Joshua Davis Home | Gadsden County, Florida | 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 1800s 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.
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 by 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 1850 census, this home, the oldest documented in Gadsden County, was the center point of 1,440-acre cotton, tobacco, and corn plantation where at least 33 people were enslaved. This plantation was responsible for the majority of tobacco production in Gadsden, the county’s principal crop, for the pre-Civil War period due to the work of those forced to labor in the fields. As a result, the Davis family attained great wealth for their time.
But in 1859, Joshua Davis would pass away here in his home. His wife, Esther, would live there until she died in 1876.
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 1970s when Davis descendants, the Avant Family, restored the home to its present condition.
Do you think its 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 building has found continued use in many different times.
*This home is on the National Register of Historic Places