Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 23, 2001, pg. 5
A very Merry Christmas to all the readers of this column. Your donations of old photographs or letting me borrow them have helped make this column possible this past year. Call me first before you throw out old Albion photographs or city directories. I’m always looking for such research material. Thanks for your support. While you’re with your family this Christmas, visit our www.albionmich.com internet site and read my previous articles from this column back to 1989. Enjoy the big photographs and different topics.
From 1892 to 1938, there used to be two horse-watering troughs in downtown Albion, relics of a by-gone era for when an occasional horse trotted into the business district. One was located near the SW corner of Erie at Superior, and the other near our post office. That trough was later moved to the NW corner of Michigan Ave. and Ionia St. The one on Erie was moved to near the Victory Park spring in the early 1930s, and the other followed in May, 1938. One of them was salvaged and placed in the Market Place spring where it remained for many years until the 1970s. Today it is located just south of the alley behind the Albion Public Library.
The troughs were given to the city in 1892 by George N. Davis (1834-1916), a mid-19th century Albion dry goods merchant who loved horses. His surname “DAVIS,” inscribed on the side, was easily recognizeable by every horse who drank from them. Davis came to Albion in the summer of 1855 with his father, an Albion physician. He went into the dry goods business in downtown Albion in partnership with L.S. Luce in the firm “Luce & Davis,” which operated for several years.
The Civil War changed things, as hundreds of area men answered the call to arms to defend the Union. Davis was one of them and became Captain of Company D in the First Michigan Sharpshooters regiment. If the Sharpshooters name sounds vaguely familiar, there is rock monument in Marshall dedicated to the group (1911), as well as an elaborate one on the lawn of the state Capitol in Lansing, dedicated in 1915.
The Michigan Sharpshooters served gallantly throughout the war, much of it in Virginia. This is the same outfit that General William Henry Harrison Beadle (buried in Riverside Cemetery) was a part of. One of Davis’ early jobs was recruiting men to join the Sharpshooters. Those recruited from Albion were placed under Davis’ command in Company D. They were: Jacob Black, George Counterman, Alva Fordham, Apollo Fordham, Amos Hawley, George Miller, Samuel H. Peek, Edward F. Rodgers, Horton M. Squires, George W. Stone, William Woods, and Charles N. Young.
Davis became well respected by his men who honored him with a gift. The 1998 book about the Sharpshooters, “These Men Have Seen Hard Service” by Raymond J. Herek (Wayne State University Press) mentions (pg. 41) that Davis “was the recipient of a very beautiful sword, sash and belt, costing the handsome sum of $75. Davis’ Company D epitomized the volunteer nature of the new army.” A news account declared, “The Captain is among the popular ones in the regiment.”
Chronic illness was prevalent among Civil War soldiers, and Davis was no exception. Davis was forced to leave the regiment on May 12, 1864, and spent two months recuperating in Washington DC hospitals. In August he went to Indianapolis, Indiana to become U.S. Inspector of Hospitals. He subsequently was discharged on November 26, 1864 and returned to Albion where he lived during the late 1860s. In 1868-69 along with Theron Soule, Davis erected the Albion Opera House building which is still standing in downtown Albion today. The ground floor is the office of dentist Dr. Judy Warren.
Davis moved from Albion around 1870 and served in various capacities in civilian life, including a stint as warden at Jackson Prison. Davis eventually moved to Grand Rapids, where he became the official collector of Internal Revenue for the 4th collection district of Michigan, serving from 1885 to 1889. He also managed the Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids for a time. He dealt in real estate in Grand Rapids, and was treasurer of the W. Michigan Machine & Tool Company.
Davis didn’t forget Albion however and donated the watering troughs in 1892. He died in 1916 in Grand Rapids, and was buried there in Oakhill Cemetery. From our Historical Notebook we present a Civil War photograph of Captain George N. Davis, the donor of the Davis horse watering troughs here in Albion.
Captain George N. Davis
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic