WILLIAM MORDECAI DAVIDSON
WILLIAM MORDECAI “Bill” DAVIDSON, the fifth born child, son of John Wallace and Susan Lyons (Prance) Davidson, was born 22 February 1844 at Camden, Benton County, Tennessee. He married Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Wainwright 27 July 1870 at Evening Shade, Sharp County, Arkansas, with the Rev. John W. Campbell officiating. They had six sons: (1) John Walter, (2) Samuel Mordecai “Mord”, (3) George Osborn, (4) Frederick “Fred” Roscoe Edgar, (5) Virgil Lee, and (6) Cyrus Byers.
William Mordecai Davidson disappeared 28 February 1883.1 Remains which were discovered 1 March 1884 on Pennington’s Bar in the Arkansas River twenty miles below Little Rock were identified as those of William Mordecai Davidson. He was buried 25 March 1884 in Lots of the Masonic Grand Lodge No. 17, South Cypress, near the extreme southwest corner of Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, in an unmarked grave.2
1 (See newspaper accounts herein from the Arkansas Gazette.)
2 (An appropriate headstone was erected at William Mordecai Davidson’s gravesite in 1998 by his grandson W. E. Davidson; great grandsons W. L. Davidson, R. J. Davidson, D. G. Davidson, and S. M. Davidson II; and great-great grandsons S. M. Davidson III, C. E. Davidson, and G. S. Davidson.)
MARY ELIZABETH “Mollie” WAINWRIGHT, daughter of Samuel Wainwright and Helen (Thompson) Wainwright, was born 25 February 1852 in Mississippi. She did not remarry after the death of her husband. She died 11 June 1903 near Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. She was buried 12 June 1903 in Sharp Cemetery, now Evening Shade Cemetery, Evening Shade, Sharp County, Arkansas.
SAMUEL WAINWRIGHT, son of William E. Wainwright and Nancy B. Turner, was born 29 November 1818, in Madison County, Alabama. He died 29 October 1898, Sharp County, Arkansas. He married Martha Helen Tompson in 1849 at Jonesboro, Craighead County, Arkansas. She was born in 1829 in Alabama, and died 1856 at Elgin, Jackson County, Arkansas.
WILLIAM E. WAINWRIGHT was born 12 December 1785 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia (near Petersburgh). He died 25 July 1855 in Evening Shade, Sharp County, Arkansas. He married Nancy B. Turner on 3 January 1815 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. She was born 11 May 1799 near Lynchburg, Lynchburg County, Virginia. She died in 1864. William Mordecai Davidson was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. At age 17 he enlisted as a private in the 2nd C Company, 5th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, on 20 May 1861 at Paris, Henry County, Tennessee. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant 17 December 1861. He served as aide-de-camp to General Patton Anderson, Brigadier-General, C.S. Army, Commanding the Second Brigade, Ruggles Division, Second Army Corps, Army of the Mississippi, at the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, also known as Shiloh, in Tennessee. General Anderson mentions Lieutenant Davidson’s name twice in his official report, and commends him by his full name, “Lieut. William M. Davidson.” Following are excerpts from General Anderson’s official report, recorded in A.O.R., Series 1, Volume X/1 (S #10) No. 173: Again the lines of the enemy gave way, but a battery to our front and left now disclosed itself in heavy fire upon our center and right. About this time each command in the brigade lost several gallant officers and many not less gallant men. I dispatched an aide (Lieutenant Davidson) to the rear to order up a battery, and withdrew the infantry a short distance to better shelter. The artillery gained a favorable position in a few minutes (perhaps before Lieutenant Davidson had had time to deliver my order) and promptly opened fire upon its antagonist.
A hurried reconnaissance revealed a point from which the enemy could be more advantageously assailed. Lieutenant Davidson, of my staff, was dispatched to General Ruggles, not far off, with a request that he would send up a few pieces of artillery to a position indicated, whence a vigorous fire, I felt confident, would soon silence the battery, which was the main obstacle to our onward movement.
Lieut. William M. Davidson, aide-de-camp, was constantly by my side, except when absent by my orders, all of which he delivered with promptitude and intelligence. While engaged in this and passing from one portion of the field to another he made many narrow escapes, having frequently to pass under most galling fire to reach his point of destination. Following is a story that is part of the family folklore. The truth of it can not be vouched for because there is no known official account of the incident:
Young Lieutenant Davidson was dashing on horseback carrying orders from one field commander to another during the heat of battle. He had to take a circumventing route to avoid Union troops. However, he was detected by a small detachment of Union cavalry that took up a hot pursuit. William spurred his horse and rode frantically over hill and through the woods. He rode to the barn of a house whose occupants were known to be sympathetic to the Confederacy. He dismounted, slapped his horse on the backside and sent him running into the woods. William made a mad dash to the back door of the house. The rather large matronly lady of the house let him in. He asked if there was someplace where he could hide. They looked out a window and saw a detachment of Union troops riding up the front driveway. There was precious little time to hide William. The lady beckoned him to her side next to the front door. She grabbed him by the head of the hair, jerked him down, pushed him under her full hoop skirt, and commanded, “Don’t move!” She stood next to the door and let the Union officer and some of his troops in. They searched the house. Others searched the barn and grounds while all this time she stood next to the door. Satisfied that the Confederate soldier was not there the Unionists left. A little later William scoured the woods and found his horse. He mounted and continued to his destination though slightly delayed.
