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700 College Pl
Williamsport, PA, 17701
United States

Biography

Hezekiah Davies was born in Charlestown, Chester County, Pennsylvania, November 22, 1747.[1] Hezekiah was the son of Hannah Davies and Nathanial Davies who resided in Chester County ever since Hezekiah’s father emigrated from Wales in the 1740s.[2] Chester County, one of the three original counties of Pennsylvania created by William Penn, was settled in the 1680s. The county’s inhabitants, most of whom were Quakers, relied heavily on farming. Farms located in the interior portion of the county were larger than on the outskirts of the county towards major cities such as Philadelphia.[3] Charlestown, located 22 miles west of Philadelphia, honors a Quaker by the name of Charles Pickering. Officially, in 1738, Charlestown became Charlestown “Township” as Charles Pickering divided his land amongst 16 of his Quaker friends two being, John Grey and William Penn’s sister Margaret Lawther.[4]  Although Quakers were the majority of the population in Chester County, Presbyterians also made up the second largest portion .[5] Hezekiah Davies was one of those Presbyterians and attended the Great Valley Presbyterian Church as a child and continued to do so throughout his life. By the last quarter of the eighteenth century,  Presbyterians occupied over a quarter of the existing legal structures in Pennsylvania, and even more, after Independence, held a majority of offices and  represented the citizens of the new state in places such as Chester County, Pennsylvania.[6]

At a young age, Hezekiah, full of mischief and fun, played pranks on surrounding neighbors.[7] Reading and writing became a way for Hezekiah to pass time even up until his death. Although not actively engaged in politics, the young Hezekiah had every interest in public affairs.[8] Neighbors often called upon Hezekiah to mediate community disputes.[9] Such community respect is surprising since Hezekiah was listed on the tax lists of 1771-1776 as a young laborer who lived with his father. According to the tax lists of Charlestown, Chester County, Hezekiah was listed as a “freeman.”[10] A "Freeman" was a traveling laborer or a single twenty-one year old male who resided with their parents. As a freeman, Hezekiah was also classified as a nonlandholder. Nonlandholders occupied most of the free labor force, which, economically and socially, fell only one-step above slaves and indentured servants.[11] Importantly, however, freemen helped promote entrepreneurialism and all men who were listed as freemen had an important role in the colonial labor force.[12]

 In 1776, Hezekiah joined the cause for Independence. Previously a freeman, Hezekiah appears on the Provincial tax of 1756-1777 as enlisted/poor.[13] Early that year, at the age 29, Hezekiah volunteered in the Fifth Pennsylvania Regiment under the command of Colonel Robert Magaw. [14] Robert Magaw, defender of Fort Washington, had a rich military background at which he served as secretary of the Committee of Correspondence, Major of the First Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen, and lastly, Colonel of the Fifth Pennsylvania Regiment.[15] Hezekiah Davies was commissioned as First Lieutenant in Captain Samuel Culbertson’s company in the Flying Camp of Pennsylvania and Colonel Montgomery’s Regiment.[16] 

The Continental Army employed the idea of a “Flying Camp” to act as a reserve of troops to help fill in the openings of the Continental Line.[17] While under Culbertson’s company, Hezekiah received a commission signed by Benjamin Franklin.[18] Colonel Montgomery lacked the command skills that were required to guide the troops of the Flying Camp, which forced Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Bull to organize the Flying Camp Regiment out of Chester County, Pennsylvania.[19]  Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bull, Hezekiah and the other members of the Flying Camp marched from Chester County to Perth Amboy and from there to Bergen County, New Jersey where they constructed what is now known as Fort Lee.[20] Originally called Fort Constitution, Fort Lee served as a guard for the lower half of the Hudson River and also secured the possession of Long Island, New York.[21]

After Hezekiah and the troops departed Fort Lee, they marched across the Hudson River to Fort Washington commanded by General Magaw located in present day New York City.[22] On September 1776, the British forces captured Fort Washington taking Hezekiah and all members of the Flying Camp as prisoners of war.[23] Hezekiah remained a prisoner of the enemy in Long Island until his exchange in 1780.[24] While a prisoner he was under the command of Sir William Howe and served as quartermaster of prisoners. As quartermaster, Hezekiah attended to the needs of the other prisoners when provisions were low.  In confinement, conditions were harsh leaving thousands to perish of disease, starvation, and dehydration. Luckily as quartermaster, Hezekiah rarely had to tolerate such conditions and enjoyed a great deal of freedom.[25]

