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Vance Davidson


Vance L. Davidson was born on Feb. 22, 1801, in Livingston , Kentucky. During the 1820s he and his family settled in Bond County in Illinois, just north of St. Louis.

In 1825 they met the Pierce family and the families farmed for two years but decided to head north to Galena as the heard of the lead mines. When they reached Galena they decided they didn’t like lead mining and decided to move south down the river to a “beautiful valley on the banks of the Mississippi River” that Vance had noticed on trip from Rock Island to Galena a year previous.

With Vance leading the Pierce family south in their covered wagon, they arrived in what would become Savanna on the afternoon of the third day, Nov. 4, 1828. By Christmas they had erected three cabins, one for the Pierce Family, one for Vance and his parents, and another from Vance’s sister and William Blundell.

Following the Plum River Raid, Vance enlisted in the Army and served throughout the war and was in all the engagements with the Indians under Black Hawk. Aaron Pierce offered his services and was engaged in hauling provisions for the soldiers.

After the end of the Blackhawk War in 1833, the settlers returned from Galena and Vance Davidson and Aaron Piece each built two-story log houses, with cellars and a porch looking over the river. The new structures each had  a fireplace, a stairway, with one room upstairs and one below.

The first marriage took place on June 11, 1835, as Harriet Pierce, the 16-year-old daughter of Aaron Pierce, and Vance exchanged vows. The ceremony was performed by Hooper Crews, an elder of the Methodist Church and the first circuit rider in this section of Illinois.

Vance built a store and warehouse on the river bank near the log cabins at the north end of town near the steamboat landing. He went to New York to buy his good and had them shipped down the Ohio and up the Mississippi.

In an old ledger kept by Vance recording his transactions in 1836, it contains the record of his investment in goods amounting to $1,900 and also the names of many of the first settlers of the town, and we read the name of William Goss, Edward Corbin, Elijah Bellows, John Bowen, Robert Upton, and John Bernard.

He also sold hard wood for $3.50 a cord to the steamboats including Lucie May, Alhambra, Metropolis, Vixen, Ben Bolt, Greek Slave, Henry Clay, Clipper and the Skipper.

The couple lived in Savanna until 1849 when Vance headed west for the California Gold rush. He returned in 1854 to get his wife and six kids.

This is account of Harriet Pierce Davidson’s account of the trip to California. “That was the hardest time I ever experienced. They were over five months dragging along in alkali dust with six children, the youngest an infant. There were fifteen in the party to cook and care for, and the six cows they took with them when they started from here all ate a poison weed and died. But, we lived through it all, and we are glad we are in California, and while we never made our fortune, we live comfortably."

Their oldest daughter, Almira, recalled traveling across the plains, coming over Lassen Trail and landing in Red Bluff. They spent two weeks there before making their family home in Oroville, California.

The couple had a total of 12 children and lived out their lives in California. Vance died on Nov. 10, 1881, in Siskiyou County and is buried at Fort Jones Cemetery. Harriet Pierce Davidson passed away on March 11, 1908, at the age of 88 in San Rafael, Marin County, California and is buried at Mount Tamalpais Cemetery.