Allison-Antrim Museum

John Brown Davison


Andrew Davison, born January 1, 1807, was the son of William (1779 to September 31, 1807) and Jane Robinson Davison.  Andrew married Sarah T. Brown and their children were William H., Mary Agnes, Rebecca J., John Brown, Joseph R., Elizabeth, James A., and Catharine B.  The Davison homestead was situated east of Marion, along the Marion Road.  In 1840, Andrew had two free black people working for him.  The male was between 36 and 64 and the female was between 10 and 24.  The value of Andrew’s real estate, as recorded on the 1850 U.S. Census, was $9,000.  John Brown Davison, August 1841 to March 1882, the subject of this week’s Soldier’s Story, was nine years old at the time of the census.  In 1860, the value of the Davison farm had risen $2,200 to $11,200.  Andrew’s personal property was worth $1,945.  Andrew and Sarah’s daughter, Elizabeth, born between Joseph and James, died between 1850 and 1860.  The other seven children, including William, the eldest, and his wife Sarah, all lived in their parents’ house.  William and Sarah had married within the year.


Andrew’s son, John B., was 19 when the census was recorded in the northeast part of Antrim Township in 1860.   On August 7, 1862, John enlisted, as a private, in Co. K, of the 126th PA Volunteer Infantry.  As a member of the 126th, he took part in Gen. Erastus B. Tyler’s charge during the Battle of Fredericksburg.  John B. Davison was promoted to Full Corporal on February 13, 1863.  During his enlistment, John contracted Tuberculosis, from which he never fully recovered.  In the spring, during May 1863, John also fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville.   He served nine months and 13 days and was mustered out on May 20, 1863, with the rest of the regiment.


After the war, John married Martha Young (b. 1841, d. 1925).  On August 19, 1870, the date of the census, John and Martha had two children – Rebecca (3) and Emma (1), and they were living on the Davison homestead.  The value of their personal property was $2,830.  Living with them were two black men, who worked on the farm – George Stevenson (70) and Moses Green (21).  John’s children were the sixth generation to be raised on the Davison homestead in Antrim Township.  By 1870, John’s father Andrew, retired, and Sarah had moved to Greencastle.  Their children Agnes (31), Joseph (26), and Catherine (20) and a nine-year old boy Edwin Davison were all living with Andrew and Sarah.  Andrew Davison died on December 10, 1872.


Between 1870 and 1880, John and Martha had four more children – Ella (8), Anna Bell (6), Charles Ruthrauff (4), and Frank (5 months).  John’s mother Sarah (69) and his sister Agnes (40) were also living with them.  John’s occupation was a forwarding merchant or warehouseman.  He received goods and forwarded the goods, choosing various means of transportation, for which he was compensated.  In 1880, forwarding agents did not own stock in the means of transportation used, unlike today’s UPS or FedEx and other such common carriers.   Next door to the Davisons lived Daniel and Elizabeth Hellane and their children Isabella (12) and Augustus (7).  Daniel was the subject of the Soldier’s Story on December 4, 2013.  John and Martha’s daughter, Rebecca, would have been 13 in 1880 and most likely would have played with Isabella.  Column 15 on the 1880 census dealt with the health of any individual, on the day of the enumerator’s visit, which was “sick or disabled, so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties.”  On June 9, 1880, John was incapacitated with bilious fever.  Bilious fever is an archaic diagnosis used in the 18th and 19th centuries for ailments that may have included fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.  The word bilious refers to bile, which is produced in the liver.  Bilious fever was also used in connection with typhus and malarial fevers.


Grace Bert Cannon, a great-granddaughter of John and Martha Davison, has shared that due to the lasting ill effects of John’s tuberculosis, several of John and Martha’s children did not survive.  Ella Brown Davison, third child of John and Martha, married Charles Wesley Bert Sr., the grandparents of Grace.  Grace’s mother Gladys Adele Raff married Charles Wesley Bert Jr.   The Charles Bert Jr. family lived at 412 East Baltimore Street, Greencastle, PA.


John Garfield Davison, John and Martha’s last child, was born on January 15, 1882.  John Brown Davison died two months later, in March 1882, leaving Martha with an infant.  John B. Davison is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, in Section M, Lot 6.


Martha was a seamstress, which provided much needed income for John G., Emma, and herself.  When Emma was very little, she fell from the porch at the Davison homestead and was severely injured and physically crippled for the rest of her life.  Grace Cannon remembers Emma walking in a bent-over position.  Martha and her family lived on East Madison Street in Greencastle.  On July 10, 1890, Martha applied for John’s Civil War pension, shortly after the June 1890 enumeration of Greencastle veterans or their widows, on the special schedule of Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, and Widows, Etc.  It was eight years after John’s death.  Martha, as John’s widow, was listed on the special schedule, with his name below hers.


