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Family of Thomas Davidson Sr. & Catherine Walker Davidson

Updated November 11, 2001

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My great-great-grandfather Thomas Davidson's obituary (Dunn County [Wisconsin] Courier, Friday April 3, 1908 [Page 1, Column 6] says he "was born in Ireland, (tho of Scotch parents) in the town of Maghareagh, County Antrim, on the 13th day of March, 1828. His youth and early manhood was spent in Scotland. When a young man, he emigrated to America and lived for several years in the states of New York and New Jersey.

In 1854 he was united in marriage to Catherine Walker, who preceded him to the grave nine years ago. To them eight children were born, all of whom survive him except one daughter, Mrs. Edward Pabst who died in 1906; Mary the eldest who kept the home for her father and cared for him up to the time of his death; Mrs. Thos. Huey of Downsville, Wis.; James of Weyburn, Canada; Mrs. L. G. Wallace of Rock Falls, Wis.; Thos., also of Rock Falls; Frank of Bozeman, Montana; and Mrs. I. Pabst of Mondovi, Wis.

When the family first came west they lived in Waukesha Co., this state, then in Dunn Co. near Menomonie, coming from there to the present home in the town of Albany in 1869, where the deceased resided up to the time of his death."

This is consistent with family history -- my grandmother Ruby Davidson Harper said her grandfather was Scottish and Protestant -- and that her grandmother Catherine Walker emigrated from County Clare and was Catholic. The challenge in researching the family history has been to sort out the truth from fiction and family storytelling -- this is a family that loves stories.

There are several "Thomas Davidson" entries on the 1850 census but I don't know if any is "mine". I have not yet identified his entry date or manner.

On November 1, 1856 Thomas Davidson filed a Certificate of Intent (to be come a U.S. citizen) in Waukesha County, Wisconsin -- but he did not become a citizen until April 20, 1875 in Pepin County, Wisconsin. Why the 19 year wait?

Tom and Catherine appear on the 1860 census in the Town of Vernon, Waukesha County, Wisconsin with children Mary (age 4, born in New York), Margaret (3) and James (1) - both born in Wisconsin (although the ages may be reversed, this puts the family in Wisconsin by 1857). Tom is listed as a "laborer".

According to a memoir in "History of Dunn County" by Tom and Catherine Davidson's daughter Margaret Davidson Huey, in 1864 the family took the train from Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien (on the Mississippi River), then took a boat up the Mississippi River to Read's Landing. Since it was Civil War, there were soldiers on the boat. They stayed overnight at the Bullard House (still standing), then took a boat called the Monitor to Durand where they met the Nimmo family (whom they had known in "southern Wisconsin") including Alex. Nimmo (who apparently was a lifelong friend -- he appears at the same address on the 1920 census, living with unmarried Mary Jane Davidson and her brother James Davidson in Eau Claire, Wisconsin). In 1864, the Nimmos lived four miles out of Durand near Spring Creek (Maxville Township, Buffalo County).

Tom walked all the way to Mr. Cockeram's on the Hudson Road (west of Menomenie); he had written that land could be purchased cheaply here -- that it was a good place for a poor man to make a start. There is nothing to indicate that Tom was anything but poor when he brought the family west to the wilderness that was Dunn County in 1864.

Tom moved his family by oxcart to a cabin near Gilbert Creek, Lucas Township, Dunn County which had belonged to a single man who had gone to war. He had brought tools from Milwaukee and built two bedsteads, table and benches for his family -- apparently it was a crude cabin with no furniture. Catherine cooked for the family on a fire and baked bread in a tin oven from flour Tom carried on foot from Menomenie - 5 miles away. By fall of 1864, Margaret wrote, her father bought a place which -- many years later -- was known as "the Jacob Brevad Place on the Hudson Roa

 
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