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The Two James DAVIS'es in Early Christian County, Kentucky
There were two James DAVIS'es early to Christian County, Kentucky: These two men have been mixed up by published authors beginning as far back as 1884, with the consequence that their errors are widespread among family researchers.  This article is my attempt at resolving these errors.

I begin with an excerpt from the 1884 book, County of Christian, Kentucky, Historical and Genealogical, edited by William Henry Perrin (Battey Publ. Co., Chicago and Louisville).  Perry failed to recognize that there were two James DAVIS'es, so he lumped them into one person.  He also attributes some of the exploits of Col. John MONTGOMERY to James DAVIS.  As brothers-in-law, some of this is likely true, but we don't know how much.   Like other "vanity" books of this era, the accounts are undocumented — and romanticized.  You would like to believe these glowing accounts of our ancestors, but please keep in mind that no one ever lost money selling books telling people what they want to hear...  Our job, in this century, is to document (or debunk) what is claimed in them.

Next is the 1930 book by Charles M. Meachum, History of Christian County, Kentucky.  He followed Perrin in viewing the two as one person, though he at least recognized he had a problem rationalizing some of the data.

Lastly, the anonymous authors of the 1986 book, Family Histories, 1797-1986, published by the Christian County Genealogical Society of Hopkinsville, KY, are to be commended that they at least did recognize these were two different men, in sketches entitled, "JAMES DAVIS #1" and "JAMES DAVIS #2."  However, they didn't assign all the data to the correct individual.

Below are transcriptions of the above sketches with my annotations and interpretations.  In doing so, I owe a considerable debt to my aunt, Betty Ann (Matthiesen) Cogliati (1920-2009), and her maternal grandmother, Maude Irene (Thompson) Rose (1877-1975), both of whom worked for decades on the family genealogy, particulary on our DAVIS line (we descend from James DAVIS #1).  If you see errors I have made, please do not hesitate to point them out to me.  The goal here is the truth, not more errors.

Most of the text in the excerpts below pertains to James DAVIS #1.  To distinguish text about him from that about James DAVIS #2, I've highlighted them in the color.  The three main characters here are:

"James DAVIS #1" (1744-1822), husband of Hannah RAMSEY
Augusta [now Wythe] Co., VA, to Whitney Station, Lincoln Co., KY,
then Christian Co., KY [now Montgomery Co., TN], then Randolph Co., MO

Col. John MONGOMERY (1748-1794), husband of Phoebe RAMSEY,
famous Revolutionary War soldier and namesake of Montgomery Co., TN,
killed by Amerindians near Eddyville, Lyon Co., KY,
Augusta Co., VA, to... Christian Co., KY [now Montgomery Co., TN]

"James DAVIS #2" (1755-1797), husband of Deborah MILLER
killed by Amerindians; first will recorded in Christian Co., KY
Augusta Co., VA, to Christian Co., KY

The text in bright red is, so far, unresolved.  All boldface is added by me.

Extract from Perrin (1884), who ran on to such long paragraphs that I've broken these up into shorter paragraphs to make the excerpt more readable:

The First Pioneers.—Who were the first settlers of Christian County?  This is now a question not easily answered.  According to the historian, Collins, James Davis and John Montgomery were the first white men to settle in the county.  They came here, he says, in 1785, and built a block-house, but beyond this simple statement little is known of them except through fast fading traditions.

It is said, however, they were from Augusta County, Va., and there are many persons still living who remember to have often heard their voyage to this county described; how they traversed the wilderness to Pittsburgh, and there embarked on board of boats or canoes, and, surrounded by innumerable perils, passed down the Ohio, up the Cumberland to the mouth of Red River, and up that stream to what afterward became Christian County.

