JOHN ROBERT DAVENPORT. The efficient treasurer of Wise county, named as the subject of this personal record, was born at Rienzi, Mississippi, May 7, 1851, and passed his childhood and youth around Booneville, Prentiss county, where rustic scenes were his familiar haunts. His father, William Davenport, was a Georgian and his grandfather, Henry Davenport, was a native of Virginia.
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century Henry Davenport journeyed on horseback, with his young wife, from their Virginia home into the southland and began life near Americus, Georgia. As farmers they maintained themselves and there they reared their family and finally passed away. Their children were: Amanda, Henry, Smith, Robert, Thomas, William and Elizabeth. A more detailed account of the family history is thus given:—
The great-great-grandfather was (1) Cenus Davenport, a Revolutionary soldier from Virginia, who had two sons, Henry and Thomas (perhaps others and daughters, too, though no knowledge of them is now extant).
(2) Thomas settled on a farm near the town (now city) of Petersburg, Virginia, and it is said that much of the site of the city once was part of his farm. He reared two sons, Thomas and Henry.
(3) Henry came to Georgia when a young man and settled on Oconee river, then Clarke county, now Oconee county. By help of the Indians and one or two negroes hired from the few white settlers, he built him a log house, crib and stables, then, mounting his fine horse, rode back to Virginia, where he married Elizabeth Easley of his native county. The wedding over, both rode horseback all the way south to his Georgia farm, bringing his slaves, wagons, horses, deerhounds, fighting cocks, etc. The huntsman’s horn that he brought with him, also the identical coffeemill that he used on that trip and later put up in his cook room, where it was in constant use until two years ago, are still treasured as heirlooms in the family of H. T. Davenport of Americus, Ga.
The grandmother died at about thirty-seven years of age, and is buried on the old first settlement in Oconee county near Candy postoffice, with one daughter, who died very young. Grandfather afterwards married a Miss Ward of Kentucky, sold out and moved to Salem crossroads in Oconee county, and lived and died and is buried there side by side with his last wife. This couple never had any children, and after grandfather Davenport’s death his widow married a Judge McWhorter of Athens, Ga., whom she survived a few years and at her death insisted on being buried beside her first husband on their little farm at old Salem.
Of Henry (3) Davenport’s children: Amanda married Hampton Watts, who died, leaving his widow with Mary, Thomas, Fannie, William, Harrison, Sallie and George (the last an infant), without home or money, but from assistance from their Uncle Henry they received fair educations and married. The first four are now dead, but have children and grandchildren. Harrison Watts lives in Sumter county, Georgia; Sallie Shockley lives on a farm in the same locality and is a widow with two grown daughters; George Watts married and has one daughter.
Thomas lost the wife of his early years, and his daughter Mary married a prosperous Dr. Bently of Leatherville, Lincoln county, Ga., who left her, at his death, four thousand acres of land and seven or eight children, all grown. She is still living. After the death of his first wife Thomas lived a widower thirty-one years and then married a young widow, by whom he had two sons and three daughters—Robert, Olivia, Mattie, Carrie and William.
Elizabeth married J. H. Maddox, and left children, Mattie and Josiah. Mattie married Barton Middlebrooks and reared a large family of boys and girls, and they live in Oconee county. Josiah married a Miss Clark and lives near Greensboro, Ga., having a large family.
Smith married Miss Mattie Hillsman, and of their twelve children the following grew up: Edward, who died in the army in 1862; William R., who married his cousin Fannie Easly Davenport (Daughter of Robert), and she, now a widow, lives on a farm in Gonzales county, Texas; and Bettie, the only one now living, who married a lawyer, Thomas H. Pickett (deceased), and has a family of children.
Henry married Miss Julia Caroline Rymes. He died at the age of sixty-four, and his wife survived him a quarter of a century to the age of eighty-nine years and past. Their six children: Josephine married J. W. Shropshire, both deceased, with three daughters living. Rymes died at the age of four years. Victoria married J. A. Shields, by whom she had one son, J. A., and married second, J. W. F. Lowrey, a merchant of Dawson, Georgia. H. T., of Americus, Georgia, who married Miss L. E. Harrold and has two children. Lavonia died at the age of sixteen in 1862. Maria Rymes, who married S. J. Walters, of Sumter county, Ga., is a widow with a daughter thirteen years old.
In 1823 William Davenport was born near Americus, Georgia, and in 1839 he left his native heath in company with an older brother and settled in Prentiss county, Mississippi. Having come to mature years on the farm he adopted this calling for his life work when he established his home in Mississippi. He had acquired a district school education, which, added to his native talents, equipped him well for sincere and influential citizenship in active, vigorous life. His brother Robert, whom he accompanied from their native state, became an influential factor in the affairs of Prentiss county, having served it as sheriff both prior to and subsequent to the Civil war.
In his political relations to his county William Davenport was first a Whig and finally a Democrat and as a force in moulding political sentiment he was a quiet yet positive one. He was an active member of the Methodist church and brought up his children conscious of a religious obligation to be performed. He married Elvira S. E. Arnold, who followed him to the grave near Paradise March 10, 1893, six years subsequent to his demise. Two children only lived to be grown, viz.: John R., our subject, and Sallie E., wife of C. T. Thomas, of Sterling, Oklahoma.
John Robert Davenport was a pupil in the country schools and was approaching near his ‘teens at the outbreak of the rebellion. He inherited strong southern sentiments from his mother as well as his father, for she was a daughter of Zack Arnold, a South Carolina slave holder, who removed to Mississippi when his daughter Elvira was a child. Procuring an education and learning to farm was the business of the time with our subject while he remained at home and when past twenty-one he abandoned the scenes of his boyhood and sought his fortune on the grassy and untamed wilds of West Texas. He stopped at Aurora, in Wise county, and began work by the month on a farm. From wage-working to renting was the route he took to independence and he eventually became able to buy a farm. He located on and purchased the Brady homestead just south of Decatur in 1889, and this has since remained his home.
December II, 1878, Mr. Davenport married Emma F., a daughter of the late prominent pioneer Judge William W. Brady, who came to Wise county in 1855, served eighteen years as its county clerk and four years as county judge, and was, withal, a popular and deserving citizen. Mr. Brady came to Texas from Illinois, but was formerly from Indiana county, Pennsylvania. He married Harriett R. Bryan, a Tennessee lady, reared eight children and passed away in 1889, at sixty-six years of age. Mrs. Davenport was born in Decatur, Texas, June 20, 1860, and is the mother of Hattie E.; Sallie, who married Will Young; Mary; Robert R.; William; J. B., and Fred Arnold.
In county politics John R. Davenport has for many years been a busy but quiet factor and he has almost invariably been found a delegate to conventions. In 1902 he was induced to be-come a candidate for county treasurer and was elected and two years later was chosen his own successor and his conduct of the office is noted for its clerical efficiency and a desire to serve and accommodate the patrons of the office.
As already stated, Mr. Davenport was brought up in the cradle of Methodism. From the old home church in the east he imbibed those principles of right which control the heart actions of all good citizens and when he founded a home in the new west a Christian spirit dominated it from the start. He holds his membership—as also does his wife—in the congregation at Sand Hill, the first church in the county, and has served the body in the capacity of steward.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 554-556.