Garrett Davis (1801-1872)

Historical Marker #1886 in Paris highlights the life of politician Garrett Davis.

Garrett Davis, statesman, excellent debater, and public servant, was born on September 10, 1801, at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Educated locally, Davis aspired to become an attorney. He did study law and was a deputy to the circuit court until 1823 when he moved to Paris, Kentucky, to pursue the private practice of law. While living in Bourbon County he was also a landowner and farmer. He spent the rest of his life in Paris where he died September 22, 1872, while serving in the US Congress.

In 1833, Davis was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives where he served for five years. In 1839, he was elected to the US House of Representatives and served until 1847. After resuming his private law practice and farming career, Davis was elected in 1861 to the US Senate, where he served until his death in 1872. Davis also served on the Kentucky Constitutional Convention in 1849. He was not pleased with the document as it was finally written and actively, though unsuccessfully, opposed its adoption.

Always active in politics as a conservative, first as a Whig and finally as a Democrat, he was a supporter and ally of Henry Clay and Clay's bids for office in the Senate and for the Presidency. He supported the preservation of the Union and helped keep Kentucky from seceding in 1861. After the Civil War he promoted peaceful reconstruction in Kentucky.

Much sought after as a representative of the people of Bourbon County, he declined to run for office several times, including refusing the nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky in 1848 and the American Party nomination for governor in 1855, and for the party's presidential nomination in 1856. During an 1869 controversy between the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Cincinnati Southern Railroad over the right to build a road through central Kentucky to Tennessee, Davis prevented the Southern Railway Bill from passing the Senate, asserting that it was unconstitutional.

Davis was married twice. His first marriage was to Rebecca Trimble, the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Robert Trimble. Davis later married Mrs. Eliza J. Elliott. He fathered two sons, Robert and Garrett as well as two daughters, Carrie and Rebecca.

After his death and a period of ownership by his son, Robert Trimble Davis, the Davis home, "Woodhome," became a school. It was first organized as a military academy, but soon developed into a private boys' school frequented by Bourbon County youths.

Images

Garrett Davis

Garrett Davis

Davis served Kentucky as a state legislator and US Congressman before the Civil War. He strongly opposed secession and was elected as a conservative Unionist to the US Senate in 1861. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Woodhome

Woodhome

The Garrett Davis house was called "Woodhome." After his death the house was sold to Colonel George M. Edgar who named it "The Larches." Col. Edgar established the Edgar Institute, a military academy, but it soon became a private boys’ school. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Garrett Davis

Garrett Davis

As a US Congressman and Senator Garrett Davis served Kentucky as an able statesman for many years. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Woodhome

Woodhome

The Davis house, Woodhome, is shown in this postcard photograph. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

1858 Bourbon County Agricultural Fair

1858 Bourbon County Agricultural Fair

Among other a number of other dignitaries, Garrett Davis is shown in this photograph from the 1852 Bourbon County Agricultural Fair that was later made into a postcard. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Garrett Davis, Thoroughbred Horse

Garrett Davis, Thoroughbred Horse

Davis was so well admired that even a thoroughbred race horse was named in his honor. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Hopewell Museum, “Garrett Davis (1801-1872),” ExploreKYHistory, accessed March 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/437.

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