I sit with my husband, now 72, and ask, “what do you remember of your grandfather?” Frank B., a man buried alone in a burial plot in the tiny town of Ione, Washington, without his bride or any children around.
My husband answers, “I remember him being sick and in a bedroom. I can’t ever remember laying eyes on him alive.” Frank B. died when my husband was five years old. “I remember nothing else. My father never spoke of him.”
And, that is all that has been known of this man. In fact, when we started this genealogical quest, we didn’t even know Frank’s real name. Frank B. is actually Benjamin Franklin, a key piece of knowing in order to trace this lineage.
And, with that basic fact, a sick man in a room, and a young boy too young to understand, the legacy of a Davis line was nearly lost for every generation thereafter. The amazing tale of ancient melungeon bloodlines, intermarriages with the royal Powhatan bloodline of America’s first people, the descendants of the Monticello Jefferson plantation, brave soldiers, Indian scouts, trappers and traders, first woman to step off the Mayflower, path breakers on the Oregon Trail………..all lost in time.
So, we began to dig, and dig deep. Who was Frank B.? What was the story of his parents and those who came before that shaped this man? And, why did no one know who he was?
Frank B. was born (1883-1952) in Cherokee, Kansas to Robert Housten Sr. (1855-1931) and Mosella Etherton (1859-1927). Robert Housten Sr. was born in Texas to John R. Davis (1822-1870) and Lucinda Cunningham (1825-1908). John and Lucinda lived in Roane County, TN.
It appears our Davis family history begins to break down, meaning information not being passed down to the next generation, at Robert Housten Davis Sr. Records show that John R. Davis died at an early age of 47. John R. and Lucinda Cunningham got married when Lucinda had just turned 18 and had 14 children when John R. died of bronchitis at the age of 47 a few years after serving in the Civil War. In Lucinda’s obituary it notes that John R. was living in a different state (Warren, Ohio) due to “sickness” and was “in search of health”. At the time of John R.’s death, Lucinda had 14 children all within one year of each other in age with a six month old as the youngest. She raised these 14 children alone and never remarried. She outlived John R. by 38 years. She could not read nor write.
John R. had been a farmer. After John’s death, their son Nathan ran the farm on behalf of the family and helped raise the children. Sadly for Lucinda, she had a tough life. Her father was in his 70s when he had her. Her father’s name was Valentine Cunningham and was highly commended for his Revolutionary War service and worked on George Washington’s staff. Valentine Cunningham had crossed the Delaware with Washington and was with George Washington at the Valley Forge. Valentine took a young wife in his 70s. Valentine died when Lucinda was 5. So, Lucinda never really knew her father then proceeded to marry, move from Tennessee through Kentucky, through Texas and on to Kansas with John R. who died and left her alone to raise all the children. This all took place without her ability to read or write…which to most of us is a shocking thing.
John R. died when Robert Housten Sr. was only 15. It is apparent from documents that Robert Housten Sr. knew very little of his father’s history because in census records it shows that Robert Housten did not know where his father was from. Census requires the name of each parent and where they were born. This period in our family is obviously where the ancestral heritage was lost.
Robert Housten Sr. was born two years after John and Lucinda moved from Roane county TN in 1853 to Fort Scott Texas. Fort Scott was a pre-civil war military outpost and was one of the first frontier army forts in Texas. It is unclear of their reason for moving here, but historical records show that the fort was established in 1848 with the mission to protect early settlers from the Indians.
Robert Housten Sr. was born in 1855 here at Fort Scott and in this same year John and Lucinda moved again to Cherokee, Bourbon County Kansas and were some of the first settlers in this area. Cherokee is located in the southeastern part of the state in Bourbon County and was created by the first territorial legislature in 1855 and was names in recognition of the Cherokee Indians. It was in this first year of its establishment that John and Lucinda moved Robert Housten Sr. and his siblings here.
This early movement into Cherokee Kansas is an interesting one in our quest to understand our Native American roots. The reason is the timing of the Davis’s move. We do know that Lucinda’s sister had children that were married to Cherokee. To the degree that the Davis clan themselves are Cherokee is still unknown. With those questions pending, in 1835 a treaty was concluded between the government by which the Cherokee were granted this neutral land and the strip subsequently became known as the “Neutral Lands,” which were opened to settlement under the provisions of the treaty of 1868. Thus, our Davis family lived in the Cherokee “Neutral Lands” thirteen years BEFORE a treaty was settled. Interesting.
