Benton County, Tennessee Genealogy

Letters From the Past

Written by Wyly Price Davidson, Jr. (1921-1985) as a letter to his cousins.

July 18, 1983.

Dear Cousins,

This report is finally finished as the best I can do it. I know it has taken too long and there will be mistakes throughout. Some are typographical since you all know a pharmacist cannot type efficiently. Here again this is the best I can do. There will be mistakes in dates, etc., but sometimes these records used were not always in accord. If there have been mistakes that you know are wrong, please drop me a line and I will correct them and inform all of you of these corrections.

There is no way I can tell you how thankful I am to be a part of a family that can all work together at this late date and after being apart so long and come up with a report such as this. This has been cooperation at its very best and the cousins have shown our love for each other is certainly not dead. I just hope the children of these cousins will feel the same way about each other as we do. In case you are wondering what group I am referring to with the word "cousin", it is the grandchildren of Mammy and Pappy Davidson. My utmost thanks go out to each of you for helping me with this report.

A special thank you goes out to Virginia Hadaway Davidson for her help. She has helped not only in furnishing the information for her family, but has also furnished me with some photographs that are now being observed in an effort to identify them. Also a special thanks to Sally Cole Childress who gathered together all her information and even furnished me with a few new stories about the Davidson Family and also a photo of Willard at 3 1/2 months which was passed on to Ann Coggin.

I certainly hope each of you enjoy reading this report as much as I enjoyed writing it. It has truly been a labor of love and since we have all had a part in getting it together, let us all reap the benefits. Please let us keep in touch and see each other as often as possible. Good health to all of you and may God Bless. Please keep me informed as to all the happenings in your families.

Thanks to all of you again, I love you,

Wyly Davidson

[Signature scanned from original]

Benjamin Franklin Davidson
July 19, 1853
March 1, 1937



Caroline M. Pafford
July 21, 1855
January 15, 1940



December 29, 1877






Olah. O. Davidson

November 23, 1878

September 11, 1886

Allie P. Davidson

July 25, 1882

March 16, 1974

Lena Mae Davidson

November 1, 1884

September 18, 1953

Roy Davidson (f)

December 27, 1886

March 24, 1969

Ernest D. Davidson

January 23, 1889

March 30, 1972

Wyly Price Davidson

June 8, 1891

July 9, 1957

Mary Euel Davidson

May l, 1893

April 14, 1977


According to Scottish records, the Davidson family has a motto: "Sapienter Si Sincere," which means "Wisely if Sincerely." There is also assigned to the Davidson Family a tartan and Coat of Arms. All these are prominently displayed along with photographs of five generations of Davidsons, in my home in Nashville.

One of the great disappointments of my life has been that I did not get to know my grandfather any better than I can remember. He was an old man; senile and defeated before I realized his many accomplishments and the possible effects his life projected to his family and others who knew him.

Apparently he was, as a younger man, not only very intelligent, strong and influential both in his business and social affairs, but was a head of his family in all matters.

His business accomplishments included the total business operation of a whole community of stores, including general merchandise, saw mills, Post Office, freight lines and extensive farming operations. His management of all these operations to success must indicate his over-all ability of supervision and delegation of responsibilities that can only come from a man of leadership.

In this little community of stores was a gristmill owned and operated by George Childress, who was married to Allie Davidson (oldest daughter of Frank and Caroline). Also a blacksmith shop was included which was owned and operated by S.C. (Tot) Childress, who was a brother to George and was married to Euel Davidson (youngest daughter of Frank and Caroline).

Much of the family background has been lost, but through more research much can be learned. The name Benjamin Franklin, which was given him, could be an indication that his abilities and accomplishments should be investigated further. This is a true Scottish name and from all indications, he was a true Scotsman. He was frugal, kind, intelligent, gentle and terribly honest in his dealings with his fellow man. Even in his older years he was respected and known as "Uncle Frank" always with a sense of humor and respected as a sincere friend.

