Biography of Frank William Davis

Frank William Davis. One of the best known among the real estate and insurance men of Fort Scott, is Frank William Davis, who, still a young man, has already gained an enviable position in business circles. A peculiar and particular genius is necessary to the man who would acquire success in the real estate and insurance field. The business is identical with no other, and many men who have risen to prominence in other lines have scored naught but failures when they have entered this field. Mr. Davis, however, possesses the qualities of acumen, a pleasing personality and a knowledge of human nature, and these, combined with business sagacity and tireless energy have made his position secure.

Mr. Davis was born at Fort Scott, Kansas, October 17, 1881, and is a son of Samuel Sturges and Elizabeth M. (Hayes) Davis. His father was born at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1842, a son of Samuel Davis, a prominent woolen manufacturer of that city. Samuel S. Davis received a college education, and at the outbreak of the Civil war, when he was nineteen years of age, left college to enlist in a Rhode Island regiment of volunteer infantry, with which he served during the entire period of the struggle. He participated in numerous heavy engagements and came through without a wound, but while on a forced march contracted white swelling of the knee-cap, and for a time was invalided home. When he had received his honorable discharge and was mustered out of the service, he decided to try his fortune in sheepraising in Kansas, and accordingly came to Bourbon County and homesteaded land. He engaged in farming and stockraising on the first claim filed on Rock Creek, entering enthusiastically into his work. Although he put the best of his energy and effort into an endeavor to win success in this field, he was not fitted for the vocation of farming, and after the wolves had destroyed his flocks and he had met with a number of other reverses, he decided to enter a different field. Mr. Davis was a natural scholar and a great reader, and determined to seek a business that would at the same time make use of his talents and prove congenial. Finally he decided upon an enterprise which he felt would succeed, and accordingly came to Fort Scott, where he opened the first bookstore in the history of the city and established the first circulating library. His knowledge of books and authors proved a valuable asset, and he soon found his business upon a paying basis. Through his circulating library, many families of modest means were able to secure the works of the world’s best authors, who otherwise would have been unable to do so. At the cost of a few cents they were allowed to rent books, to be returned within a reasonable time, and thus many people became familiar with the work of Dickens, Cooper and the other great writers. For the greater part the people during an early day in Fort Scott were in modest means and books were a luxury that they could not afford to buy. During the many years that Mr. Davis continued in the business he gained an acquaintance that extended all over the city and even into the surrounding countryside, and all who knew him respected and esteemed him as a kindly, gentle man, generous in heart and always ready to overlook the delinquencies of the unfortunate. He never lost his own love for books, and during his lifetime collected a large and attractive library, which covered a comprehensive number of subjects.

When Mr. Davis finally disposed of his book business, it was to accept a position as bookkeeper with a Fort Scott banking house, with which he continued to be connected for some years, until the bank retired from business. He was appointed city clerk, a position which he held for fifteen years, and, although he was a stanch republican, his worth was so appreciated that he was twice appointed by a democratic mayor. When the office became an elective one, he was chosen by the vote of the people at two elections, and was still in harness, at the close of his second term, when his death occurred April 19, 1899, he being then fifty-seven years of age. Mr. Davis was a great friend of education and did all in his power to better school conditions. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, and his religious connection was with the Episcopal Church. Mrs. Davis was born in 1855, in Polk County, Tennessee, and was brought to Bourbon County, Kansas, when her people refugeed here during the Civil war. She still resides at the old home at Fort Scott. In her early years Mrs. Davis was a member of the Baptist Church, but in recent years has adopted the faith of the Christian Scientists. There were four children in the family, as follows: Percy, traveling representative for the Belknap Hardware Company, of Louisville, Kentucky, with headquarters at Muskogee, Oklahoma, who married Cora A. Browning; Frank W.; Lina M., who is the wife of Harry H. Hill, of Muskogee, Oklahoma; and Alfred W., connected with the Wells Fargo Express Company, at Kansas City, Missouri, who married Miss Elliott, and has one son, Frank.

Frank W. Davis was educated in the public schools of Fort Scott, being graduated with the class of 1899, and at that time became a telegraph operator for the Fort Scott & Memphis Railroad. After serving for four years in the Fort Scott office, he resigned to accept the position of ticket agent for the Frisco Railroad, and held this position for ten years, being then transferred to Joplin, Missouri, and made city passenger agent for the same line. After two years the office was abolished, and, the road going into the hands of a receiver, Mr. Davis returned to Fort Scott, and September 1, 1914, bought the insurance agency of Turley & Watkins, which concern represented twenty-four leading fire insurance companies. Subsequently Mr. Davis was appointed district manager for the Sunflower State Life Insurance Company, in charge of the counties of Bourbon, Linn, Miami and Anderson, with a number of agents under his supervision. He now carries on a large business in insurance, real estate and loans, and through his own efforts has made his agency one of the leading factors in the realty and insurance field of Fort Scott, while his operations extend all over Southeastern Kansas. On April 1, 1914, Mr. Davis was appointed city treasurer of Fort Scott by Mayor Hesser. He is prominent also in fraternal circles, being district deputy grand master of the Masonic lodge and past master of Rising Sun Lodge No. 8, and also belongs to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Loyal Order of Moose and the Home Builders.

Mr. Davis was married June 7, 1909, at Fort Scott, to Miss Lulu May Finley, of this city, daughter of Charles H. and Hilda M. (Peterson) Finley. They have two children: Mary Elizabeth, born April 5, 1914; and Frances, born May 1, 1916. Mrs. Davis is active in the work of the Episcopal Church and its societies and charities.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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