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Dr. W.H. Davis: Politician, Physician, and Leader


A Virginian came to Texas seeking opportunities and found that and so much more. “Once in a shooting on the railroad station platform on Christmas Eve, four men were shot to death and another was seriously wounded, he lived barely long enough to be taken to the county jail and made comfortable on a cot. Dr. William Harold Davis took him to the jail on a midnight train and had to wait in Fort Worth until he could get a train back the next day. When he got back the town was in an uproar. The shooting had been the outburst of an old feud. It involved dozens. Two men came to the doctor and got a list of all his patients, so that if he were needed quickly it wouldn't be difficult to find him”.[1]William Harold Davis “W.H. Davis” was born in Smyth County, Virginia on December 12, 1858 to Harold Putnam and Anna Snavely. He had four half-siblings. He was married three times and had two sons and three daughters.[2]



Figure 1: Dr. William Harold Davis. Image from Davis’ FindaGrave page.[3]

Davis’ life began in Virginia. According to the 1860 Census, Davis was one year old and lived with his parents and twelve siblings. The ages of the children in the home ranged from twenty-seven-years to one year. Seven years later, on July 29,1867, Davis’ mother Anna died. Three years following her death, at the time of the next census, Davis, eleven, attended school and lived with his father and five siblings.


After completing medical school in Baltimore Maryland, he found his way to Texas in 1881.[4]When he first came to Texas, he settled and set up practice in Handley, Texas following a ten day trip seeking opportunity.[5]A newspaper article in the Tarrant County Citizen recalled a bit of Davis’ beginnings in Handley, “Dr. Davis spent $25 of his $65 capital for a quick-stepping pony. A saddle took $30 more. He accepted the offer of sleeping quarters at the back of a drug store and waited for his first patient”[6]He gained his footing in Handley after having treated two cases of scarlet fever. Six years later, Davis moved to Arlington, Texas as he saw it as much more profitable due to the increase in population and frequent gun battles.[7]Davis formed a partnership with Dr. H.C. Stevens, which lasted four years until Dr. Stevens moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Following years treating gunshot wounds, malaria and a variety of other ailments he was appointed city physician. He held that post for twenty years.[8]



Figure 2:Arlington’s first drugstore 1894. Dr. W.H. Davis can be seen in the background. Image courtesy of the J.W. Dunlop Collection.[9]


With some true blessings came some sadness for Davis in a new chapter of his life. In 1882, at the age of twenty-four, Davis married his first wife Emma Zilla King.[10]One year later, they had one daughter, Annie, who sadly did not survive but a very short time and died the same year. Their son, Olin, was born May 18, 1884 and lived a long life.[11]That same year, Davis lost his wife Emma. Two years later, on April 7, 1886, Davis’ father died while living in Virginia .

On October 15, 1889, at the age of thirty-one, Davis married his second wife, Mary Jane “Mollie” Hutcheson.[12]Two years later, they had one son, Charles Howard. That marriage was rather short lived as he married his third and final wife, Leila Estelle Spruance in 1897 at the age of thirty-eight. According to the 1900 Census, Leila is twenty-two years old, and Davis was forty-one. At the time, they had two sons and one daughter. Davis still worked as a physician and surgeon and he and his wife had been married three years at the time of the census. According to the 1910 Census, Davis and Leila had two sons, Olin and Charles and two daughters, Willie Virginia and Marguerite.


(The image was unable to be included in this posting. Apologies.)


Figure 3: Davis’ home on 603 E. Abram Street, Arlington. This home in 1930 was valued at about 10,000.00 dollars. This remained their home for about fifty-four years. Image comes from the J.W. Dunlop Collection.

Davis was active in the community socially and civically. Davis ran for and was elected Arlington Mayor over his opponent W.A. Bledsoe by a vote of 140 to 114.[13]Davis served as mayor from April 8, 1909 to April 10, 1910. During his term as mayor he signed the first bond issued for Arlington’s first sewer system.[14]He served as the first president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. He was active in the Fort Worth and Tarrant County Medical Association and at one time served as vice president.[15]Davis owned the third automobile in Tarrant County.[16] He was an active member of the Arlington Presbyterian Church and served as a charter member of the Arlington Knights of Pythias Lodge.[17]Davis served as president of the Commercial Club and was described as “progressive, liberal, and public spirited”.[18]In addition, he owned hundreds of acres of land around Arlington. He was noted by many for his progressive farming methods and cattle raising.[19]



