Politician. Populist. Born: August 9, 1826, Sangamon County, Illinois. Died: August 1, 1901, Topeka, Kansas. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, 5th District: March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1895.
Born in Sangamon County, Illinois (near Springfield), August 9, 1826, John Davis moved with his family to Macon County in 1830. At age twenty, Davis entered Springfield Academy and then attended Illinois College at Jacksonville; thereafter he engaged in agricultural and horticultural pursuits on his own farm near Decatur, Illinois. He was an anti-slave Republican and believed in the principle of government supported agricultural education. (A post-election biographical sketch in The Kansas Commoner, Wichita, Kansas, on September 11, 1890, reported that Davis, who had been "a neighbor and intimate acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, early imbibed some of the best of that great man's views, and during the last twenty years he has been a constant student of political history.") In 1872 Davis located his family on a farm two miles northwest of Junction City, Kansas, where he also established a nursery-"Junction Heights Farm and Nursery! John Davis & Sons." For many years the secretary of the Central Kansas Horticultural Society, Davis was elected president in 1873 of "the first distinctive farmers' convention" held in Kansas; out of this meeting emerged the Farmers' Cooperative Association, established at the convention with Davis as president and J.K. Hudson as vice president. Davis was also president of the Grange Convention in 1874, editor and proprietor of the Junction City Tribune (1875-1895), and a Greenback candidate for U.S. Congress in 1880 and 1882-he was actually one of that party's Kansas founders. Successful as a Populist candidate in November 1890, defeating the incumbent Republican, William A. Phillips, Congressman Davis served two terms (March 4, 1891-March 3, 1895) but was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1894. John Davis remained active, however, and among other things authored Napoleon Bonaparte: A Sketch; Written For A Purpose (Boston: Arena Publishing Co., 1896), a 97-page book on the French emperor, which served as forum for commentary on the contemporary American political scene. David, who married Martha Powell (the sister of Major John Wesley Powell, director of U.S. Geological Survey) in 1851, died in Topeka, at his daughter's home, on August 1, 1901.
Entry: Davis, John
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2011
Date Modified: May 2012
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