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William H. Davidson (1833-1923)


Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 8/16/2022 at 19:42:23

William Henry Davidson
(July 16, 1833- January 3, 1923)

Thirty-five years have passed since William H. Davidson came to Calhoun County to cast in his lot with its pioneers. People of the present period can scarcely realize the struggles and dangers which attended the early settlers, the heroism and self-sacrifice of lives passed upon the borders of civilization, the hardships endured, the difficulties overcome. These tales of the early days read almost like a romance to those who have known only the modern prosperity and conveniences. To the pioneer of the early days, far removed from the privileges and conveniences of city or town, the struggle for existence was a stern and hard one, and these men and women must have possessed indomitable energies and sterling worth of character, as well as marked physical courage, when they thus voluntarily selected such a life and successfully fought its battles under such circumstances as prevailed in the northwest. William H. Davidson is a retired farmer residing in Manson, Calhoun County. He was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, July 16, 1833, and is a son of David M. and Elizabeth (Wetzell) Davidson. His father was a native of Virginia and his mother of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and in the latter state they were married. In 1847 they emigrated westward, settling in West Jersey, Illinois. The father was a tanner by trade and he
served his country in the Mexican war, participating in all the famous battles under Generals Scott and Cameron. He died in Missouri, February 3, 1866, and his wife passed away January 27, 1863. In their family were three sons, the eldest being William H., of this review. Alexander married Hadessa Shannon, but both are now deceased. Milliner P. married Miss Laura Lyons and after her death wedded Carrie Turner, with whom he is now living in Excelsior, Minnesota.
William H. Davidson pursued his early education in a private school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and later attended the Presbyterian Seminary. At the age of fourteen he put aside his text-books and accompanied his parents on their removal to Illinois, after which he spent three years upon a farm. He then went to Peoria, where he learned the cabinetmaker's trade, which he followed for five years and then returned to the farm. In the meantime he had purchased a tract of land, and this he operated until January 31, 1856.
Mr. Davidson was married in West Jersey, Stark County, Illinois, to Miss Rachel Jane Hazen, a relative of Judge Hazen and a native of Hackettstown, Warren County. New Jersey. She was born January 31,
1838, her parents being Jacob and Jane (Mitchell) Hazen, who were also natives of Warren county, where they were reared and
married. In 1839 they sought a home in the Mississippi valley, locating in Fulton county, but afterward Mr. Hazen invested in land in Stark county and made his home thereon until his life's labors were ended in death. He exercised his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the Democratic party, and was a loyal member of the Methodist Episcopal church. He passed away in 1847 and his wife died in 1868. This worthy couple were the parents of six children: George married Marguerita Pratt, now deceased, and resides in Stark County, Illinois. John B. married Eliza Anthony and is a resident of Toulon, Illinois. Sedgwick married Isabelle Barr and resides in Galesburg, Illinois. Sarah, the wife of Samuel Shannon, is living in McLean, Nebraska. Rachel is the wife of orr subject. Jacob married Ada Hunt, but both have passed away.
After the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Davidson they resided upon his farm in Stark County, Illinois, until the Civil war was inaugurated, when, on the 6th of June, 1862, he enlisted in Chicago as a member of Company H, Sixty-ninth Illinois Infantry. There he was mustered in and acted on guard duty for three months, being discharged on the 6th of December of the same year. Not content, however, to render such a short service to his country, he reenlisted at Chicago on the 23d of August, 1863, as a member of Company H, Fifty-seventh Illinois Infantry, and went to Springfield, where he was assigned to detached service. In December following he was ordered back to his regiment and sent to Nashville, where he received an order from Secretary Stanton to report at New York. There he met General John A. Logan, "the black eagle," and went with him to Port Royal island, proceeding thence to Savannah, while later he accompanied General Slocum to Sister's Ferry, Georgia, continuing with this command until they reached Branchville, South Carolina. While engaged in building breastworks at Whipple Swamp in front of the place where the enemy was stationed he was wounded and taken to the field hospital, where he remained for some time. The surgeon in charge did not want him to return to the service until his wound had healed, but he stole away and after walking for a mile he rode from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Manchester, Virginia, a distance of one hundred miles. There he joined his command and then went to Alexander and later to Washington, where he took part in the grand review under General Sherman, the
