Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 126
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
CALEB R. DAVIS
The subject of this sketch is widely known as a pioneer in central Kansas, and he is one of the oldest settlers in Rice county. When he came to the locality the land was in the possession of Indians and buffaloes and no counties had been organized, and there were no settlers within forty miles of the place in Ellsworth county, where he and two other families located. Through all the growth and development of Ellsworth and Rice counties he has been prominently identified with their interests.
Caleb R Davis, who is an honored resident of Little River, Rice county, Kansas, was born in Warren county, Indiana, December 23, 1835, a son of Andrew and Zella (Grant) Davis. His father was born in Massachusetts and reared in New Jersey, and he was married in Ohio. Joseph Davis came from Wales to America when a small boy and was brought up in Massachusetts and bravely served the cause of the colonies during the entire period of the Revolutionary war, during a portion of which he was one of Washington’s most trusted personal attendants, looking after his wardrobe and baggage and attending to many important matters under his direct supervision. He returned to Massachusetts after the war and later removed to New Jersey, where he lived out the remainder of his days. He was a prominent farmer and an influential citizen. His children were named Andrew, Joseph, Asher, Elijah, Amelia and Priscilla. Andrew grew to manhood in New Jersey, where he entered the army and served through the war of 1812, doing garrison duty much of the time at Sandy Hook. After the war he lived for a time at Trenton, New Jersey, whence he removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, then an unimportant village, where for a time he worked at the carpenter’s trade. Subsequently he located in Montgomery county, Ohio, not far from Dayton, where he farmed and worked at his trade to obtain money with which to secure his homestead. He was married there and remained until 1833. From 1833 until 1867 he lived in Warren county, Indiana, where he developed a good farm, which he sold in order to remove to Kansas. He bought a small tract of land near Manhattan, Kansas, and built on it a good residence and improved it into a good farm, which he sold in order to remove to his life. He was a broad-minded and intelligent man, of great charity and public spirit and of unswerving integrity, who was most worthily successful in life and acquired a good property. His wife was the daughter of James Grant, who was a distant relative of General U S Grant, and who became a well-to-do farmer in Ohio, where he died. Mr and Mrs Grant had children as follows: Susan, Zella (Mrs Davis), Charity, Alice and John. The following facts concerning the children of Andrew and Zella (Grant) Davis will be of interest in this connection: Elizabeth married George Little. Mary married N Farden. James died in Illinois. Joseph was captain of a company in the Fifty-third Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and was later promoted to the command of his regiment, with the rank of colonel. He was made a prisoner of war at Jackson, Mississippi, and was soon afterward paroled. Some time after the close of the war he went to California, where he died. William is living in Missouri and Thomas in California. Evaline married John Curran. Andrew lives in Oregon. Amelia is the wife of R Stone. Caleb R is the immediate subject of this sketch. John fought in the Union army three years during the rebellion and lives in southern Kansas.
Caleb R Davis passed his childhood and youth in Warren county, Indiana, and after he had attained to his majority went to Illinois, where he worked on a rented farm for two years, meantime returning to Indiana to be married. After that he rented a farm in Newton county, Indiana, for six years, and in 1865 removed to Kansas. He passed the winter of 1865 and 1866 at Manhattan, and in the spring of 1866 he and his wife and two other families located within the present borders of Ellsworth county, on Thompson’s creek, squatting on land which they afterward pre-empted and held, thus effecting the first settlement in that portion of Kansas. There was no other settlement nearer than forty miles, but Camp Ellsworth, the site of Fort Harker, was twelve miles distant and Mr Davis could buy supplies from the army settler at the military post there, and he remembers that on one occasion he paid fifteen dollars per hundred weight for flour. There was no market nearer than the Missouri river and no grist mill was available. Game was plenty and Mr Davis killed many buffaloes and some antelopes. There were many Indians in the country, but they were not at that time dangerous. He built a small dugout house, broke some land, and as soon as possible got to farming in a small way. It was not long before he was well embarked in the cattle business, in which he has continued to the present time. After the little band of pioneers had become established in Ellsworth county the Indians began stealing their stock and such depredations became so frequent that at times the settlers would band together for mutual protection against their raids. More than thirty men, women and children passed one winter under the protection of a fort, but no member of their colony was killed by the savages. About 1866 emigration set into that quarter of the state and in 1867 most of the creek land was claimed and within a few years about all the prairie land had been taken up and the development and improvement of central Kansas had begun in earnest. Mr Davis improved a good farm there, which he sold in 1875, when he filed homestead and timber claims in the Little River valley, on the Rice county side of the line. Later he gave the timber claim to his daughter and in 1893 he sold the homestead claim and bought one hundred and sixty acres of land in Rice county, where he now lives and to which he has added by subsequent purchase until he owns eight hundred acres, mostly in Little River valley, all well improved and under profitable cultivation. He has been successful as a general farmer and cattle-raiser and is one of the well-to-do farmers of the county. Few improvements had been made on his home farm when he bought it, but he has built an expensive and attractive residence on a natural elevation that overlooks the valley and wide stretch of surrounding country. This beautiful home, three miles northwest of Little River, is provided with ample outbuildings, barns and appliances for successful farming.
Mr Davis is an influential Republican and is regarded as a citizen of public spirit, who may always be depended upon to favor to the extent of his ability any movement promising to benefit the general public. He was married January 20, 1858, to Miss Catherine Byard, of Warren county, Indiana, who was born in Benton county, same state, a daughter of John and Margaret (Smith) Byard, natives of Ohio. John Byard was the son of John Byard, Sr, of Ohio, who was a prominent farmer and who had children named David, Mary and John Jr. Mary married Mr Collins and John Jr was the father of Mrs Davis. John Byard, Jr, was reared to manhood on his father’s farm in Ohio, and married Margaret Smith, a daughter of James Smith, who removed from Ohio to Indiana and improved a farm in Benton county, became prominent there as a citizen and died there. His children were Margaret (Mrs Byard), James, Thomas and Henry. John Byard, Jr, and his wife, Margaret Smith, who were earnest Christians of the Baptist faith, had children as follows: James, Thomas; Henry; Catherine, who married the subject of this sketch; and Margaret, who died young. Caleb R and Catherine (Byard) Davis have a daughter, Margaret, who is the wife of John L Smith, a prominent farmer of Rice county, Kansas. Mrs Davis is a worthy and helpful member of the Christian church.