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Beginning Davis Research

The year was 1975. It was September and we were returning to North Carolina after depositing our son at Haverford College for his sophmore year. We were pulling a utility trailer, because that's what it took to get all the necessities for a college student to campus (including the $5 antique trunk that wouldn't fit in the trunk of the Chrysler...). All we knew about Wayne's Davis line was that his father, George Wayne Davis, had been born in Danville, Virginia.

I felt if I could find the cemetery, that was the place to start. We stopped at the Danville City Hall to inquire about the location of the cemetery. We learned very quickly that his Great-uncle Tom Davis had been the care-taker of cemeteries for the city of Danville, prior to his retirement. Many employees remembered Uncle Tom. They came up and asked Wayne what his relationship was to Tom Davis. He replied, "I don't know. Ask my wife!"

They told us that Mrs. Tom Davis was living in Danville, and she could probably help us. When I called her, she told me that Tom's sister was living and since this was her family, she would be in a much better position to help us. It was then that I called Great-aunt Ila Wayne Davis Nance. She very graciously invited us to her home.

Aunt Ila Wayne was the youngest and last living child of Alfred Wayne Davis and his wife Elizabeth Smith. (There ought to be a law against a Davis marrying a Smith! It makes a genealogist's work next to impossible, therefore I have done NOTHING on this Smith line.) Her oldest brother was George Jefferson Davis, Wayne's grandfather. She had in her possession the Alfred Wayne Davis Family Bible with all the good dates, etc. Until this moment, we had no idea that the name Wayne had been in the Davis family for so many generations.

Among other things, Aunt Ila told us that her daddy always said that we were kin to Jeff Davis. She also remembered that there was a Cousin Sam Davis somewhere in Tennessee who had a statue built in his honor, because of his service in the Civil War. She seemed to remember that the statue was in Memphis, Tennessee.

Aunt Ila loaned us pictures of Alfred Wayne Davis and Elizabeth Smith for us to bring home and copy. We photographed the Family Bible and took copious notes on more recent generations of the family in the Danville area. She told us that her father had brought his family to Danville from Boydton, Virginia in Mecklenburg County.

It wasn't long before Wayne and I made a trip to the Mecklenburg County Court House. We were quickly able to locate land records for members of the Davis family, and the marriage bonds for Alfred Wayne Davis, stating that he was the son of Robert and Elizabeth. Further marriage records eluded us.

Mr. Hutchinson, clerk of court, suggested that we go to Brunswick County, because the Davis family had lived near the county line. Once there, we quickly found the marriage record of Robert W. Davis to Elizabeth Northington Montgomery, listing his parents as Willis S. Davis and Sarah "Sally" Thompson. We found the marriage bond for Willis, listing his parents as Lewis and Bridget Davis. And then we found the marriage record of Lewis Davis to Bridget Gee in 1795, who were married by the Rev. Aaron Brown, Methodist.

At this point, I have not been able to substantiate the parents of Lewis Davis. Much has been written about the Gee family, including Bridget. One of these Gees comes back into the Veazey family by the marriage of Mary Exum Burt to Alexander Holloway Veazey, Sr.

I made inquiry in several instances about a statue to Sam Davis in Tennessee, but none of my sources knew of such a statue. And then in 1981, a Dr. Thompson spoke to the Little River Historical Society in Zebulon, North Carolina. He mentioned his childhood in Memphis, Tennessee. The bells rang and the lights flashed and I don't know what else he had to say, because I remembered Cousin Sam and a statue in Memphis.

After the program, when I asked him about this, he told me that he knew of the statue, but that it was not in Memphis. It was in Columbia, Tennessee, a little town just south of Nashville. My friend, Eloise Potter, quickly told me that she had a Rackley relative in Columbia, Tennessee. In a few short weeks, we were traveling through Tennessee, and went in search of Sam.

We stopped first in Nashville and phoned friends (both of whom had attended Martin College) to see if we could visit later in the afternoon, after our "visit" with Cousin Sam. They just said to come on by, and we took off for Columbia. We looked HIGH and LOW, but no Cousin Sam was to be found. I called the Rackley relative and she quickly told me the statue was in Pulaski, Tennessee, a mere 20 miles further south. You see, her father had been the mayor of Pulaski and had served in the Tennessee legislature.

So on we drive to Pulaski, home of Martin College, and there was the statue of Sam Davis, on the southside of the court house square, facing south. He was a native of Rutherford County, Tennessee, which made us think that he was not related to our Virginia Davis family. But we dutifully took pictures anyway and when we returned to our friends' in Nashville, they knew all about this statue. When we asked why they had allowed us to go on our wild goose chase to Columbia, they said they thought there might have been a statue there, also!

The significance of this happening came to light a few months later when the Rackley relative sent a yellowed clipping stating that her father had introduced legislation to fund the statue to Sam Davis. Had it not been for our wild goose chase, we were never have known this. We also learned that there is a statue of Sam on the Capitol grounds in Nashville.

We learned that Sam's father, Charles Lewis Davis, had migrated to Tennessee before Sam's birth. We found guardianship records in Brunswick County, Virginia, for the three orphans of Lewis Davis: Willis, Charles Lewis, and Rebecca. We had found Cousin Sam!


Ann Davis

avzdavis@bellsouth.net

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