proclaiming that water from this spring possessed great medical power.

Approximately four miles southeast of the spring once stood an lone oak tree, nearly ten feet tall with branches that spread out 25-feet each way. The lower limbs were close to the ground so that a person could climb the branches like stair-steps. The Sac and Pottawattamie believed that this oak was a sacred tree. They brought their sick here, hanging them in hammocks in the upper limbs. It was said that the sick would not die while embraced by the oak tree. Many early settlers attested to visiting the sick in this tree.

Nearby, was a point called Falls of Grand River. Allen Scott, early pioneer of Decatur County, immediately recognized the value of this unbridled source of water power. He entered the adjoining land with the expectation of using the falls to his advantage at some future time. William Davis heard of the Falls of Grand River. He came from the East to look things over and entered into a partnership with Allen Scott.

In 1854, Allen Scott and William Davis constructed a log cabin and a water-powered sawmill on the banks of the Grand River. Davis bought out Scott and built a frame house the following year while W. H. Cheever laid out Davis City, a town of four blocks nearby.

During the autumn of 1856, William Davis built the first store. G. W. Jenre operated the store for a while before selling out to Arnold & Davis, which was succeeded by Davis & Bowman. With a population of fifty residents, Henry Bowman built and opened a hardware store in 1872 and J. R. Frisbie erected a second mercantile store. Other early businesses were Oscar Severe's harness shop, Archibald Rankin's drug store, Young & Wren's "Chicago Store," and Morris & Clark's store which was the first brick building in Davis City.

Clark's Addition was laid out in 1870, with other additions following in successive years.

W. F. Craig was Davis City's first postmaster. He was followed by Henry Bowman, James Teale, and Carter Scott.


The Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern railroad came through Davis City in 1879.

Note: The Davis City Wagon Bridge (1911) and the Jefferson Highway Bridge are the same bridge. It was replaced by the current bridge circa 1930. The highway coming through Davis City was paved circa 1928. ~SRB


Davis City Post No. 306 of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was organized on March 31, 1884. There were twenty-two charter members mustered in by Hugh White of Mount Ayr under the direction of the department mustering officer, W. T. Wilkinson. The G.A.R. purchased a building in the spring of 1885.

Davis City Lodge No. 375 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons organized in 1874.

Davis City Lodge No. 314, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) was organized in 1876.

Davis City Lodge No. 89, I. O. G. T. was organized with fourteen members in December of 1885.


The Decatur County Banking Association established the Citizens Bank in 1879.

In 1894, a private institution, The Farmers Bank, was established with S. Radnich, president, and A. C. Dorn, cashier. On August 1, 1902, J. A. Frazier was the president with O. L. Frazier as cashier.

On May 15, 1900, The Valley Bank was established with J. N. Gates, owner and president.


A colony of German immigrants settled on land located approximately one mile northwest of what would later become the town of Davis City. The colony consisted of mechanics, merchants, laborers and physicians. It flourished for a while until fever broke out among the immigrants. Everyone who came down with the fever died despite all the physicians did to attend to the sick. The deceased were interred in a cemetery located in a grove standing near the colony.

The few who survived the fever eventually moved on. The location of this colony has been lost over time.

"Davis City." "Biographical and Historical Reocrd of Ringgold and Decatur Counties, Iowa." Lewis Publ Co. 1887.
Howell, Professor J. M. and Smith, Heman C. "Decatur County Towns - Davis City" History of Decatur County and Its People. Vol. 1. S. J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1915.
"Davis City Advance" articles.
Compiled & Submitted by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2013
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