(Editor’s note — Four awards were presented during the Dickinson County Farm Bureau annual meeting Tuesday night at Sterl Hall. This is the second in a series of articles about county farm families who received those honors.)
Dickinson County Farm Bureau Association presented the first Sesquicentennial Award in the county to the Davidson family Tuesday night during the organization’s annual meeting at Sterl Hall.
Their farm, located in southern Dickinson County, was settled as part of the Homestead Act signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln.
The following family history was written by Emma and Dale Davidson from research traced back to the 1700s by Mildred Davidson Barr:
William “Wilkie” Davidson came to America in 1851 with his widowed mother, two brothers and two sisters from Edinburgh, Scotland. His two sisters died during the ocean voyage. The family settled in Virginia, Ill., where William’s mother remarried.
Nine years after arriving in America, the Civil War between the North and the South erupted. George, the oldest son, enlisted at the start of the war. William and his brother Henry enlisted on Jan. 15, 1862, at Camp Butler near Riverton, Ill. Henry was 18 and William was 16 years old.
William was too young to enlist as a soldier, but he could enlist as a drummer. He was wounded in the knee, had to go to the hospital, and then returned to the battlefield after recovering from his wound. William was discharged from the Union Army on April 29, 1865.
In 1868, William and Henry along with two other men went to Kansas to look for land. They went by rail to the end of the line, probably Leavenworth, and walked westward to Brown County.
They did not especially like this country, so they continued walking to the southwest. Clay County did not appeal to them either. But when they reached Dickinson County, they decided they liked the area in the southern part of the county called Dillon.
The Chisholm Trail ran a few miles west of Dillon and the Santa Fe Trail was about 10 miles south. The Homestead Act which opened the lands west of the Missouri River for settlement was signed by President Lincoln on May 20, 1862. Under this act, William filed to claim 160 acres of land in 1869.
After proving the homestead successful, the claim was granted to him on April 15, 1879. Part of the terms of the Homestead Act required a permanent shelter be built on the land. With an ox team and wagon, Will and Henry brought lumber from Abilene. The Smoky Hill River ran by Abilene and lumber was available from its banks.
Henry was a carriage maker and carpenter by trade so he oversaw the building of a two-room cabin which was one of the first in the area.
William and Henry returned to Illinois for the winter of 1871-72. Will married Julia Needham from Virginia City, Ill., on April 8, 1872. Julia’s family had emigrated from England around 1845. The couple immediately went to Kansas to start their married life. Will was a farmer and harness maker. Four children were born to their marriage.
One of their sons, Arthur William Davidson, was born on Oct. 18, 1880. Arthur attended school in Dillon. After high school, he attended Kansas State University and studied agriculture. Arthur married Mary Luann Murray on March 3, 1909. They had four children.
Two of their children, Mildred and Lowell, married siblings from the Barr family. Lowell Davidson met La Verne Barr at Mildred and Charles Barr’s wedding. Lowell and La Verne Davidson had six children, Charles, Arthur, James, Ann, Nancy and Dale. Dale married Emma Polok on July 8, 1989, and the couple have four sons.
The three brothers Arthur, James, and Dale Davidson farmed together for over 30 years. The Davidson farm was an active Holstein dairy farm until August 2018. In 1988, a double six herringbone milk barn was built that was used for 30 years.
A variety of crops have been and are still being raised on the farm. They include alfalfa, corn, soybeans, sudan, wheat, sorghum, prairie hay and brome.
There are two houses on the Davidson farm. One was built in the late 1880s and the second house was built in 1948 with lumber salvaged from some old Army barracks in Salina following World War II. The water on the hill is extremely hard, so a well was installed in the pasture and water is pumped a quarter mile to the farmstead.
Regarding the homestead farm, Dale Davidson shared, “We will trust God that he will continue to guide us in making the right decisions to keep this 160-acre parcel of land in our family for many generations to come.
“We will continue to farm as long as we can.”