I believe that George Davis wrote this document soon after he found his way to Gonzales. His wife, Rebecca, Sidna, John, Eugene and his new born son George Jr. were still at Old Scotts (near New Bielieu Tx.). In a land wild and untamed we now call Texas, Davis finds himself alone and without the skills needed to survive in this wilderness. I believe he left this story for his children and their children and all those who would follow. The original document has survived at least one fire and is a story of survival of its own. It is a my pleasure to share it with you.
Great-Great-Great Grandson of George Washington Davis
My parents had several intimate friends in Washington city at that time. Among the number and whom we used often to visit there was Mr. Onsil and family he kept a boarding house for Congressmen, he had a daughter about my own age who I have frequently romped with. She afterwards married General Eaton of Tennessee who was Secretary of War under President Jackson. She was the cause of the breaking up of Jackson's Cabinet--there seems to have been some suspicion against her virtue--and the wives of the other members of the Cabinet resolved among themselves that they would not visit or associate with her. Jackson took the matter up exposed the cause of the condemned and rejected lady and told his cabinet that there wives should receive her or they should leave their offices or he would dismiss them; the most of them refused to obey and were dismissed. It was thought that Jackson was not entirely disinterested in this matter -- that the lady had granted him favors for which he was so very grateful.
In the year 1808 my father left Alexandria and removed back to Philadelphia -- my mother and sister with our goods and furniture went round by sea and my father and myself by land through Washington City & Baltimore taking a packet at Baltimore to the head of the Chesapeake Bay at Frenchtown thence across the state of Delaware 16 miles by land to New Castle on the Delaware from thence we took packet and landed at Philadelphia where we remained some ten years. My father here again carried on shoemaking or shoe manufacturing he kept a good many hands employed and sold his work by the dozen or box never retailed them nor sold any by the single pair. He had customers at a distance country merchants and others whom he supplied by order by the box or trunk this was a very good business. Here in his shop I learned to make shoes and I learned fast and soon got to be a good and fast workman.
Whenever I wanted money to spend for my own amusement or pleasure my father would tell me to go to work make shoes and he would pay me journeyman wages for them-which he always did. I worked almost consistently when I was not going to school and therefore had always plenty of money, my own earning and for my own use.
After we moved to Philadelphia I went to school about nine months- that is to an English School. I went besides a good deal to other schools to learn Latin writing and drawing and painting. In 1815 after the close of the war My father who was always fond of the sea bought vessel, a Schooner and engaged in the coasting trade which was the profitable leaving me alone to carry on his shoe manufacturing business which I did with success and entirely to his satisfaction. My business was to purchase materials cut out work for the men, pack up and send off work, collect money and pay off the journeyman and others. All this kept me very busy -- and early trained me to the habits of business -- to dealing -- buying and selling.
It was determined by my father in the year 1816 that I should study some profession and that profession he decided should be medicine or that he would make a doctor of me. This was not my choice. I preferred the law, he would not consent--his was a voice potential and I had to submit. I thought maybe it was better and easier than cutting and hammering leather and I yielded. I was placed under the guidance and tuition of one Doctor Johnson, an able physician, planted in his library for some 8 or 9 months during which time I read diligently and studied hard. I then went into an apothecary's shop to get a knowledge of medicine and learn to weigh and mix them, make tinctures pills--etc. Here I stayed sold medicines mixed and prepared prescriptions for about 3 months.
Then went into the University of Pennsylvania and attended a course of Medical lectured there diligently reading night and morning on the subject of each day's lecture in the several text books. I studied faithfully for the most of two years when I gradually relaxed my efforts. Some of the branches I was fond. Anatomy I was pleased and interested with and studied it well but chemistry I was delighted with. I bought chemical apparatus, electric machine and constructed a galvance battery, purchased a stock of acids, alklies, minerals and other chemical agents and preformed every experiment that my apparatus and means would admit-- And while most of the other students were occupied in the more every day useful and matter of fact and commonplace branches of surgery and the practice, I was luxuriating in what to me was the more pleasing philosophical and scientific departments. I did not entirely neglect the other parts but I did not give them the ardor and devotion that I bestowed upon chemistry and even on anatomy.
I cannot avoid smiling even now when I refer to the recollections of that medical class and I have no doubt from my experience now that medical classes are generally if not always so. The cool calculating money making spirit that even the young men and a large majority of the class had -- The lectures on surgery, on mid wifery and on the practice would be crowdedly attended while this to me delightfully interesting ones in Chemistry would be attended by very few -- and they or the most of them listless and uninterested.
