David William Davis, who claims Virginia as his native home, and who owes all his prosperity to his own willing hands, integrity, untiring energy, and conscientious dealings with his co-laborers in life, is a son of David William and Catherine (Curran) Davis, and was born in Martinsburg, Va., Aug. 17, 1823. His parents had eight children: James: John: George; Eliza (Mrs. Solomon Morgan): Julia, deceased: Ann Amelia (Mrs. James Kilmer): an unnamed infant, deceased: and David William, subject of this review. The parents died within six months of each other, when David was but seven years old, and on this account his education was very limited, though he well remembers the little old log cabin in which the school was held.
A short time after the death of his parents he was bound out to a man by the name of William Able, but on account of the unkind treatment he received, his brothers were compelled to take him away, and settle him in his brother John's home, where he remained for five years: and when about nineteen years old, he was apprenticed to his brother George, who was a tailor. After completing this trade he was a journeyman for a number of years, but growing restless at this he worked for a while for his brother John, who was a butcher. Wanting to see something of Washington City, he determined to go, arriving there the day James K. Polk took his seat as president of the United States. Here he spent six months working in a butcher shop, but was not contented, and so returned to his native home in Virginia. When about twenty-five years old he moved West, locating on a farm in Yellow Springs township, Des Moines county, Iowa. In 1849 he was seized with the gold fever, and started to California with a Mr. Veich and John Hunt. They went overland, and thus saw much of the country, as well as experiencing some thrilling times. There was scarcely a day that they did not meet or encounter some Indians. One day a man in their emigrant train from Illinois, who had no love for the Indians, swore he would kill the first one he saw. Soon after saying this he saw a redskin sitting on a large ledge of rocks sunning himself, and taking deliberate aim, he shot and killed the Indian. The tribe to which the dead Indian belonged consisted of about two hundred, and were camped close by where the shooting occurred. In a short time up rode the chief and a band of his tribe and demanded the paleface that killed their Indian. As the emigrants refused at first to give up their man, the chief at once took all of their stock and supplies away. This step on the part of the chief crippled the progress of the emigrants very much, who held another hasty conference and decided to give up the man, which they were very sorry to do. The red men then returned all stock and supplies confiscated in a half hour, and the unfortunate man was hoppled and put on a pole hitched to a pony, and drawn at a terrible rate over the plains, and this was the last seen or heard of him.
Reaching California, Mr. Davis remained six years, and was engaged mostly in mining; but on account of bad luck overtaking him he was compelled to work at his trade. In 1855 he returned to Burlington, making this city his home ever since. During the year 1860 our subject opened a meat market in the building where the central fire department is now located, where he continued business for five years, when he sold out. After this he worked for a number of years at the butcher-shops of several different men till about 1900, when he virtually retired from active business.
Mr. Davis was married Oct. 4, 1849, to Miss Amanda Patterson, daughter of Robert and Maria (Hukill) Patterson. This union was blessed with three children: Prudence died when eighteen years old: Robert Franklin, and Ada Maria (Mrs. Willis Carson), both of Oskaloosa, Iowa. Both our subject and his worthy wife are consistent members of the Methodist church. Politically, Mr. Davis is a strong Democrat, and has always tried to serve his party to the best of his ability in a private capacity. This aged couple have lived in their present home, 1611 Agency Street, since 1855. The first house he built burned in 1866, and soon afterward he built his present brick house, which is a model of neatness and home pleasantness. Such a large portion of Mr. Davis's life having been spent in this locality, his history is therefore largely familiar to his fellow townsmen, who recognize the fact that his has been an honorable career, worthy of their respect, confidence, and regard.