A Judge, a Justice, a Governor, a Senator, a Vice-President & Several Presidents.

14 Aug

I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but since I don’t recall, here goes.

David Davis is one of the most interesting men I have ever read about.  I first heard his name when I came across a New York Times newspaper article (archived) from 1883.  The story appeared to be at least two full newspaper columns and was written about the marriage of David Davis and his fiance, in Fayetteville, NC, at Tokay Vineyards (owned by Wharton J. Green).  I think the marriage was held about 10 am, and within the hour, Davis and his bride were boarding the paddlewheel steamer, Governor Worth, and heading down the Cape Fear river to Wilmington, NC for the start of their Honeymoon vacation.  After Wilmington, I think the couple made it down to Charleston, SC and then headed West.  I think the original intent was for Davis and bride to go to California.  I don’t recall for what purpose, but then eventually ending up in Illinois (I hope it was Ill. and not Indiana.).

When I first read this story, I thought that David Davis might be some local dignitary or prominent person from Fayetteville.  Nothing in the story gave a clue as to who Davis was, and I had surely never heard of him.  I googled for David Davis and Fayetteville, NC but there was nothing.  At least a couple of years passed, and I returned to the story and googled again for “David Davis. ”  This time there were several online articles about Davis and his story began to bloom.

David Davis was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln.  In fact, Judge Davis tried a good number of legal cases brought by Lincoln, and did not always find in favor of Mr. Lincoln.  Davis became the campaign manager for Lincoln, and was instrumental in getting Abe elected.  I recall that Davis prompted fellow judges to support Lincoln’s presidency which got him elected.

After Lincoln was elected President, he did not immediately reward David Davis.  A couple of years later, President Lincoln appointed David Davis to be a Supreme Court Justice.

When Lincoln was assassinated, Todd, his son, contacted Justice Davis and asked that he come to Washington to act as Executor of President Lincoln’s estate.  *I do not know, but I would imagine there were several executors involved.  Davis was quite candid about Mrs. Lincoln, not describing her in favorable terms.  I think the article I read by Davis had him mention that Mary Lincoln was a kleptomaniac.

Davis was a Supreme Court Justice for about 12 years, and then he ran for the US Senate, representing Illinois, and was elected.

I do not recall the order of events, but Davis’ first wife took ill and died.  Her nurse during her illness, perhaps a young protege, was almost 30 years younger than Justice Davis.  I think Mrs. Davis died either shortly before or after Davis was elected to the US Senate.  Justice Davis and the young woman remained in contact after he became a widower.

Senator David Davis was elected President Pro Tempore during his first, and only US Senate term.  James A. Garfield was elected President of the United States and his Vice President was Chester A. Arthur.  President Garfield was assassinated.  Arthur’s wife died before he took office as President of the United States.  At the time, there was no process for replacing the Vice President, so David Davis became acting Vice President because of his position in the US Senate.  If President Arthur had died during office, Senator Davis would have become an unelected US President.

As I said earlier, David Davis and Adeline Burr had remained in contact after his first wife’s death.  I seem to recall they corresponded and when in Washington visited together.  With President Arthur being widowed, there was no First Lady in the White House.  Davis was also widowed, so Addie was treated as acting First Lady, but this was something she did not wish upon herself.  In fact, Senator Davis did not run for a second term in the Senate because Ms. Burr said she would not marry him with the possibility that she might become the First Lady of the US.

So, about 10 days after his US Senate term ended, Senator Davis came to Fayetteville, NC aboard a train, from Washington, DC via Richmond, VA.

The New York Times Reporter that had been assigned to follow Davis painted a bleak picture of travel to and from Fayetteville, and his stay in Fayetteville was portrayed no better.  The reporter, who was nameless, left a perpetual legacy of his pettiness, when he named the paddlewheel steamer as the General Worth, not Governor Worth, in his article.

The NY Times reporter did not travel down the Cape Fear on the Governor Worth, with the Davis entourage, but traveled the next day aboard the D. Murchison.

Senator Davis was 68 years old when he married Addie Burr, who was 40 years old, 28 years his junior.  Addie had been staying with her cousin, XXX the wife of W. J. Green at Tokay Vineyard, a short distance from Fayetteville, NC.

Senator Davis died just three years after he was married for the second time.  The wife of Wharton J. Green had died only a few months after Addie and Senator Davis were married.  So, Mrs. Davis, was now a widow, and Wharton Green was a widower.

A few years later, Mrs. Davis and Wharton Green married.  They were married for about 20 years, and it was a good marriage.  W. J. Green wrote complimentary of his wife in his biography.  Green died in 1910.  Tokay Vineyard no longer exists although there is a Fayetteville neighborhood and road by the name of Tokay still.  After her husband’s death, Mrs. Green had a home built in the Haymount area of Fayetteville.  The home still exists to this day.

The Steamer Governor Worth was sold and came to run on the Indian River beneath Jacksonville, FL for about 10 years.  As the railroad made its way further south through Florida, the need for water transportation waned.  The steamer was renamed the Rockledge, for the Florida town which was a terminus.

In 1888, President Grover Cleveland, his wife and entourage, came to Florida for the Sub-Tropical Exposition.  As part of his visit, President Cleveland rode aboard the Steamer Rockledge for a two-hours round trip.  Captain XXX sent to the White House, a case of Indian River oranges, for the President and his wife, and was thanked appropriately.

So, the Steamer Governor Worth had an interesting life, both upon the Cape Fear & as the Rockledge upon the Indian River.  But, recall that the Rockledge traveled along with the railroad crew acting as a floating hotel, and eventually was tied up at the Miami waterfront.  The Rockledge was used both as a hotel and a floating casino while docked at Miami.

By 1913, the Rockledge was just a rusting steel hull on the Miami shore.  In late 1913, the Rockledge was hauled several miles out into the Atlantic Ocean and sunk.  *Although there are copious records of the locations of Florida shipwrecks, there is no record for where the Rockledge was scuttled.

NOTE:  I am sure there are several omissions (XXX) and misinformation in the above article.  I wrote it quickly without going back to verify dates, ages, locations, names, etc.  But, having gotten the basic framework down, I hopefully will go back and make all the necessary corrections.

I think the story of David Davis should become a part of North Carolina history because he is “A Most Interesting Man.”  A contemporary of Abraham Lincoln.  Campaign manager for the Lincoln Campaign.  Executor for Lincoln’s Estate.  A US Supreme Court Justice.  A United States Senator.  President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  Acting Vice-President of the United States.  Second wealthiest man in Illinois at the time of this death.

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Posted by on August 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


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