Joel Dawson Davis
The Family Of Joel D. Davis
My great grandfather was Joel Dawson Davis. He was born on October 29, 1852, in Montgomery County, Alabama. He was the son of David Davis and Eliza Suggs Davis. Joel Davis was eight years old when his father went off to war.
I do not know any of the details of David Davis' service in the Confederate Army. I know that his twin brother, William Davis, was shot and killed and was buried in Newton, Georgia. I have only heard stories of the terrible hardships that his family suffered. David Davis did eventually return from war.
While Joel Davis was still a young man living in his father's house, one day he was out in the field plowing. A man who was riding by in a horse drawn buggy stopped and called him over to the fence and invited him to come hear a gospel sermon in a school house that night. The man was J.M. Barnes, the preacher who would deliver the sermon. With his father's permission, Joel Davis went to the meeting and later that week was baptized and gave his life to Christ.
He gave himself to the study of the scriptures. He wrote down verses of scripture on pieces of paper and carried them with him, and as he plowed he memorized the scriptures. While the mule turned at the end of the row he reviewed the verse he was learning and read a new verse which he repeated in his mind for the length of that row. When he was not working he was studying the Bible.
I have a small trunk in which Joel Davis packed all his worldly possessions when he left his father's house to seek his fortune. He plowed by day for others and by moonlight for himself. God blessed his labors and his careful stewardship and enabled him to buy and farm his own land.
On September 13, 1885, Joel Davis married Leona Sanderson who was the daughter of Almon and Elizabeth Stuart Sanderson. (Almon and Elizabeth Sanderson donated the land for the Tabernacle Methodist Church that is still standing beside the Federal Road in Pintlala.)
Joel Davis and Leona Sanderson Davis had five children. They were:
Eunice Leona Davis Renfro (October 20,1887- October 19, 1959)
Ruth Davis Chesnutt ( July 2, 1891- August 25,1960)
Joel Franklin Davis (September 15,1895- December 7,1963)
Perry Almon Davis (February 24,1898- May 28,1972)
Glenn David Davis (February 11,1901- June 7, 1950)
Before moving to the Butler Mill Road, the Davis family lived in Highland Home, Alabama. The house in which they lived is still standing beside Highway 331. The Davis home was directly across the road from the Highland Home College. The site of the college is marked by a historical marker on the grounds of the Highland Home school. Joel Davis was a farmer, a preacher, and an elder in the Highland Home Church of Christ, and a trustee in the Highland Home College.
In 1910, Guy Irving Renfro, a native of Kentucky, came to Highland Home, Alabama to teach Latin and Greek in the Highland Home College. He was met at the train station by Joel Davis. Soon thereafter Guy Renfro met Eunice Davis. On September 13, 1911, Guy Renfro and Eunice Davis were married. They had two children. They were:
Constance Renfro Fulmer (June 20,1912-January 6, 2001)
Guy Luck Renfro (October 14, 1915-August 19, 1991) (The name Luck was in honor of his paternal grandmother who was Eudora Luck Renfro.)
My grandmother, Eunice Davis Renfro, wrote the following in her history of the Butler Mill Road Church of Christ:
Because of the passing of Highland Home College in Crenshaw Co. in December 1915 Joel D. Davis decided to move back to his farm in Montgomery Co. which he had left in 1891 to give his children the advantages of scholastic and religious training at Highland Home College and church.
Early in 1916 he built a store in front of the site on which he planned to build a residence later the same year. He moved his wife and three sons, Frank, Perry, and Glenn into the store house so as to be near and better supervise the building of his house. He next built a church house and Guy Renfro and wife Eunice and their two small children, Constance and Guy Luck moved into it.
The second child of J.D. Davis, Ruth, had married E.B. Chesnutt and was living at Hope Hull at this time.
This was a busy and a trying year for every one concerned. The two families went back to Highland Home to worship until the dwellings were completed in the fall of 1916.
As soon as the two families were settled in their new homes the church was opened for worship every Sunday afternoon. It was called "Longview" and Guy I. Renfro did the preaching.
Leona Sanderson Davis wife of J. D. Davis was stricken with heart trouble in October 1916 and passed from this life March 11, 1917.
