I have always figured that someone as central to the existence of an entire town – in this case, Webster, Iowa – must have at least one photograph floating around the Internet. Perhaps it’s because Webster was pretty much all his… perhaps it’s because when the man died, so did Webster. Regardless, words comprise the only visual I have of my great-great grandfather, Otho Davis.
Otho was the eldest son of Samuel Davis and Sally Ball, born September 13, 1817 in Erie County, Pennsylvania – probably Conneaut Township. Some of his own children thought he’d been born in Maine – and said so in census reports. No clue where that came from!
Otho left home in about 1839, headed for the wilds of Iowa. He first landed in what is now Jefferson County, near the town of Fairfield.
You know, I’m going to take the easy way out with this post and let someone else describe the man. The following is his obituary as it ran in the Winterset Madisonian of March 29, 1899. I’d say, as obituaries go, his is truly enviable!
Otho Davis died at his home in Webster township, Madison county, Iowa, at the age of 81 years, 6 months and 6 days.
In this obituary we chronicle the life and death of one of Iowa’s oldest and most respected citizens. He was born in the state of Pennsylvania, Erie county, in the year A. D. 1817. He emigrated to the then territory of Iowa in the year 1839, and settled in Jefferson county where he built for himself a small home. In the year 1843 he united in marriage with Miss Jane Cochran. About this time Otho exchanged his oxen for horses and bought himself a new wagon, and he has often told the writer of this was the happiest period of his life. In the year 1850 he moved to Madison county and bought a home joining the town plat of Winterset on the south. In the year 1856 he moved to Webster township, to the home where he remained until his death. In the year 1866 his wife died. To this union were born seven children, six of whom still survive him, three boys and three girls, all grown and married. He married for his second wife Mrs. Amanda J. Drake, in the year 1869. She still survives him.
In his obituary the Madisonian of the 22d speaks of him as filling about all the offices of the township, which is correct. He also filled the offices of recorder and sheriff and member of the board of supervisors. When we first formed an acquaintance, he was a Whig and later a Republican from which he never deviated. He would contend earnestly for his political principles, but never harshly. For sociability we seldom find his equal. Before old age came upon him it was nothing uncommon to hear him singing and laughing for half a mile, and, as for his quarreling with some one, as often happens between men and neighbors, we never heard of such a thing.
In his death this community loses one of its best citizens, one who departs this life without an enemy, and we that are acquainted with him have known him as a kind father, affectionate husband and a noble citizen. A neighbor.
Update: Shortly before Christmas 2018, I ran across two images of Otho on a distant cousin’s ancestry.com tree. There are three, actually – but one is a little too rough to share. The first one is before Jane’s death in 1866 – probably no more than a few years. The other, I have no idea. His hairline is evidence of the passing of several years, but he’s not especially gray.