Now Caroline Pafford Davidson, my grandmother, was a completely different memory for me. Here we have a very strong person who never, even as an eighty-year-old woman, revealed to me a single sign of weakness, confusion or relaxation of a principle. She was always very evident in her home and her authority was never questioned, denied or doubted by anyone, to my knowledge. Even though she walked with a crutch for many years, her every movement was a strong and forceful step. I was not aware that she had any activity outside the realm of her home or family, but it was here that her major strength was observed. She not only possessed great strength but I think she instilled in her children this same strength. She was very sincere and devout in her beliefs and convictions and never hesitated letting others know about them. I remember her feelings about anyone smoking cigarettes, but more especially women smoking them. In her mind a woman smoking a cigarette was a woman living in sin and she could not tolerate this. Needless to say, never in my life did I smoke a cigarette in her presence, nor did I ever smoke a cigarette until after her death. There was, however, a discrepancy that was very evident to all who knew her. She was a constant user of snuff and there was always present her little can of snuff, her little" toothbrush" which she used to measure the snuff and place same in the proper location in her cheek and her ever present "spit" can. Now in her mind a "lady" could dip snuff all day long but it was impossible for her to believe that a "lady" could smoke a cigarette.

Never in my memory can I recall ever feeling that I was a bother to her. She always had time to answer my questions and to talk and play with me. She even taught me several things about cooking and preparing food for cooking. It was from her that I learned to properly cut up a chicken for frying. She would usually prepare" special "foods for just the two of us that we would share usually all by ourselves. There has never been any better food prepared in the world than that cooked on that old wood stove and in the cast iron cookware.

The old Davidson homeplace was settled in the northern part of Benton County, Tennessee, approximately seven miles from Camden. The community formed by the operation of this family was known only as WAY, Tennessee. I do not know the origin of the name. I do vividly remember the beautiful, large, two-storied country home. It was very stylish and strongly built, and located in a serene valley, at the base of a high hill. In the back of the house was a small continuously running creek that separated the hill from the house. The creek also was running through a springhouse which provided refrigeration for the greatest milk and dairy products I have ever tasted.

In the front of the house was the large yard and in front of that was the general store, located on a meandering road, coming down from a valley to the south through native timber and wilderness, and opening up to a Shangri La setting. Across the road from the store was the blacksmith shop at the base of another hill, with a road dropping almost straight down the hill.

Beside the road, and almost at the crest of the hill, stood a church. It was a Northern Methodist Church. This building was also used as a town hall at times. For some reason, unknown to me, there were several gun shot holes in the front door of the church. This was rugged country, but the valley gave one the feeling of tranquility: probably due to the influence of the strength and hospitality of this man and his wife and their family.

The medical doctors in the county would schedule their house calls in the area so as to be able to spend as many evenings as possible at the Davidson home as welcomed guests. This was also true for the pastors of the churches and also every salesman that called on the store found it necessary to spend the night at this home.

People from all the communities in that area including Harmon's Creek, Sulfer Creek and Eva used Way as the town to do their shopping, even though in some cases the county seat of Camden was just as near. Most of their needs could be met by the businesses of this man and his family.

I think it is fitting that we start our history of this Davidson Clan with Benjamin Franklin (Pappy) and Caroline Pafford (Mammy) Davidson. Apparently it is from these two that we more than likely get our characteristics that we refer to as "Davidson Traits". I am sure they will all go back to these two mostly, but with a little additional factor of our own, and our parents. The first child born to the marriage (December 20, 1877) of Frank and Caroline was Olah, who was born November 23, 1878. She died September 11, 1886. Then there followed Allie P. (July 25, 1882), Lena Mae (November 1, 1884), Roy (December 27, 1886), Ernest D. (January 23, 1889), Wyly Price (June 8, 1891) and Mary Euel (May 1, 1893). All lived to the ripe old age of eighty two, three or four, except of course Olah, who died quite young, and Wyly P. (66), Lena Mae (68) and Allie who was ninety one at the time of her death.

There are still living, several members of the Davidson family that are older than I, and I am sure they have memories just as strong as mine, but for this paper I would like to relate some of my more vivid memories of the members of this family. As a young man of high school age, I prided myself in having some degree of athletic ability in regards to agility and speed. Aunt Allie was always a person ever ready to kid around, so you always felt free to tease her and take the consequences. Now at this time she was in her late fifties while I was a speedy teenager. One day at the old family house on Eva road in Camden, she thought I had gone too far and started chasing me around the house. Not only did she catch me, but she added more insult to the injury by sitting right on top of me in full view of the world at the front of the house. I don't remember whether we became real close friends before or after this incident. It was at her house down near Eva that I was home-sick for the first and last time. She comforted me through this horrible time and I spent many other nights down there at her house and never again was I ever home-sick.

