Francis White Johnson.

A history of Texas and Texans (Volume 4) online

. (page 87 of 177)
Online LibraryFrancis White JohnsonA history of Texas and Texans (Volume 4) → online text (page 87 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fident that no other verdict could be returned, but the
verdict of that jury was "Not guilty." The judge
himself congratulated Mr. Gillett and assured him that
if he ever had the misfortune to require the services of
a criminal lawyer, Mr. Gillett might consider himself
retained in advance.

Mr. Gillett is a stanch Democrat and takes an active
part in the activities of that body, being recognized as
one of the party leaders in Hiis scctimi of the state,
although it is a ]iart of Ins |i|,-iii <if |irm>e<lure that he
never accepts pulilic ollirc liimsilt'. Uis residence in
El Paso has been fraught ivitli n.tivities in the best
interests of the city, and as a member of the local
school board he has performed worthy service in behalf
of the educational system. No more enthusiastic Texan
will be found when questions of its comparative oppor-
tunities are raised, and Mr. Gillett is prepared at all
times to respond to any inquiries with reference to pos-
sible and certain opportunities that are to be found
within the border lines of Texas.

Mr. Gillett is a member of the Knights of Pythias,
and has filled all chairs in the local lodge, as well as
having served as representative to the Grand Lodge of
Texas. He has been twice married. His first wife
died in New Mexico, and is there buried. His second

marriage took place at Silver City, New Mexico, on
January 30, 1893, Miss Euth Phelps becoming his wife,
she being a native daughter of the state of Illinois.
Five children were born to them — four sons and one
daughter, named as follows: Idus, Eena, Clyde and
Claude, who are twins, and Knox. The family are mem-
bers of the Methodist Episcopal church South, in El
Paso, and take prominent places in the many good works
of the church with which they have afiiliated since lo-
cating in El Paso.

Three generations of the Gillett family, which has
long been identified with Texas in no uncertain manner,
are thus established in El Paso, and while the activities
of the subject are of a nature entirely different from the
work that dominated the lives of his honored sire and
grandsire, yet he is taking his place as an honored and
honorable advocate of the law and as a citizen whose
every instinct is in harmony with the growth and de-
velopment of the best interests of his city.

J. Swain Aybes. Among the men who by their ac-
tivities in the field of business have added to the com-
mercial importance of AmarHlo, J. Swain Ayres, presi-
dent of the J. S. Ayers lee Cream Company, holds
prominent position. Coming to this city a poor man, less
than ten years ago, he has during this time built up one
of the leading industries of its kind in the Lone .Star
state, the business of which extends not only through-
out Texas but into Oklahoma and Mexico. Mr. Ayres
is a Westerner by birth and training. He was born
in San Saba county, Texas, January 14, 1880, and is a
son of W. E. and Josephine (Webster) Ayres.

W. E. Ayres was a native of Mississippi, and when
two years of age was brought to Texas by his parents,
the family settling on a ranch in Goliad county. There
Mr. Ayres grew to manhood, following in the foot-steps
of his father and adopting agricultural pursuits, ranch-
ing and stock raising as his life work. He is now re-
tired from active pursuits and is living at Clarendon,
Texas, being sixty-five years of age. He was married
at Goliad, Texas, to Josephine Webster, who was born
and educated in Texas, and who is still living at the age
of sixty-two years. She and her husband have had four
sons and three daughters, J Swain being the fourth in
order of birth.

After attending the public school at Mason, Texas,
Mr. Ayres took up ranching, but subsequently turned
his attention to dairying, which he followed at Cleburne,
Texas, for one year. During the next year he divided
his time between ranching and attending school, and
then went to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was
engaged in dairying for two years. After six months
spent in central Texas, in 1904 he came to AmarillO;
where he purchased a dairy business, and this he con-
ducted two years. During this time Mr. Ayres became
convinced that there wns :i (icl.l f..r a concern which
could furnish a first-cla-'^ ^l:llll' n( ire cream, and ac-
cordingly in 1906, he lii';;.ni i.. ukuhi I'.i.-ture this delicacy.
His business grew so raiH.lly, tli.-it in 1910 he became the
organizer of the Ayres Ic-e (.'ream Company, and erected
the present modern buildings, which are equipped
throughout with the most highly improved machinery
for the manufacture of ice cream. His associate, J. W.
Collins, secretary of the company, is one of the capable
business men of the city, and ten experts are employed
in manufacturing an excellent and wholesome confec-
tion. The business is conceded to be the largest of its
kind west of Kansas City, and every precaution for
sanitation is observed. The credit for thn irrowth and
development of this business lies with Mr. Ayres. not
only because he was able to realize an opjiortunity and
had the courage to grasp it, but he also has
had the perseverence, enterprise and inherent ability to
build it up to extensive proportions. The greater part of
his attention is centered in this business, but he has also
interests in stock-raising operations, for he firmly believes


