|Birth: ||Jan. 2, 1838|
|Death: ||Jun. 10, 1908|
(Published in History of Idaho: The Gem of the Mountains by James H. Hawley 1920)
Thomas Jefferson Davis
Several months prior to the establishment of Fort Boise, Thomas Jefferson Davis had pitched his tent and taken a homestead upon the banks of the Boise river for land which is all within the present town-site of Boise and a part of which was in the original townsite. For the irrigation of this land he constructed the first irrigation ditch from the Boise river, and under the decree of the district court, establishing priorities for irrigation purposes, he was given the first right to the waters of that river, and this right is today the property of his children, who hold jointly the estate left by the father, having incorporated the same under the laws of the state of Idaho under the name of the Thomas Davis Estate. The United States land office was first opened at Boise in January, 1868, and on the opening day Thomas Davis made the first proof and received cash certificate No. 1, of which he was always justly proud, and the government records today testify that, by five months, he was the first agricultural settler in the Boise land district. Assisted by George D. Ellis, who was at the time a business partner, about six months after his first settlement, he built the first house in Boise. A few years afterward and just prior to his marriage, he built another house, upon his homestead, and it was in this house that all of his children were born.
Mr. Davis was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, January 2, 1838, and, having lost his father in boyhood, was, under the custom of that time, "bound out," and labored on the farm of Alexander Claycomb, near Monmouth, Illinois, and attended winter school. At the age of twenty-three, he and his brother Francis joined a party of seventy-five, which was bound for Florence, the great gold camp. He and his brother were outfitted with mule teams, wagons and supplies by Alexander Claycomb before leaving Illinois. After a hard trip across the country this band of pioneers were lured by men who had designs on their property, to go by way of a most inaccessible route over the Coeur d'Alene mountains, which necessitated the abandonment of their sun-bonneted wagons, in which they had spent two months creeping along the Indian trail, and most of their provisions, or the sale of these at a shameful sacrifice to their traitorous guides, who offered five dollars for outfits that cost from three hundred to five hundred dollars. Mr. Davis determined not to be made a victim of such intrigue and, after advising with the others, their supplies were piled together and burned with the wagons, the party completing its journey to Elk City, Idaho, on horseback carrying a few supplies on pack horses. Upon their arrival in Elk City, owing to depressing reports from Florence, they abandoned the trip to that place and went to Walla Walla. From Walla Walla, Mr. Davis went to Auburn, Oregon, and then to Idaho City, where he mined with fair results, and in December, 1862, came to what is now Boise, where he made his home continuously until his death, June 10, 1908.
During the forty-six years in which he resided in Boise, Thomas Davis was a careful business man and one of the city's most substantially progressive citizens. He was a pioneer horticulturist and, as early as 1864, planted an orchard of seven thousand apple trees, which he purchased at a dollar and a quarter each, this being the pioneer apple orchard of Idaho, and, in later years he planted additional orchards of pears, peaches, prunes and cherries, and built a dryer, where he prepared a portion of his fruit crop for the trade in the interior, where fresh fruit could not be delivered. During the growth of his orchards to maturity he successfully engaged in gardening and marketed vegetables over the country as far as the mining camps in the Owyhees, having regular days for his wagons to visit the various camps. In addition to being a pioneer horticulturist and gardener, Mr. Davis was a pioneer in every line of commercial and business activity of Idaho, except that ever present pioneer, the saloon. He was engaged in the cattle and horse business, ranging horses from the Snake river into Nevada, with his ranch headquarters on the Bruneau; and ranging cattle on Smith's Prairie and later in Long valley. His range cattle were of the highest type, all being "white faces," and being for many years the only herd of Hereford cattle in Idaho. In connection with his cattle business, he acquired large land holdings in Long valley, and in the Boise valley what is known as the "Government Island Ranch," the latter being for a number of years withheld from settlement as a hay reserve for Fort Boise. This ranch, which is located just across the river from the city of Boise, contains about eight hundred acres and a large portion of it is today in vegetable gardens, which are quite pleasing to the eye of the traveler entering or leaving the city by train or trolley. He was engaged for a number of years, as a partner of the late Charles Himrod in the mercantile business, their establishment occupying the building which today houses the Delano-Thompson Shoe Company, and in connection with this enterprise they operated freight teams between Boise and Kelton. He was a stockholder in the old Bank of Commerce and one of the reorganizers of the Boise City National Bank of which he became one of the largest stockholders.