While the adults bore the burden of farming, the children had a different perspective. My mother, Constance Renfro Fulmer, described the scene of autumn in the 1900s here in her lesson, "Serving God in the Autumn of Life." She wrote:
"My grandfather (Joel Davis) was a colorful character. He had white hair, a short white beard and a florid complexion. He was a rather small man with a big, booming voice and a hearty laugh. He always wore a stiff, white collar and shirt, with a black bow tie. He personally supervised his large farming operation, riding horseback.
Crop gathering made fall an exciting time of the year when I was a child, because there would be a steady procession of mule drawn wagons going up the hill. The corn had to be weighed at the barn and I would get in the basket to be weighed with steelyards at least once a day. The bales of cotton were thrown out in a haphazard way on the top of the hill that my brother and I would convert to boats or islands or houses in our play. The cotton seed would be stored and we, and sometimes our cousins, would dig caves and tunnels in it and nearly be stifled by the lint, but it was fun anyway. It was a happy carefree time for us, but it was a serious time for the tenants because it was 'settling up' for the year. My grandfather kept an accurate account book, which I now have. He would let the tenants borrow cash for the living expenses during the year, so they didn't know how they stood until the accounts were settled in the fall."
The store house my grandmother mentioned (and the place my mother said she and her brother played in the cotton seed) was located about fifty yards south of Longview. That building burned down in the late 1920s. It was being used to store cotton seed and was thought to have been ignited by internal combustion. Joel Davis died September 18, 1930.
The Longview church building that my grandmother mentioned was later called the Butler Mill Road Church of Christ in the 1950s. When the congregation outgrew that facility, they built a new building about one half of a mile south on the Butler Mill Road. The first meeting was held in their new building of the Butler Mill Road Church of Christ on June 13, 1954. The last meeting was held November 1, 1987, after the congregation decided to merge with sister congregations.
The house my grandparents, Guy and Eunice Renfro, built was their home. My grand parents were known to many in this area. My grandfather, Guy Renfro, preached two Sundays a month at the Strata Church of Christ and two Sundays a month at the Industry Church of Christ near Georgiana, Alabama. He did that for more than sixty years.
My grandparents were firm believers in the value of Christian education and sent their children to David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tennessee. While a student there my mother met Clyde Edward Fulmer who was also a student from Marietta, Ohio.
On May 15, 1935, Clyde Edward Fulmer and Constance Renfro were married.
They had three daughters who are:
Constance Marie Fulmer
Eunice Myrtle Fulmer who married Carroll Glenn Wells, on May 20, 1972 and they have two children:
Joel Dawson Wells
Carolee Martin Wells
My father, Clyde Fulmer, was the minister of Capitol Heights Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama for thirty-three years and University Church of Christ for ten years, and he preached throughout this area for more than forty years.
My mother's brother Guy L. Renfro met Iantha Bradford in Montgomery and they married on June 11, 1939. They had two children who are:
Antha Renfro who married Edward Perry Taylor on June 17, 1967, and they have two sons:
Ethan Perry Taylor who married Karen Hinkle on May 20, 2006.
Logan Ryan Taylor who married MaryAnne Walters on November 8, 2004. Their twins were born on March 13, 2006. MaryAnne died on May 10, 2006. Their children are:
Luke Ryan Taylor
Melina Kathryn Taylor
Guy Joel Renfro married Janet Brolund on September 1, 1973 and they were divorced on April 17,2005. They have three children:
Lauren Elizabeth Renfro who married Dustin Overbeek on August 30, 2003
William Guy Renfro
Joel Robert Renfro
My grandmother, Eunice Davis Renfro, died October 19, 1959, and my grandfather, Guy I. Renfro died October 29,1972.
Davis Family Home On Butler Mill Road
My mother inherited the house in which she had been reared. In 1978 my father, Clyde Fulmer, suffered a disabling stroke. My mother and I cared for him in our home in Montgomery. My mother decided that she wanted to return to her home place. She had the front and back porches enclosed and added a downstairs room to the house. In 1980 my father, Clyde Fulmer, my mother, Constance Renfro Fulmer, and I moved to my mother's "Home Place." Since my father was confined to a hospital bed, we moved him here in an ambulance. We continued to care for him here. My father died peacefully in this house on March 27, 1981. My mother lived here until she passed from this life on January 6, 2001. Although she was an English teacher at Alabama Christian Academy for many years, she was known to those who drove by on the Butler Mill Road as "the lady on the tractor," because she enjoyed clearing and maintaining the land and spent so much time mowing and working outdoors. I now live in the house that my grandparents built.
