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David Avis (1817 - 1868)

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David Avis
Born in Maryland, USAmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married 2 May 1837 (to Sep 1843) in Monroe County, Indiana, USAmap
Husband of — married 16 Apr 1857 in Cooke County, TX, USAmap
Husband of — married 1859 in Montague, Montague County, TXmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Montague Co., Texasmap
Profile last modified 4 May 2019 | Created 13 Nov 2017
This page has been accessed 133 times.


The Life of David Avis (by his great-great-grandson Charles Avis – last updated 2017)

<Note to the reader: My speculations have been kept to a minimum here, but the ones I included are shown in italics>

It may seem that little is known about the first Avis settler in Texas, David Avis. He started our family in Texas, but within about 8 years was dead. So, whatever his life story was, he had no time to pass it down through his children. His widow, who survived him by 57 years, seemingly kept most of her memories to herself.

However, everyone leaves a trail through history and a sparsely populated jigsaw puzzle can be constructed. Then, if one stands back and squints one’s eyes, a fuzzy glimpse of the person may be revealed. Therefore, I have laid out the puzzle pieces and constructed this picture of our mystery man.

We currently have no information on David’s parents or first two decades. He repeatedly said that he was born in Maryland, and his tombstone reports 1-14-1817 as his birthdate. This is consistent with his age of 44 on the 1860 census and his age of 36 when he enlisted in 1854. When, how, why and with whom David migrated from Maryland is not yet known.

David first leaves a trace in history at age 20 when he married Mary Ann Deming in Indiana (Monroe County 5-2-1837). There were no other Avis families in that part of Indiana at the time, indicating that he was there without his parental family. There could be a connection to the Avis families of Perry Co., Indiana who had also come from Maryland.

Mary was the daughter of Frederick Deming. This was her second marriage. Her first husband had left her (and one child) and went to Texas to fight in the Revolution.

David and Mary started a family and had 2 children: James Frederick and Lida Victoria. According to Mary, David abandoned this young family on 3-9-1841, curiously taking the same exit strategy of Mary’s first husband and headed to Texas (perhaps not directly). This was 18 days before their second child was born. Mary Ann filed for divorce two years later. There is no record of David responding to this filing.

By his own account, David arrived in Texas as early as 1852 giving us an information vacuum of about 11 years.

An early settler of the little north Texas town of Montague said that after 1854 “a hotel was put in by George Cox and a saloon by somebody named Avis.” That probably refers not to George Cox but his father J. H. Cox because George was born in 1852. George Cox himself stated that David Avis boarded at his family’s house in Montague and sold groceries and whiskey. With that he started his mercantile career.

Soon after settling in the area, David began near-continuous service in the defense of this community really on the edge of civilization. He first served as a private in the local Texas militia in 1854 having enlisted at McKinney at age 36. W. A. Morris said that this “Montague Pioneers” volunteer infantry defended Texas frontier against “marauding bands of Indians and Kansas Jay Hawkers”. Jayhawkers were guerrilla abolitionist fighters raiding from northern states. David received a bounty of land (in Louisiana) for this service (which he assigned to another man in 1860).

The region suffered greatly from Indian raids and depredations in the mid-1850’s through the mid-1870’s. All settlers were armed and would rally to each other’s aid when attacks occurred.

In 1856, David Avis entered a claim for 160 acres of vacant land (4.5 miles southwest of Montague). He stated that he settled on the land in Cooke County about 1-19-1856. The land became part of Montague County when it was split off of Cooke County in 1858. David apparently abandoned the land before the required three-year residence requirement to acquire outright ownership. The land was later claimed by someone else (that claim was witnessed by David himself). He witnessed other claims in 1856, 59, 60 and 61. Perhaps he left the exposed claim for the safer environs of the town of Montague.

David Avis married Josephine Falkner 4-15-1857. This was recorded in Cooke County. We do not know if they had children or what happened to Josephine.

David again officially took up the defense as a corporal in the Texas Mounted Rangers from 10/28/1858 to 3/28/1859 after enlisting at Gainesville. He was "discharged in consequence of the exposure of family on the frontier." Given this statement, it seems likely that during this service period, he had no family ties (i.e., Josephine was no longer in the picture). However, in 1859 he courted and married Mahala Webb in Montague. Then he had the reason he stated for discharge.

Mahala was the 17- or 18-year-old daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth Webb of Missouri. David and Mahala lived in a log house that stood west of the Montague courthouse, on the corner of the west block of the square. The old homestead was turned into a fort for defense against Indians with a stockade 8 or 9 feet high.

In 1860, David reported himself as ‘Davis Avis’ to the census taker. Oddly, this was the first of two times in 1860 that he did this. The second time eliminates the possibility of a mistake: “Davis Avis, who served in the name of David Avis”.

