E. H. DAVIES
E. H. Davies, the subject of this sketch, was born in Sidney, Kennebec County, Maine, June 6, 1825. His father, Charles S. Davies, Esq., was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and a well-to-do farmer, who had seven children, all Republican sons, five older than E. H., and one younger. All were thorough mechanics, but all took their turn at farming until they were large enough to launch out in the world for themselves. At the age of nineteen he went to Boston, where he hired out to Messrs. Fuller & Son, bell-hangers, No. 17 Devonshire Street, at $13 and board per month. This gave Mr. Davies a good opportunity of seeing all parts of the “Hub,” and also of seeing the interior of some of the finest dwellings, hotels, and steamships, of which he took advantage. In 1845 he returned to Maine, and with his brother Alonzo engaged in manufacturing fancy sleighs and buggies. At this he worked until 1850, with fair success, but thinking a change of climate might do him good, he started for Kenosha, Wisconsin, going to Buffalo by rail, and from there to Kenosha by way of the Great Lakes, on the steamer Empire, which consumed four and a half days’ time. He was there employed in his brother Joshua’s machine shop for one year, and then started for Maine, by way of Chicago. When he reached Chicago, being pleased with the appearance of the city, he thought he would remain and seek employment. The first place he entered was the machine shop of P. W. Gates, situated on Canal Street. When Mr. Davies asked for a situation, Mr. Gates inquired what kind of work he wanted to do. Mr. Davies replied that it made but little difference. “Ah!” said Mr. Gates, in a sarcastic way, “I presume you are a jack of all trades and good at none; we don’t want you, sir.” Mr. Davies thought he would make one more trial before leaving Chicago, and the next place he tried was the extensive machine shop of Messrs. H. H. Scoville & Sons, situated on Canal Street, near Mr. Gates’. Here Mr. Davies was very particular to state the kind of work he wanted. Mr. Scoville, the foreman, asked him if he could run a tennoning machine, to which he replied that he did not know, as he never had run one. Mr. Scoville looked him in the eye and said, “I know you can; you look as though you could run anything; you can go to work at once.” He remained there eighteen months, and was quite a favorite in the shop, no one getting higher pay than he.
In 1852 he returned to Maine, and engaged in his old business, that of carriage-making. In February, 1853, he, with H. A. Bachelder, S. S. Sargent, Henry Hatch, and Nathan Jordan, all of Oakland, Maine, and about a hundred other Yankees, took passage on board the ship Plymouth Rock, at Boston, bound for Melbourne, Australia, arriving there in eighty-eight days, being the quickest passage that had ever been made from Boston to Australia, by any craft whatever. After arriving at Melbourne, Mr. Davies, with his party of four, pitched their tent in Canvastown, which is on the opposite side of the Yarror River. They were compelled to stay for five days before their tools and provisions, which weighed several tons, could be taken from the ship. After selling a part of their provisions, and storing several trunks of clothing and notions, they hired a two-horse dray, and went to the “McIvor” diggings, a distance of 100 miles, making the journey in eight days. There the diggings were poor, and Mr. Davies concluded to let the rest of his party dig while he was making candles, filing saws, half-soling boots, and keeping boarding-house. After a few months’ stay, they hired another dray, and went to the “Bendigo” diggings, which were eighty miles distant, and which were better than the “McIvor.” However, the stay here also was short. Mr. Davies, not wishing to hire another team to move their belongings, concluded to build a hand-cart, which, when finished, weighed 110 pounds, and on it was placed some 500 pounds of tools and provisions, and the party of five made a start for the famous “Ballarat” diggings, distant 225 miles, which was accomplished in ten days, in just half the time traveled by horses. Here the diggings were rich, and the party did well. The gold, which was coarse, was put in large-mouthed pickle-bottles. Mr. Davies sent his gold to Philadelphia and had it coined, which averaged $21.30 per ounce, after paying for coining. After about one year’s tarry in Australia, the startling news that enormously rich gold diggings had been discovered on the Amazon River was received. He at once, with his party of four, shipped on board the vessel Sac Susa, bound for Callao, South America. On arriving at Callao, he found the report was untrue, and he therefore took up