The History of William George Davis
The History of William George Davis Written & compiled by Anjanette Stone Lofgren January 2005 William George Davis was born on November 24th, 1841, at Cove (Grove) Hill, St. Michaels Parish, Pembrokeshire, South Wales. He was the 6th of 8 children born to John and Elizabeth (Cadwallader) Davies. William’s parents were both born in Wales. His father was a devout Wesleyan Methodist. He was a humble man, who took great pride in his work, but was not pretentious. He was a painstaking laborer, an expert in quarry work and in drilling, a coal miner and a mason, as well as a basket and chair bottom weaver. William’s mother was not as religious as her husband, but was a wise counselor to her husband and children. She was full of charity and mercy, as well as generous to others but frugal in her own wants. She endured the pain of losing 3 of her eight children in infancy. William’s father was the first member of the family to be baptized into the LDS church in 1849, when he was 47 years old. His mother joined the church three years later in 1852, and in 1855, the Davies’ children were baptized. They were the only family who belonged to the church in the village of Manorbier. They had to walk three miles to attend their meetings. His father presided over their branch for 5 years. In 1856, William’s brother, Joseph, and his sister Alice’s fiancé, James Crane, left Wales for America. They lived in New York to work and saved enough money to send for Alice and William. Alice and William emigrated in 1857, and they changed their last name from Davies to Davis. William was 15 or 16 at the time. In 1858, when he was 17, William and his brother and sister and sister’s fiancé left New York for Iowa. Alice and James Crane were married in Iowa City. The four emigrants worked in Iowa for farmers to try and earn enough money to move out west. They heard about a wagon train going to Utah that wanted teamsters and decided to join this company. When the Davis’ and Cranes went to collect their money for their labors, some of the farmers could not pay. If they waited until fall then they would be able to be paid, but then they would miss the opportunity to travel to Utah with the wagon train. They were given some food in place of money and they joined the Horton D. Haight Freight Train. William was 17 when he crossed the plains with the Horton D. Haight Freight Train, 3rd Company. According to Alice Davis Crane, her husband, James, was “put captain over 10 wagons and there were 75 wagons in all.” Another 17 year old boy by the name of Jabez Dangerfield, was also in the Horton D. Haight Company. It was William George Davis’ great granddaughter, Carol Aileen Davis, who married Jabez’s grandson, Alma Dean Dangerfield, in 1945. The Horton D. Haight Freight Train arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 29, 1859. Soon after arriving in Utah, William became an American citizen. He joined a company of recruits under the command of Robert T. Burton to take military drill. The sword he used was later donated to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. In 1865, William’s parents as well as some more siblings came to America. They crossed the plains with an ox team. Once they arrived in Utah, they settled in the Sugar House Ward. William married his first wife, Esther Harrison, on July 7th, 1866, at the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. They were the parents of eleven children; William George Jr., Joseph Wilford, Franklin John, Esther Edith, William Ephraim, Alice Julina, Elizabeth Hannah, William Cadwallader, James Heber, Alma Morgan, and Olive Edna. Sadly, each son named William passed away in infancy as well as Alice Julina, James Heber, and Olive Edna, leaving 5 children to grow to adulthood. In 1869 William moved his wife and new infant son (Joseph Wilford) from Salt Lake City to Black Rock, located on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Here they lived in a two story stone home, built into the hill at the beach. The waves of the lake washed against the western wall. Eventually, a roadway was built behind the house, so the waves beat against the bank of the road instead of the house. It was at this time that William worked for the church. He managed herds of cattle, sheep, horses, and getting timber from the canyons used for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. In 1871, William married Emily Nix. Emily was almost 17 years old and had worked for the Davis family at Black Rock for two years taking care of the children. The two wives lived at Black Rock while a new house was being built in Big Cottonwood now known as Holiday. William and Emily had 10 children together; Emily Frances, Hyrum George, Mary Eliza, Charles Thomas, Henry Willard, Louise, Alice Adelia, Wilbert Leo, Hazel Lillian, and Ethel Burdette. In October of 1880, William left his two wives and children to serve a mission for the church. He was set apart by Elder Wilford Woodruff and served in the Great Britain Mission for almost two years. Two months after he left, Henry Willard was born. He was able to visit with relatives and friends in Wales while he was on his mission. He was also able to do some genealogy work in Wales, and brought home several names to do temple work for. After William returned home, he found that his family needed more farmland, and purchased a home in Tooele County, 20 miles away from the Big Cottonwood home. This is the home that Esther and her children moved to. Esther gave birth to her eleventh baby on December 15th, 1885. It was a baby girl she named Olive Edna. The day Olive was born it was in the middle of the night, deep snow lay upon the ground, and the mercury had dropped to 16 degrees below zero. The fires in the house had burned out and shortly after giving birth, Esther became very ill. Baby Olive died the next day. William was away at the Big Cottonwood home, and was sent for to help assist his sick wife. She was diagnosed with blood poisoning and had not been cared for properly after delivering her baby. She died 6 days after giving birth to the baby. William sold the land in Tooele and his second wife, Emily, raised Esther’s children along with her own, making the total 15 children. Her stepchildren knew her as “Aunt Emily”. Seven years after Esther died, William sold most of his property in Utah and moved his family to Lehi, Arizona. Some of the older children stayed behind in Utah where they had made a life for themselves. While in Arizona, William owned hundreds of acres and was a good farmer. He almost owned half of the Salt River Valley. He was a spokesman for a group that he felt had been wronged over water rights. The Bishop was on the opposite side of the dispute and 1/3 of their ward voted against the Bishop. William was to be tried for his membership the day that he died because of a disagreement with the Bishop or a stake counselor. William George Davis died of pneumonia on October 28, 1900 in Lehi, Arizona. He was buried in the Mesa Cemetery. Part of his obituary reads; “While in Phoenix sitting on the grand jury, he contracted a heavy cold which, settling on his lungs, took him home sick before the court adjourned. In spite of all the skill and loving hands could do for him, he passed peacefully away at the dawn of the Sabbath.” His family remembers him for his moral teachings, good judgment, his love of country and patriotism. He was affectionate, had a good sense of humor, was courteous, honest, and died as he had lived, a faithful Latter-Day Saint. He also despised vanity and he never wore jewelry. He never even wore a silver ring that Esther had given him that contained a picture of her. One of his favorite sayings was, “ One hour in the morning is worth two at night”. He was survived by his wife, Emily Nix Davis and all of their 10 children as well as four of Esther’s children. Sources: (1)The Histories & Mission Diaries of William George Davis; Histories of Esther Harrison Davis & Emily Nix Davis. (2)William George Davis History by Henry Willard Davis (3)William George Davis by Ester E. Huffaker and Joseph Willard Davis.