Following is a list of the battles in which the Tennessee 5th Regiment participated. It is not known if William Mordecai participated in all these battles. However, it is factually known he was at Shiloh and it is reasonable to believe he participated in some, if not all, of these battles:
• Island #10 (4/6-7/1862)
• Shiloh (4/6-7/1862)
• Corrinth Campaign (Apr.-Jun. 1862)
• Bridge Creek,MS (5/28/1862
• Richamond, KY (8/29-30/1862)
• Perryville (10/8/1862)
• Murfreesboro (12/31/1861) (1/3/1863)
• Tullahoma Campaign (June 1863)
• Chickamauga (9/19-20/1863)
• Chattanooga Siege (Sept. – Nov. 1863)
• Atlanta Campaign (May – Sept. 1864)
• New Hope Church (5/25 – 6/4/1864)
• Kennesaw Mountain (6/27/1864)
• Peach Tree Creek (7/20/1864)
• Atlanta (7/22/1864)
• Jonesboro (8/31 – 9/1/1864)
• Franklin (11/30/1864)
• Nashville (12/15 – 16/1864)
• Carolinas Campaign (Feb. – Apr. 1865)
• Bentonville (3/19 – 21/1865)
• Surrendered at Smithfield, NC on April 9, 1865
Lieutenant William M. Davidson, CSA – 1861
After the war William Mordecai moved to Evening Shade, Sharp County, Arkansas, with his father, mother, and other family members. During their move they lived for a short time at Doniphan, Ripley County, Missouri. William Mordecai had been studying law with his father for several years, and he was admitted to the bar at Doniphan, Missouri. He immediately entered the practice of law after coming to Evening Shade.
He was a successful lawyer and in 1879 he formed a law partnership with Rufus King Arnold, a very successful young lawyer who had moved to Evening Shade from Kentucky. Rufus, like William Mordecai, was a Confederate veteran of the Civil War. Rufus was named after his grandmother, Catherine (King) Arnold, and her brother, William Rufus King, who was Vice-President of the United States, but who died shortly after being appointed. Rufus met an untimely and tragic death November 19, 1914, the murder victim of unknown bandits. He is buried in the Sharp Cemetery.
In 1882 William Mordecai became a candidate for the Arkansas Legislature. Following is one of his campaign pieces run August 24, 1882, in The Sharp County Record, Evening Shade, Arkansas:
Fellow Citizens: I am a candidate for the Legislature. I am in favor of immigration, but none at our expense. I believe in morality and religion and think the way to advance them is to educate the masses. The road and estray law needs amendments. I am opposed to class legislation; favor regulating freights and passage on railroads, and think they ought to bear their equal part of the burden of taxation. I am in favor of a uniform system of assessment and taxation, and of economizing the tax books. I favor the holding of all defaulting officers to a strict accountability for all losses and deficits. I oppose free passes and, if elected, will take none. I think jurors before Justices should receive pay for their time lost. The next general assembly will re-district the state for congressional purposes; and, if elected, I will contend for a fair division of territory, and will guard our time of holding our circuit courts.
I will not waste your time in idleness. I have been living in this county going on fourteen years, and have been a student of law all this time; I have seen the evils of much legislation and think I know how to take advantage of it. The constitution is the law makers keystone, and ours has been violated many times in legislation, in my opinion, since its adoption.
And now, fellow citizens, if you will elect me, I will legislate for you, and not for monopolies, rings, cliques and corporations, and will conduct myself in such a manner as that you will have no cause to express regrets.
I am yours, respectfully,
W. M. Davidson
William Mordecai won the election by a flattering majority vote. He served in the House of Representatives in Little Rock as the representative for Sharp County until his untimely death.
Following are newspaper accounts of his life and death in Little Rock:
A SAD ENDING1
Of a Brilliant Lawyer and Member
of the Legislature.
He Ends a Protracted Spree by Be-
1 (Arkansas History Commission, One Capital Mall, Little Rock, AR., Newspaper Collection, Arkansas Gazette, March 1, 1883, Little Rock, Arkansas)
And Hurling Himself into the River–
Action of the House–Work of
It is sad to chronicle death at any time, but when it comes with horrible details it is doubly so. This morning we announced the death by drowning of Hon. W. M. Davidson, of Sharp county, member of the Lower House of the General Assembly. But few of our citizens knew him, for the reason that his visits to Little Rock were few and far between.
William Mordecai Davidson – 1882
HE MET HIS DEATH probably about 3 o’clock yesterday morning, and his body is now eddying and tossed about in the depths of the swollen and muddy Arkansas.
The deceased who was elected representative by a flattering majority took his seat at the convening of the legislature, occupying a desk on the east of the house with Representative Davidson, of Izard county. He was gladly welcomed by those who knew him, and many who knew his brother, Hon. S. H. Davidson, also of Sharp County, sought him out and wished him well. During his younger days and, in fact, until a few years since, he had been a heavy drinker. However, realizing at last that he was throwing his life away, he made a general reformation, and for many months prior to coming to Little Rock not a drop of intoxicating liquor had passed his lips. He was respected, honored and beloved. His ambition was high, and those who knew him best and were aware of his ability as a lawyer and honor and integrity as a gentleman placed no gauge upon his ambition. He was a most eloquent speaker, and gifted with a logical and winning manner. He ADDRESSED THE HOUSE ONLY ONCE OR TWICE but when he spoke, everybody listened. But to go back a little: On reaching Little Rock, after successfully fighting through the first week with its attendant excitements and temptations, he was lured by friends into the haunts of his old enemy, and fell an easy victim. His friends generally, and members of the legislature especially, hurried to his aid and were unremitting in their attentions. Every effort was made to restore him to his right mind, but all in vain. The old conqueror–a disease beyond his power to combat–had him in its grasp, and he abandoned himself utterly. “Poor Davidson”, his friends would sigh, as they met him on the street, and, one on each side, would by persuasion and force take him to the Grand Central, where he boarded, only, however, a few hours later to see him on the street or in the state house yard. Tuesday he was wild and desperate, and FAILED TO RECOGNIZE those he knew. That night the clerks of the house worked on their journals, and about 2 o’clock in the morning (yesterday), Richard Daniels, a colored man, and one of the janitors of the house found him wandering aimlessly around the yard. He took him by the arm, and finally got him into the house and up by the fireplace. There the colored man made a pallet and placed a pillow under his head. Other matters then required his attention, and half an hour later, hearing pistol shots he cast a quick glance at the spot where he had left the deceased, saw he was gone and hastened downstairs, fearing he had shot himself. He arrived just in time to see him run down toward the railroad, west and in rear of the state house. Almost at that instant he heard A SPLASH IN THE RIVER and cries for help. Daniels was interviewed yesterday by a reporter of THE GAZETTE, with the following result:
“How was Davidson acting when you saw him?” “Like a crazy man. I saw him riding his cane like a boy ten years old.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“Yes; he told me he was afraid someone intended to kill him, but he was ‘fixed’, clasping his hand upon his revolver.” “How many shots did you hear?” “Three.”
