History of the Restoration Movement

William Morten Davis


"The Life Of W.M. Davis

For many years W. M. Davis was one of the best known preachers in the brotherhood, being designated by some as "Mr. Firm Foundation" following the death of G.H.P. Showalter, long time editor of that paper. For fifty years Brother Davis taught the public through that paper, writing "Things To Consider" on the front page for about forty-five of them. There have been few, if any, so well and favorably known for faithfully teaching the Word than he.

William Morten Davis was born March 27, 1877 of Charles and Melinda Davis near Spencer, Indiana, where his father was a farmer and carpenter. They were faithful Christians and the parents of six sons and one daughter, all of whom lived to be faithful Christians. As a child he attended a nearby rural school called Fish Creek, and later attended a Bible Training School at Ellettsville, Indiana taught by a Brother Krutsinger, whom Brother Davis called the best Bible teacher he ever had. He also attended Ashley S. Johnson's School of the Evangelists at Kimberland Heights, Tennessee. He obeyed the gospel at the age of seventeen. When he went to the Bible Training School at Ellettsville, his brother, Zolly, went with him. Zolly had much musical ability and developed that talent, rather than preaching.

We do not have exact information about when or where he actually began to preach, but it must have been about 1895, when he would have been eighteen years of age. His first eleven years of preaching were spent in his native Owen County Indiana, where he preached at many places, including New Union; True Love; Coal City; and Freedom. Following this he moved to Belle Plaine, Kansas, where he preached for six years, and helped support his family by doing carpenter work. He then moved to San Angelo, Texas for a year, then to the University Avenue church in Austin for his first period of service there. This was to be a very significant period in his life, for G.H.P. Showalter was a member of that church, and had been Editor of the Firm Foundation for only a few years. (Brother Davis' father had been a subscriber to that paper in Brother Davis' childhood.) Once Brother Davis preached a sermon on Instrumental Music in the Worship, then one on Heirs of God. Brother Showalter asked him to prepare them for publication, which he did. The first one appeared in the Firm Foundation on Sept. 23, 1913, and the other one was published a week later. Soon Brother Showalter was listing him as a regular contributor.

He was married in early life to Clara Gates, and five children were born to them, two of whom died in infancy. Geneva Jennings, is the only one still living (June, 1980.) After a few years with the University Avenue church, he moved to Ft. Worth, but in 1917 he was back in Austin with the University Avenue church for a second period of service, which lasted five years. All this time he had been writing for the Firm Foundation, and he and Brother Showalter had become very close personal friends. During this second stay in Austin he actually did much of the office work for the paper because Brother Showalter was working on a degree from the University of Texas. The two often met at night for Bible discussion and visiting. Once they discussed the subject of marriage and divorce. After about a week of this, each had won the other to his way of thinking. I don't know whether each then set out to "set the other straight" or not. For at least forty-five years he wrote "Things To Consider" on the front page of the Firm Foundation. Reuel Lemmons, present Editor of that paper once appropriately said: "Perhaps no man now living has so effectively touched the lives of so many people in the Church as has W.M. Davis."

Though he was best known to most of us as a writer, we must not forget that he was a great gospel preacher, doing "local work" and all the things that go along with that. Upon leaving Austin in 1921 he moved to Ennis where he served the Church, then to Denton, then to Broadway in Lubbock, to Memphis, Tennessee, then back to Texas in Harlingen, to Marlin and finally to Dallas for his last local work. Here he was with the Owenwood church for about five years. Old age inevitably came and he "retired" as much as a preacher can and will, but he continued to preach and, of course, to write "Things To Consider." In his long life he did much other writing, including these published works: How to Do Personal Work; The Way to Get What You Want; Bible Briefs and Sermon Outlines, written in collaboration with G.H.P. Showalter. (This book had sold more than 150,000 copies long before his death.) He also published How To Read and Remember the Scriptures; Studies In Revelation; Simplified Bible Lessons; and Things To Consider, a very popular compilation of his best articles by that title in the Firm Foundation.