Figure 4:Arlington’s Mineral Well in 1910 surrounded by the first cars in town and four town doctors, Gregory, Cravens, Davis, and Harvey. Image courtesy of the J.W. Dunlop Collection.[20]



Figure 5: Arlington’s first three doctors in 1915, Dr. W.H. Davis, Dr. F.L Harvey, and Dr. J.F. McKissick. Image courtesy of J.W. Dunlop Collection.[21]


Dr. Davis met his demise January 24, 1940 at the age of eighty-one after over a year of suffering from a partial stroke.. His death certificate notes he suffered from a Chronic Myocarditis with a contributing factor having been a cerebral hemorrhage.[22]He was laid to rest alongside two of his wives, Leila and Mollie, one son, Charles, and one daughter Willie Virginia Davis Thompson in the Old Arlington Cemetery Complex. His first wife, daughter, Annie, and son, Olin are buried at Handley Cemetery located about eight miles west of Arlington.[23]


Davis lived a rather colorful life to say the least. Dr. W.H. Davis provided over fifty years of medical service and advice to Tarrant County as a doctor and surgeon. He may not have been born in Texas, but he definitely made a life for himself here. As some say, he may not have been born here but he got here as fast as he could. Arlington’s rich history wouldn’t be quite as interesting without him.

Primary Sources


“Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” FamilySearch, Accessed June 15, 2020,https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GY1Z-

Texas, Select County Marriage Records, 1837-2015 Tarrant County Clerk's Office; Fort Worth, Texas; Tarrant County, Texas, Marriage Records

“U.S., Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2013,https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2272/33154_B06184300728/30114835?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215026/edit/record.

Census Records

Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Ninth Census of the United States (1870), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Tenth Census of the United States (1880), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Thirteenth Census of the United States (1910), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Newspapers

“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940.

“Dr. W.H. Davis Next Mayor of Town” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. April 7, 1909.

“New Mayor Popular”. Fort Worth Star Telegram. April 7, 1909.

Images

J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "Arlington, Texas doctors." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1915. Accessed

June 24, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10004710

J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "First drug store in Arlington, Texas." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1894. Accessed

June 24, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10004396

J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "Arlington, Texas' Mineral Well surrounded by four of the town's doctors and the first cars in town." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1910. Accessed June 25, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10007675

J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "Arlington, Texas doctors." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1915. Accessed June 26, 2020 https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10004710.

Secondary Sources


“Dr. William Harold Davis,” FindaGrave. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29024042/william-harold-davis

“Hall of Mayors,” City of Arlington, City of Arlington, Accessed June 16, 2020, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/hall_of_mayors.

“Handley Cemetery,” FindaGrave. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/handleycemetery

“Life Story W.H. Davis,” Ancestry.com. Accessed June 22, 2020. https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/169928053/person/412205187561/facts

[1]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [2]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [3]“Dr. William Harold Davis,” FindaGrave. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29024042/william-harold-davis [4]The morning of March 4, 1881 Davis went to Washington to witness the inauguration of President Hayes [5]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [6]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [7]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [8]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [9]J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "First drug store in Arlington, Texas." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1894. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10004396 [10]Emma Zilla King was born in Brenham, Texas in 1859. [11]“Life Story W.H. Davis,” Ancestry.com. Accessed June 22, 2020. https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/169928053/person/412205187561/facts [12] Texas, Select County Marriage Records, 1837-2015 Tarrant County Clerk's Office; Fort Worth, Texas; Tarrant County, Texas, Marriage Records [13]“Dr. W.H. Davis Next Mayor of Town” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. April 7, 1909. [14]“Hall of Mayors,” City of Arlington, City of Arlington, Accessed June 16, 2020, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/hall_of_mayors. [15]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [16]“Hall of Mayors,” City of Arlington, City of Arlington, Accessed June 16, 2020, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/hall_of_mayors. [17]“Death Ends Colorful Career of Dr. Wm. Harold Davis”. Tarrant County Citizen. January 25, 1940. [18]“New Mayor Popular”. Fort Worth Star Telegram. April 7, 1909. [19]“Hall of Mayors,” City of Arlington, City of Arlington, Accessed June 16, 2020, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/hall_of_mayors. [20] J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "Arlington, Texas' Mineral Well surrounded by four of the town's doctors and the first cars in town." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1910. Accessed June 25, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10007675 [21]J. W. Dunlop photograph collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. "Arlington, Texas doctors." UTA Libraries Digital Gallery. 1915. Accessed June 26, 2020 https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery-beta/img/10004710. [22]Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. [23]“Handley Cemetery,” FindaGrave. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/handleycemetery

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