Hon. J. F. Rives, of White County, who was at the state house Tuesday night, made the following statement to THE GAZETTE reporter:
“About 2:30 a.m. two shots were heard, then a third, and immediately
someone jumped from the back portico of the capitol and ran to the northwest corner of the yard. Soon afterwards the cries of someone in distress were heard in the direction of the river. In a few moments the cry ‘Oh, God,’ was followed by
“HE IS GONE.”
Men in a boat were seen with lanterns eagerly searching along the prow and sides of the vessel. A search was made at 7 o’clock near the corner of the enclosure above mentioned, and the tracks of a man were discovered on the outside, as if he had fallen against the embankment.”
The deceased leaves a wife and four children. He was 39 years of age, a native of Tennessee, had been a resident of Arkansas for sixteen years, was a member of the Methodist Church, and a resident of Evening Shade, the county seat of Sharp County.
HIS REMAINS are clad in a dark suit of clothes, white shirt and underclothing. In the pocket of his pants is a roll of money, supposed to be about $30; in his vest pocket a two and one-half ounce key-winding coin silver watch, also a three strand wire link gold vest chain, and gold keystone charm. On one of his fingers is a cameo and pearl ring.
In the house yesterday great regret was expressed at the sad death of the member. A full report in relation thereto will be found in the legislative proceedings.
# # #
THE DEAD LEGISLATOR1
Interviewing One of His Friends
and the Result Thereof
The Killing of Holloway–Employment
of Guards to Watch for the Body
“I’ll tell you,” said a member of the house yesterday to a reporter of THE GAZETTE, “when Davidson, as we all called him, was himself, no nicer man could be found in our state. During the past year or two he had taken higher rank than ever before among members of the bar, and was classed as one of the rising men of north Arkansas.”
“In what condition did he leave his family?”
“A wife and four children are left almost destitute. They depended on his practice.”
“Was he a successful lawyer?”
““Yes, and of late unusually so; he was always eloquent, and when ‘fired up’ he became impassioned and no jury could withstand his appeals.”
“It is said he killed two men during his life. Do you know the facts?”
“No, I think, however, he killed only one–Holloway. This was at Clover Bend, and during reconstruction. If I remember correctly, it was due to political differences. He was the friend of every man when he was himself, and one truer to his friends never lived.”
“Has word of his death been sent to his widow?”
“Yes, and it probably reached her yesterday. A telegram was sent to Batesville, with orders to forward by special messenger to Evening Shade. We look for Sam Davidson, his brother, on tomorrow’s train
(Arkansas History Commission, One Capital Mall, Little Rock, AR., Newspaper Collection, Arkansas Gazette, March 3, 1883, Little Rock, Arkansas)
Yesterday the House of Representatives by resolution ordered the employment of three guards to be stationed at different points along the river for the purpose of recovering the body should it come to the surface. IDENTIFIED It seems almost without doubt that the dead body found on Pennington’s Bar, described in Yesterday’s Gazette, was that of Hon. Wm. M. Davidson, of Evening Shade, Sharp County. He was a member of the legislature of 1881, and committed suicide by jumping in the river. His body was never recovered. He was a member of the Royal Arch Masons, Rural Chapter 50, which was the inscription on the Mark Master’s key or fob, and his initials were on the watch discovered on the dead man.
MUST BE DAVIDSON The following letter was received from Hon.Geo. Thornburgh yesterday: To the Editor of the Gazette. The dead body of a drowned man, found twenty miles below Little Rock, and reported in The Gazette of the 1st, is certainly that of Wm. M. Davidson, wo was supposed to have drowned himself at Little Rock in February, 1883, while he was a member of the legislature, from Sharp County. His initials were W.M.D. and Rural Chapter, R.A.M., is located at Evening Shade, where he lived.
Yours, etc., GEO. THORNBURGH
# # #
HON. W. M. DAVIDSON1
Yesterday morning the remains of Hon. W. M. Davidson of Sharp County were laid to their last resting place in Mount Holly Cemetery. The sad fate with which he met, and the strange discovery of his bleached skeleton on the sands at Pennington bar, are remembered by every body. He was a Mason, and was buried in the lots of the Grand Lodge. Governor Berry, State Treasurer Woodruff, Secretary of State Frolich, Hon. A. J. McGinnis, of Sharp County, and others were present at the cemetery, and the Rev. T. C. Tuper read the beautiful Episcopal service. The flag over the state house was placed at half-mast during the day, in respect to the memory of one of the state’s brightest and most unfortunate sons.
The coin silver pocket watch found on the remains of William Mordecai is still in the Davidson Family. It was passed down from generation to generation and is now in the possession of great grandson Donald G. Davidson having been passed to him by grand daughter Elizabeth V. “Betty” (Davidson) Ramey. The gold watch fob recovered the same time as the watch was stolen several years ago from the person who had it at the time.