How many have ever gone to Aunt Lena's and Uncle Bob's house and left there hungry? I have been there many times at the wee hours of the morning and each time offered something to eat. Aunt Lena somehow seemed to be the harbor in the storm for everyone. She was so quiet and kind and constantly had such nice things to say about others. Also I always had a feeling that Uncle Bob was more a Davidson than most of the rest of us. I really doubt that there was any one of the children that did more for Mammy and Pappy than Uncle Bob did. I never remember ever seeing Uncle Bob going into their house up there without a basket or bag of food. Also, I am sure that Alice made very few trips to town as a student or a teacher that she didn't have to take something by the house for them. Uncle Bob must have had a lot of Davidson blood running through his veins, but if he didn't I sure wish he had. He did some things for me that I could never repay and I will always remember him as a special uncle of mine.

Of course who could ever forget the ever-present Aunt Roy. Always there to take care of Mammy and Pappy. Here was a person who devoted her whole life to the care of her parents. What more could be done than that? Even though she was apparently in poor health all the time I can remember, she was nearly always up and about doing everything. It has always been assumed that as a young and very pretty girl, her heart was broken by someone. It was at that time she made a solemn pledge that it would never happen again. With the tenacity (some call it Davidson hard headedness) and strength of her family, she kept this pledge until her death at age of eighty-three.

I am sure all of us can remember going to Uncle Ernest's and Aunt Clyde' s and playing that great player piano. No one could ever imagine the fame and fortune that became mine as the world's most fantastic pianist while pedaling away at that piano. I think the thing that made me so famous was the Wide range of selections I presented at each concert. That was only because of the vast choice of songs. The thing I remember most is how many rolls of that music could be brought out and each roll had to be replaced just as it was before.

Another of those pleasant memories is about the many nights I spent at Aunt Euel's and Uncle Tot's. I have never since seen a cylinder phonograph like they had. I remember playing that by the hour and also getting beat at checkers by Commie. He must have been the champion checker player of the world.

The history of the Davidson Clan is still being made. Let us hope it will continue to grow in tradition and good memories.

Let us hope we can contribute to the honor and pride that we have shared in the Davidson Family name. Even though some of our names are no longer Davidson, there still runs in those veins some strains of the strong heritage of Mammy and Pappy Davidson. This family has produced many people who have made contributions to our society that I hope have been for the better. Several of us are combat veterans of our country' s war and have served honorably during those times. Some have followed in Pappy Davidson's footsteps into the world of business and farming and have been of service to their fellow man in that capacity. We even have in our midst an ordained Methodist minister and many who have been successful contributors by being good friends to the unfortunate and have been active in their churches. Several have gone into the field of medicine and the associated health services and have contributed as administrators and teachers for the betterment of the health of the community. Some have gone into the fields of music and entertainment in all capacities such as performers, composers, producers and promoters. There are many other contributions that have been made in so many various fields the list could go on and on, but hopefully each of us has done his bit to the very best of his ability. Probably the greatest contributions have been made by those of our family who were educated as teachers. We have had some who actively pursued this profession and because of this have been named outstanding examples in their field. While each of us has contributed in his own special way, it may be generations before the full impact of our services will be appreciated. Who knows, we may have inspired someone and didn't know how or when or in what way.

So the mark left by the Davidson Clan cannot go unnoticed and it can all be credited to the example and inspiration of Mammy and Pappy Davidson. So let us all lift our cups, tip our hats and give a rousing three cheers to the memory of these two people who were so prominent in the formation of our present day ideas and ideals. May these ideals and memories be with us forever.

Most of the family history and genealogy was presented by the "cousins" for their own families and has been compiled by me for the express purpose of creating interest and inviting active participation of the family in adding to and correcting this history of our family. It is an endeavor on my part to inform my children and yours about this family as I remember it and that they know something about this family that they are a part of, and also to know something about our heritage and to take pride in that heritage. May we pray that they keep and continue in that faith.

Wyly Price Davidson, Jr.
July, 1983

Submitted by Dianne Davidson
My Dad wrote this as a letter to his cousins in 1983, two years before his death. It also included a lot of personal info that I have omitted, since some of the people are still living.

Letters from the Past

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