Charles Lock Davidson.A pioneer family in any community is of more or less historic interest, no matter if its tenure of residence be of long or short duration. But when a family is not only one among the first to settle in a community, but also continues to reside in it for decade after decade and generation after generation, and certain of its members at all times are leaders in every movement intended to conserve the community's welfare and promote its progress, then that family becomes of special historic interest and prominence. One of the most prominent families of southern Kansas, and, indeed, of the whole state, is the Davidson family of Wichita, established there, in 1872, by the late Stephen Lock Davidson, who had come to the Sunflower State from the State of New York and not only became one of the early settlers of Wichita, but also was a prominent figure in her early history.
Stephen Lock Davidson was born at Ackworth, N. H., Feb. 28, 1814, son of James and Jane Davidson. James Davidson was a son of John Davidson, a Revolutionary soldier who was severely wounded in the battle of Bunker Hill, and whose father, William Davidson, emigrated from the North of Ireland to New England, in 1720, and became the founder of the family in America. Originally the Davidson family lived in Scotland, and it is, therefore, of Scotch descent. It belonged to the Scottish clan of Dhai, possessed a coat-of-arms, and belonged to the nobility. When Oliver Cromwell undertook to solve the Irish question by sending a number of sturdy Scotchmen to the North of Ireland, certain members of the Davidson family were among those chosen for the mission, and this is how the family became established in the North of Ireland. It will thus be seen that the Davidson family is not only of good, patriotic Scotch stock, across the water, but that it is, also, of patriotic American descent on this side; since it was represented in the great struggle for American independence, and, consequently, has in it some of the best blood of which the American nation can boast. Stephen Lock Davidson removed with his parents from New Hampshire to the State of New York, when six years old, the trip being made with an ox team. In 1872 he made a business trip to the State of Kansas. Becoming favorably impressed with the Sunflower State, which had then only fairly begun its wonderful career of industrial development, he decided to bring his family thither and make it his future home. He resided during the rest of his life in Wichita. He was a man of large means, devoted his attention largely to the business of loaning money, and was the founder of the S. L. Davidson Mortgage Company, organized in 1885, a concern which was established on a sound, conservative, business basis, and became one of the strongest and best known financial institutions in Wichita. The S. L. Davidson Mortgage Company soon built up a large and lucrative business and became so thoroughly entrenched in a business way as to be able to "weather all the storms" which have beset the financial world during the past quarter of a century, and it is one of a very few similar concerns doing business in Kansas that has been able so to survive. Whether in the midst of crop failure or panic the company has steadfastly maintained a permanency, and it has thus proved itself to be a boon and a God-send to the agricultural development of both Kansas and Oklahoma. Stephen Lock Davidson was twice married, his first wife being Jane Lancaster. Upon her death he married Susan Rhoda Hampton. Four children survive his second marriage: James Oakley is one of Wichita's most honored and substantial citizens; Mrs. A. H. Gossard resides in Kansas City, Mo.; Hon. Charles Lock Davidson is the present mayor of Wichita; and Mrs. Berdine Woolard resides in Wichita.
