Monday, May 14, 2012

Albert Hopkins Davis and Emma Sickles Thornton

Albert and Emma Davis
Takoma Park, MD

 I wish my grandmother Frances had told me more about her parents, Albert and Emma Davis. 

She did leave a few precious insights to this set of great-grandparents shared here.

     Emma Sickles Thornton was named in honor of the William W Sickles, Presbyterian minister of the Bedford church the year she was born in 1858. She was raised by her widowed mother from the age of six and despite this obvious social disadvantage she graduated from the newly formed public  high school in 1877. Her brother reports that she had a “splendid voice,” and  even attended the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. Emma remained active in her church and was undoubtedly influenced by her mother’s Quaker affiliation as early civil rights advocates for Black Americans. 

     Her daughter recounts one of her acts of courage; “Mama, whose sunny and friendly disposition made her a friend to everyone, had the Quaker lack of prejudice on most subjects. Once, a colored girl who had worked for us, died and was given a full Catholic funeral, some of our friends were astonished and a little shocked because Mama attended. She had, in their opinion, crashed two barriers – the color line and Catholicism.”  Emma, like her own mother, was committed to her offspring. She lived to see all of her surviving children achieve adulthood mentoring her daughters in the fine art of homemaking and impressing them with a deep love of the cultural arts. Ruth played piano and studied art, Emma was trained in voice, Nina played violin, Frances was a life long admirer of the cultural arts, and last but not least, Winifred played piano.
     Albert was a poster boy for the growing middle class. Henry Davis had little in the way of birthrights to claim, it was hard work that bolstered his social standing. Albert entered Westpoint it is uncertain if he graduated but the record of his attendance can be found here. His reported age at the time of admission was 20 yrs 5 months, that would have been the year of 1874 in September. Perhaps Albert found his way to Westpoint vis-à-vis his father’s distinguished war service.
Bedford, Indiana
Presbyterian Church 
     Albert and Emma met in the Presbyterian Church in Bedford Indiana where both sang in the choir; tenor and alto respectively. The church still stands and it where the couple was married in April of 1880. To this couple a son was born, Maximillian Iredel (1881) who’s only memory was preserved by his father, he died in infancy. A year later the first daughter was born; Ruth (1882), followed by Nina (1885),  Emma (1887), Henry (1893), Frances (1895), George (1897), and the youngest, Winifred (1899).
     Frances writes that her father, “had once been in the Army and in politics, having been a National Republican Committeman. He knew and admired President Theodore Roosevelt very much….” Albert studied law, served as assistant Postmaster of Bedford, IN along side his aging father, helped to run the family hardware store with his brother Gus, served as Deputy County Clerk under his brother-in-law Thomas V. Thornton. He resigned from this position to accept a Civil Service position in the Pension department which he held for no less than 30 years. Upon acceptance of the Civil Service position the family moved to Washington DC where the four youngest where born. Tragedy struck a second time when the tow headed toddler Henry died at the tender age of 15 months.
     The final, and most prestigous Davis home was purchased in Takoma Park, Maryland.  Along with the house was a large enough lot to build a few rental units. As it is apparent from the captioned photo Frances considered her new surroundings to be quite rural compared to the bussel of the capitol city.  
     It is reported that Albert suffered and accident rendering him, “a cripple,” preventing him from receiving his full retirement pension and contributing to his death.  He died in 1927 leaving behind his wife of forty-seven years, 6 children, and 12 grandchildren.
Emma was laid to rest in 1937 following a lengthy illness.
Copyright © 2012
edited by: Donora Hillard

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