Joshua Davis Home: Oldest Documented Building in Gadsden County

Joshua Davis Home

[Jefferson County, FL c. 1827]

To try to imagine what life must’ve been like for the pioneers who built this place would be nearly impossible for any of us now. Florida in the first half of the 1800’s was truly a new frontier; untamed, unknown, and harsh. Many of its inland settlers of European descent relocated here from Georgia and the Carolinas with hopes of owning land and establishing solid futures for their children.

Thomas Dawsey was one such settler who came to Florida in 1819, just before it became a territory in 1821. He landed in what would soon (1823) become Gadsden County looking for land to homestead. By 1827, he had acquired 160 acres of land where he built this home on the property that it still sits today. Within just a few short years, the Florida frontier saw stagecoach routes carved out for mail and passenger transport and increased movement into the center of the state. By 1830, one such stagecoach road ran through this area and records indicate that this home was a stop along the route and horse-changing station.

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Just a few years after Dawsey relocated to this area of Florida, he and his family would move again. This time to Poplar Head, Alabama where he and his wife Elizabeth Hooks Dawsey lived until their deaths in 1854 on land granted to them from the federal government for James’ service during the Second Seminole War in Florida.

Another new settler to the area, Joshua Davis from Laurens County, South Carolina, began buying parcels of Dawsey’s land in 1830, and by 1849, he owned the property and moved into this home with his wife Esther Gamble Monford and their 6 children. Davis would upgrade the original one-room 18’x27′ dressed timber structure by adding a rear porch, attic sleeping loft and east room, refurbished the interior/exterior with hand-beaded siding and added a separate kitchen in the rear.

According to the 1859 census, this home, the oldest documented in Gadsden County, was the center point of a 1,440 acre cotton, tobacco, and corn plantation. That same year, the Davis Plantation is listed as having 33 enslaved persons, 6 horses, and 135 cattle. It was responsible for the majority of tobacco production in Gadsden, the county’s principle crop, for the pre-Civil War period. But in that same year, Joshua would pass away here. His wife, Esther, would live here until she died in 1876.

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Their granddaughter Esther Eliza Davis Bates lived there for many years with her husband, Lieutenant Mortimer Boulware Bates, C.S.A. and their 9 children. Lieutenant Bates would pass away in 1930 and the home sat unused until the 1970’s when Davis descendants, the Avant Family, restored the home to its present condition.

Do you think it’s original builders ever considered what the place would look like in 180+ years? Could they have imagined the world that it stands in now? I would think they should be very proud to know that even as everything around it has changed, this place has found continued use in many different times.

*This home is on the National Register of Historic Places

The home as it sat in the 1950's when the Avant Family purchased it - [Photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]


The home as it sat in the 1950’s when the Avant Family purchased it


[Photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]

Avant Family member in front of the home, after restoration c.1980s - [Photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]


Avant Family member in front of the home, after restoration c.1980s


[Photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]

Please note that this property is guarded and can only be seen from the road as it presently belongs to a private hunting organization.

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7 thoughts on “Joshua Davis Home: Oldest Documented Building in Gadsden County”

  1. Mildred Christian

    I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying your history of these historic places.I love the old church it needs to be restored.

  2. I love how you are documenting these old homes and sharing stores with us my husband and I did a lot of hiking in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and we came across the old greenbrier school house and grave yard . Cades cove has a lot of old homesteads too ,anyway keep up the good reporting we love the work your doing…

  3. Wow Kelly, You do such a great job documenting these old structures and bringing life back to them.
    I find it fascinating.
    Thank you for your work.

  4. Thank you for all your work in bringing these places out of the dark to be seen and enjoyed again. Very interesting history as well as good photography.

  5. Love these stories! Getting to know these places, homes and the lives they touched is really special. And you present them so beautifully. Thank you!

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