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Third Generation of Davidsons

Taken as an excerpt from a letter compiled by Robert Kenneth Davidson in 1933.


Particularly his son John.

     Thomas Davidson was the oldest of the six brothers who come to America and a
half-brother of the other five, the youngest of the three sons of their father and 
his first wife.  I have given almost all the facts that we know of Thomas Davidson.
Indeed we know very little about him.  He probably spend the remainder of his life 
on his farm, known now as the Hoyt Farm, southwest of Wampum.  Older that the other 
Davidson brothers he apparently died before they did and there is no one living now
who ever saw him.  We do not know his wife's name; there is some reason to think it 
was Elizabeth.  The next time I am in Pennsylvania I want to search the cemeteries 
at Rocky Springs and Clinton to try and find the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas 

    Of Thomas Davidson's two children, Nancy was the oldest.  She was born about 
1790, married Charles Wilson, and had no children.  She died at home on her nephew,
James Davidson, near Wampum, Pennsylvania about 1875.  In the family she is 
remembered as Auntie Wilson.  Her picture shows a determined little old lady in 
old-fashioned dress, with a bonnet and lace mitts.

     Thomas Davidson's second child was John Davidson, who was born May 20, 1792, 
in Belfast, Ireland, came to America with his father, and grew up on the Hoyt Farm 
near Wampum.  In the list of soldiers in the War of 1812 from Beaver County is the 
name of John Davidson in the company of Captain Thomas Henry.  This may our 
ancestor, John, who would then be 21 or 22 years old.  I never heard that he did 
participate in that war and further proof should be had before we say that he did 
or did not.

     About 1820 John Davidson married Mary Ann Thompson of Butler County, 
Pennsylvania, who was then 18 years old.  After the death of Thomas Davidson, John 
Davidson and his wife lived on the Hoyt Farm and their fourteen children were born 
there.  The John Davidsons were charter members of the Old Clinton M. E. Church 
founded in 1823, Clinton being a town somewhat nearer the Hoyt Farm than Wampum, 
and I presume that Charles Wesley, Their little boy who died very young, is buried 
in Clinton Cemetery.

     I have a picture of John Davidson, taken when he was quite old.  It is now 
badly faded, but it shows a long-faced, white-haired old gentleman who wore 
chin-whiskers.  His forehead was high, his eyes deep-set; his head held high.  I 
have been told that his hair, when young, was a light brown and his eyes pale blue 
(characteristic features in the older Davidsons).  He had a long nose and 
determined-looking mouth.  He is said to have spoken with a distinct Irish brogue, 
which earned him the nickname about Wampum of 'Irish Johnny."

     His education must have been very limited, but he seems to have made the most 
of his opportunities.  At the age of 85 he wrote a letter to his son, James, and 
even at that advanced age his writing is quite legible, the spelling and grammar 
fairly good, and the letter is newsy and intelligent, a surprising feat for a man 
of his years.  Although he was very feeble and confined to his room in the home of 
his son Robert, he was aware of what was going on about him and formed his own 
conclusions as to people and events.  The last years of his life he wrote 
constantly, but what he wrote, whether sermons or reminiscences of his rather 
interesting life, we shall never know, for after his death all of his papers were 

     He was a very religious man and a devout Methodist.  The letter I mentioned 
contains a strong religious strain, quoting, "Bring up your children in the 
admonition of the Lord," a piece of advice hardly necessary to give to James 
Davidson to whom the letter was written.  He mentioned a local "protracted meeting,
" i.e., revival meeting.  A note to his grandson, William Henry Davidson then in 
normal school, urges the boy to "get religion."

     John Davidson was afflicted with what we sometimes call the Davidson Temper, 
that is, he was irritable and quick-tempered, generally over trifles.  When 
provoked his rages are said to have been almost insane.  I have been told that he 
was not a very good farmer, and it is possible that he would have been happier and 
less irritable had his education permitted him some occupation in which he could 
have utilized his fondness for reading, writing and talking.  As it was he 
quarreled violently with all his children and they all left home as soon as they 
could, the boys going out to make their own way, and girls marrying.  However, 
there was no ill feeling between him and any of his children which lasted very 
long, and we know the he visited with all of the ones who lived in Iowa and 
attempted to keep in touch with them all up to his last days.  The stories of his 
rages have probably been exaggerated for now there is no one living who knew him 
except as a lonely, dissatisfied old man.
     John Davidson and his wife stayed in Pennsylvania until about 1855.  The six 
oldest children were married by that time and at least three of them were in Iowa: 
Andrew in Lee County; Robert and John in Iowa County.  

     Poweshiek County, Iowa, was booming at that time.  In `850 it had only 615 
inhabitants; in 1854 less than 2,000; in 1856, 4,460.  About 1855 Mr. and Mrs. John
Davidson came to Bear Creek Township, Poweshiek County, and bought a farm a mile 
north of Brooklyn.  Their seven youngest children came with them, Charles Wesley 
having died before 1855.  Mrs. Davidson's brother and sister, John Thompson and 
Jane Newkirk, and their families, came to Poweshiek County about the same time.  
In 1855 Andrew Davidson, who was living in Lee County, bought a farm in Poweshiek 
County and moved on it in 1856.  By 1864 John and Robert moved over from Iowa 
County, Robert in that year, John perhaps earlier.  By 1864 Thomas Davidson and 
Abner Braden, Elizabeth's husband, had bought farms in Poweshiek County.  The only 
member of the family who did not come to Iowa was the second son, James, who 
spendt all his days on his farm near Wampum, Pennsylvania.

     Mary Ann Thompson Davidson died in 1860, 58 years old, of "inflammation of the 
bowels," a much dreaded disease at that time, now called appendicitis.  With modern
surgery it is seldom fatal and not even considered especially serious.  Mary Ann 
Thompson Davidson was popular with her husband's relatives, and even in those days 
of overwork and huge families it was thought that she had had a very hard life.  
Her father was James Thompson of Cherry Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania (the 
next county east of Lawrence County), born 1778, died February 14, 1861.  her 
mother's name was Sarah, born 1785, died January 10, 1862.  Mary Ann was the oldest
of 13 children.  A brother James was killed at the siege of Richmond.  Another 
brother, John, and a sister, Jane Newkirk, came to Iowa with their families.  A 
third brother, Moses, remained in Pennsylvania.  He visited now and then at the 
James Davidson home, a very old man with a long white beard.  Mrs. Hall and Mrs. 
Tinker, sisters of Mary Ann, also came to Brooklyn.

     John Davidson remarried two or three years after Mary Ann's death.  He and his
second wife soon separated and very little is known of her.  There is a tombstone 
standing by itself in the cemetery at Brooklyn, on which is the name "Rachel 
Davidson," and I presume, though I do not know, that marks her grave.  There were 
no children by the second wife.

     After the separation and on June 23, 1864, John Davidson sold his farm to his 
son, Robert, with whom he made his home from that time until his death in 1880.  He
made short visits to the children who lived in the vicinity, but as the years went 
on he spent more and more of his time in his own room, writing incessantly.  he 
died April 10, 1880, nearly 88 years old.

Back To:

The Ahnentafel of Heath Vogel
Heath's Davidson Page
A Letter by John Davidson
Second Generation of Davidsons
Fourth Generation of Davidsons