The Family never completely accepted the conclusion that William Mordecai committed suicide. How is it a man commits suicide by shooting himself three times and then throws himself into a river?1
(Arkansas History Commission, One Capital Mall, Little Rock, AR., Newspaper Collection, Arkansas Gazette, March 26, 1884, Little Rock, Arkansas)
There is reason to believe it could have been a revenge killing by Holloway’s family. William Mordecai killed Holloway in an altercation in a dispute over the manner in which penalties were handled under the Reconstruction regulations. William Mordecai was exonerated by reason of self-defense. The Holloway family members refused to accept that verdict and vowed revenge. Life was not easy for Mary and her family after William Mordecai died. She was left with very little resource and five sons, the oldest only eleven years old and the youngest three months old. The boys received very little education.
The fourth son, Frederick “Fred” told his children what life was like when he did go to school. He said he would take a cornbread and molasses sandwich to school for lunch. And, when he was ready to eat his lunch the ants had already been there and eaten the molasses.
All the sons had to quit school and go to work at an early age to help support the family. About 1884 Mary was awarded a contract to carry the U.S. Mail from Hardy (which was on the railroad) to Evening Shade and other nearby towns. The older boys carried the mail on muleback. Fred often told his children about carrying the mail on mule back when he was eleven years old. Samuel Mordecai “Mord” also told his grandchildren about carrying the mail on muleback when he was a youngster.
However, with all the hardship and hard work, the sons of William Mordecai and Mary endured their childhoods. Throughout their lives they were men of good character, honest, honorable, good husbands and loving fathers. William Mordecai and Mary would be proud of them. Sometime shortly before 1900 Mary and her sons moved to a farm near Hardy, Arkansas. They lived there when the 1900 Census was taken. Mary had been sick with asthma for several years. One day in June 1903 she was very sick. She asked Fred to stay home with her while the other boys went to work on the farm. She died that day while alone with Fred.
Her sons took her to Evening Shade for burial in the Sharp Cemetery, now known as the Evening Shade Cemetery, about half a mile southeast from Evening Shade proper. She is in an unmarked grave. Several searches have been made in the cemetery. So far, we have been unable to locate her grave.
SAMUEL MORDECAI DAVIDSON
SAMUEL MORDECAI “Mord” DAVIDSON, the second born child, son of William Mordecai and Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” (Wainwright) Davidson, was born 9 February 1873 at Evening Shade, Sharp County, Arkansas. He married Meta Pauline Clarke 2 January 1901 at Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. Mord and Meta had two children: (1) William “Willie” Edmund, born 10 November 1901; and (2) Mary Arabella, born 29 September 1903.
Meta’s parents were Edmund Stillman Clarke (1852-1930) and Arabella Taylor (Champlain) Clarke (1852-1934). Edmund Stillman
Clarke’s parents were Paul Roger Clarke (1802-1877) and Polly Barton (Rogers) Clarke (1800-1869). Arabella Taylor Champlain’s
parents were Charles Champlain (1824-1903) and Hannah Maria (Taylor) Champlain (1829- ? ). She was part Narragansett Indian.
Mord’s father, William Mordecai Davidson, died at Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1883, when Mord was ten years old.
Mord died 29 August 1953 at Kansas City, Wyandotte County, Kansas. He was buried 31 August 1953 in Memorial Park Cemetery,
Section 12, Lot 114, Space 6, Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. His wife, Meta, died 6 July 1970 at Kansas City, Wyandotte County, Kansas, and is buried next to her husband in Memorial Park Cemetery, in Space 5, Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.
Following is an obituary in the Kansas City newspaper. The newspaper was faded brown when found January 23, 1999, taped to the inside cover of an old journal kept by his son,
William E. Davidson, of Brenham, Texas. There was no date on the notice:
SAMUEL M. DAVIDSON, 80, of 1504 North Thirtieth, died this morning at the home. He was a retired farmer. Mr. Davidson had been a resident here eight years. He was a member of the Methodist Church in Lexington, Okla.
Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Meta Davidson of the home; a daughter, Mrs. Mary Dunahoo, of the home; a son, William E. Davidson, Oklahoma City, Okla.; two brothers, Fred Davidson, Sacramento, Calif., and Cyrus B. Davidson, Rogers, Arkansas., and eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.
Services will be held Monday in Oklahoma City. Burial will be in that city also. The body will lie in state after 5 o’clock this afternoon at the Porter & Sons funeral Home.
Mord appears in the 1880 Census living with his father and mother at Evening Shade. After the death of his father Mord and his brothers carried the U.S. Mail by muleback between Hardy and Evening Shade to help support the family. He joined the United Methodist Church in Evening Shade in September 1892. He moved to Hardy sometime later with his mother and three of his brothers. He appears in the 1900 Census with his mother and brothers at Hardy, Arkansas.
After marriage in 1901 Mord and Meta lived on Meta’s 160-acre farm located in Section 17, T19N, R6W, on Big Otter Creek adjacent to and north of the original Clarke homestead near Hardy, Arkansas. Meta homesteaded this place a few years before their marriage. Meta’s father and brother, Norman, helped Mord and Meta build a house on the farm.
Their first child, William Edmund, was born at the Clarke homestead near Cedar Spring as was their daughter, Mary Arabella.
Mord cleared the land, cut ties, split rails, and farmed the cleared land for the next few years.
Mord, for most of his life, had a kind of restless wanderlust about him. He seemed to be always longing and searching for some intangible thing, thus he was more often than not a rolling stone that never gathered much moss.
For whatever reasons, Mord and Meta in January 1908 packed all their belongings and loaded them with their two children into a covered wagon, hitched a team of mules and headed for western Oklahoma. John Collins, a relative, had a farm on Salt Fork of Red River near Sayre, Oklahoma.
Mord and family stayed a short time with John Collins until they located a farm at Welk’s Corner eight miles north of Sayre owned by Mr. Welk who also owned a store and cotton gin. Mord made a share crop arrangement with Mr. Welk to plant cotton on his farm for a share of the proceeds from the crop. A thunderstorm with large hailstones destroyed the crop in June.
