One of the most rewarding aspects of my internship at the Greene County Records Center and Archives is getting to know all of the people from Greene County’s past. Whether through criminal or estate records, each individual has a wonderful story to tell. Today’s story is about a rather ordinary couple who gave back to Greene County by providing extraordinary service. While processing estate records, I came across the will of Mrs. Charlotte Davidson (née Dribble). She listed no heirs, but quite a lot of personal property in her will and to whom it should go. Within the list of item recipients, however, was an unusual entry. Mrs. Davidson bequeathed a portrait of her late husband, David Davidson, to the City of Xenia, to be displayed in the Central Fire Department (Fig 1).
Fig 1: A portion of Charlotte D. Davidson's will
A little research revealed that Mr. and Mrs. Davidson were exemplary Xenians. Mrs. Davidson was a member of the Lewis Relief Corps, a chapter of the Woman’s Relief Corps who were affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic. According to a quote from County, 1803-1908
, “An important adjunct to the G. A. R. is that of Lewis Relief Corps, comprising 67 patriotic women of the city. The work of the Woman’s Relief Corps along charitable lines deserves special mention. Lewis Corps has also placed flags in several of the public schools of the county.” The Woman’s Relief Corps was dedicated to providing aid and relief to those wounded in hospitals and Civil War battlefields. They also cared for the wives, widows, children, and orphans of veterans and soldiers who never returned. Mrs. Davidson was dedicated to this cause and appeared in several newspapers of the period. One article in the Xenia Daily Gazette from 1907 detailed how she installed new officers into the Relief Corps, and who those new officers were. Another article about Mrs. Davidson was featured in Everywoman
, a Columbus magazine devoted to the women’s suffrage movement (Fig 2).
Fig 2: Tribute to Mrs. Davidson from Everywoman magazine
While Mrs. Davidson was busy with the Lewis Relief Corps, Mr. Davidson kept his own busy schedule. David T. Davidson was actually Captain David T. Davidson, Company H, Ohio 94th Infantry. He enlisted for the Civil War on 23 July 1862 and was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant on 20 Feb 1863. He later resigned on 5 November 1863. The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1866
states that Company H was mustered on 24 Aug 1862 at Camp Piqua, OH. The book also lists Capt. Davidson’s service period as three years.
But Capt. Davidson’s service to Ohio was not finished. After his involvement in the Civil War, he went home and joined the Xenia Fire Department. By 1873 he had been promoted to fire chief, one year after the fire department became a regular paid department. Capt. Davidson even received praise from those who owned or worked in buildings he and his department saved from fire damage (Fig 3).
Fig 3: Praise to Capt. Davidson from the Xenia Daily Gazette
Capt. Davidson remained Xenia’s fire chief until he retired in 1899 after almost 30 years of service. The Xenia Daily Gazette reported on Capt. Davidson’s retirement (Fig 4), while several local newspapers including the Xenia Daily Gazette, Dayton Daily News, and the Dayton Herald reported when Capt. Davidson passed on 29 Jan 1904 (Fig 5).
Fig 4: Capt. Davidson's retirement notice, Xenia Fig 5: Capt. Davidson's death notice, The Dayton
Daily Gazette Herald
The story of their work and service to Xenia, and to Ohio, however, still lives on. Xenia’s Fire Division website mentions Fire Chief Davidson and states that, in 1872, the Fire Department purchased two steamer engines for Station #1 on Cincinnati Avenue and Station #2 on S. Whiteman Street. One steamer, housed at Station #1 was named “The Victor,” while the other steamer engine, at Station #2, was named the “D. T. Davidson.” Mrs. Davidson is remembered as a national aide to the Woman’s Relief Corps in many WRC Annual Convention journals. Capt. and Mrs. Davidson now lie at rest in Xenia’s Woodland Cemetery, however, two questions remain alive: what was the “famous Xenia cracker?” And, is Capt. Davidson’s portrait still kept at the main Xenia Fire House? If anyone knows, please leave us a comment or tweet on our Facebook or Twitter accounts!
Until Next Time...
The Dayton Herald, newspapers.com
Xenia Daily Gazette, newspapers.com
Dayton Daily News, newspapers.com
Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1866, Vol. VII, 87th-108th Regiments – Infantry.
Greene County, 1803-1908.
Xenia Fire Division – History, https://www.ci.xenia.oh.us/277/History.
Greene County Records Center & Archives