On the 1900 U.S. Census, Martha is the head of household.  She owned her home on East Madison Street, free and clear of a mortgage.  Martha Young Davison was born on December 25, 1841.  She bore nine children but only six were still living, on June 15, 1900.  Emma and John G. were living with Martha.  He had been out of work, as a clerk, for six months at the time of the census.  Mary Agnes Davison, 62 years old, sister of John Brown Davison, was also living in the household.  Ten years later, in 1910, there were no changes in the Davison household, still living on East Madison Street.


In 1918, John G. Davison (36), registered for the WWI draft.  He worked for the Cumberland Valley Railroad as a clerk.  Between 1910 and 1918, John married Katherine McKinney; she was listed as his wife on the draft card.  They were living at 590 Montgomery Avenue, Chambersburg.  Katherine’s father was a wealthy steel manufacturer in Pittsburgh, who had four or five servants and housekeepers living in his household.


Between 1910 and 1920, Martha and Emma, also, moved to Chambersburg where she rented their home at 559 Montgomery Avenue.  By the 1920 census, John G. and Katherine had a daughter Alice Frances (four years and four months old) and were living across the street at 590 Montgomery Avenue.  John owned his home, free and clear of a mortgage.  He worked for himself as a poultryman.  Avenia Craig and Mary Keyes, lived in the household and worked, as housekeepers.


In 1893, Pennsylvania passed a law requiring that all births had to be reported to the state.  Another law was passed in 1906 that required all births be reported to the County Clerk of Orphan’s Court, which, in turn, would send the records to the state.  Even though every birth was reported, not everyone who was born received a birth certificate.  Baptismal certificates and family Bibles were often used as proof of identification.  Sworn testimony, by individuals who knew the person in question, for many years, was yet another means of identification.  The John Brown and Martha Davison family Bible and personal testimony were used in February 1922 for John and Katherine when they applied for a passport.  At that time, it was lawful for one passport to be issued for a family group.  On February 14, 1922, John presented the Davison family Bible to the Clerk of Courts and Arthur W. Gillan testified that he knew John for 10 years.  Katherine brought a notarized statement from her sister, Mary Alice McKinney, Allegheny County, PA., declaring that Katherine was her sister.  The passport photograph included all three family members – John G., Katherine, and Alice.  Unfortunately, the National Archives electronic file does not allow the photograph to be printed separately.  The Davison family plans were to sail on the French transatlantic liner S.S. Rochambeau, from the port of New York, on March 23, 1922, to Bordeaux, France.


Martha died in 1925, 43 years after her husband John Brown Davison.  She is buried alongside him at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Section M, Lot 6.  Emma applied for her father’s military pension on May 19, 1930, five years after her mother died.


In 1930, Emma Y. Davison (61) was living by herself, at 559 Montgomery Avenue, Chambersburg.  Her monthly rent was $25.  Her brother John Garfield Davison and his wife and daughter moved to Pittsburgh.  They owned their home, which was worth $8,000.  Column 9, on the 1930 census form, counted how many families owned a radio set.  The Davison family had one.  John, Katherine, daughter Alice Gill (24), and her daughter Katherine Louise Gill (1) were living at 231 Ramsey Avenue, Chambersburg, on May 7, 1940, during the U. S. Census.  They all lived at the same place in 1935.  This was information in column 17 on the 1940 census.  In 1942, at the age of 60, John was required to register for the draft during WWII.  He was living at 40 North Second Street, Chambersburg with his wife Katherine.  After Katherine’s death, John G. moved to Atlanta to be with his daughter, who, by that time, was remarried to Earl Burch.  Alice had another child, Davison Burch.  Davison Burch lives in Athens, GA and was an attorney to Kenny Rogers.  John G. Davison died at the age of 89 ½, in September 1971, in Atlanta, GA.


The following information, regarding John and Martha’s other children, was given to me by Grace Raff Bert Cannon, who currently lives in Walnut Creek, CA.


Rebecca Jane married R. M. Rhodes.  Ella married Charles Bert Sr.  Anna Bell married John F. White, from Belmont, NY.  Although the Whites had no children of their own, Annie and John brought up one of Ella’s youngest children, William Bert. After Charles Bert Sr. passed away in 1935, the Whites changed William’s surname from Bert to White.  William fought in the Philippines during WWII.  William White Sr. had three sons – William Jr., Robert, who was killed in Vietnam, and Charles White, a biology teacher and former director of Tayamentasachta.  Charles R. Davison married Rose Edna McKinnie, daughter of William A. McKinnie, Greencastle, PA.  The McKinnie family was not related to Katherine McKinney Davison.






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