He told the 1860 census taker he was a carpenter. However, as the county developed, David Avis turned his saloon into a prosperous mercantile career. He became involved in the public affairs of the county. He served as a county treasurer and county commissioner of Montague County during part of its first 15 years (1857-1872). Petitions were sent to the state government in 1859 regarding frontier protection, moving the county seat and the location of the county boundaries. David signed all three.

With the outbreak of Civil War hostilities, the federal troops protecting the frontier settlements withdrew and the Confederate government did not replace them. Some of the more western frontier areas had to be abandoned due to the lack of security. The communities still had to use volunteer troops for protection from the Indian raids. David enlisted again as the Civil War raged and between 1862 and 1864 was listed in Texas State Troops. These troops were not used against Yankees but only for local service.

During this turbulent time, David and Mahala had four children: James David (b. 1860), Frank Marion (b. 1864), Mary Victoria (b. 1865), and Nancy Belle (b. 1867). James was the first settler’s child born in Montague. George Cox said, “He was about the first baby I had seen since I was a babe.”

Although the end of the Civil War brought a surge in settlers, the Indian raids from the nearby Indian Territory continued for a while. Family oral history says that David “died as the result of wounds inflicted in an Indian raid at Montague.” His grave marker notes his death date as 2-16-1868. Interestingly, this is only 3 weeks after the last big Indian raid into Montague County. That occurred on January 5th and 6th of 1868 and involved over a hundred Indians. Perhaps his wounds were acquired in that raid.

David was buried in the Montague Cemetery.

Mahala carried on with her four small children. She eventually married a dry goods clerk by the name of C{orneilius}. C. White who became very prosperous in the mercantile business. One oral history report indicated that he had worked for David prior to David’s death. Mahala outlived her second husband by 30+ years and was buried next to David in Montague.


