Henry G. Davis, U.S. Senator

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Henry Gassaway Davis

Birthdate: (92)
Birthplace: near Woodstock, Howard, MD, USA
Death: March 11, 1916 (92)
Washington, District of Columbia, DC, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Caleb Dorsey Davis and Louisa Warfield Davis
Husband of Katherine Bantz
Father of Maria "Hallie" Davis; Molly Davis; Catherine Bantz Brown; Anderson Cord Davis; Ada Kate Davis and 3 others
Brother of Eliza A Buxton; John D Davis; Thomas Beall Davis and William R Davis

Occupation: Unites States Senator from West Virginia
Managed by: Anthony William Valiant Phillips
Last Updated:

About Henry G. Davis, U.S. Senator

Unites States Senator.



Henry Gassaway Davis (November 16, 1823 – March 11, 1916) was a self-made millionaire and U.S. Senator (1871–1883) from West Virginia. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1904. His brother was U.S. Congressman Thomas Beall Davis.

Early life

Henry Gassaway Davis was born near Woodstock, Howard County, Maryland to Caleb Dorsey Davis and Louisa Warfield Brown, He was the great-great-great grandson of Maryland pioneer Thomas Davis, and the great-great-great-great grandson of Maryland politician and justice Colonel Nicholas Gassaway, both of whom were of Welsh ancestry and emigrated to Maryland in the mid 17th century.

Davis worked on a farm until 1843, when he began to work for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as a brakeman and conductor. Later he was put in charge of the Piedmont, West Virginia terminal of the railroad, and soon went into coal mining and banking in Piedmont. Davis married Katherine Ann Salome Bantz on February 22, 1853 in Frederick County, Maryland. Henry and Katherine had 8 children, 3 of whom died in infancy.

Political and commercial life

In 1865 Davis was elected a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. The following year, he founded the Potomac and Piedmont Coal and Railway Company with the intent of furnishing transportation to his coal mining and timbering interests. The company was given the right to construct railroad grades in Mineral, Grant, Tucker and Randolph Counties. He became a state senator in 1869. In 1871, he was elected to the United States Senate, serving two terms, with his service ending in 1883.

Following his service in the Senate, Davis retired to Elkins, West Virginia, where he resumed banking and coal mining. Davis’ company now controlled 135,000 acres (550 km2), employed 1,600 men of sixteen nationalities, operated two power plants, and worked over 1,000 coke ovens and 9 mines within one mile (1.6 km) of the central office at Coketon in Tucker County. By 1892, the Davis Coal and Coke Company, a partnership between Davis and his son-in-law, Senator Stephen Benton Elkins, was among the largest coal companies in the world.

Davis represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Conferences of 1889 and 1901.

Candidate for Vice President

In 1904, Davis became the Democratic nominee for Vice President on a ticket with Alton B. Parker. Parker and Davis lost to the Republican ticket of Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Fairbanks. At age 80, Davis was (and is) the oldest person to be nominated for President or Vice President on a major party ticket.

Bessie A. Davis and the Wreck of the RMS Republic

On January 23, 1909, Bessie A. Davis, the wife of Henry's son John Thomas Davis, was aboard the White Star liner RMS Republic when it collided with the Italian liner SS Florida and sank off Nantucket on the following day. Bessie had her 2 living children (Hallie Elkins Davis and Henry Gassaway Davis III) with her on the voyage, as well as her mother, but no harm came to any of them and they were evacuated (along with almost all the other passengers) onto other ships which had answered the distress calls of the RMS Republic. Bessie's son Henry Gassaway Davis III later became the first husband of Grace Vanderbilt, daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt III and Grace Graham (Wilson) Vanderbilt.

Last years

Davis in his last years acted as chairman of the permanent Pan American Railway Committee (1901–1916) and also donated land to build Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. He died in Washington, D.C. at age 92 and is interred in the Maplewood Cemetery (Elkins, West Virginia). A bronze equestrian statue of Davis was erected in 1927, at Sycamore Street and Randolph Avenue in Elkins; it is located in the Wees Historic District.

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Henry G. Davis, U.S. Senator's Timeline

November 16, 1823
near Woodstock, Howard, MD, USA
December 19, 1853
Age 30
Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, United States
Age 30
Maryland, United States
December 1, 1856
Age 33
Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States
November 4, 1859
Age 35
Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States
January 14, 1865
Age 41
October 19, 1870
Age 46
Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, United States
May 10, 1871
Age 47
West Virginia, United States
March 31, 1874
Age 50
Piedmont, Mineral County, West Virginia, United States