The dwelling built on Butler Mill Road by Joel Davis for his family also served as a home for two future generations of Davises. It served as a residence for the family of his daughter, Ruth and her husband Edwin Bowen Chestnutt; and for the family of his grandson, Alex Davis Chesnutt and his wife Odessa Davis Chesnutt. The house is still standing but is no longer owned by Joel Davis descendants.
When the Longview building was no longer used for a church, it was used for storage and as a residence. Then it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 1977 my mother purchased the building and grounds from Ruth Chesnutt Coats, the daughter of Ruth Davis Chesnutt, who had inherited that property. My mother and I had the building restored to usefulness, and in 1980 I began to use it as my art studio. I continued to call it "Longview" in honor of its history. In 1991 while we were away on vacation, Longview was struck by lightning and burned. Although it was declared a total loss, my mother and I wanted to preserve its history and the part that had been salvaged by the firefighters. By 1992 Longview had been rebuilt and was being used as my studio again.
This fall is the ninetieth anniversary of the return of Joel D. Davis and his family to this area and the building of Longview and the Davis home and the house where I now reside.
L-R: Perry Davis, Constance Renfroe,Glen Davis & Frank Davis
Descendants of Joel Davis and Leona Sanderson Davis now live in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California. Their only descendants now living in the Hope Hull and Pintlala area are: Clydetta Fulmer who is the daughter of Constance Renfro Fulmer who was the daughter of Eunice Davis Renfro; Antha Renfro Taylor, the daughter of Guy Luck Renfro who was the son of Eunice Davis Renfro, and Antha's son Logan Ryan Taylor and his twin son and daughter, Luke Ryan Taylor and Melina Kathryn Taylor; and the son of Alex Chesnutt who was the son of Ruth Davis Chesnutt, William Bruce Chesnutt who married Jodi Kennington Chesnutt, and their sons Jacob Davis Chesnutt and Scott Kennington Chesnutt; and the daughter of Frank Davis, Dorothy Davis Cline who married James Lawrence Cline.
While my great grandparents and grandparents and parents have passed from this life, their influence remains. The memories of their teachings and the examples of their lives are a constant source of wisdom, strength, encouragement, and inspiration in my life.
As I write this article on September 13, 2006, I realize that today is the one hundred eleventh anniversary of the wedding of Joel D. Davis and Leona Sanderson Davis. It is the ninety-fifth anniversary of the wedding of Guy I. Renfro and Eunice Davis Renfro. I appreciate this opportunity to honor them and my parents and their legacy. I am thankful to be a part of this family and in this place.
In preparing to write this article, I visited the graves of Joel D. Davis and Leona Sanderson Davis in Rocky Mount Cemetery in Highland Home, Alabama. Carved in the gravestone of Joel Davis are the words, "He fought a good fight, he finished the course, he kept the faith." It is my fervent prayer that in the end the same may be said for every one of his descendants.
The unpublished history of the Butler Mill Road Church of Christ by Eunice Davis Renfro
The unpublished family history by Eunice Davis Renfro
The unpublished notes about our family by Constance Renfro Fulmer
Photographs saved by Eunice Davis Renfro and Constance Fulmer
The unpublished genealogy of the Davis Family by Milton Slauson that dates back to 1755
The published genealogy by Rae Venable Calvert, Richard Sanderson (1641-1718) Of North Carolina And Some Alabama Descendants
All photographs relating to Joel Davis, courtesy of Clydetta Fulmer
-Clydetta Fulmer, Pintlala Historical Association, Vol. XX, Number 4, October, 2006, pages 5-10
Joel Dawson Davis Buried Yesterday
Last Rites For Pioneer Citizen of Montgomery County
Highland Home, Ala. Sept. 20--(Special)-- Amid friends that came from many parts of the State, and masses of flowers that banked the chancel and casket, the last rites were pronounced at Highland Home Church of Christ this morning for Joel Dawson Davis, picturesque figure of the pioneer life of this section, who died at his home at Snowdoun Thursday. T. B. Thompson, pastor of the Catoma Street Church of Christ of Montgomery, conducted the services, assisted by Samuel Jordan, pastor at Highland Home, and lifelong friend of the deceased.
Mr. Davis was an elder of the Highland Home church and at times filled the pulpit in local churches, though he was never a regular pastor. Though 78 at the time of his death, up till two years ago, he was in good health, drove his own car, and went alone to fill his appointments. No more familiar figure was known to the people of the county than Mr. Davis, with snow white hair topped by a broad brimmed hat, and flowing white beard.