Mord once again loaded his family and belongings into the wagon and headed for Oklahoma City to seek work. There they located on a fifty-five acre farm located about a mile west of St. Mary’s Academy on SW 29th Street. The Voltz brothers owned the farm. They also owned a major plumbing company.
Mord planted a corn crop and worked around Oklahoma City doing odd jobs. His son, Willie, said Mord made a good corn crop on the Voltz place because he remembers a Mexican man coming to get corn shucks for making tamales.
Willie and Mary attended Lee elementary school located near SW 29th and South Walker Streets.
Mord and family sometime in 1909 moved from the Voltz Farm to a house at 429 West Washington Street in Oklahoma City.
Mord used his wagon and team of mules to haul brick, sand and gravel during the early day construction boom in Oklahoma City. Many of these materials were used for the construction of some of the Oklahoma City schools, including Willard Elementary at NW 2nd and Blackwelder Streets. Many of the bricks were laid to make the brick streets in downtown Oklahoma City.
A Negro man named Kenny slept over the barn and worked for Mord loading and unloading the materials on the wagon, and sometimes driving the team. Willie and Mary attended Washington Elementary School.
Mord again in October 1911 loaded his family and belongings into the covered wagon and headed for Texas. When they got to Red River near Idabell, Mord went down and looked at the river. He decided not to cross into Texas. They turned east and went into Arkansas to DeQueen. They didn’t stay there long. They shortly returned to southeast Oklahoma in McCurtin County.
They meandered around and through eastern Oklahoma the next two years. Mord worked timber, worked as a day laborer, made railroad ties, worked at sawmills, and worked the hay fields. Mord, Meta and the children picked cotton, gathered potatoes, and picked apples. Anything to make a little money.
When the winter of 1913 arrived, Mord and family were at Wagoner, Oklahoma. Mord became sick and was “raving mad with fever,” as told by Willie. Meta drove the team and wagon with Mord and children to her parent’s home near Hardy, Arkansas. There, Mord recuperated and regained his health.
Mord, Meta and children moved back into the house on Meta’s farm next to her parents’ farm. Meta rented a small apartment in Hardy for $2 a month so Willie and Mary could go to school. For whatever reason, that arrangement lasted only a few weeks. Mord worked cutting timber and making railroad ties.
In January 1914 Mord again loaded his family and Meta’s parents, Edmund and Arabella Clarke, in a covered wagon and headed west through northern Arkansas for Oklahoma. They departed early in the morning and that evening they camped on a hill about ten miles west. After nightfall Mord looked east and saw the reflection in the sky of a large fire over the distant horizon.
He commented there must be a big fire back to the east. Months later they learned it was their house on Meta’s farm that burned to the ground that night. They never knew what caused the fire.
Willie told of a traveling visitor from Texas to their campfire one evening near Eureka Springs in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. The Texan had a small suitcase with a short piece of rope hanging out. Meta asked if he was a cowboy. He answered, “No. Why do you ask?” Meta pointed to the rope and asked, “Then why do you carry a rope with you?” The man said, “I use it to tie myself to a tree when I sleep so I won’t roll down these hills.” Mord, Meta, the two children and Meta’s parents arrived at McGuire late in February 1914. It was a small community east of Noble, Oklahoma. Mord’s brother, Cyrus and his wife, Emma, lived at McGuire. They stayed with Cyrus and Emma about two weeks while Mord looked for a farm to rent. Willie remembers helping Cyrus cut willow trees and burning them. He also remembers that Emma and Mrs. Clarke did not get along very well. Mord and family with the Clarkes soon moved onto the Gray Place southeast of Noble. Willie remembers that soon afterwards they took his grandparents, the Clarkes, to the train station in Noble to catch the train back home to Arkansas. Mr. Clarke did not like the sandy prairie lands and red soil tainted rivers of Oklahoma. He preferred the hills, rocks, tall trees and clear water streams of northern Arkansas. Willie and Mary attended Alamo school while they lived on the Gray place.
Mord share cropped the Gray Place and made good corn and cotton crops in 1914. However, in 1915 the crops were hailed out and they had to move. They moved in January of 1916 to a fifty-five acre farm known as the Smith Place. It was on the east bank of the South Canadian River southwest of Noble. Willie remembers the old house and barn were “like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Willie and Mary attended Canada school.
Mord planted twenty acres of cotton and thirty acres of corn. That fall he made ten bales of cotton and harvested about sixteen hundred bushels of corn. The soil was a good sandy loam and the rains that year came at just the right times.
In January 1917 Mord and family moved to the Boggs Place southeast of Noble, Oklahoma. It was a hundred and sixty acres of upland with twenty acres of pasture and the rest in cultivation. It did not have much of a house or barn. It was owned by Frank Boggs, the sheriff of Cleveland County. Mord had a share crop arrangement with the sheriff. Willie and Mary went to Canada school. Mord made good crops in the years 1917, 1918, and 1919. He got good prices for his crops.
In the winter of 1919 Mord and family moved to the Kline Place near Willow View northeast of Lexington, Oklahoma. This was the year Mord’s brother, Fred, and his wife, Nora, and family moved to McGuire, Oklahoma. By this time Willie was no longer going to grade school. He took the County Educational Equivalency Exam and received a certificate that entitled him to attend high school. Samuel M. and Meta Davidson with children Mary Arabella and William Edmund – 1908
In 1920 Willie planted thirty acres of cotton. By fall the price of cotton was so low it would cost more to pick it than it would sell for at market. He left it in the field and left home to go to high school at Oklahoma Central State Teachers College in Edmond, Oklahoma.
This same year Mord’s brother, Cyrus, had twenty bales of cotton and could not sell it. So, he and his family packed up and moved to California.
