Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    William D. Davies is a representative of two of the oldest families of Miami county. He was born in Piqua, on the 14th of September, 1846, his parents being Samuel and Rachel (Johnston) Davies. His mother is still living at the ripe old age of eighty- seven years, and in December, 1899, published many reminiscences of early pioneer days. They experienced all the hardships, trials, privations and pleasures incident to the establishment of a home upon the wild western frontier. During the early girlhood of Mrs. Davies, her father built a large two-story log house, in 1818. This was located at Upper Piqua, on the Ashton farm. The logs were cut in the woods and drawn to the saw-mill, where they were transformed into lumber. A board kiln was built and in this the lumber was dried. The shingles which covered the house were cut by hand in the woods, and the brick used in the construction of the new home was also made upon the farm. Mr. Johnston also erected a huge log barn, which is still standing, and set out a large orchard, containing peaches, apples, cherries, pears and plums. Upon the place was a maple grove, and from the sap from the trees they made their own molasses and sugar. They raised their cattle and sheep, cured their own beef and sold the hides to the tanner. Much of their clothing was also made upon the farm. They raised flax and after spinning it, it was woven into cloth by an old woman living near by. The wool from the sheep was brought home, carded and spun into yarn, which was woven into blankets and coverlets, after being dyed by the mother. When harvest time came, it was a great occasion, often as many as sixty men were employed at one time in the field cutting wheat with sickles. Later a much improved implement was used--the cradle, and it in turn was succeeded by the modern reaper. Threshing was done with a flail, wheat was tramped out by horses ,and afterward cleaned and sent to the mill. Mr. Johnston often took wheat to Cincinnati to sell, at a time when it took eight days to make the round trip. On one occasion he brought back with him a wagon load of goods for a merchant, but as the man was unable to pay him, he took instead of the money a tract of land on Main street, north of Ash street, on which now stand five leading business houses of the city. One of these lots is still in possession of Mrs. Davies, mother of our subject. The Indians were much more numerous than the white settlers at the time James and Mary Johnston arrived in Miami county. Although the red men were of a roving disposition, the beautiful Miami valley was a favorite resort to them and here they celebrated all their feasts, performed their dances and odd religious rites, fought their battles and engaged in many scenes of torture. It was in this valley that Tecumseh made his home and here were found many representatives of the tribes of the Shawnees, Pottowatomies, Wyandottes, Senecas, Muncies, Miamis and Delawares. All were powerful tribes and to them Mr. Johnston supplied horses furnished by the government. Very friendly relations always existed between the Indians and the Johnston family and the daughters, now Mrs. Margaret Kirk and Mrs. Rachel Davies, spent many an hour in the camp of the Shawnees, receiving the kindest and most devoted attention from the squaws. Mrs. Davies now has in her possession a large bowl carved from the knot of a hickory tree, which was given to her by the Indians to be used for holding corn- meal. As the years passed the family prospered and the log cabin in which so many happy hours had been spent was at length abandoned for a brick house. The Johnstons were active in promoting the religious development of the community, and Mrs. Davies frequently rode on horseback behind her mother to attend the meetings of the Piqua Bible Society. With the exception of Mrs. Davies, all of the children of the Johnston family were born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. The parents were married in Sherman's valley, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1798, and in the Keystone state five children were born to them, namely: Stephen, who was born November 24, 1799, and died at Upper Piqua, August 2, 1849; Mary Ann, who was born December 7, 1801, and died September 19, 1887; William, who was born May 2, 1804, and died March 24, 1888; Eliza, who was born October 10, 1806, and died August 3, 1896, and Margaret, who was born March 18, 1800, and died August 2, 1894.

    The parents came to Miami county in 1811, and on the 7th of December, 1812, their youngest child, Mrs. Rachel Davies, was born. On the 7th of July, 1841, she became the wife of Samuel Davies, who was born December 10, 1810, and died March 4, 1865. Their children were: Susan, who was born April 11, 1842, in Lockport, Ohio, and died September 7, 1843; James Johnston, who was born November 25, 1844, and died July 24, 1863; William D., whose name begins this record; John J., who was born December 29, 1848, and died July 26, 1885; Samuel, who was born February 10, 1851, and died April 21, 1890; Charles H., who was born February 4, 1853, and Frank Carter, born December 21, 1855. All were born on the family homestead at the corner of Greene and Wayne streets, in Piqua. Mr. and Mrs. Davies began their domestic life in Lockport in a little log cabin situated between the canal and the river, where they lived for three years, the father at that time being employed by the state in constructing nine locks on the canal. It took five years to complete the contract and the stone used was brought from the quarries at Dayton, Ohio. When that work was completed Mr. Davies moved with his family to Piqua, where he established a grocery store, which he conducted from 1843 until his death. In 1847 he erected a pleasant home for the family at the corner of Wayne and Greene streets, and the old home is still standing, being yet occupied by his widow.<\P>

    William D. Davies, whose name begins this record, spent his boyhood days under the parental roof and obtained his education in the common and high schools of Piqua. In 1869 he went to Chicago, where he was engaged in driving hacks until 1873, when he was made superintendent of the Flat Rock Stock Farm, at Rushville, Indiana, his employers being the Wilson Brothers, who were the owners of much fine racing stock. Mr. Davies acted as superintendent and driver for them for three years and then began business for himself, having purchased several fine trotters while in the employ of Wilson Brothers. After two years he took charge of the Sunset Stock Farm, at Van Wert, and raced their stock, together with some of his own. Subsequently he had some fine racing stock of his own upon the leading tracks, making his headquarters in Chicago until 1898, but that business kept him from home during the greater part of the time and he then abandoned it for the livery business. He was at one time the owner of Joe Hooker, with a record of 2:16 1/2, and Lizzie Dowling, with a record of 2:09 to 2:30. He has owned and trained twenty-eight fine racers with a record of from 9:09 to 2:30. He was very successful as a horseman, but on returning to Piqua, he sold all of his racing stock, with the exception of William Penn, which horse has a record of 2:12 1/2.

    Mr. Davies married Miss Julia Murphy, of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and they had two children, but both died in early life. In his political views Mr. Davies is a Democrat, but has never sought or desired office, preferring to give his time and attention to his business interest in which he has met with excellent success.

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