Always a gay greeting, no one realized that he had passed his threescore and ten. Two years ago, he began to be troubled with his heart, and since then suffered attacks at various times.
Only two weeks ago, he met J.P. Ruff, of Lapine, on the road and gave him $2 toward the care of his lot in Rocky Mount cemetery, saying he feared he would not live much longer. In compliance with an often stated request, the body was kept two days before burial, and brought to the Highland Home church.
Mr. Davis lived at Highland Home as a farmer for many years, moving to Snowdoun in 1917 to make his home. During his residence here, he was a staunch supporter of the local church and of the former Highland Home College, which was discontinued the year he moved. In that year also, he lost his wife, the former Miss Leona Sanderson. Surviving are three sons, Dr. Glenn B. Davis of Fairfield; Perry A. Davis of Snowdoun, and J. Frank Davis, of Selma; two daughters, Mrs. Edwin Chestnut, of Montgomery and Mrs. Guy Renfro, of Snowdoun; one sister, Mrs. Thomas E. Price, of Ebenezer, near Ramer; and one brother, J. T. Davis of Highland Home.
Serving as pallbearers were eight friends of long standing, two from each church with which he had been most closely associated. They were Dr. A. J. Jones and Prof. George S. Clarke, of the Highland Home Church; L.D. Cauthern and E. R. Barnes, of the Catoma Street Church; Dr. George Shackelford and A. R. Garrett, of Liberty Church, and Floyd Decker and A. R. Dillard, of Highland Avenue Church.
-Transcription of obituary for Joel Dawson Davis published in the Montgomery Advertiser, September 20, 1930:
-contributed by Clydetta Fulmer, Pintlala Historical Association, Vol. XX, Number 4, October, 2006, page 11
A Fruitful Invitation
By Guy I. Renfro
Late one afternoon about 85 years ago, a preacher was riding horse back to Surles School House to preach. As he neared the place, he saw a boy plowing near the road. He called the boy and invited him to come to the school house to hear him preach. The boy replied that he would if he could.
When he asked his father if he could go to the meeting, his father told him it was just a Campbellite meeting and would do him no good. But on the boy’s insistence the father commented if he would promise to get up as early and do as much plowing as usual the next day.
The boy got to the meeting a little late but the preacher recognized him as the boy he had seen plowing and called him to come to the front seat as the house was full.
The preacher used as his subject Jas. 1:27 and emphasized that religion is something to do instead of something to feel.
The boy was so impressed with the sermon that at the conclusion he went up and invited the preacher to go home with him. To his astonishment the preacher accepted. Then the boy had to tell him he had no place for him to sleep except in a little box room on the end of the porch and in bed with him. The preacher went anyway and that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted throughout their lives.
At that time, so far as I am able to learn, not a relative of that boy was a member of the New Testament Church for they had all been taught that if they were in number of the elect that God would move them in due time.
It is different now for in practically every congregation of the Church of the Lord in Montgomery County and some in Northern Crenshaw County there are relatives—some active, some indifferent,—doing something for the Lord.
That invitation that called a plow boy to hear a sermon that showed that we are to obey the Lord instead of waiting for the Lord to save us while we do nothing, turned the tide for many of the tribe.
At Strata there are a goodly number of his relatives in the membership. In fact, the publisher of this paper is double first cousin twice removed and the girls who help get the paper out are second cousins once removed.
The preacher was J.M. Barnes.
The boy was Joel D. Davis.
-Guy I. Renfro, The Strata Announcer, Published by the Strata Church of Christ, Sellers, Alabama, July 1952
Directions To The Grave of Joel D. Davis
Rocky Mount Cemetery lies just north of Highland Home, Alabama. On Hwy. 331, it lies just 27 miles south of Montgomery. From I-65 in Montgomery, head south of I-85 to the first exit on Hwy. 82, and turn left. Within a mile you will need to turn right on Hwy. 331. Go 27 miles south and in a hard curve you will see the Rocky Mount Cemetery on your right. The Davis Plot is in the center of the cemetery, a bit north in the oldest part. Look for the top of the highest part of the cemetery, and walk torward the north. The Davis plot will be easily found.
View Larger Map
Photos Taken 08.08.13
Website Produced 09.28.13
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Special Thanks: To descendant, Clydette Fulmer for providing so much information to make this page possible.