Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 267] lately deceased, was a prominent contractor and builder of New Castle, Pa., but was leading a retired life the last few years preceding his death. He was born in North Beaver township, Lawrence Co., Pa., Nov. 1, 1818, and received his early mental training in the common schools of his native place, and after completing the course of study mapped out for the youth of the district, which education, although considered amply sufficient for those early days, would be thought sadly lacking for the needs of the present time, he learned the carpenter's and builder's trade, which he successfully followed until 1861, when he turned his attention to the manufacture of lumber for ten years. In his day he was considered a very competent and skilled workman. He helped construct the first buildings in what is known as West New Castle, and also did work on the Old Stone Corner. Afterwards he worked at his trade in Pittsburg, being engaged on the old Cathedral, and spent a number of years in the employ of Brown, the Coal King. Machine work in the preparation of building material was unknown in those times, and as all the work was done by hand, much labor was required. Mr.Davidson jokingly remarked to a friend, when asked how much work he had accomplished: "Oh, I planed the Allegheny Mountains into the Atlantic Ocean."

Our subject was a son of Capt. James Davidson, who was born Feb. 13, 1786, in Ireland, it is supposed in the northern part. The father of Capt. James, and grandfather of James Ramsey Davidson, was William Davidson, who was born in Ireland, and who married a widow, Mary Ramsey (whose maiden name was Ramsey), who had two children by a former marriage, Thomas and Barbara, who died in infancy. William Davidson's father having died at the old home in Ireland, William, as the eldest son, assumed the place of head of the family, and, in company with his widowed mother, his wife and two children, James and Rosanna, his sisters, Lydia, Sally, Molly, Peggy, Esther, and his two brothers, James and Robert, came to America, settling first in Redstone, near Carlisle, Pa. After living in that locality a few years, William with his family proceeded "out West" to McKeesport, Pa., but their stay in that section was not protracted to any extent, and in April, 1794, they removed to the old homestead site, then located in Beaver County, but now a part of Lawrence County. One of the interesting as well as thrilling incidents of the journey came to pass in this manner: They came on as far as Beaver, where they rested a short time with William's sister, Lydia Alexander; from there to their newly chosen home, they made the journey in a day, arriving at their destination at night-fall. The father led one horse, across whose back was adjusted a wallet, the ends of which contained the two little ones, Elizabeth and Mary; in addition the household bedding and other necessary domestic articles were heaped in a pack on the animal's back. The mother rode the second horse and carried in her arms the six weeks old infant, Lydia. The two older children walked and drove a little cow. While crossing Rock's Ridge, the horse, ridden by the mother, stumbled, throwing her over its head, and she threw the infant ahead of her. Full of apprehension and dire misgivings, the parents hastened to the spot where the babe lay, and to their surprise found it sleeping, as if nothing at all had occurred. As they had previously narrowly escaped drowning, the mother remarked that that child surely was not born to be either drowned or hanged. William Davidson departed this life, Aug. 30, 1826, aged sixty-eight years; his wife passed away Feb. 10, 1831, aged seventy-four years. One branch of the Davidson family went South, and the other West, and as a distinctive feature in both branches will be, found the names of James, William, Robert, and Samuel. Gen. Davidson, who was killed in the battle of the Cowpens during the Revolution, came from the same section of Pennsylvania.

Capt. James Davidson was brought to this country when quite young, and followed agricultural pursuits from the first. He was a prominent and leading character among his fellow-associates; politically he was an Abolitionist, and held several town offices. At the time of the War with the British in 18l2, Mr. Davidson was captain of a company; when he returned home he raised a company of volunteers, and was later accorded the title and rank of major. Besides farming, he also occupied himself in surveying. In his religious belief be was a Seceder, and then a United Presbvterian. An Abolitionist in his sympathies, his support was invariably given to the Whig party, until its disruption and assimilation into the Republican party, to which party from then on he gave full allegiance. His death took place Sept. 12, 1856, aged seventy years, six months and twenty-nine days. His wife, Elizabeth Houston, whom he married Dec. 4, 1810, died in her seventy-fifth year, Feb. 28, 1864. William Findley Davidson, the eldest of the six children born to our subject's parents, was born Feb. 26, 1812, was united in marriage with Harriet Newell Dungan, native of North Beaver township, this county, in the month of February, 1842, and died Nov. 16, 1873. Twelve children resulted from this union, as follows: Elizabeth Jane, born July 17, 1843; James Franklin, Sept. 6, 1844; Thomas Dungan, April, 1846; Joseph; Robert Stephen, March 7, 1850; Deborah; Margaret, March 17, 1854; Mary, April 20, 1856; Harriet, April 21, 1858; William Albert, Aug. 16, 1860; John Charles, June, 1863; and Samantha, 1865. Jane, the eldest daughter of Capt. Davidson, was born in 1813, and died in September, 1895. Thomas Houston, the second son, died in February, 1890. He took for his partner Anna Mehard, who still survives him; seven children blessed this union, as follows—Tillie, James, Marguerite, Elizabeth, William, Samuel and Thomas, who died in infancy. Maria, the next in order of birth, was born June 19, 1817, was married May 25, 1847, to James McAnlis, a native of Ireland, and departed this life Sept. 3, 1881. Their three sons were as follows: James Davidson, born March 17, 1848; John Gilmore, Dec. 27, 1849; and William Kirkpatrick, May 1, 1856. Then comes James R., the subject of this sketch, and after him Samuel Houston. The latter married Harriet McClelland, and gathered about his fireside a family of eight children: James Albert; Emily, deceased; Robert; William; Mary; Lizzie, deceased; Hattie; and Ella. Samuel H. Davidson died Feb. 20, 1888.

Our subject in his political affiliations was a stanch and unyielding Republican, but was never an aspirant for office of whatever description. On Feb. 28, 1872, he was united in marriage with Elizabeth Leonard, daughter of Alvah and Isabel (Allsworth) Leonard of Moravia, Pa. Two children resulted from this union: Elizabeth Bell, born Nov. 28, 1872; and Mary Dell, born Nov. 1, 1873. Both young ladies are graduates of the New Castle High School, Miss Elizabeth being valedictorian in the Class of 1891, and Miss Dell graduating in the Class of 1893. After spending three years in Kentucky, where the two daughters were born, Mr. Davidson and family moved to their Locust Hill home, where the mother and daughters reside. Mr. Davidson was a member of the United Presbyterian Church his entire life, which closed Feb. 22, 1893.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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