  • Texas Muster Roll Abstracts. Texas State Library. Transcript
David Avis served as private in Texas militia from 11/2/1854 to 2/2/1855. He had enlisted at McKinney, Tx at age 36. He also served as a corporal in the Texas Mounted Rangers from 10/28/1858 to 3/28/1859 after enlisting at Gainesville, Tx. He was "discharged in consequence of the exposure of family on the frontier."
David Avis claims 160 acres now vacant. He claims that he settled on the land in Cooke County about 1-19-1856. Sworn 11-26-1856. (In other files, he witnessed other claims in 1856,59,60,61)
  • Grammar, Norma R.. Cooke County Marriages 1849-July 1879. M. D. Mullins, 1957. p. 3 Transcript, Transcript
David Avis marries Josephine Falkner 4-15-1857
David Avis boarded at the author’s family’s house in Montague; sold groceries and whiskey. Courted and married Miss Webb. He moved and lived in a log house that stood west of the courthouse, on the corner of the west block of the square. Children Jim, Frank, Mary, and Nannie Bell. In a few years, Avis died and C. C. White married the widow Avis.
  • Fenoglio, Melvin E.. The Story of Montague County. Texas: Montague County Historical Committee, 1989. p. 91, 92, 855. Excerpt
Early settler said that after 1854 “a hotel was put in by George Cox and a saloon by somebody named Avis.” David Avis listed as one of the early day settlers. Mahalia Katherine Webb married David Avis in 1859 and later married C. C. White. All are buried in Montague Cemetery. Also mentions a man named Avis running a saloon.
  • Troxel, Navena H.. Early Records of Montague County, Texas. Gregath Pub. Co., 1982. p. 1-2 Transcript
David Avis listed on Tax List for 1858 and as having been omitted from the 1857 Tax List.
  • Footprints. Fort Worth Genealogical Society. v. 30, p. 189 Transcript
David Avis was a county treasurer and county commissioner of Montague County during part of its first 15 years (1857-1872).
David Avis signed petitions regarding frontier protection, moving county seat and county boundaries.
  • Information from A. W. "Jake” Avis (grandson of David Avis) Transcript
C. C. White worked in David Avis' general store until Avis died. Then he married the widow.
  • Paddock, Capt. B. B.. A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1906. pp. 579-580. Excerpt
David Avis, a native of Maryland, removed with his parents to Missouri in his boyhood days and stayed until early manhood. In the 50's, he came to Texas, settling in Montague. David Avis established a prosperous mercantile career. The old homestead is just west of the courthouse and was turned into a fort for defense against Indians with a stockade 8 or 9 feet high. David Avis died at the old home in 1873 aged about 52. He had married in Montague and the widow married C. C. White.
  • Johnson, Frank W., Barker, Eugene, Winkler, Ernest. A History of Texas and Texans. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914. Vol. 4, p. 1957. Excerpt
David Avis was born in Maryland, settled in Montague County in the early 1850's. He moved to Montague in the later 1850's and established a mercantile business. He died in 1868 aged 52 years. He build the fort at Montague for protection of the settlers. He became a lieutenant in the Texas volunteer infantry and served until the end of the war. He married in 1859 in Montague and had four children.
  • U. S. Census 1860, Montague County, Texas. Dwelling no. 682 Transcript
Davis Avis 44 Carpenter born in Maryland
Catholine Avis 22 born in Missouri
  • Davis, Ellis Arthur, Shambling, Thomas S.. The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas. Texas Historical Society, 1941?. p. 1158. Excerpt
James David Avis born at Montague 8/13/1861 to James David Avis, Sr. and Catherine Webb. <This is the only reference to David Avis as James David other than the Billie Avis letter to Mrs. Brown below.>
  • Reverse Index To Deeds A-K, Montague County, Texas. p. 3 Transcript
David Avis deeds to T. M. Tatty 50 acres in 1861. The instrument was recorded in 1890.
David Avis listed as 3rd Lieutenant of "Montague Pioneers" which was in Dallas 1-14-1862.
David Avis listed as 3rd Lieutenant and signer on letter regarding Captain Manes 1-26-1862.
  • Footprints. Fort Worth Genealogical Society. v. 22, p. 160 Transcript
Muster roll of Captain Mains' company of 1st Regiment 21st Brigade of Texas State Troop Volunteers, about 1862. David Avis listed as private, 46 years old, born in Maryland.
  • Confederate Military Service Record Index (microfilm of index cards). Texas State Library Transcript
David Avis, Pvt., Company for 1st Frontier District, Montague County 2-23-1864 through 5-31-1864 age 46
David Avis, 3rd Lieutenant, Company in 1st Regiment of Mounted Volunteers. Enlisted 1-8-1862, stationed in Montague County 1-1862, Dallas County 2-1862
  • Donnell, Guy R.. “History of Montague County, Texas”. Montague Co. Historical Commission, 1992. p. 180, 182, 183, 189 Transcript
David Avis, Pvt. Company A Montague County 1st Frontier Texas State Troops 1864. Also: repeat of the above 1859 petitions.
  • W. A. Morris letter to J. D. Avis (son of David Avis) 5-12-1925 Transcript
David Avis enlisted in CSA 1-8-1862, discharged in summer of 1862, enlisted fall 1862, discharged 6-25-1865 at war's end. Defended Texas frontier against Jayhawkers and Indians.
  • Montague County, Texas Voters 1867 - 1869. Texas State Archives Transcript
David Avis listed as being native of Maryland and having been in Texas for 15 years, in Montague County for 10 years and in precinct #1 for 7 years.
  • “Burial Mrs. White, Wichita Pioneer, to be in Montague”, Wichita Daily Times, 5-6-1925, p. 3. Transcript
Obituary of Mahala Catherine (Webb) Avis White says her first husband, David Avis, was a merchant in Montague.
  • U. S. Census 1880, Montague County, Texas, Enum. Dist. 119, p. 375. Transcript
Children of David Avis say father born in Virginia.
David Avis born 1-14-1817, died 2-16-1868
  • Billie Avis Letter to Frances Brown 4-12-1987 Transcript
David Avis died as the result of wounds inflicted in an Indian raid at Montague.
  • Indiana Marriages Through 1850 “A-B”, Indiana State Library Genealogy Division. Transcript
David Avis marries Mary Ann Deming in Monroe Co., IN 5-2-1837.
  • Monroe County, Indiana Marriage Records. p. 149 Transcript
  • Monroe County, Indiana Court Records. Divorce Petition of Mary Ann Deming vs. David Avis 6-5-1843 Transcript
Mary Ann says David abandoned her on 3-9-1841 after having two kids with him.
  • Monroe County, Indiana Court Records. September term 1843. Mary Ann Deming vs. David Avis Transcript
Court rules marriage dissolved.
  • Death Certificate of James F. Avis 1913 Transcript
F. M. Wolff reports that the father of James F. Avis (b. 3-15-1838 IN) was David Avis.
  • Family Bible of F. M. and Sally Avis in possession of Bob Gilbreath in 2010 Transcript
David's birth date recorded as 1/14/1817.
  • U. S. Bureau of Land Management Military Bounty Land Warrants. vol. 295, p. 325 Transcript
David had a land warrant for service during "Texas Frontier Disturbance"
  • "Montague County Officers During First 15 years of Organization". Footprints. Fort Worth Genealogical Society. v. 30 p. 188-9 Transcript
  • Reverse Index to Deeds, Montague Co., TX Transcript

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with David by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with David:

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