Davis was born on December 4, 1816, the son of John S. Davis and Jane W. Matthews Davis, the second of his three wives. They resided in Goochland County, the probable place of his birth. The record of Davis's birth that a niece later copied into a family Bible includes a middle initial E., but the initial appears in no other document, and if he had a middle name it is not known. He was probably not closely related to Hector Davis, of Hanover County and the city of Richmond, who served in the Convention of 1850–1851.
As traders often did, Davis conducted business with a series of partners as well as on his own account. For several years in the 1850s he and David M. Pulliam operated their auction enterprise as Pulliam & Davis. In 1850 Davis lived next door to Silas Omohundro, another prominent slave trader. Davis occupied buildings in the city's Shockoe Creek area north of East Franklin Street near Fifteenth Street. The fashionable Exchange Hotel stood diagonally across from the Davis establishment, and his office was in the nearby and equally fashionable Saint Charles Hotel. Davis's large brick and stone jail was still standing in 1937. Visitors to the city before the Civil War left several descriptions of his jail and of sales at his auction house and in other, similar houses in the same vicinity. Also recording an account was Wallace Turnage, who was thirteen years old when Davis bought him early in 1860 to work in the jail and auction room. After a short time, Davis sold Turnage for $1,000 and made an easy $50 profit.
A successful trader in one of the city's most lucrative and important businesses, Davis earned the respect of the city's other business leaders. Early in 1860 he and thirteen other men, including several other slave dealers, chartered the Traders Bank of Richmond, perhaps to assist with financing their trading. Davis became the president of the bank. The $50 banknotes that it issued depicted an enslaved man carrying a large basket of cotton, and the $20 notes featured a paternalistic engraving of a male slave picking cotton, a woman spinning thread with factory smokestacks in the background, and a portrait of Henry Clay. The images were intended to appeal to southern planters and to men of commerce.
December 4, 1816 - Hector Davis is born, probably in Goochland County.
1859 - Hector Davis purchases a brick house on Lombard Street in Philadelphia for $3,100 and in the next year moves his enslaved concubine and their children there from Richmond.
1859 - Hector Davis's Richmond slave auction house sells slaves with a market value of more than $2.67 million.
March 1859 - Hector Davis writes his will, distributing his significant wealth between his white and enslaved children, whom he frees along with their mother.
Early 1860 - Hector Davis and thirteen other men, including several slave dealers, charter the Traders Bank of Richmond.
January 7, 1863 - Hector Davis dies in Richmond. His burial place is not recorded.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Schwarz, P. J., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Hector Davis (1816–1863). (2017, July 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Davis_Hector_1816-1863.
- MLA Citation:
Schwarz, Philip J. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Hector Davis (1816–1863)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 6 Jul. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: June 21, 2017 | Last modified: July 6, 2017