his quarters at Lima for a few weeks. While in Lima he was offered $7.00 and board per day at “some mechanical work;” this not being quite definite enough, he declined the offer. Soon after leaving Lima, he found that the “some mechanical work” was to make counterfeit money, for which the instigator was brought to justice. From Callao, Mr. Davies shipped on board the steamer Santiago, bound for Panama, at which place he got employment, making specie boxes. After three weeks’ stay at Panama, he embarked on the steamer John L. Stevens, bound for San Francisco, California, arriving there in May, 1854. Determining to have a trial at mining, he went directly to the mines in Tuolumne County, but it did not take him long to find that California mining was not his forte, and he shortly afterward returned to San Francisco. In the fall of 1854 he ran the first threshing-machine ever made in California. During the year 1855 he put up a starch factory in the foot-hills in the vicinity of San Leandro, after which he worked on the Dow distillery at Mission Dolores, on Mission Creek, where he set up the engine; he was seven months at this work, for which he received $5.00 per day and board. He then went to Sacramento, where he worked three months in the Sacramento Iron Works, being there at the time the steamer Pearl blew up, near Sacramento, killing seventy-six persons! While in Sacramento the sash and door factory of Mr. Ames, situated on Market Street, San Francisco, was destroyed by fire; in this factory Mr. Davies had worked, and at the time of the fire had his keepsakes, specimens, sketch-books, and extra clothes stored, all of which were lost.
Mr. Davies has been somewhat of a traveler, having been over the Isthmus twice, across the continent four times, and having traveled the entire circumference of the earth once. During his travels in foreign lands, he has never been idle. Being somewhat of an artist, he has made sketches of numerous places and things. Conspicuous among these sketches are some of the native trees of Australia, such as the gum, box, ironbark, stringy bark, light-wood, and others, none of which grow to the height of the gum of California, owing to the inferiority of the Australian soil, compared with that of California. In the fall of 1855 he located in Santa Clara, managing a small shop for L. A. Gould, the artesian well-borer, for one year. In 1856 he started the Santa Clara Machine Shop, situated on Main Street, which he conducted for fourteen years, by hand, wind, and steam. In 1867 he closed up this establishment, married a Mrs. Barney (who died fifteen years later), after which he went to Massachusetts and purchased one of the most complete outfits for a first-class machine shop that has ever been shipped to the Pacific Coast. In 1868 he built the present “Davies Machine Shop,” which is sixty-six by sixty-six feet, three stories high, and situated on the corner of Jackson and Liberty Streets. During the thirty-three years that Mr. Davies has been in Santa Clara, he has carried on business for himself thirty-two years. His business has been exclusively making and repairing agricultural implements, and making pumps and windmills. He is the inventor of the galvanized “lift” pump, and also a score of other valuable inventions. The Haines Header seems to be his forte, he having done more work on them than all other shops in the valley combined. He has doubtless made more improvements on the Haines Header than has been made on it by all others, since the first one went into the field. Of all the inventions that Mr. Davies has made, not one has proved a failure. They have all paid well on the investments. Mr. Davies is a brother of L. B. Davies, of Columbus, Ohio, who is the inventor of the locomotive pilot, more commonly called the “cow-catcher.” To visit the shop of Mr. Davies, and see the arrangement of tools, and those of his own make, will satisfy any person that he is at home while in a machine shop. As a mechanic he is a success. He can earn a livelihood at over thirty distinct trades! Mr. Davies’ motto is, “Waste nothing and save all.” This has been the whole secret of his success. He never has made any big strikes or big losses, however. In 1854, when so many banks failed, he lost his “bottom dollar;” $5,000 would, perhaps, cover all other losses. While Mr. Davies has been very close and saving, he has been very liberal and generous, having given away in presents and donations over $9,000. At the present writing, Mr. Davies is sixty-three years of age, and is almost as strong, physically, as at twenty years of age. He has never used a particle of tobacco, or drank a glass of liquor, in his life.
Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT