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Biography of Hon. Charles Russell DAVIS

Nicollet and LeSueur Counties, Volume II (biographies), William Gresham, 1916


The Hon. Charles Russell Davis, of St. Peter, who since the year 1902 has represented the third Minnesota district in the lower house of Congress and who for years has been a leader of the bar in this section of the state, is a native of Illinois, having been born on a farm in Pike county, that state, son of Sidney W. Davis, of the Dominion of Canada, and Mary (Pettis) Davis, a native of the state of Ohio.

Sidney W. Davis was born in 1825, son of Orange R. and Adalaide (Barlow) Davis, the former of whom was the son of a native of Wales, who settled in Montreal in the early days, and the latter of French descent, born in Montreal, whose parents had settled in that province upon coming to this side of the Atlantic. In 1838 Orange R. Davis and family left Canada and moved to Jefferson county, New York, where they remained a year, at the end of which time they emigrated to Illinois, settling on a farm in Pike county, just outside the corporate line of the town of Pittsfield, the county seat. Sidney W. Davis was fourteen years of age when his family located in the Pittsfield neighborhood and there he grew to manhood. In 1846 he married Mary Pettis, of Ohio, who died leaving two children, a daughter, Lillian D., who is now living in St. Paul, this state, widow of William McOuat, and Charles R., the immediate subject of this sketch. Following the death of his wife, Sidney W. Davis remained in Illinois until he came to Minnesota, in the early fifties, and preempted a tract of land in LeSueur county near Lake Emily and established a new home there, quickly becoming one of the dominant figures in the pioneer life of this section. Not long after arriving here Mr. Davis recognized the possibilities of the live-stock business and presently became a large dealer in that line. At first he shipped dressed hogs to the Eastern markets, but as the development of the business led to other methods he began shipping live stock, and it was- not long until he was recognized as the largest shipper between Sioux City and St. Paul. For the better convenience of his growing interests Mr. Davis, in 1867, moved to St. Peter and thereafter made that point his headquarters, making his home there the remainder of his life. In addition to his extensive livestock business, Mr. Davis had a hand in practically every enterprise of importance hereabout during the early days and for many years was regarded as a leader in the community life. He was also an extensive dealer in the grain line. During the Civil War he filled large contracts for supplies for the government and in all his enterprises prospered, eventually becoming a very well-to-do citizen. In all his dealings he was direct and straightforward and held the full confidence of the entire community, being held in the highest esteem by all.

Sidney W. Davis lived to a ripe old age; had witnessed the development of this favored region from its practically wilderness state to its present well-established condition and there were few men who had contributed more to the development than he, either in a social, civic or commercial way; so that at his death, in April, 1913, he then being eighty-seven years of age, there was sincere mourning throughout this whole region, for he had done well his part in the scheme of things in the great Northwest. His Uncle, Benjamin Davis, who remained on the home farm in Pike county, Illinois, attained national celebrity as the men who brought to its highest state of culture that popular pet of all pomologists, the "Ben Davis" apple, which takes its name from the man who first produced it.

Charles R. Davis was an infant when he came with his father to this section and he consequently was reared here. During his high-school days at St. Peter he enjoyed the preceptorship of Professors Porter and McGill, the latter of whom was elected governor of the state of Minnesota in 1888. He was graduated from the high school and afterward received instruction in the higher branches in the private school of Professor Creary, at which institution he was a classmate of John A. Lundeen, who afterward became an instructor in mathematics at West Point and subsequently colonel, commanding at the Presido, California. Later, Mr. Davis entered upon a course in the Bryant & Stratton Business College at St. Paul, during which course he gave particular attention to the study, of penmanship, which branch he taught during the latter period of his attendance there. Upon completing his schooling, Mr. Davis engaged in the mercantile business at St. Peter, in which he continued for two years, at the end of which time he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he remained for about two years. He then returned to St. Peter and shortly afterward he entered the law office of the Hon. Alfred Wallin, where for nearly, three years he devoted himself to the study of the law under that able preceptor. He was admitted to the bar, and shortly after he entered into a partnership with Mr. Wallin, and offices were opened at New, Ulm, the firm's legal business became quite extensive. Several years later Mr. Wallin moved to North Dakota, where he became the first chief justice of the supreme court of the new state, and Mr. Davis continued his practice alone and still retains the same suite of rooms in St. Peter occupied by the firm of Wallin & Davis, the rooms in which Mr. Davis began the study of law under the kindly direction of the distinguished jurist. After his election to Congress, when the necessities of his official position required his continued absence in Washington, Mr. Davis admitted George T. Olsen into partnership in his legal business, under the firm style of Davis & Olsen, and this mutually agreeable partnership has since continued, Mr. Olsen necessarily being in charge of the office the greater part of the time, while Mr. Davis is absent on affairs of state.

Charles R. Davis began his official career early in life and it is but proper to say in this connection that in all his relations to the public service he has been faithful and true, discharging every official obligation with an eye single to the common welfare. Shortly after his admission to the bar, Mr. Davis was elected city attorney and served in that capacity for eighteen years. He was elected county attorney and served the public in that important capacity for twelve years, during which time he prosecuted some of the most notable criminal cases in the history of the state. On April 25, 1888, Mr. Davis received a commission as captain of Company I, Second Regiment, Minnesota National Guard, and served for four years in that connection. In the year last mentioned, Mr. Davis was elected on the Republican ticket to represent Nicollet county in the lower house of the Minnesota Legislature, in which capacity he performed such admirable service in behalf of his constituency that he later was elected state senator, representing the seventeenth senatorial district of Minnesota for four years. During his service in the Legislature, Mr. Davis became quite a prominent figure in that body, being a member of a number of the more important committees, among which was the committee on the judiciary. It was during his service in the Legislature that the special investigation of the affairs of the hospitals for the insane was ordered and he was chairman of the legislative committee which had charge of that investigation, his attitude in that connection creating much antagonism on the part of those who had charge of the finances of these institutions. In 1902 Mr. Davis was elected to represent the third congressional district of Minnesota in the lower house of Congress and has been re-elected at each succeeding election since that time, his distinguished and honorable course in the House of Representatives having been a continual incentive to the people of this district to retain him in that responsible position. During his service in Congress, Mr. Davis has become a national figure, long having been recognized as one of the most forceful representatives in Congress. His committee assignments include places on some of the most important committees of the Lower house, among which is a place on the powerful committee on appropriations, and his able service in Congress has earned for him the full confidence and the high regard of his confreres in that body. Able in counsel and skilled in debate, Congressman Davis has represented his constituency in the third district with marked ability, and his continued re-election is regarded by the people hereabout as but a proper expression of their appreciation of his conscientious discharge of every obligation thus imposed.

Charles R. Davis was united in marriage to Emma Haven, who was born in Chicago, the home of her parents at the time of her birth having been located on the present site of the great Marshall Field store, and to this union four children have been born, two of whom died in infancy, Isabella B., who married Walter C. Poehler, a prominent official of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, and Russell H., now a captain of the United States marine corps, stationed in Pekin, China. Captain Davis has had service in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Panama, and participated in the memorable naval "Parade" around the world commanded by Admiral "Bob" Evans in 1908. Captain Davis married Gertrude Gensler, of Washington, D. C., who is prominent in Washington social life, and he is one of the most popular officers in his branch of the service. Mrs. Davis, wife of Congressman Davis, is a daughter of Aaron Haven and Emily Parker, formerly of Boston, Massachusetts. (pages 416-419)
Contributed by Doug Peterson