Mord and Meta continued to live on the Kline Place during the years 1919 through 1925. Mord become well acquainted with John Abernathy who owned a wholesale grocery business in Purcell, Oklahoma, just across the river from Lexington. John was the son of J. L. Abernathy of Evening Shade, Arkansas, who relocated to Purcell in Indian Territory sometime prior to 1898.
Mord had several teams of good mules. He and John decided to become business partners and go into the roadbed building business. John was the financial mainstay for the partnership. Mord provided the mule teams, equipment, and laborers.
In 1925 they bid and received a contract from the State of Oklahoma to build two and a half miles of roadbed for Highway #77 between Nobel and Lexington. By this time Willie had finished school at Edmond. He was working on a dragline for the General Construction Company dredging Little River. The company soon after went defunct and Willie came home to work for his father on the roadbed construction job. He was plowboy, straw boss, and powder monkey blowing out tree stumps with dynamite.
When the Noble roadbed construction job was completed Mord bid and received a contract on a four mile roadbed construction
job on Highway #270 between Holdenville and Wewoka, Oklahoma.
In the meantime Willie married Mary Pauline Roller. He and his new bride lived with Mord and Meta in a tent at the construction site while Willie continued to work for his father. Willie’s wife worked helping Meta prepare and serve meals for the work crews. This arrangement didn’t last long. Willie and wife soon moved to Oklahoma City to make a life of their own. In 1927 Mord bid and received a contract for a roadbed construction job from the State of Arkansas near Forrest City. This job was a disaster for two reasons. First, Mord greatly under bid the job not realizing the amount of fill dirt required to be hauled long distances to lay down a roadbed through some of the swampy areas. Second, his partner, John L. Abernathy, was in serious financial difficulty. Mord and Meta returned to Oklahoma City practically penniless. John L. Abernathy was a partner in the retail grocery firm of Abernathy & Sneed; Abernathy & Hoggard; and the Purcell Wholesale Grocery. He organized the Abernathy Oil and White Daisy Oil companies that operated in Purcell; also the Troy Granite
Gravel Company which did a large road gravel business with headquarters in Purcell. His death on 9 September 1931 resulted from an accident at his office while loading a gun.1
By 1928 Mord and Meta lived on North Francis Street in Oklahoma
City. Mord worked for a while as a laborer at a pickle factory on North Broadway. He later worked as a flagman for the Rock Island Railroad flagging at North Harvey and Second Streets. Meta worked at the NuWay Laundry at North Western and Sixth Streets with Jewel Roller, Pauline’s younger sister. Sometime during 1930 Mord and Meta moved back to Arkansas. This time they located on the upper Herron Place west of Hardy. It was situated near a steep rocky bluff across Cow Ford on the west bank of South Fork River next to Raccoon Springs.
Sometime in the past the Herron Family had been good friends of the Davidsons at Evening Shade. A kind lady fondly known by all as Aunt Kate Herron rented the farm to Mord at a very reasonable rate.
It is not known what happened to the farm owned by Meta when Mord and Meta first married. It was located only about a mile from the Herron Place on Little Otter Creek. It is assumed that at some time of great financial need the farm was sold.
1 (Mord’s son, Willie, said Abernathy was in serious financial difficulty before the Crash of 1929 which also contributed to the failure of their partnership. Willie said Abernathy’s death was not an accident. It was a suicide. Today, the Herron Place and Meta’s farm are part of what is known as Cherokee Village, a large retirement and recreational community. The golf course occupies most of what was the Herron place. Today a person can stand at the approximate location of the house, look across the fairways toward the river and see the steep bluff on the other side across old Cow Ford. Raccoon Springs was modified into a holding pool and is a source of water supply for Cherokee Village, a resort development of several hundred homes. In the early days Raccoon Springs was a rushing torrent of crystal clear cold almost knee-deep water rushing from its source in the hillside, down a gentle slope, over a roaring waterfalls, and then underground to flow into the river beneath the surface. Today, only a trickle of the water reaches the river. Most of it is siphoned out by two large pumps for the resort water supply. Mord and Meta lived on the Herron Place at Cow Ford until the fall of 1942. Mord tilled the soil, kept a few cows and raised hogs. The house was a small two room wooden frame house. It had a front porch that extended the full length of the house. Meta cooked on a wood burning cookstove. A wood burning stove was in the other room for heat in the winters. They did not have electricity. They used kerosene lamps and lanterns. There was a crude wood picket fence around the front yard.
The source for household water was a spring down the hill about fifty yards toward the creek. Mord shaped it out and made an enclosed spring box. Meta also floated buckets of milk and butter in the spring water during the warm months to keep them cool. Meta loved flowers and plants. She had many different kinds of plants in the yard and hanging baskets from the eaves of the porch. She had a small lemon tree in a large tub she kept in the house during the cold winter months. She moved it outside in the warmth of spring and summer. She prized the few lemons she was able to harvest each year from that little tree. Meta also loved birds. She did all the various things to attract them around the house. For several years a pair of wrens nested in her kitchen and raised their young. She went to considerable effort to accommodate and protect the family of wrens, even making the cat stay outside.
Meta also liked to fish. It was not unusual to find her with her hook and line in the current of the river catching a “mess of fish” for supper. At this time during the 1930’s only four of the six Davidson brothers were still alive. Virgil Lee died in 1882. George Osburne died in 1908. Walter lived at Thayer, Missouri. Fred and Cyrus lived in California. Meta’s youngest brother, Edmund, and his family of ten children lived on the original Clarke farm. It was about two miles from where Mord and Meta lived on the Herron Place at Cow Ford. It is believed that Meta probably felt more at home there than all the other places they previously lived after they first left Arkansas.
Willie and his family of five children visited his father and mother in 1932, 1934 and 1936 while they lived on the Herron Place. Mary and her family of three children would sometimes visit her parents at Cow Ford on South Fork River.
