Thomas Davis

Thomas John Davis (bef. 1788 - 1847)

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Thomas John Davis
Born before in Wellington, Herefordshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married 2 May 1823 in Church of England, Stottesden, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Auckland, New Zealandmap
Profile last modified 4 Sep 2019 | Created 18 Oct 2015 | Last significant change: 4 Sep 2019
01:02: Kathryn (Smith) Mooney edited the Biography for Thomas John Davis (bef.1788-1847). [Thank Kathryn for this]
This page has been accessed 352 times.


The Name Davies /Davis are on his marriage record

For someone of very humble descent, Thomas Davis has managed to have a lot written about him! This is because of the times he lived in and the careers choices he made. The Davis family were, no doubt, Welsh in origin, but had for at least some time, lived across the border in neighbouring Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Thomas Davis’ parents were another Thomas Davis and Susanna, and they baptised Thomas 24/11/1788 in Wellington Herefordshire. Nothing is known of siblings, but it is recognised that the family were Roman Catholics. After the Second Jacobite Rebellion in 1745, however, Roman Catholicism had largely gone underground, as no marriages could take place outside parish churches or synagogues. Nor were Roman Catholics permitted to join the army.

When Thomas was a young boy, sometime between 1799 and 1802, the Napoleonic wars broke out. There were great fears amongst the British that the French would use Catholic Ireland as a back door to an invasion, so the censures against Roman Catholicism were not lifted. Eventually, however, a shortage of men, and fear of invasion anyway, led to a softening of the rules against those joining the army.

At the age of 12, Thomas Davis signed up as a drummer boy in the 9th Shropshire regiment. It is hard to imagine parents permitting children so young to join the army, but these were hard times. It could even be that Thomas had been orphaned, as many of the drummer boys came from the workhouses. Presumably, no one would miss them. This being because they had a high mortality rate, going in front of the troops into battle. Yet, somehow, Thomas Davis survived, and fought as a full soldier at the Battle of Corunna in 1808, one of the bloodiest of the battles of the Peninsula War. He served under Sir John Moore at Corunna during the Peninsular Wars in the 52nd Foot, and was present at his burial before dawn on the 17th January 1809 in the ramparts of Corunna. Later, he was transferred to Belgium, where received the Waterloo Medal, even though may not have fought at Waterloo! He seems to have been , instead, at the crucial battle of Quatre-Bras, two days before Waterloo. The Quatre-Bras Veterans were awarded the Waterloo medal as well. Well done, Thomas Davis. To have survived some of the most awful battles of the Napoleonic wars. Few drummer boys had got past the Pensinsula Wars. Thomas got through them all. (We would love to know if his medal still exists, as no one has come forward to say they have it.) [Some of the family say this is another boy of the same name - Kathryn]

The Davis family left for Australia on board the "Canton" (1834-1835) with the military. The family lived in Sydney until 1837 when they departed from Australia with Baron de Thierry on board the "Nimrod" which arrived in Hokianga, New Zealand on the 4 November 1837. Thomas Davis worked for Baron De Thierry, as his Bailiff/steward.

De Thierry was a Frenchman with a claim to land in NZ. This land had been purchased from the very first "New Zealand Company". The later NZ claimants said this had never occurred. Their defensive said his bid would put the land into possibly French Territory.

Soon after the family arrived into New Zealand they attended the first Catholic Mass with Bishop Pompallier. This was an historic occasion. Supposedly his son, young Thomas (aged 14 years) was the Altar Server at the Mass, and was given a crucifix as a thank you. There is a crucifix of the French style still in the family in N.Z. which supports this story.

This story the family tell is the same tale that Church historians write about. They claim the gathering was so large, everyone could not fit the room; many people had to stand outside and look in through the windows.

The Davis family stayed with de Thierry until 1840, then when his bond was completed they walked to Kororareke where they saw the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Thomas held up his daughter Ann (aged 12 half years) so she could see the actual signing. This event took several days, so we should presume they watched some people signing the treaty document. Everyone in NZ was invited and encouraged to attend.

After they arrived into the new township of Auckland they set up a bakery, in Fort Street which was then on the foreshore of Auckland. I also heard of a later property (verified) or bakery further up Queen Street, maybe on the corner of Durham Lane. This may have been the base for their timber business and home. Close by was the [future] Catholic Church, initially just a small building. [This is correct, but not sure if they continued the bakery, or just provided food). This plot of land in the very small Durham Lane, was where they lived and the centre of business.

This family were staunch Catholics. Many of New Zealand first leaders were setting up a country free from social rules of Europe and England. They would not accept prisoners as labour force, as they had seen occur in Australia. Unfortunately a two ships of reformed convicts had already been sent to New Zealand. When these ships arrived in 1842 the moneyed settlers "Blacklisted" the boys... commonly called the Pankhurst Boys. The boys were locked in the ships for some time, before being released into Barracks... some escaped. There are numerous tales are about what happened; many of these stories are fiction.

I can confirm that the Davis family gave support to some of these unwanted boys. These lads probably worked in the timber mills in return for food and clothing. This arrangement occurred through their Catholic faith.

One lad was quick to take advantage of the family - his name was John Ryan. In 1843, sixteen year old Mary Ann (Ann) Davis, his daughter gave birth to a daughter.

There are many family tales, that say this couple were married by Bishop Pompallier, at St Patrick's Church - others scoff at the idea, because no marriage record has been found.

"Benefield" family, relatives to "Mary Ann Davies" have published a book on Ann's Life. It states "We were wed quietly in St Patrick's Church in Wyndam St, and many of my new Irish friends attended in spite of not being invited, it was a simple yet beautiful occasion"

St Patrick's Cathedral, as we know it in 2015 had not been built. Priest (Father Jean Forrest) who worked hard to created a St Patrick Church, used every pressure he could within the Catholic community to built his church quickly, ahead of other faiths. He would been very quick to use the resources of the Davis family, and he would have made certain that any couple were married - especially as these children were baptized Catholic. The Davis family were staunch Roman Catholics, and therefore did not come under English law. Their marriage occurs before the British authorities have set up resources for settlers to marry. Mary Ann, used the title Mrs Ryan and at this time no one would create this new name unless they were married; it was a small community of just a few hundred people - the Priests would have known if she was unmarried.

This biography is the joint effort of Susan Scarcella & Kathryn Smith.

If you have more details about this family ... please add your information.

Eventually someone will read and translate some work and find this marriage record. If you have proof please confirm this. [read above]


Smith-86545 - General Knowledge. Whilst researching the Kilgour family history many people help collect the information for compilation. The one name I remember helping for this family was Mr Robertson, whose family had moved to Australia (Sue: he was descended from Catherine Canton Davis, who was born on "The Canton" after it arrived in Sydney Harbour.) We corresponded and shared many complex twists to the RYAN and MURPHY family tree. We shared copies of any paperwork. -Susan Scarcella researched work

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Images: 6
Waterloo Medal
Waterloo Medal

Steady the Drums and Fifes by Lady Elizabeth Butler. The drummer boys of the 57th (die-hards) drawn up under fire on the ridge of Albuera, (16th May 1811), Peninsula war.
Steady the Drums and Fifes by Lady Elizabeth Butler. The drummer boys of the 57th (die-hards) drawn up under fire on the ridge of Albuera, (16th May 1811), Peninsula war.

Quatre Bras 1
Quatre Bras 1

Quatre Bras 2
Quatre Bras 2

Quatre Bras 3
Quatre Bras 3

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Thomas is 25 degrees from Tanya Lowry, 18 degrees from Charles Tiffany and 20 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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Categories: Waterloo Medal