COLUMNS

As It Were: Escape from Native Americans allowed Davis to make home near Dublin

Ed Lentz
Guest columnist

There seem to be a lot of people named Davis living around the city of Dublin.

Many of these folks are related closely, and there are ties of kinship stretching across many generations. Others are not so closely related but have been in the neighborhood for years.

On Dublin Road in Norwich Township, there is a magnificent 2-story federal-style stone house. The residence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is said to be one of the oldest stone houses in central Ohio.

Ed Lentz

The house was built by Samuel Davis, who was born in 1763 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Trained as a silversmith, Davis joined the Continental Army and fought through the American Revolutionary War. At the end of the war, like many young men of his generation, Davis decided to seek his fortune in the Ohio Country on the other side of the Appalachians.

It was a perilous time in many ways. Many Native Americans resented the incursion of new settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee. Striking from villages north and west of the Ohio River, war parties of Native Americans carried out attacks on new villages and isolated homesteads.

Entering into what came to be called “this Dark and Bloody Ground” came Davis with an intention to make his fortune selling silver furnishings to the settlers and silver jewelry and trinkets to local Native Americans.

In his travels, Davis made the acquaintance of frontiersmen like Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton and discovered his talents in marksmanship and observation were more in demand than silversmithing. He became a spy in the company of other spies and eventually was caught by his enemies.

Many years later, Jonathan Alder related a visit by Davis to his home in Madison County.

Alder had been captured by the Shawnees in 1782 when he was 8 and had lived among Native Americans until 1795. He had married a Native American woman, and they moved to a cabin near what is now Plain City. 

Alder was in the cabin when Davis came to call.

“Late one evening soon after I had moved to Darby, a rugged, stout-looking man called to stay all night. Through the course of the evening, we commenced discoursing about the Indians and he began to speak very disrespectful language of them. I took their part and that seemed to rough his ambition, and finally both of us got out of humor. I told him they were as human as us in a great many respects, and in some ways, more so. I told him I knew all about Indians for they had raised me from a little boy. ... He then wanted to know if I was the prisoner Jonathan Alder that there was so much talk about. I told him I was.

“He then cooled down and told me his name was Samuel Davis and that he was a prisoner of the Indians for a short time, and they had used him very rough. He went on to tell me how he and another man was out hunting and trapping on the Big Sandy River and had been very successful catching otter and beaver and was slowly making their way back, trapping as they went. 

“One night as they had camped on an island, they kindled a little fire, a thing they had seldom done before. A party of Indians came floating down the river after they had gone to sleep and slipped in on them, taking them by surprise. When they awoke, they were completely surrounded, and surrendered without making any opposition. The Indians immediately tied them and packed all of their furs and traps and guns and took them into their canoes.

“We pushed on until we crossed the Ohio River and there struck out in a northerly direction.” 

At one the camps along the trail, Davis requested that his tight, painful bonds be loosened.

“One of them ordered a boy to (loosen) me, and he, not understanding (loosened) my hands.”

Davis took off running with a band of captors in pursuit.

“Davis said he thought several times they were just about to take hold of him, but now it was life or death, and after a good long race he could hear no more of them.”

Davis traveled on until he reached safety.

He would continue to act as a scout and spy in the War of 1812.  

In the midst of that war, he bought a property along the Scioto River in 1814 from a “Highland County resident” and in 1815 built the stone house that still remains on the edge of Hilliard and south of Dublin.

Davis married and raised a family of 10 children on that site until his death in 1849. He is buried in the Dublin Cemetery.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.