In 1942 Willie and his family lived on a farm southwest of Moore, Oklahoma. They lived there several years. Willie worked in Oklahoma City. He and the boys worked the farm. They managed to have several fairly good crops and accumulated a good team of mules, a few farm implements, and several good milk cows. Sometime in the summer of 1942 Mord and Willie decided to go together in a farming partnership. They rented the Cochran Farm on Strawberry River about three miles north of Evening Shade, Arkansas. The Cochrans were related to the Herrons.
It was through dear Aunt Kate they were able to rent the Cochran Place. In November after the crops were harvested, Willie and family moved from Moore to the house on the south side of the river on the Cochran Farm. They made two trips in a 1937 Ford truck from Oklahoma to Arkansas. One to move the mules and cows. The other was to move the implements and household goods. The house on Strawberry River was an old two room wooden frame with a lean-to kitchen and dining room on the back. Each of the two rooms had a stone fireplace. At one time there had been a ‘dog-trot’ between the two rooms. It had long ago been enclosed and made into a small room and storage area. A plank front porch ran the full length of the house. The barn was across the road from the house. It was a conventional type barn of fairly good construction. In fact, the barn was still standing in the year 2004 in good shape. The house had long since deteriorated to nothingness. Today a new modern paved highway runs directly over the place where the old house was. Mord and Meta again packed their belongings and moved to the house on the north side of Strawberry River on the Cochran Farm. Willie and the boys helped move the livestock, farm implements, and household goods from the Herron Place on South Fork River to the Cochran Farm on Strawberry River. The house was an old two room wood frame with a lean-to kitchen on the back and a small front porch. It sat on a small rocky hill about a quarter of a mile from the river ford crossing.
The Cochran Place was one thousand and eighty-three acres of mostly hilly upland covered with timber and rocks. However, it had three bottoms along the river. One was behind the barn and consisted of about sixty acres. Another was across the river from the sixty acres. It consisted of about forty acres. The Big Bottom was on the same side of the river as the barn but because of a big bluff and the way the river flowed, it was necessary to cross the river twice to get to it. It was about a quarter of a mile wide and half a mile long. It consisted of about three hundred acres of good bottomland soil. They subleased the north part of the Big Bottom to a neighbor, Mr. Kunkel.
Mord and Willie pooled their resources and purchased an old Farmall F-20 tractor with steel lug wheels and some farm implements. With Mord’s and Willie’s mules they had six spans of mules plus Old Bill. He was a tall lanky contrary mule that couldn’t be teamed with another mule, but he was stout as an ox and twice as stubborn as a mule. He was used only on single hitch jobs. Mord, Willie and the boys did the spring plowing and planted corn in the sixty-acre bottom north of the barn, cotton in the Big Bottom, and hay in the small bottom. Mord and Willie gambeled all their resources on one good crop. The country was mobilizing for World War II and prices for farm commodities were good. But, Lady Fortune did not smile upon them.
They were flooded out, not once, but twice. The cotton was just planted and started to germinate when the first flood came. It destroyed the entire crop. The water receded in a few days. The tractor had been left in the field and was almost buried out of sight. It had to be dug out and overhauled. Everyone turned to and re-planted the crops. The cotton was about three inches tall when the second flood came. It was much worse than the first one. It came in July. It was unheard of to flood in July. The floodwaters came to the back of the barn. It covered the fields for the better part of a week. When the waters finally receded, large sandbars had washed over the fields. The crops were destroyed. It was a total disaster for Mord and Willie. It was much too late to even think of trying to put in another crop, even if they had the money to do it. They tried to salvage a little by cutting and
baling hay. They had totally expended their resources and had no recourse but to give it up. They sold what little hay they had harvested, sold the cows, the mules and the farm implements that could be salvaged.
In the fall of 1943 Willie and family returned to Oklahoma City where they owned a small house. Willie could get work at his former place of employment as a dockworker at Joe Hodges, a motor freight line company. Mord and Meta moved to the lower Herron Place below Johnson Bend on South Fork River near where Otter Creek flows into the river near Hardy. This arrangement lasted a few short years.
Sometime in 1947 Mord and Meta again packed their belongings and moved to Kansas City, Kansas, to live with their daughter, Mary, and her husband, Jim Dunahoo. They lived in a small apartment in the basement. Mord first worked for a contractor that contracted with the Southern Pacific Railroad to clean out the burn boxes on steam locomotives. They had to inspect for repairs and restart fires in the burn boxes. It was dirty, grimy and hard physical labor, and Mord was no young man. After about a year he gave that up and went to work for a major produce wholesaler and retailer in Kansas City. He handled crates of produce and made fruit and vegetable displays on the retail counters. He worked there until the spring of 1953 when it was discovered he had throat and lung cancer. Mord never used tobacco. He never used alcohol. The only thing that could have caused his throat and lung cancer was the coal dust he breathed while cleaning and servicing the burn boxes on the steam locomotives. The only protection the workers wore were kerchiefs covering their mouths and noses. Mord suffered through the late spring and summer of 1953 with failing health. Meta had her hands full trying to care for Mord. She was not a young woman. The physical and emotional stress was almost overwhelming.
Mary was employed at Singer Sewing Machine Company. Jim was employed with the Rock Island Railroad in the Armourdale Yards. Mary and Jim worked days. Mord and Meta’s grandson, Don, also worked for the Rock Island Railroad out of El Reno, Oklahoma, as a brakeman. With Jim’s influence and effort Don transferred to the Armourdale Yards as a switchman so he could live with Mary and Jim to help Meta care for Mord. Don worked from midnight to seven o’clock in the morning. He got home about eight o’clock shortly after Mary and Jim left for work. He was there during the day to help Meta with Mord. Don took Mord to his doctor appointments, and stayed with him during his treatments. Don read books, magazines, newspapers, and the sports pages to him. Mord in his youth played baseball and was always interested in the results of baseball games. He knew the batting averages and pitching statistics of certain players. Mary got home from work about four-thirty o’clock in the afternoon. Don would go to bed and sleep until eleven o’clock. Then he would get up and be on the job in the Armourdale Yards at midnight. This arrangement lasted until a few days before Mord died.
