Biography of Thomas Davis
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The founders of a state are not merely the men who handle the reins of government and control the public policy, but are also those who carry civilization into hitherto wild regions and develop the natural resources of the state: Such an one is Mr. Davis, who came to Idaho in pioneer days and was the first to establish the fact that this is an excellent fruit-producing region. Thus he introduced a new industry and thereby largely promoted the material welfare of the region. His business interests have ever been energetically and successfully managed and his reputation in commercial circles is above reproach.
Mr. Davis is a native of Ohio, his birth having occurred in Cincinnati, on the 2d of January 1838. His father died during the early childhood of the son, who was then bound out until he had attained his majority. He was sent to the district school during the winter season, while during the summer months he labored early and late in the cultivation of the fields. When a young man of twenty-three years he joined a company of seventy-five men en route for the west. He drove his own team of mules and was accompanied by his brother Francis, who has since died. They were persuaded by some Mormons to travel by way of the Sublette cut-off. Fort Lemhi was then occupied by Mormons. At that place they found they could go no farther with the wagons and that it had been the plan of the Mormons to force the emigrants to sell their wagons and provisions very cheap. They offered to buy the new wagons for five dollars each and for the provisions offered prices equally low, but Mr. Davis’ party were not to be cheated in this way and resented the conduct of the followers of Joseph Smith; so, loading all the goods they could upon there horses, they made huge piles of the remainder, together with the wagons, and set fire to all. The horses, however, were not accustomed to carrying packs, and when they started they became frightened and stampeded. The utensils and provisions were thus badly shaken up; but after considerable excitement the animals were quieted and the journey was resumed. The road was mostly an Indian trail, leading over high peaks, which they had considerable difficulty in climbing. On the 3d of July they were in a hard snow-storm. On one occasion they found a white man pierced by Indian arrows, but they did not suffer at the hands of the hostile savages, and on the 4th of July reached Elk City in safety, but without provisions. They then went to Walla Walla and later came to Boise.
Mr. Davis first engaged in mining at Idaho City, and in 1863 took up three hundred and sixty acres of government land, the property on which his beautiful home now stands and on which the depot is located. It is now very valuable and has brought to the owner substantial financial returns. Owing to the scarcity of vegetables and fruits, Mr. Davis resolved to engage in horticultural pursuits, and has since followed that calling with excellent success. He purchased his first seed crop for twenty-five cents per pound onions, cabbages and potatoes, and at the end of the season the products were sold for fifty thousand dollars. In the spring of 1864 he planted the first orchard in this section of the country, setting out seven thousand apple-trees, which had been shipped to him at a cost of a dollar and a quarter each. This orchard, now thirty-five years old, is still standing on the property, and has paid for itself many times over, but is soon to be cut down, for the ground is needed for city lots. In 1872 the apples sold at twelve and a half cents per pound and the profits were between ten and fifteen thousand dollars. The earlier fruit from the orchard brought as high as twenty-five cents per pound. Other citizens platted orchards, but for one or two seasons the grasshoppers were very bad and destroyed many of them. Mr. Davis resolved to save his, if possible, and employed a large force of men for several weeks to shake the trees from four o’clock until late in the afternoon. The grasshoppers were thus shaken to the ground and ate the vegetation under the trees, and in this way the orchard was saved. Mr. Davis now has seventy acres planted to pears, prunes and apples. He is also the owner of large tracts of land in different sections of the northwest: and is extensively engaged in the raising of horses and cattle. He is equally successful in this line of business, for his energy, sound judgment and thorough reliability enable him to carry forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes. Other business enterprise in which he is interested have contributed largely to the improvement and development of the city, as well as added to his individual prosperity.
In 1871 was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Davis and Miss Julia McCrumb, a native of Canada, who came to Boise in 1869. They now have three sons and two daughters: Thomas, who is in charge of the cattle owned by his father in Long Valley; Harry, who is managing the horse ranch; Ella, Edwin and Hazel, at home. Mr. and Mrs. Davis are Episcopalians in their religious faith, and throughout the community in which they reside they have many warm friends. In politics the subject of this review has been a lifelong Republican, and is an honored member of the Pioneer and Historical Societies of Idaho. His adopted state owes its advancement and present proud position to such men, men possessed of an enterprising, progressive spirit, who are reliable in business, loyal in citizenship and faithful in friendship.