Here is an interesting photo of Lucinda’s sister Cynthia’s grand daughters. Cynthia married John R.’s brother Nathan so there are the same genetics on both sides (husband and wife) that match our direct line. One of these granddaughters is the spitting image of our daughter Laura. Katie, the older one who looks like Laura was born in 1904, 115 years ago. She is 1/4 Cherokee Indian and was listed on the Cherokee Indian rolls.
Bourbon County Kansas was one of the thirty-three original counties of Kansas and was named after Bourbon County Kentucky. This area was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Ironically, another Fort Scott was built here, in Bourbon County Kansas. During the Civil War, Fort Scott was the base of supplies and the station of several regiments of Union Troops. Both John R. Davis and his brother Nathan (who married Lucinda’s sister) fought in the Civil War and served at Fort Scott.
Civil War Enlistment of Brothers Nathan and John R. Davis Sept. – Dec. 1865
Interestingly, this enlistment of our Davis clan shows this list of men from South of the Kansas River and “DAVIS COUNTY” in Kansas, named after our relative Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy. Many tried to change the name of the county to Lincoln, due to the leanings of the county pro-union. But, Davis stuck and is the county name to this day.
After John’s death Lucinda moved to Oklahoma with family in 1890 then moved in with her son back in Kansas in Cherokee County, Weir City in 1897.
Lucinda Davis Buried Alone In Weir City, Cherokee Kansas
Robert Housten Sr. married Mosella Etherton in 1876 in Fort Scott, Kansas. Mosella’s father had died in the Civil War in 1863. He was from Iowa and enlisted at the age of 28. He was a member of the Iowa 11th Infantry Regiment on 19 Oct 1861 and “Mustered out” on 22 Sep 1863 at Vicksburg, MS. Mustered out was a Civil War term for shot. He was killed due to injuries at the Siege of Vicksburg.
The siege of Vicksburg (May 18 – July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg campaign of the Civil War.
Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The successful ending of the Vicksburg campaign significantly degraded the ability of the Confederacy to maintain its war effort.
The Confederate surrender on July 4, is sometimes considered, when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg by Maj. Gen. George Meade the previous day, the turning point of the war.
Private William Etherton is buried at the Vicksburg National Cemetery in Vicksburg, Warren County Mississippi. He was 31 years of age.
Our grandfather Frank B. was born in Kansas (Galena, Cherokee County KS) in 1883. It appears that by 1890 Robert Housten Davis and wife Mosella Davis, along with all their children moved to Four Mile, Latah County Idaho. Robert was 35 at the time. It shows on the 1900 census that Robert Housten Davis was a teamster and later a “laborer” doing “odd jobs”. Robert Housten Sr. was the first generation where everyone in the family could read and write.
Picture Above Of Robert Housten Davis Sr.
At the end of his life Robert Housten Davis Sr. lived with his daughter Emma and her husband in Ione, Washington. We do not know where he is buried.
Above Is Picture Of Mosella, Sisters And Mother – Mosella is One of Twins On Left Or Right Back Row (Mosella and Rosella)
Mosella is buried in Rose Lake, Idaho in a small cemetery outside of town. But, Rose Lake does not exist anymore. Mosella, and two of Robert and Mosella’s children are buried here – Oscar and Arthur. Here is a picture of the cemetery – old stones down a dirt road off Highway 3.
Old Cemetery Where Mosella And Her Two Sons Are Buried (Rose Lake, Idaho)
So very little is known of Frank B. We know he moved to Rose Lake Idaho with his parents and siblings when he was six or seven years of age. We know he married Maude Van Sickle in 1906 and was a laborer in the lumber mill, likely Rose Lake Lumber Company. At the turn of the 20th century, forest resources surpassed mining in economic importance. For posterity’s sake, due to the fact that Rose Lake Idaho no longer exists, I am providing numerous photos here of the old Rose Lake Idaho logging operation since these photos and the Rose Lake collection is so rare. The history of logging in Northern Idaho stretches back to 1880, when Robert Weeks opened a general store. He had several other business ventures, one being a sawmill that failed financially. Around the same time (early 1880s), other small mills sprang up around Rathdrum, just north of Coeur d’Alene. In the next twenty years, the industry grew dramatically in the North, with 20 mills between Harrison and Bonners Ferry by the early 1900s. Lumber production rose and fell during the early 20th century. At its highest point, in 1926, the ten counties of Northern Idaho produced 950,000,000 board feet of timber, dipping down to 200,000,000 in 1932. Even today, many of the men working in the woods are following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. In the first half of the 20th century, logging was one of the few ways to make a decent living in North Idaho.
Below you see what Rose Lake looked like in 1911, six years after Rose Lake Lumber Company was formed. Frank B. was working here at this time.
