William Henry Davis

Contributed by Dorann O'Neal Lam

Source: History of Texas, together with a biographical history of Tarrant and Parker counties containing a concise history of the state, with portraits and biographies of prominent citizens of the above named counties, and personal histories of many of the early settlers and leading families. Publisher: Lewis Publishing company. Chicago, 1900(?)

William Henry Davis, a prominent and wealthy citizen of Fort Worth, Texas, is descended from a line of worthy sires and has every reason to take a just pride in his ancestry.

Mr. Davis was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, in 1820, son of William H. and Sallie Fisher Davis. His mother was a daughter of John Fisher who came from Germany to the United States at an early day and who married Elizabeth Wyckliffe, daughter of Robert Wyckliffe, a noted Kentucky gentleman.

The grandfather of our subject was also named William H. He was a member of a prominent Virginia family, some of whom had come to America from Wales early in the reign of King Charles, and about the same time that the Fisher family settled in this country.

Mr. Davis' father was born in Virginia and when he was quite young went with his parents to Kentucky and settled on what was then the frontier. He served under General William H. Harrison in the campaign against the British in Canada and was present at the surrender of the British General Proctor. His life was spent in agricultural pursuits, and his many estimable qualities brought him into favor with all who knew him.

He and his good wife had four sons and one daughter, namely: John Fisher, who died at the age of seventy years; William Henry, Elias Wyckliffe, who died at the age of sixty-nine years; Benjamin Thomas, who died at the age of fifty-seven years; and Mary Elizabeth, widow of William H. Pace, of Missouri.

The mother of our subject died when he was ten years old, and when he was fifteen he began the battle of life for himself. He had acquired a good common school education. When he started out for himself it was as an employe on the river flatboats. Later he was engaged in steamboating between Louisville, Kentucky, and New Orleans and was for some time on the famous steamer Shippen, the fleetest steamer of her day. That was at a time when racing was popular and when bacon and lard were used for fuel by competing steamers. He followed the river for about twelve years.

Then being a victim of the California gold fever, he sought the Pacific coast, making the journey overland in company with a large party and with ox teams. They were four months and sixteen days in making the trip. Arrived in California, they began mining at old Weaver Town, now in El Dorado county, where they did fairly well for a time. They next mined at Rough and Ready, where William H. Davis and his brother John struck one of the finest placers that had been discovered. They soon exhausted it, however, and John's health failing, he returned home, while William H. went up the Yuba river and continued his mining operations. After three years spent in the California mines, our subject returned bringing with him more than $3,000, a large sum for a working man in those days.

After his marriage, which occurred, in 1853, Mr. Davis settled down to farming in southwestern Missouri, and continued there until 1866. The ravages of war had so depleted his fortune that he was glad to sell out and leave. For his property he received $2,800 in depreciated greenbacks. With this amount he came to Texas in 1866, settled at Fort Worth, and engaged in the mercantile business on Houston street and did a successful business for ten years.

Retiring from the mercantile business, he turned his attention to the purchase of real estate and to the erection of buildings for rent. This he has followed ever since, and in this way has been a prominent factor in bringing about the growth and development of the city. While he has been a conservative business man, his generosity has been unbounded, both his time and means being given freely for the advancement of any movement or enterprise he deemed for the good of Fort Worth. He was a liberal contributor to the fund which built the First Baptist Church here, and he also did much to secure the railroad lines. He was one of the first to agitate to building of the Santa Fe road, and is principally through his persevering efforts that the road was secured.

Mr. Davis was married in Callaway County, Missouri, in January, 1853, to Miss Sarah Ellen Peyton, daughter of John Peyton, a descendant of the famous Peyton family of Virginia. Her mother was an Overton, and was a native of Kentucky. Mr. and Mrs. Davis have one child, Sarah Elizabeth, wife of N.H. Lasseter, a railroad attorney of Fort Worth.

When he first came to Fort Worth Mr. Davis resided on Houston street. His present commodious and attractive home is on the southeast corner of the block, with Jackson street on the south and Taylor street on the east, and is surrounded with a beautiful shady lawn. He and his wife are members of the First Baptist Church, and he is also identified with the Masonic fraternity being a member of the Fort Worth Lodge, No. 148, and of Chapter No. 58.