William Lafayette Davis biography

WILLIAM LAFAYETTE DAVIS. It is rarely the case where twenty years of industry yields one a fortune and places him in the category of financial independents, but when our attention is directed to a subject of that character we wonder how it was accomplished and are curious to know the methods employed in the achievement of such results. All who known Mr. Davis—and he has a wide acquaintance—know that he secret of his success dates from his childhood when he was taught the value of long hours of hard work, but to those who are strangers to him this article will outline, in brief, the elements which have led to his remarkable success.

William L. Davis came to Montague county and settled on West Belknap creek in 1882. It is not essential to detail how he got the horse with which he can be said to have started his successful career, but it was honorably acquired—for “Bill” Davis never owned anything that he did not pay “value received” for—and, as the nucleus of his farm, he contracted for a small tract of Jack county school land. His first home was a rude habitation but its wants were presided over by his mother, and her presence inspired her ambitious son to deeds of industrial heroism. He planted his crops and cultivated them and was at work while other men slept and made dollars while some men swapped stories and wore out their welcome, their credits and their knife-blades at the country store. He stocked his farm as fast as he could and expanded his domains with cheap grass land as fast his circumstances would warrant. “Four o’clock” called him out in the morning and the bed caught him again only after everything else had been attended to for the day. He was ambitious beyond his strength, and in the twenty years of strenuous life in which he has made a modest fortune he has drained his body of its natural vigor and sapped his constitution to the danger mark. His judgment led him into speculative channels, and the land or the cattle that he brought with borrowed money always returned him fabulous results. He has been behind his affairs from the first day until now, shoving it steadily up hill until seventeen hundred and eighty acres of land, improved and stocked with two hundred and fifty head, represents the bulk of his substantial accumulations in the score of years recently closed.

William L. Davis was born in McMinn county, Tennessee, July 27, 1857. His father, Wilson Davis, was born in Knox county and owned a farm on the Cumberland river in Monroe county, where he reared his family and where he died in 1872. The latter was born in 1822, and made a success of life raising corn and hogs. He was a son of Benjamin Davis, a Virginian, who settled in Knox county, Tennessee, a pioneer, but who died in Monroe county. Wilson Davis married Elizabeth Akins, a daughter of William Akins, also from Virginia, and a Tennessee planter. The issue of this marriage were: Austin G., Henry D., Sarah J., Mollie, Andrew J., William L., Mattie N., and Julia.

Our subject grew up on and seemed to thrive on farm work as a boy. The country schools provided him with a limited education and he was not separated form his mother until he was thirty years of age. The same year his father died the family came to Texas and made Grayson county their home until their advent to Montague in 1882. He was married at Buffalo Springs, Texas, December 3, 1887, his wife being Minnie A. Smith, a daughter of Samuel and Jane (Brown) Smith, of Missouri, both of whom now reside in Hobart, Oklahoma. Mrs. Davis is one of ten children and was born in Missouri, May 15, 1867. She is the mother of Ivy Pearl, Addie D., Rex Otis, Bruce D. and Van Lee.

While Mr. Davis has been laying up substance for a rainy day he has also been laying by a good name, for no man stands higher in his community that he. While he disclaims any active interest in politics, candidates for office are anxious for his support, and if a friend finds trouble and needs a helping hand Mr. Davis provides the hand.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, 521-522.