The residences above are likely where Frank B. and Maude lived. These are the residences at Rose Lake provided to laborers through the logging company.
In 1910 Frank B. had his first child Harold. 1910 was a nation shifting year for America all tied to this region of Idaho and likely the direct life of Frank B. What had engulfed the tiny Idaho towns would later be called the Great Fire of 1910. It was a forest fire of staggering proportions. In two days in August over three million acres burned in the Idaho panhandle, western Montana and eastern Washington; an area roughly the size of Connecticut. At least 85 people died—78 of those were firefighters. Seven towns were burned completely off the map. All of this puts the Great Fire, also called the Big Burn or Big Blowout of 1910, as the largest forest fire in U.S. history in size; though one other fire would surpass it in death toll of firefighters – 9/11 twin towers.
Photos below capture some of the destruction in Northern Idaho from the 1910 Big Burn.
Over the course of 1910 through 1922 Frank B. would have six children; Harold, Violet, Louis, Clarence, Robert and Alvin. All were born in Rose Lake, Idaho.
In 1935 Frank B., age 52, moved with his family to Ione, WA where he was a laborer and worked in the local logging mill. What is odd when looking at 1940 census data is that previously young men all left home and married around 20 years of age or slightly older. When looking at census information for Frank B. when he is 56 years of age you see that three of his sons aged 30, 23 and 20 are all single and still living at home. Additionally, a Clifford Bockman, aged 23, is also living with them and single. This type of living arrangement was likely tied to three things: logging work and logging camp style living, coming out of the Great Depression and World War II. Interestingly, Mike’s best friend growing up was Roger Bockman, Clifford Bockman’s son. Until now when we are writing this blog, Mike never knew Roger’s father lived with Mike’s grandpa. Frank B.’s sons were the first generation to graduate from high school.
Maude outlived Frank B. by 33 years. She went to live with her daughter Violet and her Finnish husband Emil Carlson and is buried in Tacoma Washington. Robert Houston Davis Jr., Frank B.’s son, and Mike’s father, we now know is named after his grandfather. We did not know this. However, Houston is spelled differently (one with and O and one with an E).
Mike Davis, Robert Houston Davis Jr.’s son, my husband, is the first in a very long line of Davis’ clan to have achieved a college degree and masters degree, in our family tree along with being a distinguished graduate and top 10% of his class at the United States Air Force Academy. Previously he was a four sport letterman, Eagle Scout and salutatorian of his high school class. He was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy by US Senator Henry Jackson and received his USAFA diploma from the President of the United States at the time, President Nixon. He served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and Vietnamese Honor Medal for his valor and service. He went on to work for President Bush as the United States Assistant Secretary of Energy and has also been President and CEO of three private companies. He met President Xi (Chinese President) before President Obama and received China’s highest award from President Xi personally for contributing to the benefit of China’s well being through scientific research. Mike has led scientific research laboratories for both the US and Chinese government to improve our way of life (energy/environmental breakthroughs) on this planet. I can understand why his father and mother were so very proud. It’s been a long journey in the Davis tree to get to such points in history – from rugged blue collar pioneers to shaping the policies that transform America in our nation’s capitol and help the world’s greatest partner nations transform for the betterment of their people and humanity at large.
It is such an interesting study – family history. The Davis family’s journey towards new lands where freedom reigns and opportunity abounds, where children can learn, grow and become educated, where communities flourish and jobs exist — and how that can become deeply enriching and cherished and how, through hardships, deaths and relocation, that can all be lost. It is so fascinating.
So, when we look below at the grave stone with Frank B.’s name, we now know Maude outlived him by a great degree. We know that most all, if not all, sons and daughter left Ione, likely for better work prospects after the jobs left northern Idaho. This one Davis family has pioneered two “first communities” that no longer exist – Ruby Washington and Rose Lake Idaho; that held the memories and experiences of a generation or two that are no longer. Maybe this is why Frank B. is buried alone……..small pioneer towns without the opportunities to carry families forward, so, they move on…and with that, family heritage gets lost in the passing.
But, no longer — Frank B. will always be remembered. Hopefully in a little way, this blog and all its compilation of information and photographs will serve as a remembrance to a great man in a long list of great men and women who’ve made our Davis lineage so amazing.
May you rest in Peace Frank B. – you are loved.
We have an extensive photo album of the Davis family. We never knew who these people were. We will be loading all those pictures spanning 100 years into another blog and linking it to this blog so family and friends can see Robert Housten Davis Sr. his wife, kids, grandkids and great grandkids in old black and white. To finally have answers to the old photo album is a dream come true for Mike.
May the legacy continue and never be forgotten again! We are truly blessed. What a family!!