Davis, James (1790–1859)

By: Robert Wooster

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: December 1, 1994

James Davis, planter, soldier, and politician, was born in Virginia in July 1790. He was an officer during the War of 1812 and fought at the battle of New Orleans. He was appointed sheriff of Marian County, Alabama Territory, in 1818, became county judge of Franklin County, Alabama, in 1823, and was solicitor of the Fourth Judicial Court in that state in 1827. He was elected major general, Second Division, Alabama Militia, in 1833. Davis was appointed United States consul at Santa Fe in November 1831 and moved to Texas about 1834. He served on Gen. Sam Houston's staff in 1836 and was asked to help prevent attacks on the Alabama and Coushatta Indians in April 1842. As adjutant general of the Army of the Republic of Texas from May to July 1842, Davis and Capt. Ewen Cameron, leading what had been a mutinous, disorganized, ill-supplied command, defeated a Mexican force three times their size at the engagement at Lipantitlán on July 7, 1842.

Having established the Lake Creek Plantation on the west bank of the Trinity River, Davis represented Liberty County in the Eighth Congress of the republic in 1843–44. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1845 as well as a delegate to the national Democratic convention at Baltimore in 1848. He was elected state senator from Liberty, Jefferson, Tyler, and Polk counties and served in the Fourth Texas Legislature (1851–53). The 1850 census reported that Davis, one of the wealthiest men in East Texas, owned $50,000 in real property in Polk County and forty-seven slaves in Liberty and Polk counties. He was married to Anne Eliza Hill and had seven children. He supported homestead exemptions for property owners and gave land to help establish a Baptist church in 1848. He died on February 10, 1859, and was buried at Coldspring.

James Davis Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library, Liberty, Texas. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Republic of Texas

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

Robert Wooster, “Davis, James,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/davis-james.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994