Davis, George Washington (1797–1853)

By: W. Lamar Fly

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: June 22, 2019

George Washington Davis, Texas patriot in the war for independence, son of Thomas and Ruth (Burk) Davis, was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 12, 1797. In 1800 the family moved to Richmond, Virginia, and after that to Alexandria, where George received his education and learned shoemaking. In 1808 the family moved back to Philadelphia, where Davis studied medicine. They moved to Pittsburg in September 1818 and on to Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1819. On October 8, 1820, George married Rebecca Warfield Gaston, a widow with three children. They subsequently moved to Greenburg, Kentucky, where Davis established a shoemaking trade and began to study law. Failing health caused him to move on to Summersville, Kentucky, where he opened a tavern. A son was born there.

In 1830, having heard of the rich soil, fine climate, beautiful scenery, and abundance of cheap land in Texas, Davis determined to move again. He traveled by wagon to Louisville, put his family and possessions aboard a flatboat on the Ohio River, and undertook a six-weeks' journey to New Orleans. From there he traveled by schooner to Matagorda, Texas; he landed on February 12, 1831, at Cox's Point on Lavaca Bay, opposite the site of present Port Lavaca. Pressing inland, he ascended the Lavaca and Navidad rivers to Old Scotts, where he built a camp for his wife, who had become so severely stricken with rheumatism that she could walk only with the aid of crutches. A second son was born there. Davis left his family at Old Scotts, set out on foot toward his chosen destination, the Guadalupe River, and arrived at Gonzales in the colony of Green DeWitt. There he selected a league of land and was awarded title to it by a grant dated September 6, 1831.

After bringing his family to Gonzales, Davis became an active participant in the movement toward Texas independence. He was named a delegate to the Convention of 1833. He was appointed secretary of the committee of safety for Gonzales and in that capacity wrote a letter dated September 25, 1835, to John Henry Moore, asking for help in protecting the residents' cannon against the Mexican army. As a safety precaution, the cannon was temporarily buried in Davis's peach orchard. On October 2, 1835, as one of the original eighteen members of the Gonzales defense force, Davis took part in the first battle of the Texas Revolution, in which the cannon was successfully defended (see OLD EIGHTEEN and GONZALES "COME AND TAKE IT" CANNON).

On November 1, 1835, Governor Henry Smith commissioned Davis to install Andrew Ponton as first judge and Charles Lockhart as second judge of Gonzales Municipality. Davis was also appointed a delegate to the Consultation held at San Felipe de Austin in November 1835. On February 15, 1836, he was named subcontractor for the Texas army at Bexar, where he issued supplies to the army and to the families of the men who were in the army. This appointment was made by Mathew Caldwell, the prime contractor.

In February 1836 John E. Gaston, Mrs. Davis's son by her first marriage, was one of the thirty-two men from Gonzales who responded to the appeal for reinforcements at the Alamo. He and John Kellogg, her son-in-law, were among the men who died there in the battle of the Alamo.

When the first district court was organized in Gonzales in 1838, Davis was appointed county clerk under Judge James W. Robinson. On June 22, 1842, Davis was appointed postmaster of Cuero, which was then in Gonzales County. On November 10, 1846, the year after Texas was admitted to the Union, Governor J. Pinckney Henderson appointed him notary public for DeWitt County.

Mrs. Davis died on December 29, 1846, and was buried under a spreading oak tree on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River. Davis died on January 30, 1853, and was buried beside her. The graves are marked and have been fenced off and maintained by the couple's descendants. A Texas historical marker dedicated to the Davises is located on Highway 183, seven miles north of Cuero and about two miles east of the gravesite.

John Henry Brown, History of Texas from 1685 to 1892 (2 vols., St. Louis: Daniell, 1893). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

W. Lamar Fly, “Davis, George Washington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/davis-george-washington.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
June 22, 2019