Both James DAVIS and John MONTGOMERY were, indeed, from Augusta [now Wythe] Co., VA, where each married a daughter of Josiah RAMSEY.  The journey down the Ohio River appears to refer to the military campaigns of Col. George ROGERS during the Revolutionary War participated in by Col. John MONTGOMERY.  It's entirely possible Lt. Col. James DAVIS accompanied them.
Excerpt from Meacham (1930):
Born April, 1755
Died March 29, 1797

So far as known this is the oldest marked grave of a white man in Christian county.  A part of the Davis grant was sold to Dr. John F. Bell, father of Capt. Darwin Bell, Capt. C.D. Bell, and other sons and daughters, who have numerous descendants in Kentucky and other states. Capt. Darwin Bell was authority for the statement that his father bought his land from Davis and that Davis told him he settled it in 1782.  The story is told that a man named Carpenter, who had a cabin near Trenton, a few miles away, was attacked by Indians while in his woods and fled to Davis' block house, which he barely reached before the pursuing Indians caught him.  His wife and children were left in his cabin.  A squad was gotten together to go and see what fate had overtaken them and Carpenter was overjoyed to find that they had not been molested.  He then became indignant and urged that the Indians be pursued and killed.  Davis, an experienced hunter and Indian fighter, not only advised against it, but refused to go.  He told them the Indians would surely provide an ambuscade, expecting to be followed.  His son, however, went with the party smarting under the intimation that his father was afraid to go.  It cost him his life, for it turned out just as the old pioneer had predicted and Davis was killed and others wounded.  This incident probably accounts for the story that Davis, the pioneer, like Montgomery, was killed.  Davis mourned for his son, but consoled himself, with a kind of fatalism, believing that it was something that had to happen.

There is a family tradition that James Davis was killed March 29, 1797, by a roving band of Indians.  He was riding on his horse when attacked and undertook to escape through the woods, in an effort to reach the fort.  He ran into a swinging grapevine that pulled him from his horse and before he could remount the Indians came upon him and slew him.  If this happened his body was recovered and buried in the family graveyard where two other Davises -- Alfred and William -- are also buried.  W.H.


Jones, a descendant, thinks they were brothers of James Davis, though one of them may have been his son.

The headstones were put up at a later date and give but little information.

The tombstone shows that James Davis died at the comparatively early age of 52.  This part is inconsistent with the statement in Perrin's history that as game grew scarcer and having no fondness for tilling the soil, he followed Boone's example and went further west to Missouri, where one of his [grand]sons, Jo Davis, became very prominent.  It is more likely that one of his sons went to Missouri.  I have been unable to learn how many children he had.

One of his daughters, Sallie Davis, married Robert Harrison; and Naomi Harrison, her daughter, in turn became the wife of William H. Fortson.  The Fortsons inherited the part of the original grant upon which Davis lived and it is now known as the Fortson place.  It is about one mile from the Dixie Bee Line, about half way between Pembroke and Trenton, in the edge of Christian County, near the Todd County line. Lineal descendants of James Davis in 1929 are his great-great-grandchildren, William H. Jones and his sisters, Mrs. J.W. Cross, of Pembroke, Mrs. Eustice A. Hail, of Houston, Texas, and Mrs. D.C. Williams, now of Woodbury, Georgia.  Mrs. Hail formerly lived in Nashville, the widow of a wealthy capitalist.  Mrs. Cross owns the homestead where the pioneer's grave is located.  Her mother was Lizzie Fortson, who married Caleb H. Jones, who died in 1915, aged 75 years.  There were other lines of descent, besides the Jones family, but this investigation is dealing only with the local descendants of the pioneer.  Those who have been mentioned have numerous sons and daughters, all of whom are eligible to membership in the patriotic societies growing out of the Revolutionary war, since it is a well-established fact that John (sic) Davis received a grant of land as a Revolutionary soldier.


Perhaps the very earliest settlers in western Kentucky came down the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers on flatboats, even before James Davis and John Montgomery came to Christian County in 1782...

Family Group Sheet of James DAVIS & Hannah RAMSEY

Family Group Sheet of Col. John MONTGOMERY & Phoebe RAMSEY

Family Group Sheet of James DAVIS & Deborah MILLER

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