William Duane Davis was born November 9, 1823 in Sullivan County, Indiana, the son of Guilford Davis and Mary Gay Gray. He married Elizabeth Margaret Major of Xenia, Ohio on March 6, 1851 in Ottumwa, Iowa. He died May 18, 1921 in Hardeman, Missouri. He and his wife had 6 children.
William Davis was reared to farm labor and remained with his parents until 21 years of age, receiving in the meantime such limited education as the schools in those days were able to impart. In 1845 he left home and went to Warsaw, Illinois, where he remained until the spring of the following year, when he made a trip by flatboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans and after disposing of it at the New Orleans markets, he walked home (according to family lore). In the ensuing fall he secured employment at Terre Haute, Indiana, for $10. per month, but in the winter his wages were reduced to nine dollars, and at these figures he put in the time until the spring of 1847, when he gave up his job and during the remainder of that year worked on the rivers, making his second trip by flat boat to the city of New Orleans.
William's family wanted to get him away from the "bad influence" of the men on the river so in the spring of 1848, in partnership with his uncle, John G. Gray, he bought a land warrant, paying one-half of the price, sixty two dollars in cash. He went to Iowa and purchased eighty acres seven miles east of Ottumwa, which he improved and on which he lived and prospered until 1867. During this time he increased his acreage to 316 acres mostly under cultivation.
In 1866 William had a quarrel with his brother-in-law, Andrew Jackson Major possibly over Andrew Major's estate(500 acres), over politics or religion, and William decided to sell out and move to Missouri. Disposing of his real estate in Wappello County, Iowa, he moved to Pettis County, Missouri in May 1867 and one year later, on March 31, 1868 moved to Saline County, Missouri and purchased 480 acres from Mrs. Jane Harwood eldest daughter of M.M. Marmaduke, which he immediately began to improve and which became one of the finest farms and most desirable country homes in the community. The farm was located three and a half miles west of Arrow Rock. William Davis has always been a tiller of the soil and as such has made his calling very successful. He has long enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most enterprising and progressive farmers and stock raisers in Saline County and has so managed his affairs as to amass a handsome "competency" for his declining years as well as providing each of his sons with sufficient means to succeed. Politically William Davis was an ardent supporter of the Democratic party ever since old enough to vote and was known as "Democrat Davis" in his later years in Missouri. His ambition never led him to seek public office or position. His active life always supported the needs of the poor and unfortunate and the social and moral welfare of his community.
In 1876, William was one of three trustees who bought land from Mrs. McDonald at Walnut Grove and constructed a building for use as a Grange Hall and Church. The Grange was Worthy Grange #99, P of H. The building was used as a Church by Methodists and Presbyterians.
Much of the above from notes of John "Jack" Leonard Smith Davis, Jr. and " History of Saline County", by William B. Napton, 1910.
Submitted: Kevin Pickard