Marshall County


Richard DAVIDSON, who resides on section 17, La Prairie township, is a worthy representative of that land which can with pride boast of its great warriors and statesmen in the persons of Bruce, Wallace and others; its greatest of all novelists, Sir Walter Scott, and in later days of Black, Maclaren and Crockett; and of its great poet, the immortal Burns. No braver, prouder or more steadfast people ever lived than those inhabiting the land of poetry and song, “Bonnie Scotland.” However far from the land of his birth, the true Scotchman never forgets and often sighs for its blue-clad hills, its beautiful lakes and its heavy forests. Its manners and customs are ever dear to his heart, and while he may discard the highland garb for the more modern garment, his heart will thrill with rapture at the sound of the bagpipe as it plays an old familiar tune, and however staid he may be in other matters, he will dance with you the highland fling. Scotch games and amusements appeal to every fiber of his being, and he is seldom so busy but he will take at least one day in the year to join with others in Scottish festivities. Marshall county has within its borders many representatives of this hardy race, and none stand higher in the estimation of the people than the subject of this sketch, who, leaving his native land to seek a home and fortune in America, can say with Burns,

Adieu, a heart-warm, fond adieu.
Tho’ I to foreign lands must hie,
Pursuing fortune’s slippery ba’
With melting heart, and brimful eye,
I’ll mind you still, tho’ far awa’.”

Mr. DAVIDSON comes of good, old stock, a grand uncle of his being a famous character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, “Guy Mannering.” “Dandie DINMONT,” the grand-uncle, was the originator and breeder of the celebrated terriers known as the Dandie Dinmont breed, and called “Pepper” and “Mustard.” His home was in the South Highlands and the family were devoted to the chase and other active pursuits. His son, John DAVIDSON, who lived in Steuben township for a time, inherited his father’s characteristics. In 1849 he went to California, but returned and died in Steuben township. A daughter, Jeannette, is now Mrs. John WILLIAMSON, and lives on the old homestead, in Steuben township.

James DAVIDSON, the father of our subject, was reared on a farm and in early manhood married Margaret PRINGLE, a sister of Andrew PRINGLE, late of La Prairie township, who was the father of Robert PRINGLE. In 1845, he rented a farm in Pebbleshire, Scotland, but the low prices experienced before the Crimean war, caused him to lose almost his all, leaving him barely enough to bring him and his family to America. With his family, consisting of wife, four sons and two daughter, he came direct to Marshall county in 1850. His brother, George DAVIDSON, six years previously, had settled in Steuben township, Marshall county, and by his advice he determined to try his fortunes in the new world. On his arrival he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land at government price. He did not have the money with which to make the purchase, but borrowed it of Mr. BRADUS, of Lacon, paying fifty dollars for its use a period of three months. The land was bought of Rev. Seth BLISS, of Boston, and is now the home farm of Adam DAVIDSON, on section 23. It took several years to pay off the debt incurred in the purchase of the land and in making the improvements thereon. But it was finally done and other tracts were added from time to time. This farm remained his home until called to the better land June 20, 1880, in his eighty-third year. His good wife survived him nearly four years, dying January 14, 1884, also in her eighty-third year.

In the old country, James DAVIDSON and his wife were members of the Presbyterian church, but on coming to America their religious convictions underwent a change band they united with the Baptist church in Steuben township, with which they were faithful members till death. In speaking with old friends and neighbors about this worthy couple, with one accord they assert that in James DAVIDSON was found a man of kind impulse, one in whom there abode nothing of a selfish nature, nor would he dissemble in the least. Always plain and outspoken, none were ever at a loss to know where he stood upon any subject which he had given any thought. A close Bible reader, he was thoroughly posted on the religious controversies of the day, and while not disposed to be argumentative, he had fixed opinions on all subjects and could express himself plainly and satisfactorily. A kind husband, a loving father, and a steadfast friend, his death was mourned by family and friends alike. Mrs. DAVIDSON was also known and loved by many throughout Marshall and adjoining counties. She was a woman of superior natural ability, but her educational advantages were limited in childhood, but she, too, could express herself intelligently upon the various questions of the day. To James DAVIDSON and wife were born six children, all of whom grew to man and womanhood with the exception of one – Richard, the subject of this sketch; Adam, now residing on the old homestead; James, the present supervisor from la Prairie township; Jeannette, who died in middle life; Margaret, now the widow of Alexander BURNETT, of Ford county, Illinois; and Walter, who died at the age of fifteen years.

