Monday, November 17, 2014

William Davidson Confusion Continues

Allen Turner Davidson 1898 Newspaper Article

In 1898, Allen Turner Davidson (1819-1905), wrote an article on certain Asheville events of note that was published in the Asheville Citizen:

"Execution of Sneed and Henry," Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina), Saturday, 26 February 1898, p.3.

The article is interesting but causes a problem with respect to two often confused Buncombe County settlers: Colonel William Davidson (1747-1828) and Major William Davidson (1736-1814).

We thought this confusion finally had been sorted, but Allen Turner Davidson made the following comment in the above-referenced article with respect to the arrest of horse thief Delk:

". . . . I know this fact from the further fact that my father, William M. Davidson, the son of the William Davidson at whose house the first meeting to organize Buncombe county was held, and Goldman Ingram, grandfather of John L. Cathey, clerk of the superior court of Buncombe county at this time, arrested Delk at the Little Tennessee river near where it is now spanned by the iron bridge east of Franklin, after he had crossed the ford to the Franklin side of the river. . . ."

The author, Allen Turner Davidson, is the son of William Mitchell Davidson (1780-1846) and Elizabeth Vance (1787-1861). And, the father of William Mitchell Davidson generally is thought to be Major William Davidson (1736-1814), twin brother of the locally famous Samuel Davidson (1736-1784), whom legend tells was killed by Indians on Jones Mountain near Swannanoa, North Carolina.

The problem is caused by Allen Turner Davidson's reference to his grandfather: ". . . at whose house the first meeting to organize Buncombe county was held . . ."

The ability to discriminate between these two named William Davidson, one Colonel and one Major, had been, in addition to their military titles/ranks, the fact that Colonel William Davidson was the one involved in the creation of Buncombe County and at whose house the first county organizational meeting was held.

Here is Sondley's description of Allen Turner Davidson's ancestry:

"Allen Turner Davidson, another grandson of Colonel David Vance, and a grandson of Major William Davidson, who was one of the first settlers in Buncombe County and lived at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek, was the son of William Mitchell Davidson and was born on Jonathan's Creek in Haywood County, North Carolina, May 9, 1819. . . ."

Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 129-130.

However, historian John Preston Arthur agrees with Allen Turner Davidson with respect to which William Davidson was the grandfather:

"He [Allen Turner Davidson] was born on Jonathan's creek, Haywood county, May 9, 1819. His father was William Mitchell Davidson and his mother Elizabeth Vance of Burke county, a daughter of Captain David Vance of Revolutionary fame. William Davidson, first senator from Buncombe county and a soldier of the Revolutionary War, was the father of William Mitchell Davidson, and a cousin of Gen. William Davidson who was killed at Cowan's Ford. . . ."

Source: Western North Carolina: A History from 1730-1913, John Preston Arthur (1914) at 400-403.

Moreover, Sondley recognized this confusion and warned:

"Do not confuse Major William Davidson with Colonel William Davidson, who lived on the south side of Swannanoa, just below the later town of Biltmore and was a member from Rutherford County of the North Carolina House of Commons and introduced a bill to create the County of Buncombe. Afterwards that county was organized at his home and he became in 1792 its first State Senator. He was born in Virginia and was a cousin of Major William Davidson and General William Davidson. He became quite distinguished and influential in the State of Tennessee to which he removed, died, and is buried. . . ."

Source: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 397-398.

Did Allen Turner Davidson not know the history of his grandfather William Davidson? Did he chose the arguably more important Colonel William Davidson to enhance his own stature? Who is more persuasive, John Preston Arthur or Forster Alexander Sondley?

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