|Abel Davis 1874 - 1937|
As the Spanish American War broke out Abel Davis felt drawn to the military and enlisted in the Illinois First Infantry, based in Chicago. When the First Infantry marched into Cuba in 1898, Private Abel Davis was with them. According to tales he spun in later years, he was also part of the famous charge up San Juan Hill. After the armistice was signed on August 12, 1898, Davis returned home to Chicago.
He returned to work in the department store, but now as an errand boy in the executive department. Meanwhile, he studied law at night, receiving his law degree from Northwestern University in 1901.
|1915 W. Schiller, Chicago|
Abel's father listed his occupation as a salesman of notions, and Abel listed his occupation as insurance agent.
1902 was a big year for Abel Davis. On May 13, 1902 he was admitted to the Bar, having passed the examination, and in November he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly from the 23rd District as a Republican. Abel Davis served in the General Assembly at the same time as future Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, the subject of a previous article in this blog.
Abel's father Peter died in Chicago on May 6, 1903 at the age of 66, having lived long enough to see his immigrant son elected to the Illinois General Assembly.
Once he had a taste of politics, Abel must have liked it, because in November of 1904 he was elected Cook County Recorder on the Republican ticket, being elected with a plurality of over 96,000 votes. Here is a photo of Davis from that era:
The 1910 US Census has the Davis family (now headed by Keile) living at 1408 W. Hoyne. Keile said that she had given birth to nine children, and that all nine were still alive in 1910. Unfortunately 1408 N. Hoyne is now a vacant lot. Abel listed his occupation as a general practice attorney.
During this time between the Spanish-American War and World War I, Abel Davis continued to serve in the Illinois National Guard, working his way up through the ranks.
Abel Davis served two terms as Cook County Recorder and also maintained a private law practice. In 1912, at the end of his second term as Recorder, he decided to return to private life and was elected Vice President of The Chicago Title and Trust Co.
Davis' military career (and life) almost came to an end on July 6, 1912 when he, and a group of other soldiers, was struck by lightning at Camp Lincoln outside of Springfield, Illinois. Here is the report from the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 7, 1912:
Davis (by now a Major) was the most seriously injured and reported to be in critical condition. Mercifully, he recovered.
Keile Lipsitz Davis died in Chicago on May 9, 1915 at the age of 75.
In 1916, Major Abel Davis, with his First Infantry, spent some time patrolling the border between Mexico and the Southern United States and was engaged in at least two skirmishes with the forces of Pancho Villa.
It was at the end of World War I that Abel Davis' military career reached its peak. He was sent to France in 1918 as colonel of the 132nd Infantry. His regiment was in the midst of the fighting during the last six months of the war. Davis and his regiment were in Amiens in July, were engaged in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in September, were attacked with the 17th French army corps east of the Meuse in October and were in the thick of the fighting at St. Hilaire three days before the armistice. For repulsing an enemy attack at this point, Davis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.
Here is the text of his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry) Abel Davis, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 132d Infantry Regiment, 33d Division, A.E.F., near Consenvoye, France, 9 October 1918. Upon reaching its objective, after a difficult advance, involving two changes of directions, Colonel Davis' regiment was subjected to a determined enemy counterattack. Disregarding the heavy shell and machine-gun fire, Colonel Davis personally assumed command and by his fearless leadership and courage the enemy was driven back.
and for the Distinguished Service Medal:
After the war Davis became a brigadier general, commander of the 66th Infantry Brigade, Illinois National Guard.
The 1920 US Census has the remainder of the Davis family living at 5125 S. Ellis Avenue, in Chicago:
|5125 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago|
Abel's brother Ralph was listed as Head of Household; Abel listed his occupation as Vice President of a real estate company. In 1920, Ralph, Abel, Maurice, Olga and Ida were still all living together.
Here is a photo from 1921 of Davis with Col. C. M. Caldwell, Julius Rosenwald, and General George Bell, Jr. at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois:
It was not all war and real estate for Abel Davis. On December 28, 1922, he married Marjorie, nee Mayer (1902-????). Marjorie was the daughter of David (1852-1920) and Florence, nee Blum (1872-1934). At the time of their marriage, Abel Davis was 48, his bride was 20.
Here is a photo of Abel and Marjorie Davis shortly after their marriage:
Abel and Marjorie were blessed with three children: Florence (1924-????), Abel Jr. (1925-2013) and Jean (1932-????).
In 1930, Davis resigned his command in the Illinois National Guard, saying that it was time to make room for a younger man to take over.
The 1930 US Census finds the Davis family living at 600 Sheridan Road in Glencoe, Illinois.
|600 Sheridan Road, Glencoe|
They owned the home, to which they assigned a value of $50,000.00. Davis listed his occupation as "Vice President of a Bank." They also had a live-in nurse, Johanne Oltmanns. The house recently (2014) sold for $3.5 million dollars.
In 1931, Abel Davis was elected Chairman of the Board of The Chicago Title and Trust Company, a post he held until his death.
In 1932 and 1933, Davis served as one of the Trustees of the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.
In 1935, Abel Davis resigned from the Illinois National Guard, having achieved the rank of Major General.
Abel Davis died in his home on January 7, 1937 at the age of 62. He had been suffering from anemia for two years, although the immediate cause of death was, as it often is, pneumonia.
As befits a man of such heroic stature, Abel Davis was given a full military funeral with all the trimmings: