Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People

Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People
Answers at bottom of the left column.

January 12, 2010

Davis *, James and Mary Elizabeth Fretwell

James Davis Family

Back Row, L to R: Cordelia (1881-1955), John Orson (1876-1952), Emily Ellen (1873-1947), James Henry (1870-1930), Ethel Olive (1879-1943).
Front Row: Stella (1883-1952), James l. (1840-1920), Mary Elizabeth (1843-1928), and Edward Fretwell (1865-1940). Taken c 1894
James and Mary were born in England; all the children were born in Utah. Four of the children died before this photograph was taken.

James Davis: His parents were George Davis (1806-1860) and Mary Antony Timson (1806-1866).  James was born 9 August 1840 London, Middlesex, England; Death: 7 February 1920 Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho. He married Mary Elizabeth Fretwell 23 April 1864 at the Endowment House, Salt Lake.  They eventually had 11 children, four of whom died before the 1879 San Juan Mission.  James loved music and was an organist and also loved to sing and dance.  He knew some fast and unusual dance steps which entertained their Navajo friends.  He lived to age 80 and they say he could still dance a fancy jig. James once testified: "All the promises that were made to me by the Elders of the Church in England have been fulfilled, and life has been worth living (McDonald, Blue Mountain Shadows Vol. 30 p. 46)."

Mary Elizabeth Fretwell: Her parents were William Kellingley Fretwell (1817-1872) and Mary Ann Raby (1821-1858).  Mary was the oldest of seven children.  She was born 14 April 1843 London, London, England and died 21 November 1923, Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho.  The blessing given to her prior to leaving to San Juan in 1879 was fulfilled and she never lost another child.  In addition her health was restored, despite the primitive and trying circumstances the family faced while at Fort Montezuma.  She survived to a ripe old age of 85.

Children on the trek: Edward Fretwell, James Henry Fretwell, Emily Ellen, John Orson.  Their daughter Ethel Olive was the first known white child born in San Juan (Aug. 2, 1880). James hired Clara Mitchell to act as a midwife.  The labor began Aug. 1 and was long and excruciating.  After the first day, Clara went out of the fort exhausted saying she didn't think Mary would live, and then she left the area for awhile.  While she was gone the baby was born at 2:30 AM Aug. 2.  Both the baby and Mary were well and healthy.
(McDonald, Blue Mt. Shadows Vol. 30 p. 19)

The Davis family was in the initial exploring expedition which settled at Montezuma Creek in July of 1879, nine months ahead of the arrival of the Hole in the Rock party at Bluff in April of 1880. The history of their experiences in San Juan is well documented in their histories below.  They are truly icons of faithfulness and courage.  It took so long for the main party to arrive and bring supplies that the Davises and Harriman's nearly starved.  In fact, at one time there were even rumors they had been killed and Thales Haskell was sent to bury their bodies.  Be sure to follow the links below to read their full story and understand the difficulties they faced so faithfully.
Hole in the Rock by David Miller also has references to Davis on pp. 12, 20, 27, 29, 90, 92,  149, 154-157

Five Years on the San Juan  Improvement Era Jan. 1941 is now on line!

The Davis family later moved to Paris, Idaho in 1884. The spring of that year brought a devastating flood to the area with the river running five feet higher than normal, and destroying everything in its path. It peaked on June 18. Much of what the Montezuma settlers had built was washed downstream, proving that the greatest threat at Montezuma was not the Indians, but the river (McDonald p. 42).

The Davis family began to gather up what they could carry in one wagon. They traded their one remaining cabin, barn, and belongings to a Colorado cattleman for one small Indian pony. They left Fort Montezuma in Aug. or Sept. of 1884 with a caravan of other pioneers, eight wagons in total.  They made their exodus through Recapture Canyon, the mouth of which is about 11 miles west of Fort Montezuma (McDonald p. 45.)

Issue #30 of Blue Mountain Shadows has great detail about this family and others who came to Montezuma Creek written by Ron McDonald as well as a poem about Mary Davis and her ordeal in crossing Arizona deserts while pregnant.
Poem about Mary Davis

Obtain Blue Mountain Shadows at Clarks Market, San Juan Pharmacy, EOC Museum, or Visitors Center in Blanding.  Full sets should also be available at libraries at middle and high schools, CEU/SJC, and the Blanding Library.
If anyone wants to do further research on this family you can contact Ron McDonald at fortmontezuma@yahoo.com. He will try to help you locate living descendants who could provide additional profile information.

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