Hon. Charles Lock Davidson, the second son of Stephen Lock Davidson and his second wife, Susan Rhoda Hampton, was born on a farm near Cuba, Allegany county, New York, Nov. 22, 1859. His mother, Susan Rhoda Hampton, was born in Pennsylvania, of English and Dutch descent. She, too, was of good Revolutionary stock, her maternal grandfather, Stephen Hopkins, serving all through the Revolutionary war as a lieutenant. Subsequently he became an Episcopal clergyman. Charles Lock Davidson spent his early boyhood days in his native New York county. He came to Kansas with the family, in 1872, arriving in Wichita October 22 of that year. From that date to this he has been a resident of the city, and during the forty years which have intervened has been a Kansan first, last and all the time; and he has been at all times active in aiding and encouraging all movements which would promote the growth and welfare of his adopted city and state. He was educated in a primitive public school, in Wichita, and later spent four years, from 1877 to 1881, in the Kansas State University. In early life the cattle industry gave him ample experience in the saddle, and he was developed into a strong youth and man. In his early manhood he became associated with his father in the mortgage loan business, and along with his father he helped to organize the S. L. Davidson Mortgage Company, in 1885; and by applying to it his fine business talent he contributed largely to its subsequent success. Since his father's death its entire management has devolved upon him, and though the company is incorporated, he owns practically all of its stock. Nearly every other mortgage loan concern in the state, organized more than a quarter of a century ago, has either failed outright and been forced to quit, or else has been liquidated voluntarily. The S. L. Davidson Mortgage Company, however, has been conducted on such conservative lines as to be able to withstand the strain in every panic, and from the date of its organization, more than twenty-five years ago, until a comparatively recent period, it never stopped business for a single day. This condition has been largely brought about through the executive force and fine business ability of Charles Lock Davidson, who has been at its helm as vice-president and manager since the date of its organization. In more recent years, however, owing to the demands of official cares he has not pushed actively the business of the concern, though its corporate existence still remains intact. He has also been interested directly and indirectly with many other leading business enterprises of his city, and perhaps no one of its citizens has had more to do with the development and building up of the new and modern Wichita than he during the past twenty years. In truth he has been one of the foremost in every movement which had for its object the city's progress, thrift and substantial growth. The bulk of the credit for the great change which has been wrought in Wichita, a change which has transformed a great, big, overgrown village into a fine, well organized, well appointed, modern city of nearly 60,000 inhabitants, belongs to Charles Lock Davidson and a few other public spirited citizens of the same type. In this connection it may be said that he was one of the men who promoted the movement which resulted in bringing natural gas to Wichita, and at all times he has been one of the most active spirits in securing the building of railroads through and factories in the city. He was one of the organizers of the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and served three years as its first president. He is also a director of the Wichita Commercial Club. He is one of the leading members of St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church of Wichita, and he has been president of its board of trustees and superintendent of its Sunday school for a quarter of a century. He was the designer of its fine, new church edifice on North Lawrence avenue, one of the handsomest churches in the city, and was a very large contributor to its building fund.
Mr. Davidson has also been just as prominent in the fraternal and political circles of Wichita as in its business and religious affairs. He is an Elk, an Odd Fellow, and a Thirty-second degree Mason. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and belongs to various other social and fraternal organizations. While he has been prominent in the social, fraternal, business and religious life of the city it has remained for him to achieve his greatest degree of prominence in the political affairs of both his city and his state. Always a devoted disciple of the Republican party he served one term in the lower branch of the state legislature from Sedgwick county, and left his impress upon some of the most important legislation of the state. He is the author of the bill providing for the present State Tax Commission, which has resulted in completely revolutionizing the former tax system of Kansas, and which has placed the finances of the great commonwealth on a firm and business-like basis. He served for six years as a member of the Wichita city council, under the old regime, and during the whole period of his service therein was chairman of the park commission, and as such worked out and established Wichita's present beautiful park system, of which every citizen of the city is justly proud. It was because of his fine record in every capacity, both public and private, that, when Wichita became ready to enter upon the new commission form of government, in 1909, and the safest and best man was sought to place at the helm, to the end that the new form of government might be safely ushered in and firmly established, Charles L. Davidson was called to the mayoralty. Though pitted against a man of wide popularity and a man who had whatever advantage might be derived from present possession of the office, was a candidate for reëlection, and who had the prestige of a very good record behind him, Mr. Davidson was triumphantly elected, and his splendid record as chief executive during the past two years has demonstrated to a nicety the wisdom of the people in calling him to the position. He brought to the office