Friday, June 20, 2008

Washngton Davis

Washngton Davis was born January 8, 1841, in Newfane, New York, the son of Nelson (b. 1808) and Rosina.

Sometime between 1841 and 1850 New York native Nelson moved his family from New York to Michigan, and by 1850 Washington was living with his father Nelson and possibly a stepmother named “H.I.” in Grand Rapids, where his father worked as a carpenter and Washington attended school with his sister "A. M." By 1860 he was a farm laborer living with his father and stepmother, New York native Phebe Ann (b. 1820) in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward where Nelson worked as a the Superintendent of Water Works.

“Wash” Davis was 20 years old and probably still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861. (He was possibly related to David Davis of Company I and/or the brother of Nelson Davis also of Company I.) He was reported as a mail carrier in August and September of 1862, and the following month he was detached at Division headquarters, at Corps headquarters in November and at Brigade headquarters from December of 1862 through February of 1863. He was employed as a hostler for the Brigade in March and was a teamster at Division headquarters in April. In February of 1864 he was a hospital attendant, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864.

Following his discharge Washington returned to Grand Rapids.

He married New York native Rebecca A. (1845-1912), and they had at least three children: a son (d. 1879), Ella A. or Stella (1867-1879) and a second daughter.

In 1868-69 he was working as a teamster for the M.U. Exchange Co. in Grand Rapids, and living on the north side of William Street between Almy and Summit Streets. Wash was living with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids’ First Ward where he worked as a teamster. (His father was also working as a teamster and living with his second or third (?) wife Phebe in the First Ward in 1870.)

Washington was working as a railroad freight and deliveryman and living with his wife and daughter and boarding at Lorenzo Lowe’s house on Ottawa Street in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward in 1880 and in Grand Rapids in 1886 and in 1890 in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward.

In August of 1890 a rock “weighing about 4 tons” fell and crushed his foot at the freight depot of the Michigan Central Railroad in Grand Rapids. That same year he was living at 314 Lyon Street in Grand Rapids. In fact, Washington probably spent all of his postwar life in Grand Rapids where he worked as a teamster and freight agent and conducted a freight transfer business for some 20 years in connection with the Lake Shore railroad. He sold that interest to F. Blake when he organized the Grand Rapids Storage and Transfer Co., and Davis went to work for him as superintendent.

Washington became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in December of 1886, and was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Champlin Post No. 29 in Grand Rapids. In May of 1891 he applied for and received a pension (no. 732063).

Washington was crushed to death on March 31, 1892, in Grand Rapids

“The accident,” wrote the Grand Rapids Democrat,

occurred in front of Foster, Stevens & Co.'s store on Monroe Street. Mr. Davis was superintending the unloading of a heavy box of plate glass intended for the new front to the Boston store which is now being built. The box contained four plates 100x182 inches in size and weighed nearly a ton. It was ordered through Foster, Stevens & Co. and was consigned to them. Seven men from the shipping department of that firm had been sent to assist the teamster William Pond in unloading it from the transfer company's truck on which it had been hauled from the depot. The box stood on its edge and 4 men armed with pike poles were stationed on each side of it to brace, and at the same time move the heavy case off the end of the wagon. It was Mr. Davis' intention to let the end of the box down on the edge of the sidewalk and then turn it on its side. The men had worked the heavy package along with their pikes until about 3 feet of it projected over the end of the truck, which stood about 2 feet above the sidewalk. At this moment Mr. Davis stepped down into the gutter and despite a warning from the teamster that he was in a dangerous position, began arranging some timbers under the edge of the box. The ground around the wagon was wet and muddy and one of the men who stood on the side toward Mr. Davis slipped. He had been bearing heavily on his pike and as he lost his footing the box wavered. The other men on the same side made a frantic effort to check it, but were shoved aside by the weight. There was a warning yell as the heavy mass tottered over and Mr. Davis raised himself just in time to be struck full in the face by the falling box and borne backward directly under it.

When the workmen had sufficiently recovered their senses they raised the box and an awful sight met their gaze. Mr. Davis's head and face were crushed into an unrecognizable mass, and his clothing was covered with blood. He was tenderly raised and lifted to the sidewalk, and a faint pulsation indicated that life was not yet extinct. The ambulance was hastily summoned and the injured man was taken to his home, at 314 Lyon Street, where his wife and daughters were driven nearly frantic by the sad spectacle. Dr. William Fuller rode up in the ambulance and did all in his power to prolong the dying man's life and relieve his sufferings. He lived but a few minutes, however, and breathed his last apparently without regaining consciousness. Coroner Bradish visited the house shortly afterward and after viewing the remains and inquiring into the particulars of the accident decided that it was unnecessary to empanel a jury in the case.

Upon hearing of Davis’ accident and death, Colonel Edwin S. Pierce, also formerly of the Old Third Michigan infantry, told a reporter for the Grand Rapids Evening Leader, “’Well, that is sad about Wash Davis's death. He was all through the war with me, and was a first-class man. He had charge of the headquarters' teams and wagons -- that was his forte -- he always wanted to be doing some work of this kind. But he was in a good many fights too. He would jump out of his wagon, grab a musket, and go to blazing away as fiercely as any of the soldiers. 'Wash' was a splendid good fellow, but I have always expected he would be killed in some way, he was such a man to rush work without considering his personal safety. He hauled all the glass for my tower clock when I built it, and I used to caution him then. But he is dead now, poor fellow.’”

At the annual reunion of the association held in December of 1892, the following resolution was read and entered into the records:

Whereas -- during the past year by a sudden stroke that was appalling, our comrade Washington Davis, late of Co. A, was taken from us without so much as one minit [sic], to leave one pasting [sic] word or say good-bye to his beloved wife and children, Resolved -- that we deeply sympathize with the wife, children and relatives of Washington Davis. That we regret that one who has appeared so young and was of so happy a disposition, and so good a husband and father, could not longer be spared to cheer and protect his family, and to aid with us with his presence in our sojourn in this vail [sic] of tears, and . . . that we will always feel a lively interest in the family he has left to our care. That we recognize in Washington Davis the true man, soldier and citizen, that we cordially invite his wife to consider herself a member of the [association].

Washington was buried in Grand Rapids’ Oak Hill cemetery: section I lot 93.

In April of 1892 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 396047), drawing $12 by 1912.

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