During all the years of his life in Boise and Idaho, Mr. Davis never sought political office, but he was a faithful and conscientious elector, taking sufficient activity in public affairs to assert himself in favor of everything that went for the best interest of the city, state and nation. He was a firm believer in and cast his vote with the republican party, standing firm with a handful of personal friends when Boise and Idaho became free-silver mad. He cared absolutely nothing for public opinion of himself. He desired but few friends and these he wanted constantly with him.
In 1869, Julia McCrum came from her home in Gault, Ontario, Canada, to visit with her uncle, who was an army surgeon stationed at Fort Boise, and on April 26, 1871, she became the wife of Thomas Davis. They had a family of three sons and three daughters: Marion, who died at the age of four years; Harry, who was engaged in the cattle business, and died September 28, 1910; Edwin Horace, now president of the Thomas Davis Estate, incorporated; Thomas Jefferson, manager of the Davis Meat Company; Etta Davis Quinn, wife of W. L. Quinn, of Cleveland, Ohio; and Hazel Davis Taylor, wife of Rowland C. Taylor, of Boise, Idaho.
Julia Davis was one of the active pioneer women of Boise. She took great pleasure in making the women in the families of the new arrivals in the great west feel welcome and was generally the first to call upon a new family arriving in Boise, going at times to greet them where their tents were pitched beside the wagon trains and before they were definitely located. She was, until her death, which occurred September 19, 1907, active and prominent in the social life of Boise. She was a member of the Episcopal Church and always loyally followed its teachings and liberally contributed to its support.
Her death so greatly affected Mr. Davis, because of his advanced age, that he followed her in less than a year and during that time there was coupled with his great love for her memory a desire to perpetuate her name in Boise—the city which he loved and knew he must soon leave, after having watched it grow from a sagebrush wilderness. As a memorial to this much loved pioneer woman he gave to the city a tract of forty-three acres extending along the water-front from Eighth street to Broadway, to be always known as Julia Davis Park. This today is Boise's chief park and has been developed with vast acres of velvety lawns, plentifully supplied with shade trees, with flowers, walks and driveways winding in and out, forming attractive landscape features. There is also a menagerie of wild animals and the park affords pleasure for thousands of visitors year by year, and band concerts are given there on Sundays during the summer season.
It would have been a great pleasure to Thomas Davis to have lived to witness a crowd at a Sunday band concert in Julia Davis Park. He was passionately fond of music, was a violinist, and in the early days was a member of the Boise band. He never missed an opportunity of hearing good music and on the evening of June 9, 1908, he could not deny himself the pleasure of hearing the Damrosch orchestra, although he had not been out of the house for two weeks, and on the morning after attending this concert he was found in his bed, as though quietly sleeping, but life had fled.
Julia D McCrum Davis (1847 - 1907)*
Marion Davis (____ - 1876)*
Thomas Jefferson Davis (1875 - 1951)*
Henry McCrum Davis (1877 - 1910)*
Julia Etta Davis Quinn (1879 - 1932)*
Edwin Horace Davis (1881 - 1967)*
Hazel Davis Taylor (1888 - 1968)*
Note: A "Founding Father" of Boise City. On July 7, 1863, eight men met in a cabin to lay out the new townsite. Donated land to the city for Julia Davis Park, in honor of his wife.
Created by: David M. Habben
Record added: Jun 20, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7599058
Added: Apr. 21, 2008