While a prisoner in Long Island, Hezekiah boarded with a Tory family by the surname “Schenck.” Nicholas Schenck, the head of the household, did not believe in the cause at which the Americans fought.[26] He had a daughter by the name Anne Schenck, and while Hezekiah and Anne set aside their political differences, the father and mother of Anne refused to consent to the idea of marriage, so they eloped.[27] Hezekiah serving four years three months in the Revolutionary War[28] returned home to Chester County with his new bride in 1780 where he worked as a saddler.[29] Anne and Hezekiah enjoyed a happy marriage and had three children.[30] Later in life, Hezekiah took an active role in local politics as a staunch Jeffersonian Republican. He was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly as a Democratic-Republican candidate in the years of 1803-1804 at which he served on the most prestigious committees.[31] 

Twenty-nine years after the Revolutionary War ended, the War of 1812 rekindled a spirit of patriotism and Americans sought to lionize those veterans of the Revolutionary War. In 1813, for example, a commemoration for American Independence and its’ contributors took place in East Whiteland Township, Chester County Pennsylvania where Hezekiah served as President of the day.[32] According to a newspaper account of the festivities,

After performing a number of military evolutions becoming citizen soldiers, they marched adjacent green, near an excellent spring of water, both shaded by handsome groves. The business of the day commenced by firing a volley. They partook in an eloquent dinner prepared for the occasion, at the place of William Bones. After which Hezekiah Davies was chosen president and John Reese vice president of the day, and the following toasts were drank, accompanied by the firing of volleys, and martial music.[33]

After the parade, Hezekiah roused the crowd with a stirring speech in which he exclaimed, “United we stand, divided we fall. May the tongue be palsied that would attempt to divide.’—1 volley—3 cheers—hail Liberty!”[34]

As time passed, Hezekiah’s wife Anne died in February of 1826.[35] Hezekiah being 79 years of age settled down and took an interest in farming.[36] Having lived in Charlestown, Chester County, Pennsylvania his whole life, Hezekiah at the age of 84 appeared in the Court of Common Pleas to apply for a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War.[37] Hezekiah received the approval of his pension and lived to be 91 years of age passing away 5 years after he filed for a pension for his service.[38] Hezekiah died on December 27, 1837 and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Great Valley, Chester County, Pennsylvania.[39]

Maggie Slawson                                                                                                          

Lycoming College

 

Endnotes

 

[1] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[2] Julius Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler (Dixon, Illinois: 1880) 39.

[3] John B. Frantz and William Pencak, Beyond Philadelphia (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), 1.

[4] Harman D. Rees, Historical Sketches of Charlestown Township (Charlestown Historical Society, 2011), 314.

[5] Frantz and Pencak, Beyond Philadelphia, 4.

[6] Christopher Pearl, “Pulpits of the Revolution: Presbyterian Political Thoughts in the Era of the American Revolution” Journal of Presbyterian History (Forthcoming: 2016), 12-13.

[7] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 40.

[8] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 41.

[9] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 42.

[10] Tax Records, Chester County, 1771, in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1897), 11:734.

[11] Lucy Simler, “Tenancy in Colonial Pennsylvania: The Case of Chester County” The William and Mary Quarterly   (1986), 548.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Provincial Tax of 1756-1777, Chester County Archives.

[14] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[15] Charles F. Himes, Col. Robert Magaw, the Defender of Fort Washington, Major in Colonel William Thompson’s “Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen” and Colonel of the Fifth Pennsylvania Regiment (Carlisle: Hamilton Library Association, 1915).

[16] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[17] Francis E, Devine, The Pennsylvania Flying Camp, July-November 1776 (University of Southern Mississippi).

[18] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County Pennsylvania with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), 517.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[21] George F. Scheer and Hugh F. Rankin, “New York April-August 1776,” Rebels and Redcoats (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1957), 143.

[22] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[23] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[24] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 42.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., 43.

[28] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[29] Tax Records of 1780-1799, Chester County Archives.

[30] William Henry Egle, Pennsylvania Women in the American Revolution (The University of Virginia: Polyanthos, 1972), 66.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 51.

[33] “Newspaper Article”, (1813): quoted in Julius Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler (Dixon, Illinois: 1880) 51.

[34] “Newspaper Article”, (1813): quoted in Julius Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler (Dixon, Illinois: 1880) 51.

[35] Egle, Pennsylvania Women in the American Revolution, 66.

[36] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 42.

[37] Hezekiah Davies, September 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S2161.

[38] Lloyd, Family History Containing a Brief Account of the Families Anderson, Davies, and Wersler, 53.

[39] National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, “Patriot and Grave Index” Accessed May 20, 2015. http://patriot.sar.org/fmi/iwp/cgi?-db=Grave+Registry&-loadframes.


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