I Got Interested in Genealogy – Family History (Part 1)

The early history of the Davis family in America

Tom's paternal grandparents, Earle Russell Davis and Lois Salome Hillery
Tom’s paternal grandparents, Earle Russell Davis and Lois Salome Hillery
Will Davis Farm, c. 1981
Will Davis Farm, c. 1981
Pike Hill Copper Mine
Pike Hill Copper Mine

I got interested in genealogy back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s and spent quite a few years researching in my fumbling way. I have a fairly good fix on the Davis line. It seems, as far as the name Davis, they came over from England in 1640–a father and son, John and James Davis. It might have been James is the father and John was the son.

They landed in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The family traveled from there to Haverhill, Massachusetts and established a farm. James Davis–I believe that’s the father’s name–became fairly important in the town of Haverhill, important enough to be on various boards and that sort of thing, and his name is referenced a few times in the history of Haverhill. He had–just to complicate matters–he had, I think it was ten children. And in those days, the reason you came to America or anywhere else was to gain land. It was all about land in those days–land for farming.

And of course, the oldest son in those days usually got all of the property that was left, so we had ten Davises and they all went in, I suppose, in various directions. But the ones we know about the best follow from Haverhill, Mass up to Durham. I have a great, great, great, great grandfather who was born in New Durham. Complicating matters, New Durham, was a gore at the time. It was taken over by Alton, New Hampshire. So, in effect, some records relating to the family can be found in Alton, New Hampshire, in the lower end of Lake Winnipesaukee.

The Davises came into Corinth originally in around 1801. To get here, they pretty much follow what we now know as Route 25 that comes up and comes in through Bradford and then East Corinth, or Corinth, I should say. And there was a Davis farm established there. The farms there were hill farms. At that time, the brooks were swamps and travel was usually either by canoe down the waterways or people went to the high hills.

The first John Davis who came into Vermont built a lean-to on Pike Hill in Waits River and stayed there a year, apparently alone. He was only 20 years old. He went back to New Durham and married a woman by the name of Evans, Elizabeth Evans. Then she joined him over here. They were married by a famous clergyman at the time. Clergymen by and large traveled around. They didn’t stay in one place.

My grandfather’s father was a man named Salmon, S-a-l-m-o-n, Davis. Salmon Davis’s first wife died. He then remarried, and he had some children with her in Marshfield. A woman–I think her name was Chandler, but I may be wrong–her husband was a doctor, and he died. So it ended up, Salmon Davis married the woman from Marshfield, both of who already had some children of their own. And they, in turn, went and had more children of their own. And they all lived off this one farm, or at least for a period of time.

You go into Waits River. There’s a little church there and they . . . . Route to this farm is pretty much straight up the hill, not far from the copper mines. They’ve mostly plowed them over, but when I was younger, you could go into these mines and travel as far as you dared travel. I never dared do it. I found in later life that I had a son or two that did some of that without permission. But I would expect the mine would land on me, and I was not interested in being buried there particularly.

I went back over there several times with my father to check on all the graves that exist that we still know about. We discovered, almost through a fluke, a man who apparently took old houses and saved the beams and then rebuilt, and one of the dwellings that he did was of a man named Davis, and we have a hunch that it might have been the original John Davis’ father, who we never really identified as being over there for sure. We figured that he may well have been a land agent because it was all about land in those days. You can’t emphasize that enough.

The story is that every Sunday they would get a wagon together and take all those children that they had. I don’t know what number there was at that point. My own grandfather was the youngest. He was the product of the marriage of the woman from Marshfield and Salmon Davis. She, who had been a physician’s wife, turned out to be kind of a full-time social worker, doing all the things that social workers do, including taking in unwed mothers. They took them into the farm there, and so it was a veritable human service agency operating as a farm. And she’d go out in the middle of the night for childbirth and that sort of thing, because there were no doctors immediately available at that time. So that’s part of the Davis genealogy.

If a man had two or three lifetimes, genealogy probably ought to be one of them. But it’s a time consuming activity, as one can imagine, and the reliability of what you’re dealing with is oftentimes shaky. But my father and I had a good time doing that. I started doing it, and then he started doing it. And then we did some of it together right up until about the time he died.

[ttfmp_master_section master_id=”ttfmake_master_panels_1″ section_id=”panels_345″] [ttfmp_master_section master_id=”ttfmake_master_text_2″ section_id=”text_172″]