this to be one of the greatest sections for stock in the
country. Like all typical Westerners, he is fond of out-
door life and sports, and is never happier than when on
an expedition with rod or gun. His fraternal associa-
tions are with the local lodges of the "Woodmen of the
World and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. Po-
litically, he gives his support to Democratic principles
and candidates, but he has had no public aspirations.
With his family, he attends the Christian church.

On April 25, 1906, Mr. Ayres was married to Miss
Mary E. Baker, daughter of John Baker, of Amarillo.
To this union there has come two interesting children,
Ralph H., born October 22, 1907, at Amarillo, and Euth,
born September 4, 1913, at Amarillo, Texas.

Eev. Egbert E. Vinson, D.D. LL.D. As one of a
family that has been distinguished by its services in the
Presbyterian ministry, Eev. Eobert E. Vinson, D.D.,
LL.D., has especially gained prominence in the work of
the church, not only through his activities in a minis-
terial capacity, but as president of Austin Presbyterian
Theological Seminary, to which office he was elected in
May, 1909, after seven years of work in the seminary as
an instructor in various branches.

Eobert E. Vinson was born in Winnsboro, Fairfield
county. South Carolina, on Xnvrndier 4, 1876, and is a
son of John Vinson, a South Caidliiui merchant and cot-
ton buyer, born in that st;Uc in Suuitfr county, in 1839.
Andrew P. Vinson, grandfather of the subject, was a
Virginian by birth, who moved to South Carolina when
a boy, and who was a very prominent lawyer in the Ante
Bellum days. He died in 1846. John Vinson served in
the Confederate army under General Beauregard. He
enlisted at the beginning of the war from Citadel Acad-
emy where he was a student, and served throughout the
entire four years. He was taken prisoner at Fort Sum-
ter, but barring a few months imprisonment, was active
in the service throughout the entire period of hostilities.

The Vinson family, it should be said, is one of the
oldest in America today, the first of the name to settle
on American soil having come from France in company
with General LaFayette and they rendered valiant ser-
vice during the revolutionary war.

John Vinson, father of the subject, married Mary
Brice, who was of Scotch-Irish descent, her people hav-
ing come nrigiually from the North of Ireland, settling
in the Piedmont section of South Carolina. Two of Mrs.
Vinson's brothers fought under General Long-street
throughout the war, and two brothers of John Vinson
also gave service to the South during that unhappy time.
Walker Vinson was killed in Pickett's Brigade at Gettys-
burg and the other, A. P. Vinson, still lives in Sumter,
South Carolina. He served with the rank of Major
during the war, and is still known by his military title.
Another brother, W. D.. was for twenty years a profes-
sor of mathematics in Davidson College, North Carolina.

,To John and Mary (Brice) Vinson were born the fol-
lowing children : Walter H., a lawyer of St. Paul, Min-
nesota ; William A., also a lawyer, engaged in practice in
Houston, Texas; John W., missionary to China; T.
Chalmers, a missionary in Luebo, Belgian Congo, Africa ;
Mrs. W, J. Culver, of San Antonio, Texas; Mrs. W. A.
McLeod, of Austin, Texas; Miss Brice Vinson, teaching
in the public schools of San Antonio; and Eev. Eobert
E. of this review.

Eobert E. Vinson came with his father's family to
Sherman, Texas, in 1887. He had his education in the
public schools, followed bv attendance at Austin College,
from which he took his B.A. degree in 1896. In 1899
he had his B.D. degree from Union Theological Seminary
of Virginia, after which he became Associate Pastor of
tlie First Presbyterian church of Charleston, West Vir-
ginia, continuing until 1902 in that connection. In 1902
Eev. Vinson took a special course in Hebrew and Archae-
ology in the Divinity School of Chicago University, under
Dr. Harper, and in September, 1902, he came to Austin,

Texas, as professor of Old Testament languages and
Exegesis. In 1906, at his own request, he was trans-
ferred to the Chair of English Bible and Practical The-
ology, which he still holds, and in May, 1909, he was
elected president of the Seminary, his present office.

