Biography of Walter Scott Davis

Walter Scott Davis, a millowner, manufacturer, and inventor, a successful business man of Hopkinton, Merrimack County, N.H., was born in the adjacent town of Warner, July 29, 1834, a son of Nathaniel A. and Mary (Clough) Davis. His paternal ancestry he traces as follows: Captain Francis Davis, called “the pioneer,” was born in Amesbury, Mass., October 26, 1723. He was the son of Francis, second, and Joanna Davis, the former the son of Francis, first, who, it is said, was the son of Philip, the immigrant progenitor. Philip Davis, when twelve years old, left Southampton, England, April 24, 1638, in the ship “Confidence” of London, bound for New England. He was servant to John Binson, husbandman, of Caversham, Oxfordshire (or, as Savage thought, of William Illsley ). Little else is known about Philip Davis, or Davies, as the name is spelled in the passenger list printed in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. ii. Francis Davis, said to have been his son, took the oath of allegiance and fidelity at Amesbury, December 20, 1677.

Captain Francis Davis, the pioneer, married Elizabeth, daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Ferrin, and had ten children-Gertrude, Zebulon, Jeremiah, Wells, Ichabod, Francis, Elizabeth, Aquila, Paine, and Nathan. He located in what is known as Davisville in the town of Warner among the earliest settlers, and may be said to have been the foremost man in the town till his death. From 1768 to 1785 his name was associated with every event of Warner’s history, the church matters, and all business and landed interests. His commission as Captain of militia, dated 1773, was signed by John Wentworth, Governor. Captain Davis had three sons in the Revolution, two of them in the battle of Bunker Hill. He was Chairman of the Committee of Safety in 1775, and was one of the committee which secured the incorporation of the town; and he assisted in the division of lots. Harriman’s Warner says: “In this first legislative body chosen by the people Francis Davis appears as the accredited representative of the town of Warner. It is a distinction and honor to be remembered with pride by his numerous descendants.” Captain Davis was then fifty-three years old. The legislature had many able men in it, John Langdon being Speaker, and Meshech Weare, President of the Council. In 1781 he was delegate to the Constitutional Convention which framed the Constitution which, with slight amendments, was in force till 1878. He was chosen Representative in 1784, serving in two sessions, at Concord and at Portsmouth. His death occurred on his way home from the latter place. His horse plunged into Beaver Brook at Derry, where the bridge had been carried away; and he was drowned. Just one hundred years after his death a monument was erected to his memory at Davisville, bearing this inscription: “Captain Francis Davis, the pioneer, and Warner’s first representative. Born October 26, 1723, died November 26, 1784 .” This monument was put up by some of his great-grandchildren, principally by Walter Scott Davis and his uncle, Charles Davis.

Captain Francis had five sons, among whom was Aquila, born in Amesbury, June 27, 1760. He came to Warner with his father, and later on enlisted in the Revolutionary army. He saw much hard service, and was present at the surrender of Burgoyne. From 1799 to 1807 he commanded the Thirtieth Regiment, and he was Brigadier General of the Fourth Brigade from 1807 to 1809. In 1812 he raised the first regiment in New Hampshire, and was chosen its Colonel. After the war he resided at the old homestead, and he served as Representative from Warner. His death occurred at Sharon, Me., February 27, 1835, while he was there on landed interests. He was buried at Davisville with Masonic honors. His wife was Abigail, daughter of Theodore and Abigail (Watts) Stearns, the latter a cousin of Dr. Isaac Watts. The General’s children were: Paine, Sarah A., Abigail W., Theodore S., Nathaniel A., Persis H., Nathan, Charles, Aquila, and James.

Nathaniel A. Davis learned the silversmith’s trade, and, being of a roving disposition, journeyed extensively in the United States, working in all the principal cities. In 1824, after much time spent in the South especially, he returned to his native place and engaged in lumbering. At his father’s death the mill property was divided among the sons, the saw-mill coming to Nathaniel and James. The water-power at Davisville is a remarkable one, and for one hundred and thirty years has been held by this family. Among the early industries here were the saw-mill built by Captain Francis Davis in 1763, a grist-mill in 1768, a clothing-mill built by Moses Carleton in 1796 and destroyed by the August freshet of 1826. At that time the iron foundry, bridge, blacksmith shop, and lower dam were all carried away. A lead grinding-mill, a plaster-mill, a brickyard, and tannery, were also near by. Nathaniel A. Davis was of a judicial turn of mind, and became great authority on legal questions. He made a practical study of the State laws, and was administrator of many estates, and also Justice of the Peace. His residence in the South and observance of the evils of slavery led him to become a strong Free Soiler. Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863 he felt was the essence of justice. In 1843 he removed to the old home of his ancestors; and he died there, October 24, 1866, from the effects of a fall. His children were: Stephen C., Lucretia A., Walter Scott, Gilman, Lucretia (second), Mary E., Stillman C., and Henry C.

Walter Scott Davis was as a boy full of life and very ingenious, the latter quality often being a source of annoyance to other people, owing to his boyish love of pulling things to pieces and making something new. This, however, was the power that brought him success in later life. He was educated at Contoocook High School and at Gilmanton, Thetford, Washington, and New London Academies. While studying he worked summers, and also taught school a short time. He was a great lover of mathematics, but was impatient of rules and routine methods. In 1854-55 he became partner with Samuel H. Dow in the lumber business, continuing thus ten years. He invested in a Lowell tannery, but business depression and a law-suit combined to nearly ruin him in 1860. In 1865 he became partner with Paine Davis; and in 1866 they built a large circular saw-mill, which was burned in 1869, but at once rebuilt. In 1872 this firm dissolved; and Walter Scott kept the mill, and Paine the farm which was a part of the firm property. In 1871 a new partner, George W. Dow, of Bristol, joined Mr. Davis; and they bought the ruins of a burned papermill, and built a straw board mill of twentyfive hundred pounds’ capacity daily. Later it was changed from a sun drying to a steam dry mill. In 1873 Henry C. Davis and Leston Rollins were admitted into the firm, and the mill machinery improved, and its capacity doubled. In 1875 Walter Scott Davis became sole partner, and then took his brother Henry as partner, the firm becoming Davis Brothers. The mill capacity was now six tons daily, and all the rebuilding had not stopped the works at any time. The lumber business increased proportionately, and the result has been success and wealth for the firm. Mr. Davis is so gifted in inventive powers that all the plans in use in the mills are his; and, as one instance, he has patented a most useful gate arrangement for the turbine water-wheel, and also a machine for making paper boxes.

He has held many offices of trust in Warner, has been Representative, was in 1884 elected State Senator, and in 1896 was chosen Councillor for the Fourth District. He is an active and influential member of many Masonic bodies. He belongs to the Swedenborgian church, is a practical Christian, a wholesouled, large-hearted man, and an honored citizen. In politics he is a stanch Republican.

Mr. Davis was married May 3, 1857, to Dollie Jones, daughter of Daniel Jones. They have had six children, and also the most trying sorrow of having lost four of these by scarlet fever. The children were named as follows: W. S. Bertine, Horace J., Chassie H., Nattie A., Mamie A., and Charles. Horace and Mamie are those now living.



Biographical Review Publishing Company. Biographical Review; containing life sketches of leading citizens of Merrimack and Sullivan counties, N. H. Boston. Biographical Review Publishing Company. 1897.

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