most celebrated military pageant ever seen on the western continent. Later he proceeded to Parkersburg and on to Louisville, Kentucky, where he was honorably discharged, June 27, 1865. Returning to Chicago, he was there mustered out, but for some time was under treatment in the hospital on account of the wounds he had sustained. Returning home, Mr. Davidson resumed the work of the farm and devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits in Stark County, Illinois, until 1867, when he came with his family to Iowa, securing a homestead claim on section 34, Lincoln township, Calhoun County. This was his place of residence until February, 1901, when he removed to Manson, where he has since lived retired. His first purchase consisted of one hundred and sixty acres of raw prairie land, but with characteristic energy he developed this, transforming it into a richly cultivated tract, and as his financial resources increased he added to it until he now owns four hundred and forty-six acres of valuable land, on which his sons reside. Pioneer conditions existed during the early years of his residence here. The Indians would come every year and camp in this locality, but they were quite friendly. Wild game was to be had in abundance, especially elk, and the hunter had amply opportunity to indulge his love of the chase. Fort Dodge was then but a trading post, and Boone was the nearest railroad center. Mr. Davidson aided in reclaiming the wild land for purposes of civilization, and his work in other directions proved of great value in advancing civilization and in promoting public progress and improvement. He was the contractor and builder of the first county courthouse in Rockwell City in 1877. He has erected a great many public buildings and residences throughout the county, including at least two-thirds of the schoolhouses. He built the first schoolhouse in the northern part of the county, and has ever been active and earnest in support of all movements, not only for the material development of this portion of the state, but for its advancement along all lines that have contributed to the general good. He has devoted considerable attention to the nursery business, and has two very fine orchards upon his farm. Both he and his brother, who lives in this locality, were cabinetmakers and manufactured many of the coffins that were used in an early day in this county. He is a director of the Calhoun County Fire, Lightning & Tornado Insurance Company, but is practically living retired in the enjoyment of a well earned rest.
The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Davidson has been blessed with six children: Elizabeth, the wife of William Spitzer, of Lamar County, Colorado, who owns a large cattle and horse ranch there, and by whom she has four children, Ray C, George, Keith D. and Albert D. ; Emma, who became the wife of Edward J. Stephenson, a resident of Lincoln Township, and by whom she has one daughter, Sara ; U. Grant, who married Louie Bliss, by whom' he has two children, Reed and Rachel, and who resides in Sherman Township ; J. Verner, who resides on the old homestead farm in Lincoln Township, and married Jennie Kinghorn, of Shakopee, Minnesota; Harry, who resides on section 36, Lincoln township, and who married Elizabeth Carrington, by whom he has one child, Thorold; and Roy A., residing in Castle Rock, Douglass county, Colorado, who married Ida B. Snell, of Missouri. He
and his wife are both engaged in teaching school, he being principal of the public school, and was defeated by only twenty-
seven votes in the election for county superintendent of schools on the Republican ticket in a Democratic county.
In his political views William H. Davidson is a stanch Democrat, believing firmly in the party, yet always refusing to accept office, for he does not seek political preferment as a reward for party fealty. He belongs to Morning Light Lodge, No. 313, F. & A. M., is also a Royal Arch Mason and a member of the order of the Eastern
Star, his identification with the craft covering a quarter of a century. For many years he served as tyler of his lodge and at all times he has been true to the teachings of the fraternity which is based upon brotherly kindness and mutual helpfulness. He is also a member of Manson Lodge, Xo. 113, G. A. R. His wife belongs to the Women's Relief Corps and is likewise a member of the order of the Eastern Star, serving as chaplain of the chapter here. Mr. Davidson has attended many of the national encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic and also the grand lodge of Masons. His wife is a member of the Congregational church and to its support he has contributed liberally. He has written a complete history of Lincoln Township, covering a period from 1867 to the present time, and expects to publish this in January, 1903. His own life record forms an integral part of the history of Calhoun County, for in many lines of progress his labors have been of great benefit and his worth is widely acknowledged. He is an honored citizen, and his upright career has commended him to the good will and confidence of all, and no record of Calhoun County would be complete without mention of William H. Davidson. [Source Biographical Record of Calhoun County, Iowa, by S. J. Clarke, 1902, p.330]


Calhoun Biographies maintained by Karon S. Valeu.
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