PHINEAST T. DAVIS

Salem Township


Carroll County Biography



Salem Township numbers among its earliest pioneers the subject of this notice. He is a little past his three-score years and after the greater part of his life spent in persevering industry, is now resting from active labor, amid the comforts of a pleasant home in Mt. Carroll. His residence is a handsome brick structure on Jackson street, and with its surroundings forms one of the attractive features of the city, and invariably commands the attention of the traveler passing through.

A native of Stanstead, Province of Quebec, our subject was born near the line between Canada and Vermont, Nov. 5, 1828 and there lived until a youth of 19 years. He acquired a good practical education in his native town, and upon leaving it made his way to dracutt Mass, where he engaged ona farm by the month, at $13 per month, and there spent one season. The two following seasons he was similarly employed in Rhode Island, then returning to his native township; from there, in the latter part of 1854, he started to California by the ocean route. Missing connections, he was detained in Cuba fourteen days, and was consequently 55 days in making the trip to San Francisco, where he arrived about the 1st of December.

Young Davis at once proceeded to the southern Mines in Sonora and after prospecting all of the first day, brought up in Columbia at night, and there met an old friend, Henry Lewis, and his brother-in-law, who gave our adventurer much valuable information, and also employment. The meeting was a great surprise on both sides, and it is hardly n ecessary to say, was a pleasant one. The next day all engaged in mining for the owner of a claim in that region, with the agreement that they should receive one-half of what they made. After a few days, however, the prospect not seeming very inviting, they withdrew from their contract and proceeded north to Bidwell's Bar, on the Middle Feather River. Later they went up to Rich Bar, on the same river, journeying 75 miles on foot and carrying their blankets.

The second day out the party struck the snow line, and thereafter fared very well financially, our subject soon becoming he possessor of $800. He finally became interested in a fluem; but this enterprise was not a success, and he soon afterward began operating on his own hook with good results, making $5 a day. The winter following he was variously occupied, and in May, as soon as he could leave the coutnry, started away with quite a little lump of gold. He was, however, very much disgusted with the mode of living to which he had been subjected. He was obliged to haul mill-iron 25 miles on a hand sled, and some times came near starving. Flour and meat wer 41 per pound. He then put $50 on his back, to lose crossing Feather River. Just before leaving he turned over a stone upon which he had walked all winter, and found under it $11 worth of gold dust, which took him about 10 minutes to secure. This was his last digging in that region. Two others had resolved to accompany him, and they did not dare to make known their intention of leaving; so accordingly they made their exit in the night-time, as they had considerable money with them and men were killed and robbed every day.

The travelers ran and walked a distance of 40 miles before stopping, and finally arrived at Spanish Ranche, where they hired a team to take them to Marysville, paying for this $9 each, making a total of $27. They now took a steamer to San Francisco and sailed for home by the Nicaragua route, arriving at Sheffield VT July 4, 1853. On the 6th of October following our subject was married to Miss Sally B. Cole, and they at once started by rail to Montreal, and from there by the Lakes to Detroit, thence by rail to Chicago and Freeport; at which latter poitn they secured a private conveyance and journeyed to the home of Lyman Cole, a brother of our subjects wife, with whom they spent that winter.

The following spring Mr. Davis rented a farm in Fairhaven Township and worked two years upon it, in the meantime entering a quarter section of land on section 13 in York Township. Upon this not a furrow had been turned. Mr. Davis put up a substantial dwelling, 18 x 24 feet square, one of the best in that region at that time, and which is still standing in good condition. He broke 50 acres of land, dug a well, but in the fall sold out at a good price, and removed to land which he had purchased on sections 34 and 35 in Salem Township. He repeated his first experiment of improving the tract of wild land, put up another house, and after getting farily started, engaged mostly in wheatgrowing. This he hauled to Freeport, 25 miles away, until there was a market at Polo, 5 miles nearer home, and occassionally he took his produce to Savanna. He operated in this manner 7 or 8 years, then began buying and feeding stock, and hs prosecuted this industry for a period of 25 years, with m ost excellent results. He became quite expert in the buying of cattle and seemed ot be peculiarly adapted to this business, seldom making a mistake in the value of his purchase. In the meantime he carried on the improvement of his farm, and occupied it until the 4th of March 1879. He then removed to his present home in Mt. Carroll, although he still retains possession of the old farm, and is the owner altogether of 500 acres in Salem Twp. besides his town property, which comprises 33 and 1/3 acres adjoining the limits, and makes one of the loveliest homes of Mt. Carroll, especially in summer time. He has an abundance of fruit and shade trees, and all the conveniences and comforts of suburban life.

While having extensive personal interests, Mr. Davis has distinguished himself as a liberal and public-spirited citizen,uniformly giving his encouragement to the enterprises calculated to uild up his township and improve the condition of its people, morally, socially, and financially. He assisted in the organization of the school districts, served as Director several terms, was the incumbent of the various township offices, and since the second election of Abraham Lincoln as President, has supported the principles of the Democratic party. Prior to this he affiliated with the Republican party.

Mr. Davis is essentially the architech of his own fortune, having received no financial assistance from any source. He knows by what labor and sacrifices his property has been accumulated, and consequently has a very good idea of the manner in which it should be cared for. He looks with contempt upon idleness, but is ever willing to assist those who try to help themselves. He is spoken of by his fellow-citizens as a man honorable and upright in his business transactions and one who can at all times be trusted.

Of his marriage there were born five children; Ellen F. died when an interesting maiden of 16 years; Lawson W. married Miss Hattie Mosse, and lives on the old farm; Herman L. and Laverta A. are twins; the first-mentioned married Miss Alice Harmon, and has one child. Laverta is the wife of Wm. Bashaw of Carroll Twp. and they have one child.

Phineas Davis, the father of our subject, was born in Calais, Washington Co VT May 26, 1806 and when 4 years old was taken by his parents to Canada, where he spent the remainder of his life engaged in farming. He married Betsey Poole who was born in Stanstead, Province of Quebec, Oct. 6, 1809, and they became the parents of four children, all of whom lived to mature years. The eldest son, Lawson B. is farming in Grundy County Iowa; Lucinda; Adelaide became the wife of P.B. Cole of Mt. Carroll, and died about 1861; Phineast T. our subject, was the eldest born. The mother is still l iving in Stanstead, and is now an aged lady of over 80 years; she has visited her son in the county a number of times.

Mrs. Sally D. (Cole) Davis was born in the Province of Quebec Canada Jan. 11, 1833 and lived there until her marriage. Her parents were Thomas and Sally (Davis) Cole and they have had a family of 8 children, four of whom are living. The parents are now deceased.

Portraits and Biographical 1889 Pg 955

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