Some of Brother Davis' family "made the run" into the Cherokee Strip when that part of Oklahoma was settled. They were able to get farms in the vicinity of what is now Helena, Oklahoma, but later, at least some of them, went to Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and settled near the center of that county Southeast of Beaver, the County Seat. With others they soon established a congregation. After meeting in different places for a time they were finally able to build a nice brick building which they called "South Flat," and here the church continues to meet, being one of the very few rural churches anywhere still meeting. Brother Davis often went there for summer meetings, which always lasted two weeks. He enjoyed going for he was able to reach many of the lost, and it gave him an opportunity, not often had, to visit with his family .

His last years were spent in Dallas, where his companion left for the other world some years before he did. He lived with his daughter, Mrs. Berchie Bradshaw at 5842 Monticello. He grew more feeble as the years came on, and finally had to give up his writing, but only after he had been a regular contributor to the Firm Foundation for a full half century. He said that the worst thing about growing old was that one could no more preach. (Only a faithful preacher who has experienced THAT can understand what he meant.) He was held in high esteem by Dallas brethren and many of them visited him. He was a member of the Skillman Avenue church where John Banister, one of his greatest admirers, was the preacher. On March 26, 1961, as one of a series of such meetings honoring older preachers, the Dallas preachers at their regular weekly luncheon gave special honor to Brother Davis for his long years of faithful and unusual service. The preachers presented him with a suitable plaque honoring this work. At the same meeting the Firm Foundation sent their Editor, Reuel Lemmons, who paid tribute for his long and faithful service to that paper, and also presented an appropriate plaque. Many brethren, in addition to the preachers, attended this service, and felt the honors were justly due. (Romans 13:7) He treasured these honors to the end, and no doubt made the last years a little easier. After three quarters of a century in the Master's service, the body simply wore out, leaving him quite feeble at the last. Finally, for him "the war" ended on July 1, 1969, and his body sleeps in a Dallas cemetery by the side of his faithful companion. Reuel Lemmons and Melvin Wise conducted the final service.

We always feel inadequate to the task when writing about these great men, for it is our sincere conviction that the greatest men on earth are faithful gospel preachers, and the greatest women, their wives, who probably excel their husbands in all the things that go to make up a faithful Christian life. With all others of faith we look to where; " ... the wicked ceased from troubling; and there the weary are at rest," Job 3:17 What a glorious prospect!

-Loyd L. Smith, Gospel Preachers of Yesteryear, pages 131-134

Directions To The Grave Of W.M. & Clara Davis

William and Clara Davis are buried in north Dallas, Texas in Restland Cemetery. From downtown Dallas, head north on Hwy 75 (Central Expressway North). Get off at Exit 8B and turn right on Forest Lane. Go right (east) on Forest Lane. Turn left (north) on Greenville Ave., passing under the L.B.J. Freeway. The cemetery will on the left. Turn left on Restland Rd. and enter cemetery to the right. It would be good to go to the office and ask for a map. However if you can't do that, enter past the offices and make your way to the east back toward Greenville Ave. You will see a large mausoleum with what looks to be a round copper roof in the front. It is called the Abbey. Park and enter the mausoleum. Go to the left as far as possible and the go right as far as possible, then back to the left. (Look for ETERNAL PRAYER section) Begin looking at the top right rows of burial plots. The Davis plot is at the top of the 11th column.

GPS Location
32°55'35.8"N 96°44'20.6"W
or D.d. 32.926608, -96.739066
Restland Cemetery
Plot: Abbey Mausoleum, CR7 of C-57

Special Thanks

The graves of W.M. and Clara Davis were located and photographed in January, 2010 by Scott Harp. Special thanks to good friend, Rich Berdan who assisted in finding the grave. The mausoleum is huge. It took some time going threw it, as the location was not specifically known. Follow the instructions above for finding the grave.

History Home

History Index Page