Who is Pioneer William Davis?
Submitted by Ethel Nielsen

      Susie Davis Nicholson on page 680 of her book “Davis, The Settlers of Salem, West Virginia” says she is not able to identify the origin of Pioneer William and wife Jane/Jean. On page 681, speaking of the New Salem Records, she says “On Feb. 1802, there was mention made of a Rev. William Davis of the West Fork River Church. We cannot place this man and think he might have been of the pioneer Davis family. No further mention was made of him and he may have left the church” (or died?).

      In the beginning of her book, pages 3-5, she describes the Rev. William Davis of Wales who is considered the “father” of the Davis families in and around Clarksburg. The Reverend had two wives, ten children (6 were sons) and lived in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. He was a member, at different periods of his life, of the Baptist Church, the Seventh Day Baptist Church and the Quakers. He was the first minister of the Shrewsbury Seventh Day Baptist Church of New Jersey and died six months after his appointment in 1745.

      Records during the colonial period are scarce and when they are found, are inadequate and difficult to read. For example, the Shrewsbury church, organized in 1745, was without a minister between 1752 and 1774. There were scant records, only 6 pages, between 1745 and 1752 and for the next 22 years very few entries until 1774. The early churches met in homes and a clerk was not always available to record the minutes even before the churches were formally organized. The oldest church in Pennsylavania is the Pennepek Baptist Church where the Reverend William joined in 1697. He was expelled February 17, 1698/9 for heresy. His next memberships were with the Seventh Day Baptist Churches.

      Perhaps the question we should be asking is:

Was Pioneer William a grandson of the Reverend?

      Any of the six sons of the Reverend William from Wales could be the father of Pioneer William. Pioneer William made a homestead improvement on Simpson Creek in 1772 and bargained it away to Jonathan STOUT. About the same time, he made another bargain that gave him his land on the West Fork. William DAVIS was given a Certificate, signed 20th December 1784 (the year Harrison County was formed from Monongalia County) by Patrick HENRY, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for 334 acres as Assignee of Job STOUT, on the West Fork of Monongalia River including his settlement made thereon in the year 1776.

      The Shrewsbury Church was in Monmouth, N.J. Both Job Stout and Jonathan Stout were descendents of the Richard Stout who settled in New Jersey about 1648 and with others purchased a large section of east New Jersey, called Monmouth. Richard was considered the largest landed proprietor, and served as overseer of the district of Middletown.

      Pioneer William had a daughter Ann who married John Kelley in Harrison County in 1786; the Kelley family was from New Jersey. Pioneer William also had a daughter Mary who married Thomas Maxson in 1791; Thomas Maxson’s family were active members of the Shrewsbury Church and he was baptized in 1778 before the congregation migrated to Harrison County.

      The Simpson Creek Baptist Church was the first church in the Western Territory. In 1777, the Simpson Church joined the Redstone Association and sent Pioneer William as their messenger. He represented the church again in 1788 according to minutes of the Redstone Association as well as minutes of Simpson Creek. The minutes of Simpson Creek also mention Pioneer William and/or his family during the years 1786, 87, 91, 92, 93, and in 94 his family was dismissed to attend the New Salem church but his membership was never acknowledged in New Salem minutes. Did the recorder of the minutes mean to say the West Fork River Church since both churches were Seventh Day Baptist Churches? Pioneer William’s daughter Mary married Thomas Maxson in 1791 and he started the West Fork River Church in 1793 with 5 members. The minutes of the West Fork River Church have long ago disappeared. The Corliss Fitz Randolph Book: Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia (page 138-143) quotes a letter by Thomas Maxson. He talks about the rapid decline of the church following the rejection of the West Fork River to attend a General Conference in 1808, he gives a partial list of members one of which is Elder William Davis.

      There appears to be a strong connection between the Reverend William and Pioneer William. The Reverend was a minister in New Jersey; the Kelly & Stout families were from New Jersey; the Maxson family was from New Jersey. All were active in the Baptist Church and the Seventh Day Baptist Church Records are missing or non-existing; the Reverend had six sons; any one of the six could be the father of Pioneer William making him the grandson.

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