I said I gradually relaxed my efforts in the study of medicine. This was caused by an insuperable and growing dislike to the profession -- it was not my first love it had never been my choice and time, familiarity, and reflection had only increased my repugnance and I determined to quit the study which I did after two years' labor and devotion. Some would say here was much time and money wasted but I say not so for though I do not love nor ever did love the profession as a profession though I should not love to practice as a physician yet I do love and esteem the medical art and medical knowledge and I respect the practitioners of it when they are learned and able. No part of my time no money of mine has been better spent.
Not only has it been of real actual use to me in treating my own ailments and prescribing and administering relief to others in affliction but it has been a constant source of satisfaction and pleasure and a safeguard from much evil. It has enabled me a readily to detect quacks and imposters in the art; to avoid and ridicule all charms supernatural, cures and remedies quack and patent medicines which this villainous world is full of and of which there are so many forms and contrivance to draw money out of the pockets of the ignorant and credulous and I can by its aid detect even the legitimate professor in the art when hr steps into the region of humbug which also is often the case.
It has cleared my mind from those mists and clouds of superstition and credulity which obtains more or less with every one who has not made the art his study or taxed the clear waters of the fountain of knowledge.
I do not say all this for a vainglorious boast of my knowledge and acquirements but t prove to you that even knowledge that is considered professional may yet without the profession be very valuable. And I would here warn you of the deep and pervading ignorance and credulity that prevails on this subject everywhere.
In the month of September 1818 my father with his family, my self one of them left Philadelphia to seek a home somewhere in the west. We arrived at Pittsburgh about the latter part of the same month where we remained until the next May. Nothing wroth recording here occurred while I lived in Pittsburgh. Time passed off well enough in an even tenor unmarked by any important event; early in the month of May my father joined with a Mr. Edward Powers, filled up a flat boat, embarked their families on board and left Pittsburgh for
Cincinnati, Ohio, where we arrived after a very pleasant and interesting voyage of two weeks. I was well pleased with Cincinnati. It was even then in 1819 a very handsome town pleasant to live in -- had an abundant and cheap market -- had good theatre and afforded many amusements. I lived and spent my time there very agreeably.
Here it was that I first met and became acquainted with your mother. And here it was on the 8th of October 1820 we were married. This alone has endeared Cincinnati to me by the deepest and tenderest associations of feeling and affection.
Immediately after I married I left that town to seek my fortune and apart from my relation and went to Louisville where I lived only six weeks. When through the representations of some of my wife's relation I removed to Green River county in Kentucky and stopped for a while near where they lived near Etna Furnace in Hart county. This I found too poor and wild a region for me. I was not fitted or suited for a country life at that time though now I greatly prefer it. A town then was the best place for me and I accordingly again removed to Greensburg on Green
River in Green county. This was a stirring, flourishing town and did well there and I could have accumulated money there had I not been to fond of living well and enjoying the good things of this world -- or been less extravagant. I carried on shoemaking here employed all the hands I could get -- worked steady and hard myself scarcely ever lost a day from business. In short did a very considerable business for such a town. Your mother with her natural untiring industry did her part in making a living and spared no exertion to make money by enterprise and industry. Here also I commenced the study of law and devoted every hour I could spare from business to that kind of reading.
The law profession as I have before said was my favorite profession and I knew that the knowledge would be useful to me if I did not practice it as a profession and at the same time the study itself was highly interesting and pleasing. The confinement of my business now had injured my health very much I became feeble and dyspeptic. Through persuasions of my wife, and my gradually and constantly failing health. I determined to embark in the Tavern keeping business that I might have some more active employment and more exercise. Your mother was eminently qualified as you know for that business. As well from her agreeable and pleasant manners as from her excellent taste in house arrangements and skill in cookery.
I accordingly removed to Summersville about six miles south of Greensbury there I rented a noted Tavern stand -- hired some servants -- laid in a good stock of provisions and horse feed and commenced business. Though there were a good many on that road and two others in the same little village engaged in the same business we did well had a fine run of customers and took in a great deal of money for such an establishment but the prices there are by long custom very low and the expenses and outgoings of a house where everything has to be bought and hired are very considerable so I could not lay up much. Here we remained in this place so employed more than two years and here it was