In 1905 Austin College conferred upon him the degree
of D.D., and in 1910 the degree of LL.D. was conferred
upon him by Southwestern Presbyterian University of
Clarksville, 'Tennessee.

Too much credit cannot be accorded to Dr. Vinson for
his work along educational lines in the state of Texas.
In 1909 he formulated the plan under which the Pres-
byterian church in Texas has since operated its educa-
tional work, and he has been chairmen of the executive
agency of the Synod since 1909. This commission has
under its jurisdiction seven schools in the state, and Dr.
Vinson has been field secretary since that time, raising
all the money for the support and equipment of the
schools — a work that has won for him especial prominence
in the church and out of it.

Dr. Vinson was married on January 3, 1901, to iliss
Katherine Kerr, of Sherman, Texas, a daughter of John
S. Kerr, a nurseryman who has been prominently iden-
tified with the horticultural and agricultural interests of
the state of Texas for the past quarter century. The
Kerrs came originally from Scotland, as the family name
would inevitably indicate, and they made their first
settlement in Mississippi. The paternal grandfather of
Mrs. Vinson was one of the earliest settlers in Collins
county, Texas, and that district is still the recognized
seat of the family. Her maternal grandfather, of the
family name of ilurray, was a pioneer Presbyterian
Missionary to the Trans-Mississippi country of Arkan-
sas and Texas, and her maternal grandmother was a
Eutherford, also of Scotch descent, and a native of
South Carolina.

The children of Dr. and Mrs. Vinson are Elizabeth,
born December 26, 1901 ; Helen Eutherford, born July 9,
1906; and Katherine Kerr, born April 5, 1911.

James Harvey Davis. This publication will contain
few more suggestive and interesting biographies of living
Texans in public life than the following sketch of ' ' Cy-
clone ' ' Davis. It is an appreciative tribute and de-
scription well justified by its contents, and requires no
further editorial comment.

In the domain of polities the name of James Harvey
Davis, of Sulphur Springs, has a renown far beyond the
limits of Texas. Mr. Davis regards himself as a private
citizen and yet none of the conspicuous leaders in public
affairs better deserves the distinctions and honors which
have come to his career. He is a man who has reached
his zenith of political influence, after years of fighting
against special privilege, unfair competition, political
bossism and trickery, and may properly take to himself
a goodly share of the victories won in the renovation of
politics during recent years. He takes special personal
satisfaction in the enthronement of a national adminis-
tration pledged to the execution of policies of govern-
ment of which he is and has been for twenty years a
leading, active and forceful exponent. Victory does not
always come to the brave, nor is the race always to the
swift, but a combination of the qualities of courage and
speed avail much when enlisted for humanity and di-
rected toward the destruction of political and economic
evils. "Cyclone" Davis, as he is familiarly known, is
a man of rare qualities and services in these modern
times of politics.

The remote ancestors of Mr. Davis were Welsh, and
the family name was originally ' ' Davies, ' ' when intro-
duced into the colonies of the south. The exact rank
and station of the Welsh progenitor is not a matter of
knowledge, but appeared in the Carolinas as a subject
of the English king and lived to raise up a small army
of posterity to help beat back the soldiers of his sove-
reign. They fought under Francis Marion and with



other squads and troops engaged in the Eevolution, and
seven great-uncles of William B. Davis, father of James
H., were all engaged in the struggle for national inde-

As a family they have been civilians by nature, soldiers
only to meet a public necessity and to defeat a public
calamity. The industry of the farm and conformity to
the established customs of the south seem to have
afforded the regular -channels of their energies. As
planters of the old school, they employed the labor of
the bondmen, and when their title to this property was
threatened they met the emergency with an oifer of their
lives. Strong convictions were a feature of every char-
acter, and "love their neighbor" as themselves was a
ruling principle of every nature.