Richard DAVIDSON, of whom we now write, was born in Roxburghshire, Scotland, July 13, 1830, and his boyhood and youth were spent in his native country. He was twenty years old when he came with the family to the United States, and continued under the parental roof for seven years longer, assisting his father in the cultivation of the home farm and in his getting a good start in the new world. On the 9th of January, 1857, he was united in marriage with Miss Mary SCOTT, a daughter of Thomas and Jennet (ELLIOTT) SCOTT. Her father was also a native of Roxburghshire, Scotland, a shepherd by occupation in his native country. He came to America in 1845, driving from Chicago to Marshall county, and making his first stop with George DAVIDSON, in Steuben township, and first locating just across the line in Peoria county; but in 1848 he settled on section 16, La Prairie township, where he opened up a farm and there died in 1855. His wife survived him many years, dying in 1874. Their family consisted of two sons and three daughters. One son, Henry, lived on the old homestead, married, and died in 1875, leaving a widow, but no family. William was drowned in the Illinois river, while crossing on the ice at Lacon, stepping into a hole made by the ice men. His wife and children still reside on a farm in La Prairie township. Of the daughters, Jeannette, married John WILEY, and both have since died, leaving no family; Mary is the wife of our subject; while Ellen married Robert GRIEVE, moved to Stark county and there died.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. DAVIDSON commenced life on a rented farm, where they remained three years, when he purchased eighty acres of land on section 17, giving his notes for two thousand dollars, the purchase price. With characteristic energy he went to work to pay off the indebtedness and improve the place. Wheat at that time was almost a sure crop and brought a good price, and to this cereal he devoted a good part of the farm. It was not many years before the indebtedness was paid off, and other tracts were added, until to-day his fine farm consists of two hundred and eighty acres under the most substantial improvements and also two hundred acres in Cass county, Iowa. For one eighty acre tract of his land he paid five thousand, five hundred dollars.

Mr. DAVIDSON is a thorough, practical farmer, and has never taken up with any special hobby, either in regular farming or stock-raising. When grain was thought to be the most profitable he would raise grain; if, on the other hand he thought best to give special attention to stock, he would do so. He endeavors at all times to raise a good breed of animals, and therefore has invested largely in Poland-China hogs, some of which he has with success exhibited at local fairs. He usually ships his own stock and therefore does not divide profit with the middleman. For some years he has been a stockholder and director in the Wyoming fair, and served one year as its president.

In 1895 Mr. DAVIDSON erected what may be termed a model country home, one having all the conveniences of the city home, and here with his pleasant and happy family life will indeed be enjoyable, and he proposes to make the most of life. He sees no reason why the farmer should live more of a humdrum life than the many in any other profession. With time well spent, properly divided between work and recreation, the farmer could be well posted in all the standard and current literature of the day.

In politics Mr. DAVIDSON is a republican, and has voted with that party since first he became a naturalized citizen. His first presidential vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He believes it to be the duty of every legal voter to attend the primaries of his party, and use his influence for good, without fear or for reward. For many years he served as delegate from his township and county to the county, district and state conventions. He has satisfactorily filled almost every local office, including collector, assessor, commissioner of highways and justice of the peace, which position he now holds.

To Mr. and Mrs. DAVISON seven children have been born: James, now residing in Cass county, Iowa, where he is engaged in farming; Thomas, engaged in mining in Summit county, Colorado; John, who took a course in a business college at Quincy, at home; William Henry, a farmer of Stark county, Illinois; Richard Grant, at home; Mary Scott educated at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, at home; and Richard Walter, who died in infancy. The family are members of the United Presbyterian church. Mr. DAVIDSON belongs to Lawn Ridge lodge, No. 415, F. & A. M., and has taken a fairly active part in its work.

He is a man of literary tastes and spends some of his most pleasant hours in the companionship of the friends in his library. His special favorite may well be the poet of his own native land, Robert burns, who is not only the poet of Scotland, but of all lands, for he is beloved by thousands throughout the whole world. His is “the touch of nature” that “makes the whole world kin.” His songs, so sweet, appeal to every heart, and the spirit of the reader attunes to the rhythm of –

Ye banks and braes and streams around
The castle o’ Montgomery.”

Again we seem to see and know that kindly, sympathetic nature, who could write –

I truly sorrow man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!”

Mr. DAVIDSON is now acting as president of the Burns Anniversary meeting at Chillicothe to celebrate the birthday of the immortal bard and foster love for the man in whom honor and pathos, strength and weakness, firmness and tenderness were so strongly blended, yet who was “a man for a’ that;” nor can we better close this record than with the words of the well-loved Burns:

Then let us pray that come to may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, and a’ that
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a’ that,
That man to man, the warld o’er
Shall brothers be for a' that.”

Extracted April 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.

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