Local History: A less-known tribute to an early Lawrence settler

photo by: Cynthia Hernandez/Journal-World

The Davis Cemetery at 3600 W. Sixth St. near the restaurant Henry T's is the final resting place of Henry T. Davis, whose headstone is at left, several of his family members and others.

When you drive down Sixth Street, you might be passing by a tribute to one of Lawrence’s early settlers without even realizing it: Henry T. Davis, whose name is immortalized in the restaurant Henry T’s near Sixth and Kasold.

Davis was a settler who arrived in Kansas in 1863, according to the 1975 book “Rural Schools and Schoolhouses of Douglas County” by Goldie Piper Daniels. He was originally from New Hampshire and made a homestead west of Lawrence on what is now Sixth Street.

“Here he built a two-story log cabin with a loft, in which to house his wife and family of four children, till he could build the ten-room stone house he achieved in 1866, and which stood for over a hundred years,” Daniels wrote. “It was razed in 1967.”

But a cemetery on the land became the final resting place of Davis, his wife, at least one of his daughters, an infant relative named Harlow Ross, George Burt, who was killed in Quantrill’s Raid, and others whose names are not marked. And while researching this column, I learned that the restaurant Henry T’s got its name from its proximity to that cemetery.

The cemetery is particularly exceptional given the deliberate preservation of it. John Weatherwax (1921-2008), a longtime local accountant and one-time mayor, credited this to the existence of a restrictive covenant. It has to be stated that Weatherwax and the other people who were involved in the development of the land area did a notable action; there are other areas in Lawrence where similar care was not taken.

One thing you won’t find at this cemetery is the actual date that Davis died, because the death date on his headstone — Sept. 10, 1892 ­– is incorrect.

I contacted Sarah Parsons, the reference archivist for the Kansas State Historical Society, for help finding his obituary to see how the people of Davis’ time thought of him. She couldn’t find any mention of his death in local newspapers from September 1892.

The 1891 papers, however, carried numerous notices and obituaries for a man who was clearly well-respected in his community.

The Gazette said that “The funeral was held on Friday afternoon and the remains were laid to rest on the old homestead. Mr. Davis was an honorable and industrious man and a valuable citizen. He was highly respected and honored in the community.”

Its article continued: “Mr. Davis was one of the farmers of whom the people of Kansas feel proud. Honest, affable and accommodating, in his dealings with his neighbors, his word was as good as his bond. He was a kind unassuming man, whose chief ambition in life was to do his whole duty as a husband, father and citizen. … In his death his family, neighbors and friends lose a kind father, a good neighbor and friend, and the state a good citizen.”

We may not know exactly what his contemporaries would think of Davis’ name being immortalized in a local restaurant, but we can understand that Davis was an honorable man and representative of who and what Kansans admired in that time: industrious, honest, affable, accommodating, kind and unassuming.

• Steve Jansen has been a resident of Lawrence since 1974. He was an employee of the Watkins Museum of History from 1977 to 2002 and served as the director from 1979 to 2001.


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