From Charlestown, NY to Ann Arbor, MI

Contributed by Lisa Slaski
Transcribed by Elaine Scantlebury

John Lloyd Davidson

JOHN LLOYD DAVIDSON, deceased, was a mason contractor, who aided in the erection of some of the first buildings in Ann Arbor, becoming a pioneer settler of this city in 1833. He was of Scotch descent and was a native Charleston, Montgomery county, New York, born on the 11th of August, 1805. His parents were John and Rhoda (Mudge) Davidson, both of whom resided at Sacket Harbor, New York, in early life. Subsequently however, they removed to Montreal, Canada, where they spent a few years, after which they returned to the Empire state, locating at Charleston. The father was also a mason and builder and worked at his trade at Charleston for several years. For a short time he made his home in Syracuse, New York, and then removed to Grand Rapids, Michigan. There he followed the same pursuit and assisted in the erection of some of the fine buildings of that city, devoting his time and energies to the masons trade at that point until his later years, when he retired from active business life to enjoy in well earned rest the fruits of his former toil. Both he and his wife spent their last years in Grand Rapids.

John Lloyd Davidson acquired his education in the public schools of Charleston, New York, spending his youth in the Empire state. Having arrived at years of maturity he was married in Syracuse, New York, to Miss Maria Holcomb, a native of that city, whose parents also resided in the east and spent their last years there. Mr. and Mrs. Davidson became the parents of five children: Helen M., the eldest, is now the widow of W. James Wainwright, of Troy, New York who was a well educated man and during the latter part of his life was employed in a railroad office in St. Lewis, Missouri, where he was taken ill. He died, however, in 1873, at the home of his parents in Clinton, Michigan. Mary Davidson, the second member of the family, has always resided in Ann Arbor, and now occupies her fathers old home here. John, who was also a mason by trade, died in Grand Rapids, October 11, 1902, at the age of sixty years. George Holcomb, who married Jennie Doty, by whom he has three children, Florence H., Arthur J. and Howard R., was also a builder by trade and carried on business for a number of years, after which he removed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was awarded the contracts for thee construction of some of the finest buildings of that city, but he is now living retired, having accumulated a handsome competence which provides him and his family with an excellent home and many of the comforts of life. Martha Davidson became the wife of Henry L. Holbrook, and both are now deceased.

In his younger years John Lloyd Davidson worked with his father until he had mastered the builders trade, after which he went to Syracuse, New York, where he followed the same pursuit. Subsequent to his marriage he continued his connection with building operations there until 1833, when he come to Ann Arbor, finding here but a small and unimproved town. However, he believed in its future and began working at his trade. He built the first county jail here, also assisted in the construction of the courthouse and was employed on many of the other large public buildings. He built the medical college of the State University, the laboratory and other fine structures of the city and the importance of the contracts awarded him made him one of the leading representatives of the builders art in Ann Arbor. He continued in close connection with the trade until his death and his labors brought him a gratifying measure of success. At one time he was also engaged in mercantile pursuits with Hiram Becker, but finding it was taking too much time from his other business he sold out.

He passed away August 6, 1881, respected and honored by all who knew him. He had long survived his wife, who died August 31, 1860. In his early days he was a Whig and cast his first vote in 1827. Upon the dissolution of that party, however, he joined the ranks of the republican party and continued as one of its supporters until his demise. He was a member in good standing in the Masonic fraternity, belonging to Ann Arbor lodge, No. 15, F.A. & A.M. He was quiet and unostentatious in manner but possessed the individual worth that brings recognition in unqualified respect. He was well known, being a pioneer settler of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw county, and all who knew him respected him for his fidelity of principle. His business interests grew in volume and importance as the years went by and he also advanced in public regard as his acquaintance widened. His son George H. is likewise well known in Washtenaw county and is a graduate of the high school here. The family is now represented in this county by two daughters, Mrs. Wainwright and Miss Mary Davidson. After the death of her husband the former returned to Ann Arbor and she and her sister, Miss Davidson, reside at the old family home, at No. 338 East Kingsley street, where they own a nice residence. They also have a number of valuable building lots near by, for at one time Mr. Davidson was the owner of the entire block where the old homestead now stands.

Source: Past and Present of Washtenaw County, Michigan, by Samuel W. Beake. Chicago:The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. 1906. Pages 84 and 87.

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Created: 11/18/03
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