Sam H. Davis

Davis, Sam H.  
Interview #4641, 
Interviewer, John F. Daugherty, 
June 26, 1937
Birth Date: Oct 14, 1858
Birth Place: Tennessee
Father: Thompson A. Davis
Birth: June 9, 1834 in Tennessee
Mother: Ally Balcum
Birth: June 2, 1836 in Kentucky

My father was Thompson A. Davis, born June 9, 1834, in Tennessee.  Mother was Ally
, born June 2, 1836, in Madisonville, Kentucky.  Father was a farmer.  There were
six children in our family.  I was born October 14, 1858, in Tennessee.

In 1875 an uncle and I decided to come West.  So we boarded a steamboat at Memphis,
Tennessee, for Cairo, Illinois.  Up the Mississippi we came and changed to a train at
Cairo for Dallas, Texas.  From Dallas we came in a covered wagon.  As we drove toward
the Territory we met Sam Bass, an outlaw.  The road was very muddy and we were in
ruts to the axle.  We came face to face with Sam.  Neither of us knew him then.  He was
in ruts as deep as we were and neither he nor uncle could pull out of the road
without a lot of hard pulling.  So they stopped their teams facing each other and both
sat there for some time.  Neither of them spoke.  At last Sam crawled out of his wagon
and began gathering leaves and sticks.  Uncle asked him what he was doing.  He said,
"I can't get by, so I'll just camp here".  Uncle recognized him and needless to say
pulled out of the road and drove around the other team and wagon in a hurry.  We
settled at Harney, which is now Woodville in the Chickasaw Nation.  I ran a grocery
store there in 1882 and 1883.

I moved to Price's Falls, south of the present site of Davis in 1885 and put in a store.
I had many Indians as customers.  They bought only one article at a time and paid
for it. Many times they shopped for their neighbors.  They carried their money in
tobacco sacks and there was a sack for each person for whom they bought.  They
bought an article for a neighbor and paid for it out of the neighbor's money sack.

I moved my stock of general merchandise to Davis (from Washita about 4 miles north of Davis) in 1886 and served as the first Santa Fe Agent for three years.  The depot was in a box car and it was located just across the tracks from my store.  I had all my groceries hauled from Denison, Texas, with ox teams. (Read the interview of C. L. Moss who was a freighter for Sam Davis. He hauled freight from Denison, TX to Washita for the store of Sam Davis.)

In 1891 there was an Indian Payment for the Chickasaws.  The night before the
payment Nelson Chigley, who was paymaster, came to me and asked me to get
six thousand dollars in cash by the next day.  There were no banks here so I
went to the depot and wired the First National Bank at Gainesville to send the six
thousand dollars by express that night.  The next morning I was all ready to pay
the money to the Indians as they presented their checks to be cashed.  Nearly
all of them took the money, went out in front of the store, counted out the amount
they wanted for immediate use and returned the balance to me to keep until they
called for it.  At the end of the day I had about four thousand dollars of that money
back.  I returned it and the checks to Gainesville by express.

One day a man came into the store and asked for change for a thousand dollar bill.
This was the only one I had ever seen.  I began to question him and found out
he was a cowman who had just returned from a trip over the Chisholm Trail to
Kansas City with a bunch of cattle.  He brought all the cash back in currency.

Cow ponies were our telephones in those days.  That was our only method of getting
word abroad for a doctor, or to a neighbor whom we wished to see.  Before the Santa
Fe built their road through here in 1886 the mail came on the stage from Caddo.  This
stage line ran from Fort Smith to all the Government forts in this part of the Territory and
ended at Fort Cobb.  They hauled both mail and passengers.  It was very interesting to
watch them change horses at these stage stands, which were ten miles apart.  The
harness hung on a rack and the horses were driven under it.  The harness was dropped
onto their backs.  There were four or six horses to a stage and when the harness
dropped the buckles snapped together and the horses were put to the stage.  This was
all done in one minute.

People were very honest in those days.  About the only bill I ever lost, and I got that
back, was to a man from Roff.  I had a mortgage on all he had and he had paid that off.
Then he asked me to let him have a saddle for his tow children, a son and a daughter.
He said he would return the following week and pay me.  When he didn't come I began
to investigate and I found out that he left for Arkansas the day after he bought the
saddles.  I wired to Fort Smith and in a day or so I had word from the sheriff that he
had my man.  It was rather a difficult trip to bring prisoners back so I told him if the
man would pay for the saddles and pay him for his trouble they could turn him loose,
otherwise to keep him in jail until I arrived.  But the man paid for everything and that
settled the case.

I married Clara Taylor at Harney in 1882.  We have two children.  My parents are buried
at Davis.  I built the first steel bridge over the Washita River west of Davis on the road
to Fort Arbuckle in 1893.  The town of Davis bears my name.


Transcribed by Brenda Choate and Dennis Muncrief,  September, 2000.