John Davis Family Papers

Identifier: MSS.0858

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of a mix of materials concerning the life and career of John Davis in early Nashville. It primarily includes correspondence, receipts, land surveys, land indentures, and commission records. The collection also contains, portraits, a copy of the family crest, a wallet, John Davis’ will, and a detailed family history of John Davis and his descendants.


  • 1792 - 1899

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact


.42 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



This collection provides information on the life and career of an early settler in Nashville, John Elisha Davis. Much of this collection consists of land documents and early survey records. Researchers interested in the Davis family history will also find rich material in a short family booklet.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Separated Materials

3 original framed items are on the art racks in offsite storage.

Biography-John Elisha Davis

John Elisha Davis was born on July 30, 1770 to Fanny and Frederick Davis in North Carolina. At the age of 18, Davis set out for Nashville, which, at the time, remained a territory of North Carolina. Two years later, his family would join him. While living in frontier Nashville, Davis participated in its defense in several engagements against Native American tribes such as that of Buchanan Station and the Nickajack campaign. In 1798, he married Dorcas Gleaves, originally from Virginia. Together they had 10 children: Sophia Western Davis, Fanny Grieves Davis, Ellen Mordant Davis, Nancy Watkins Davis, Eliza Hamer Davis, Susan Paralee Davis, Howell Tatum Davis, Darthula Drope Davis, John Elisha Davis, and Corelia Carolina Davis. In 1832, Davis was appointed as the Surveyor for Davidson County and remained in this position for many years. Throughout his life, Davis received several land grants from the state and continued to amass property along the Harpeth River. On July 7, 1853, Davis died peacefully in his home.

1. (All information for this biographical sketch comes from Family History: A Sketch of the Life and Generations of Frederick and Fanny Davis located in folder #29 of this collection.)
Finding Aid for the John Davis Family Papers
Laura Grove
2018 March 1
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.