- Saltwater People Historical Society
- San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
- A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.
25 March 2017
❖ DAVIS BAY CREW, Lopez Island ❖
"At least 150 years have passed since the many branched Davis family of Dungeness and Lopez Island migrated to NW Washington.
When members of the family got together in 1958 for a reunion at the old farm on Davis Bay, on the southwest side of Lopez Island, 104 descendants of Hezekiah Davis were present. Some 73 lived in Seattle and most of the others lived in nearby counties (in 1960.)
Lopez Island boasts not only a Davis Bay, but a Davis Point, on its northwest side. The latter is a military reserve, known to the Davises as Jack Shearer's Point, for John Shearer, an Englishman nickname "Panama Jack," who squatted there for a quarter of a century.
It is a mystery how the name Davis Bay got on the English Admiralty chart of 1859. American coast surveyors had discovered the anchorage in 1854 and called it Shoal Bight, a name soon forgotten.
The Davises did not establish homes in Washington until 1860, but there may have been another man of the same surname ahead of them.
The 1870 census listed Benjamin Davis, farmer from MA, on Lopez.
Benjamin, who was no relation of Hezekiah and his offspring, probably was the American who tangled with military authorities on San Juan Island in 1865. He had been living on Lopez, running livestock there for several years, an account says, and went to San Juan to farm a seven acre tract on shares.
After working three months, Davis visited Lopez, to see how his cattle were getting along. On his return to San Juan, he spied a goat, which he said was his property, in the possession of the military officers.
The commander of the post paid a $5 greenback for the animal. Ben demanded gold instead of devalued currency. Captain Gray, annoyed, asked Davis how long he had been on San Juan and if he did not know that he needed permission to remain there. Davis professed ignorance of the military-occupation rules. He said he wanted to stay. Gray told him the request was too late, Davis must settle his affairs within a week and depart.
The settler returned to Lopez. If he was indeed Benjamin Davis, he was still there in 1870, with his Indian wife and child.
Meanwhile, James L. Davis, a son of Hezekiah, had taken his family to Lopez and built a log house near Davis Bay. None of his descendants ever heard of Benjamin Davis, who must have gone soon after Hezekiah's arrival. Ben was not around when the 1880 census was enumerated.
The Davis clan, in 1959-1960, became interested in their lineage and several members have pieced bits together. They traced their genealogy back to 1777, when an ancestor received a crown grant of timberland in E. Ontario, Can.
Hezekiah, born in 1802, within four miles of Niagara Falls, had five sons, with two who caught the gold-rush fever and headed west.
At least one of the Davis brothers, maybe two, moved north up the Coast across OR and WA. After seven years and much persuasion, according to Eunice E. Troxell of Whidbey Island, who was assembling some of the Davis history, her father, James L and mother and three children came west and moved to Lopez in 1869.
Amelia Davis, James' wife, was the first white woman on Lopez. It was a lonely place for her. The 22 other settlers were bachelors or had Indian wives.
James shipped in cattle from Texas by way of San Francisco and contracted to supply meat to the British garrison on San Juan. He hired Indians to clear land for him and, after the boundary dispute ended three years later, he raised matched teams of Percheron horses and branched into dairying.
Within sight of James' house and directly south of Davis Bay lay 58-acre Long Island, which had been the soldier's homestead of J.J. Culpeper. In 1874 the veteran sold his squatter's rights to Robert Firth of San Juan for $20, less than half the value of a cow.
Hezekiah stayed on Long Island for some years before returning to Dungeness, where he died in 1890.
The Davises on Lopez Island multiplied. James and Amelia had ten children. The first born on the island was James Ernest, to whom his father sold the homestead in 1902. His son-in-law and daughter Lenore (Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln Weeks) live there now (1960.)
James L. had increased his holdings to 210 acres, a portion of which went to another son, Herbert, who died in 1929. Herbert's widow, Mrs. Mary Davis of Garrison Bay, San Juan Island, was killed in an auto accident in December 1959, closing one chapter of the genealogy."
The above column by author/historian Lucile McDonald. The Seattle Times, 6 March 1960.
1908: "In December J. L. Davis, the well known farmer of Lopez Island went to Victoria with 274 boxes of apples. The shipment was made on the HERMOSA, of Lopez, which cleared from Friday Harbor. It is 41 years since Mr. Davis took his first shipment of produce from Lopez Island to Victoria, B.C., that being 5 years before the settlement of the boundary dispute. There were no customs officers on the islands then and settlers going to Victoria with produce reported to Capt. Delacombe, in command of the garrison at English Camp to secure a permit from him. Davis said that in the lot of produce that he took to Victoria he had 3 enormous Hubbard squashes that weighed about 90 lbs each and that he sold them for $27. He also sold potatoes in Victoria for $80 per ton and spoke of one lot of 7 tons shipped by schooner ORCAS, operated by Dan and Robert McLachlan." San Juan Islander.
1929: 6 January, Captain Herbert H. Davis passed away at his family home at English Camp, age 61 years, 7 months, son of J.L. and Amelia Davis pioneer residents of Lopez Is. During his early and active work he followed the life of a steamboatman and was one of the best known pilots on Puget Sound. For 15 years he was employed as captain for the Roche Harbor Lime Co. He was the first president of the San Juan Commercial Club, later voted in with a life membership. The Friday Harbor Journal. Publishing date?
1944: 19 October. Capt. Hilliard (Hill) Davis, 41, a native of Lopez Island, member of the well-known family of tugboat men, and master of the Foss ocean tug WANDERER, suffered a fatal heart attack aboard that vessel in October. According to the WANDERER's log book, provided by Jay Peterson of the Foss Co., and information from Jim Henry and Walter Hedwall of that firm, the tug departed the Vancouver, BC grain elevator at 5:15 PM, 19 October with the barge ISLAND FORESTER laden with a full load of grain in tow. After passing out through First Narrows, Capt. Davis went to the after controls on the boat deck while the mate, Dutch Frye, proceeded to pay out the tow-line. When they had better than half the wire out and Capt. Davis still hadn't slowed her down, the mate looked up and saw the captain lying on the deck. Frye fetched up on the towing winch brake and ran to the controls and slowed her down, after which the towline was again shortened and the tug and barge anchored in English Bay. Capt. Davis had died almost instantly. Capt. Walt Stark was sent up from Seattle the next morning to take command of the WANDERER.
From: H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Newell, Gordon, editor.
1960: Late August or early September Arthur D. Davis, age 87, born on Lopez Island, passed away in Friday Harbor, one-half year after McDonald's Sunday Times interview was published. For many years he operated tug boats to Alaska and between Puget Sound ports.
From: The Friday Harbor Journal, 8 Sept. 1960
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