John P. Davis, Topeka. A resident of Kansas for forty-four years, Mr. Davis has in his career set an example of all that is best in American citizenship, not only to his immediate family but to the public in general. He has been prominent in public and business affairs, and has discharged the responsibilities which have fallen to his lot in a conscientious and able manner. His most potent influence for good has been exercised in business as well as in every day life. By his extensive business connections and his extended personal acquaintance he is one of the well known men of Kansas.
Mr. Davis was born in Ashland County, Ohio, January 20, 1839, a son of Amos and Nancy (Crawford) Davis, both of whom were born and reared in Columbiana County, Ohio. His father was a farmer, a man who had the confidence and respect of all who knew him, and a citizen of more than ordinary importance in his community.
The record of the life of John P. Davis is not without difficulties met and overcome. He spent his early life on the home farm, attended public schools, and when a young man moved with his parents to McDonough County, Illinois, where he engaged in farming and teaching.
Mr. Davis was married to Miss Sarah Horrabin at Blandensville, Illinois, February 11, 1858. Mrs. Davis was born at Egbeth, England, February 3, 1838, and came to the United States with her parents at the age of twelve years. Her father, Hon. Humphrey Horrabin, was a prominent citizen of Central Illinois and served as a useful member of the State Legislature.
In the fall of 1873 Mr. Davis and family came to Kansas from Illinois. He bought and located on a half section of land in Brown County near Hiawatha, and for nine years engaged in farming and the livestock business. Mr. Davis was twice elected a member of the Kansas Legislature, being chosen on the republican ticket. His service in that body was a notable one. He was an active member and the author of several important bills which became laws. One of these is known as the Transfer Record Law. This law has saved to the State many thousands of dollars, which prior to that time had been lost through imperfect land descriptions. It required all the work and influence which Mr. Davis could bring to bear in order to get this measure passed through both houses and finally signed by Governor Anthony. He was author of a game law protecting native birds; and several other important measures introduced by him became laws and were written in the statute books.
In 1882 Mr. Davis moved to Hiawatha and was instrumental in laying out the Knapp, Moon and Davis Addition to Hiawatha, in which he lived. This addition is one of the choice resident districts of that city. During the same year through the influence of Mr. Davis the Kansas Mutual Life Insurance Company was organized. The late Governor Morrill and many other prominent Kansans were members of the Board of Directors. Mr. Davis was made president, Mr. W. M. Wellcome, vice president, and Mr. John E. Moon, secretary. The company made rapid growth and in the spring of 1892 moved to Topeka on account of that city being a better location. About forty people came with the moving of the company from Hiawatha to Topeka. In 1903 the Kansas Mutual was transferred to the Illinois Life Insurance Company of Chicago. At that time the company had over twelve million dollars of insurance in force, one hundred thirty-four thousand dollars in surplus above all liabilities, and total assets amounting to about eight hundred thousand dollars.
In 1904 Mr. Davis, his son Byron H. Davis, and Mr. W. M. Wellcome formed a partnership under the firm name of Davis-Wellcome & Company for the handling of real estate and farm loans. In 1906 the real estate part was discontinued and the business of the company devoted to the handling of farm loans exclusively. The company was incorporated under the name of The Davis-Wellcome Mortgage Company, and through the efforts of Mr. Davis became state correspondent for the Prudential Insurance Company of Newark, New Jersey, for the loaning of that company’s money in Kansas. Later on Missouri was also placed under their control. Loaning in these two states, the Davis-Wellcome Mortgage Company of Topeka has made a steady and substantial growth, and is one of the large financial institutions of the State of Kansas.
While living in Hiawatha Mr. Davis was president of an organization known as The Business Men’s Club, and after coming to Topeka assisted in organizing the Topeka Commercial Club, of which he is one of the five charter members. The Commercial Club has recently become the Chamber of Commerce.
For the past twenty-two years Mr. Davis has been a member of the Board of Trustees of Baker University, and for many years vice president of the Board. He has been a liberal contributor to the material support of that college.
A rare and wonderful personality was that of the late Mrs. John P. Davis. Mr. and Mrs. Davis celebrated their golden wedding anniversary amid a host of friends and relatives. They traveled life’s highway together for fifty-three years. Thirty years of that time Mrs. Davis had spent as an invalid, being afflicted with rheumatism. She lived during all those years in a wheel chair, but always bore her lot with such fortitude, cheerful and uncomplaining patience, and radiated so much of the real significance of the Christian virtues, that it can be safely said that the period of her physical misfortune was the period of greatest growth and development in mind and heart and the source of untold blessing to her family and all who came within the sphere of her presence. She was the mother of eight children, seven of whom survived her, one child having died in infancy. Those who survived their mother were: Byron H.; Alonzo L.; Cora F., (Mrs. Charles G. Colburn); Viola M., (Mrs. Robert T. Herrick); Frank S.; Myrtle M., (Mrs. William Stephens, deceased); and Ivah B., (Mrs. Thomas B. Frost).
During the many years they spent in Kansas Mr. and Mrs. Davis acquired a large circle of friends among the prominent citizens of the state, including many of the notable figures in Methodism throughout the country, who paid tender tribute of respect to the memory of Mrs. Davis at the time of her death January 7, 1911.
A distinguishing feature of Mr. Davis career has been his religious life. While he has lived this every day without ostentation, his has been the worthy part of vitalizing and making effectual the practice of Christianity and its harmony with the best things of life. He has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for sixty years and of its official board for over fifty years. During all that time he has been active in Sunday School work, and has taught the same Bible class for the last twenty years. He has taken a very active interest in the affairs of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and has done much to contribute to its welfare, having been a member of the board of directors over twenty years. Mr. Davis has been permitted to live beyond man’s average earthly tenure, and the world continues to be better because of his having lived in it.