Contra Costa County











A large land owner and prosperous ranchman of Contra Costa county, Seth Davison is widely known as one of the most successful grain growers in this section, his fields of wheat and barley among the most productive and the most profitable. He was born in Lake county, Ill., May 19, 1851, the only son of the late William Davison, well known as a pioneer of the state and one of its most earnest upbuilders. The elder man was born in Montgomery county, N.Y., a son of Caleb and Elisabeth (Walrath) Davison, representatives of earlier New York families. Caleb Davison was a native of New York City, of English and Scotch descent. Elisabeth (Walrath) Davison was born in the Mohawk valley and of Dutch descent. When sixteen years old William Davison left his home in New York and came as far west as Illinois, where he located in Lake county and engaged in farming. He there married Mary Gridley, whose maternal ancestor, Robert Seely, came from England with Governor Winthrop in 1630.

All bearing the name of Gridley in England and the United States are descendants of Albertus Greslet, who entered England from Normandy with the army of William the Conqueror. Richard and Thomas Gridley, lineal descendants of Albertus Greslet, emigrated from Essex, England, in 1630-1631, and settled in Boston, Mass. Thomas Gridley, the American ancestor of Captain Charles V. Gridley, settled in Hartford, Conn., in 1632, and in 1637 was a member of Captain John Mason's company in the fight against the Pequods. Richard Gridley, in about 1650, became captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. Richard, the son of Richard, was born in Boston in 1710. He was captain of the artillery at the siege of Louisburg. At the breaking out of the war of the revolution Colonel Gridley was required to state on which side he would take up arms, and he answered, I shall fight for justice and my country, and cast his lot with the patriots, and afterward was appointed to the command of the first regiment of artillery, the only artillery regiment in the provinces at the opening of the war.

Colonel Gridley laid out the fortifications on Breed's Hill, June 16, 1775, and was present at the battle on June 17, 1775. On September 20, 1775, he received from the Provincial Congress the rank of major general. The battle rolls of the war of the revolution contain the names of many Gridleys. The grandfather of Mary (Gridley) Davison was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and was present when Major Andre was captured and brought into camp, and saw them take him out to hang him. After the war he helped survey government land on the Hudson river.

In 1864 Mr. Davison disposed of his property in Illinois and after fitting out fine teams and wagons with all necessary equipments they began the long journey to the golden west. It proved a disastrous trip to many that season on account of the hostility of the Indians. From Council Bluffs they started out in a small company and later fell in with a large train of emigrants and traveled with them a distance, when the road separated. They were almost persuaded to continue with them, but did not. The large train went their way, the small one took theirs; but farther on in the mountains the roads came together and again the travelers met. The large train had suffered serious loss by the hostile Sioux. One man lost all of his stock, another half, and so on; while the small company went through unmolested, little thinking what their friends were passing through. On the way there was trouble ahead of them and trouble behind them, and trouble on one side of them. They seemed to run the gauntlet all the way, yet escaped it all. The winter was spent in Humboldt county, Nev., on account of the drouth [sic] that year in California. In the spring, before they could get away from there, the Piute Indians became hostile and they were in the midst of a serious Indian outbreak and for weeks in great danger of losing their lives. Finally Captain Wells, U.S.A., with a company of cavalry, came along and kindly left an escort of his men to travel with them to a place of safety, and they finally crossed the state line of California exactly one year to a day after leaving the old home in Illinois.

Going at first to Sonoma county, they remained only a short time when Mr. Davison bought property in Solano county, in 1866 removing to that location and making their home in the neighborhood of Vacaville for two years, during which time he followed general farming. Disposing of his interests at the close of that period, he brought his family to Contra Costa county, where he purchased a quarter section of land of Judge McNulty. There was a new cabin on the place and this Mr. Davison enlarged and improved and made the home of his family. Upon this property Mr. Davison and his son began the raising of grain, and in the passing years met with every success in their work. In time they bought three hundred and twenty acres in Birones valley, Contra Costa county, and proceeded to make many valuable improvements, putting up new buildings of every description. For twenty-seven years the two men, father and son, worked together in their chosen calling, attaining a financial success and establishing themselves among the representative agriculturists of the section. Unlike the majority of young men, Seth Davison never had any desire to leave his home, his father proving a most congenial companion, the two working together with never a disagreement until the death of the latter in 1885, at the age of sixty-five years. The mother is still living and makes her home with her son, enjoying splendid health and retaining all her faculties, although she will have passed her eighty-first birthday on the 3rd of September. She has three children, Seth, Ellen Seely and Eva Walrath.

Seth Davison married Hattie E. Groehler, a native of Germany, raised in California and the daughter of Julius A. Groehler and wife. They are the parents of three children, namely: Esther, Ruth and Alida. In addition to his agricultural interests, Mr. Davison is a capitalist of no small pretensions and takes an active and public-spirited interest in the material upbuilding of the community.





Transcribed 9-28-16 Marilyn R. Pankey.

Source: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1342-1343. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016 Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library