Death did not come easily. Mord suffered immensely. He died 29 August 1953 at Mary and Jim’s home in Kansas City. He was eighty years old. Life was not easy for Meta. She had practically no resource. Yet she was always smiling, loving and pleasant. She was not one to dwell on the unfortunate events in her life. Most of her remaining years she traveled from family member to family member to live a few days, weeks, or months, until she felt she had worn her welcome thin. She visited her Grandson, Don, and his wife in Brownsville,Texas, and went deep-sea fishing and visited Mexico. Several years later in 1958 she visited a few months with Don, his wife, Pat, and their baby son, Greg, in Oklahoma City.
Meta died July 6, 1970. She was ninety-three years old.
META PAULINE CLARKE
META PAULINE CLARKE, first born child, daughter of Edmund Stillman (1852-1930) and Arabella Taylor (Champlain) Clarke (1852-1934), was born 1 May 1877 at Westerly, Washington County, Rhode Island. She died 6 July 1970 at Kansas City, Wyandotte County, Kansas, and is buried next to her husband in Memorial Park Cemetery, in Space 5, Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.
She married Samuel Mordecai “Mord” Davidson 2 January 1901 at the home of her parent’s three miles southwest of Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas, by Esquire H. D. Dark. Meta and Mord had two children: (1) William Edmund, born 10 November 1901; and (2) Mary Arabella, born 29 September 1903.
Edmund Stillman Clarke was the son of Paul Roger Clarke (1802-1877) and Polly Barton (Rogers) Clarke (1800-1869). He was born 23 June 1852 at Little Genesee, New York. He died 27 July 1930 at Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. He married Arabella Taylor
Champlain, the daughter of Charles Champlain (1824-1903) and Hannah Maria (Taylor) Champlain (1829) on 12 August 1876. She was born 2 August 1852 at Bradford, Connecticut. She died 2 July 1934 at Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. Edmund and Arabella are buried in the Highland Cemetery a few miles south of Hardy, Arkansas.1
1 (See Appendix 5 for the Clarke Eleven Generations Chart.)
William E. “Bill” Davidson Family
META PAULINE CLARKE
The Clarkes lived at Westerly, Rhode Island, located on Pawcatuck
Sound in the very southwest part of the state. Fishing was a mainstay of the Westerly economy. It also served as a port of call for transoceanic cargo sailing ships.
Some of the Clarkes were seafaring people during the age of the three-mast clipper sailing ships. They traveled to many foreign ports and among the islands of the West Indies where they often acquired large conch shells.
A small hole was bored in the large end of the shell. This enabled a person to blow through the hole causing a large horn-like sound. Each shell had its own unique sound. These shells were used as fog horns on the ships. They also were used to summon the workers to the house for meals, or other reasons, much like dinner bells were used on many early day farms. Meta’s grandson, Don Davidson, has one of the Clarke conch shells. Meta told him, “It was kept at the front door and used to summon the menfolks from the docks to the house.” The shell is very old and bleached from being outside a number of years when in possession of Meta’s son, “Willie” (Bill). Don learned how to blow it when a boy and can make a few different tones with it.
When Meta was five years old her family moved from Westerly, Rhode Island, to Farina, Illinois. They traveled part of the way by mule-drawn canalboat, by train through Canada, sailing on a boat across Lake Erie, and by train to Farina. It is not known why they re-located from Westerly to Farina.
The Edmund Stillman Clarke Family relocated from Farina, Illinois, to Hardy, Arkansas in 1897. Edmund Clarke had a successful slaughter business in Farina. They lived in a very nice house as evidenced by old photographs. It is unknown why Edmund decided to sell his business and house and relocate from Farina to Arkansas. They traveled by covered wagon with another family, the Metcalfs.
Meta was twenty years old at the time and well educated for a young lady of the times. She kept a daily diary of the trip.1
Following is a letter written November 7, 1968, by Meta to her son, Bill, and his wife, Pauline, when Meta lived in Kansas City, Kansas, with her daughter, Mary, and her husband, Jim Dunahoo. The letter was transcribed June 25, 1999, by her grandson, Don Davidson. No attempt was made to correct grammar or misspelled words:
Dear William & Pauline:
I will try to scratch you a few lines. I may have to hunt a different pencil. It seems like this one won’t do much good.
Here today has been bright and sunshiny. Jim and Mary has been off most of the day. They had a borrowed book which I wanted to read.
I don’t see good out of my eyes and don’t read long or steady. The book was wrote by a doctor I had met, but did not know well. Thomas A. Dooley, M.D. The story was the Night They Burned the Mountain. He wrote it to his mother and to Dwight Davis.
It was in or around about Aug. or Sept 1958 or 1959 I had met the Dr., but did not know him well. Some of his writing I did not know, but some was as I remembered them. I liked the Dr. He could be and, could be funny at times, but when it came to business he was there and strick. As a friend he was there in some things. We didn’t always agree.
Mary is getting ready. She and Mary Belle is giving a big dinner Friday. Will have a house running over full and a big dinner. Yes, they will let me nosey around them for most are good friends of mine, or were before I took sick.
I have wrote this at so many different times it will take more than a California lawyer to read it, but it’s full of love to over flowing. Worlds of love from Mother. øøøø. If you ever get it waded through. Love.
1 (See Appendix 2 for a transcription.)
I have messed these up so folded them separate. Maybe can make them out and get a little good. If not, chuck them in the fire. They will make (kindlin) fire to cook your supper.
Anyway, Mother loves her Son, William.
I hope you can make this out. You may have to be a lawyer, but anyway is full of love from your Mother.
END OF BIOGRAPHY SECTION CHAPTERS 1-6