Tuesday 14 July 2015

"Then let 'er go to hell!"

Those who love Kings County genealogy will be familiar with the Davis family; a loyalist family descending from Caleb Davis who emigrated from Wales to the United States, and finally to Canada circa 1783.
We happen to have a lot of artifacts in our collection from Captain Solomon Davis, a fourth generation descendant of Caleb Davis. He was a very interesting man who was a fixture of Hatfield Point until his death in January 1895. He was born on December 12th 1839 to Zebulon Southard Davis and Ann Dykeman. Davis married Maggie Edna Spragg on November 6, 1864.

Captain Davis traveled a great deal and had a very varied career, going to places such as China, India and Ceylon. He was also a Sea Fencible*, a unit created in Canada during the War of 1812 to protect exposed coastline from an attack. In Saint John, where Solomon Davis was found to be among the muster roll as a seaman, the Sea Fencibles were part of the Saint John Militia. Davis was also part owner of the ships he captained, which was very standard at that time. Being part owner of the ship meant that he was much more invested in his cargo. He was praised for being quick on his feet and courageous, as well as a good manager of accounts and cargo.

Captain Davis also seemed to have quite the sense of humor, as told in John Keirstead’s two part series about Captain Davis, “From A Seadog’s Logbook,” published in the Weekend Showcase. Keirstead recounts Captain Davis' examination for his captain’s papers; “a member of the examining board asked him what he would do if his ship were rigged in a certain way, encountered high winds and was being driven on shore. He answered that he would rig more sail and steer a certain course.” The examiner pressed Captain Davis two times further about what he would do if that did not work. Captain Davis provided the same answer, that he would rig more sail and steer a certain course, “until the third time in which he responded ‘Then let her go to hell,’ Davis roared, and passed his examination with flying colors.”**

Throughout his varied career Maggie accompanied Davis on many of his voyages. On one voyage to China in 1870 Maggie purchased the beautiful (and enormous) handmade fan pictured above. It is two-sided, with one side showing flowers and the other birds.

We also have Davis’ pen, an amazing instrument with two different nibs that can slide out for use; the picture at right shows the piece with the pen nib in use. Once the pen nib slides back in place, a second slide mechanism deploys a pencil point. 

The bottom of the pen is also a functional feature: engraved in the end is Davis’ seal - the letters S and D entwined - which was used to imprint wax seals on his letters. An elegant yet practical bit of kit for a man who combined elegance and practicality himself.

Works Consulted:

* The Saint John Sea Fencibles by Daniel F. Johnson, Generations the journal of the New Brunswick Geneological Society, Issue 62 Winter 1994-5

** “From A Seadog’s Logbook,” written by John Keirstead in two parts in the The Weekend Showcase, December 1966

Our thanks to summer staffer Lydia Blois for writing today's blog post!


  1. You do dredge up the most interesting content for these blogs! Who knew Kings County has such a wealth of tales. I thoroughly enjoy them. Thanks to you all.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind review! We are thoroughly enjoying our "virtual visits" through this blog and the chance to share some of the stranger bits from the collection. Thanks for reading!

  2. What a gentleman! Shades of Captain Jack Sparrow! And he lived here in Springfield!

    1. Our local characters, like Captain Davis, are certainly worthy of praise and greater notice. We hope these little insights into our past will inspire future generations - we are communities built on derring-do!