Col. Harvey Davis, grandfather of James Harvey
Davis, was born after the Eevolution and passed his life
in South Carolina, his home being in the Piciiens District.
He manifested strong characteristics as a citizen, was
an enthusiastic follower of Andrew Jackson, and his
posterity have brought up their sons in the same polit-
ical faith. He married a Miss Barton, a daughter of
one of the pioneer families of the Palmetto state, and
six sons and two daughters were born of their union.
Young Davis, his oldest son, was a Confederate colonel
and was a member of the Georgia State Senate many

William B., founder of the Texas branch of this
family, was born early in the century in Pickens District
of South Carolina, and was married there during the
forties. He reached Texas in 1S57, after the manner of
the early settlers of that time. He was uneducated as
the manner of education is today, but had learned the
essentials and was fond of reading. He possessed no
ability as a speaker and evinced no ambition for a
political office. He asserted an .independence that is
strongly reflected in his descendants, and though not a
Christian in the accepted sense of the word, was a veri-
table "blue stocking" in the observance of the Sabbath
day. He held slaves and was a planter when the war
caijie on. He used his influence for the success of the
Confederacy, and saw his sons offer themselves as a
sacrifice in the army of the gray. Although old and
feeling the weight of years, he did some service upon
the ' ' old men 's call ' ' toward the end of the war. He
died at Winnsboro, at the age of eighty-three, while the
mother of James H. died in 1859.

William D. Davis married Miss Salina Moore, a
daughter of James S. Moore, who owned a water-mill
near Kaleigh, North Carolina, where Mrs. Davis was
born. Their children were David B., who died in the
hospital as a Confederate soldier; Commodore Decatur,
who at the time of his death at Anson, Texas, was dis-
trict attorney; James Harvey; Warren L., of Abilene,
Kansas; E. Sampson, of Sonora, California; Dr. Jeff
D., of Eoby, Texas; John and Jarrett, who both were
cruelly slain when young men engaged in the cattle busi-
ness in New Mexico; and Mrs. Eitta McGee, of Anson,

James H. Davis, subject of this sketch, was born in
Pickens District, South Carolina, December 24, 1853.
His memory of events did not begin until his parents
reached Texas and settled near Winnsboro. This period
of the war furnished a serious obstacle toward the
acquirement of an education, since at that time he was
giving his youthful strength toward the support and
maintenance of his mother and younger children. His
part in bread-winning and the situation during and fol-
lowing the war called for more serious w;ork than attend-
ing school. In spite of these handicaps,' he applied him-
self with such vigor to study and the knowledge of books
that he was in time qualified as a teacher himself. His
work as school-master was as educative to himself as to
his scholars, since he found it necessary to train himself
thoroughly in advance of his pupils over all the ground
covered by them. When finally relieved of the burdens

of home, he gave his energies full play in making up
for lost time and eventually had mastered the common
branches, had prospected some in the field of general
literature, and also possessed himself of the basic prin-
ciples of the law. The tallow candle and pine knots had
served him while a student, until the invention of the
oil lamp, and it is said he purchased the first glass lamp
for the use of kerosene that came to Winnsboro.

He found himself ready for examination for the bar
in 1879, and took his examinations before Judge B. T.
Estes at Mount Vernon. Among the local talent who
composed the committee of examiners, were the chair-
man, Judge Baldwin, now one of the leading lawyers
of Bock Port, Texas; Judge W. P. McLean, of Fort
Worth, one of the first railroad commissioners of Texas;
and Hon. S. O. Moody, now of Colorado. Mr. Davis was
already serving as county judge of Franklin county when
admitted to practice law. After his admission he won
a unique victory in the vfiy first' with which he
was connected as counsel. 'I'liis , :im^ »ns tried before
a justice and Mr. Davis «a- ,|,f,iii|iii- a man charged
with drunkenness. He set up the claim in behalf of his
client that the defendant owed the state nothing, and
that there was no proof of "intent" to commit crime.
He owed the state nothing because the state had col-
lected its dues for the license which permitted the saloon-
keeper to sell the liquor and make the defendant drunk
and that fact, coupled with the fact that the fellow did
not intend to get drunk when he took the drinks, ought
to clear his client of the charge and, to the astonishment
of the defense itself, it did.

Mr. Davis practiced law regularly until 1904, although
the law had apparently always been more of a secondary
matter with him. Nature endowed him with strong
powers of .speech, and his ability in debate and argu-
ment and in forceful, logical presentation of facts, and
native rugged eloquence, has found expression through
the press and also in public debate. To bring his ideas
and utterances directly before the people he bought a
newspaper at Mt. Vernon, the Franklin Herald, a Demo-
cratic paper, and while he affiliated with the old party
he was the mouthpiece of that organ. In early life he
joined his brother in making a study of the politics of
the country through the leading dailies of the United
States. They read the New York World, Brick Pome-
roy's Democrat, and several other metropolitan newspa-
pers of both political parties, and for several years his
own political convictions were shaped and ripened by
the assimilation of the editorials of able students of
government. Between his ownership of the TTcrald and
the 7 indicator at Sulphur Springs, Mr. Davis become a
Populist, and he closed his fourteen years of newspaper
work there as the editor of the latter paper. He also
spent a year in Greenville, as the editor of the Greenville
Herald, and soon afterwards came to Sulphur Springs to
practice law and carry on his politi,-.-il piniin^iaiida.