of mayor the same business ability which he had displayed in his private affairs, and the result has been that the city's affairs during the past two years have been conducted in a wise, conservative and business-like way. Himself a broad minded man he does things on a broad scale and his administration as mayor of the city of Wichita will ever be noted as one in which many stupendous municipal undertakings were projected and accomplished, undertakings which, to an executive of smaller caliber, would have appeared staggering and would have been summarily dismissed as being wholly unfeasible, impractical, and altogether out of the question. Not so with Mayor Davidson. No municipal undertaking, however arduous the task to accomplish it, appeared too colossal to him, if he was persuaded to believe that by its accomplishment he would place another important spoke in Wichita's municipal wheel and add another laurel to the city's already fair name. The result has been that Wichita has made greater strides in the matter of municipal progress during the last two years than she ever made before in a similar period, and in this respect she has undoubtedly outstripped every other city in the United States whose population is equal to that of her own. When Mr. Davidson took charge of the office of mayor he found the city treasury empty and a deficit of over $300,000. These debts have all been paid and there is now a surplus in the treasury, in spite of the fact that public improvements have been advanced as they never have been before, and things have been accomplished on a scale never before dreamed of by the residents of the city. The dam on Little river has been built at a cost of $30,000, forty-six miles of streets have been paved, more than 100 miles of sewers are being built, thirty miles of water mains have been laid, and the city has voted bonds and the land has been bought on which to build the new city workhouse and jail. But, perhaps, the stellar accomplishment of Mayor Davidson's administration has been the building of the Great Forum, which is the pride of every citizen of the city. Recently completed at a cost of $175,000, with a seating capacity of 5,500, the huge, but beautiful, fireproof structure, built of stone and steel, would be a credit to a city four times the population of Wichita, and indeed there are but few cities, even in the 200,000 class, that can boast of so fine an auditorium as that lately completed in the city of Wichita. But this is how they do things there, for the Wichita spirit is rife; the ambition to achieve 100,000 population soon is keen; and when it has behind it such a powerful directing force as the personality of Charles L. Davidson no task is too herculean for it to attempt.
Mr. Davidson was married Sept. 15, 1882, to Miss May Louise Throckmorton, then of Wichita, but a native of Martinsburg, Va., who has been his patient and devoted helpmeet from that time to the present. The fruits of this marriage are two living sons: Stephen Lock, born Feb. 28, 1884, on the seventieth birthday of his paternal grandfather, whose name he bears; and Throckmorton, born in October, 1892. An only daughter, Louise by name, died in childhood.
Mr. Davidson was the organizer of the Kansas League of Municipalities and is serving his second term as its president. He is also vice-president of the American League of Municipalities. In spite of the enormous demands on his time, occasioned by both public and private interests, he is fond of recreation, is a true sportsman, an ardent autoist, and frequently indulges himself in the pleasures derived from the rod and gun. His home, at No. 1326 North Lawrence avenue, which he erected several years ago, is one of the most palatial and truly delightful homes in the city. Located in one of Wichita's most select residence sections and built in Colonial style, its stately porch columns and general appearance indicate that it was designed for comfort, rather than to startle the eye with novel creations of showy architecture.
At the time of this writing (March, 1911,) Mr. Davidson's term as mayor is drawing to a close, and despite the fact that great pressure has been brought to bear on him by the Wichita public to remain in the office for another term, he has decided not to do so, and at the end of his first term will retire, out of choice, to give his undivided attention to his private affairs, believing that the new form of government has been so thoroughly established that the administration of the city's affairs may be safely entrusted to other hands. It is doubtful, however, if he will be permitted to enjoy the seclusion of retirement very long, for he is a natural born leader of men, possesses a high order of executive force and administrative ability and is a good organizer, and such men are needed in public office. Indeed, already, even before the relinquishment of the mayor's office and more than a year in advance of the next state primary, there is a concerted movement among his friends and admirers, all over Kansas, demanding that he shall allow his name to go before the next state primary as a candidate for the office of governor. Mayor Davidson may never achieve that high honor. He may not receive the nomination to be his party's standard bearer, and may never be chief executive of the state; for it is a high honor and there will naturally be others who will aspire to reach it. But it is a safe statement that just at this time his name is more frequently mentioned in connection with the successorship to Hon. Walter Roscoe Stubbs than that of any other man in the state. And it is equally a safe statement that should his friends be triumphant in their efforts to place him in the gubernatorial chair, the State of Kansas can be assured of a safe, wise, conservative and thoroughly business-like administration, for he is a big-brained, large-hearted, wide-gauged man, with broad ideas, large capacity, strong will, and possesses a quality of resolution and executive force that is absolutely essential in successfully administrating the affairs of a great office.Pages 1040-1045 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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