His interest in the"Farmers',. M,,\viiient and
his sympathy with it were niadr |.ia.f irallv useful
through his services as a political l.-j.lrv and debater
in explanation and dclVnso ,,i' il^ (coiiniiii, y.olicies

Following the Oeala minniti f tlir. Alliance, the

National Grange, IIm' XaiiiDial r:iiiiiris' \lliaiice' the
Knights of Labor, .-nnl tli.^ F.Mcratiun of Labor issued
a call for the presence of all who believed in the prin-
ciples of government as announced in the Ocala demands
of the Farmers' Alliance, to meet with them in Cincin-
nati. Mr. Davis was one of the five lawvers in the
United States to respond to that invitation. Ignatius
Donnelly of Minneapolis and Mr. Davis were 'of the
party, and became a member of the committee on plat-
forms. Meeting with different bodies organized with
grip and password, but with a common purpose, was
a new situation for lawyers, apostles of the law and
against the practice of clandestine gatherings for polit-
ical purposes, but they put themselves in harmony with
the situation by organizing themselves into a similar



body, adopting a sort of schedule of "demands," made
the ' ' hand strike ' ' their grip, and added the sixteenth
beatitude, "Blessed is he that expects nothing for he
shall not be disappointed." They agreed to defend the
platform made at that conference, and pledged each
other to come to the relief of either who chanced to
come into conflict with the law while carrying on their

The platform prepared by that conference formulated
the doctrines most prominent in the platforms of the
Democratic and Progressive National parties today, and
they included some principles as physical -raluation of
railroads, popular election of United States senators,
initiative, referendum and recall, graduated income tax,
a stock and bond law, and other planks, now thought
to be progressive but not radical. With the formation
of the Populist party, Mr. Davis spent five years in its
organization, covering the United States from Pennsyl-
vania west and from Baltimore south, speaking in nearly
every county seat in the whole territory. During the
life of that political party he was a factor in all its
councils and conventions, and infused confidence and
courage into his associates by the clearness of his con-
ception of government and the sincerity with which he
advocated its cause. He was one of the populist com-
mittee of six along with such men as Thomas Patterson,
of Colorado; Ignatius Donnelly, of Minnesota; Harry
Tracy, of Texas; Herman Taubeneck, of Illinois; Colonel
Harvey, of Florida; and Col. John G. Eankin, of Indi-
ana, treasurer of the party. It was Senator Tom Pat-
terson who wrote the first plank into a national platform
demanding the free coinage of silver at the ratio of
sixteen to one. Mr. Davis opposed the methods of stat-
ing the ratio because it necessitated an explanation to
the average voter and proposed instead that the language
be changed to read "Free and unlimited coinage as per
the Coinage Act of 1873, and expressed in the credit-
strengthening act (25 8-10 grains of gold to 412 1-2
grains of silver)," which is the ratio of sixteen to one.
His suggestion was voted down, and his prophecy as to
the effect of the "Sixteen to One" declaration in the
campaign came true.

In 1896 the Democrats made a bid for popular support
of their ticket by oft'ering to take Mr. Sewell's name
from their ticket and substitute James H. Davis for
vice-president as a running mate for Mr. Bryan. Hav-
ing determined to accept no honors for himself, but to
devote his energies to the welfare of popular principles,
he declined the offer and advised his Populist friends
not to indorse Bryan as they afterwards did, but to
nominate a presidential candidate along with Watson,
and make a combination with the Democrats in the divi-
sion of electors. This program he contended would save
two hundred thousand votes in doubtful states, which
would give the fusionists control of the electoral college
and result in the choice of Mr. Bryan for the presidency.
The result of the election of that year shows that if his
advice had been followed, Mr. Bryan instead of Mr.
McKinley would have been the successor of Grover Cleve-

Online LibraryFrancis White JohnsonA history of Texas and Texans (Volume 4) → online text (page 87 of 177)