Finding Aid to the William Heath Davis Papers, 1840-1905

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Finding Aid to the William Heath Davis Papers, 1840-1905

Collection number: BANC MSS C-B 445

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

Processed by:
The Bancroft Library staff
Date Completed:
ca. 1956-1967
Encoded by:
Xiuzhi Zhou
© 1997

Collection Summary

Collection Title: William Heath Davis Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1840-1905
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 445
Origination: Davis, William Heath, 1822-1909
Extent: Part I: 3 boxes and 5 volulmes Part II: 2 microfilm reels
Repository: The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

Information for Researchers


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Heath Davis Papers, BANC MSS C-B 445, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Scope and Content

This collection of his papers was assembled from several sources: some documents removed from the T. W. Norris, Robert B. Honeyman and Robert E. Cowan Collections of Californiana; some material purchased in 1956 from Miss Inez Estudillo; and photocopy and film from the California State Library in Sacramento. Sources are noted on the folders.


William Heath Davis was born of a Boston sea-faring, ship-owning family, in Honolulu in 1822. Visiting California as a boy, he returned in 1838 to clerk in a store in Monterey owned by his uncle, Nathan Spear, and subsequently engaged in trading trips to Yerba Buena and the Hawaiian Islands. In 1845 he settled in San Francisco, established his own business and became one of the city's most prominent merchants and ship owners. In 1847 he married María de Jesús Estudillo, daughter of Joaquin Estudillo, a wealthy rancher. In addition to his mercantile activities he was instrumental in the founding of San Diego and Oakland. He died at Hayward, California, April 19, 1909.

Key to Arrangment

Part I

volume v. 1

Letters written by Davis, 1846-1850

Scope and Content Note

Photocopy of business letterbook; original in California State Library, Sacramento Contains letters, some in Spanish, addressed to other merchants, including Henry D. Fitch and John Parrott, and to customers such as Vallejo, Larkin, and Frémont. Some letters (1847) in the hand of Richard M. Sherman, temporarily in charge of Davis' business in California. Letters provide detail re ship cargoes, merchandise orders, prices for goods, etc. Some discuss future of Mexican California.
Box 1

Letters written by Davis, 1851-1905

Scope and Content Note

Originals, copies and drafts; addressed primarily to members of his family, particularly while he was in Washington, D. C. (1882-84) and in Los Angeles and San Diego (1884-ca. 1887). Letters to his wife, María de Jesús (Estudillo) Davis, are in Spanish. Arranged chronologically.
Box 2

Letters written to Davis

Scope and Content Note

Letters from members of his family, other California merchants and settlers, etc. Partial list of correspondence follows.
Unlisted letters are in a miscellany at the beginning of the file.

Accounts and other financial Papers, arranged chronologically


Leese, Jacob Primer. Orders for merchandise, Jan. 27 & Feb. 15 1840


Guerrero, Francisco. Order for merchandise, Nov. 2, 1841


Sinclair, William. Receipt. Signed for Sinclair by James A. Forbes, Apr. 1, 1845


Howard, W[illiam] D[avis] M[erry]. Bill for goods, noted as credited in account, June 13, 1846


Ware, William. Receipted bill for cedar shingles, Aug. 17, 1846


Shockley, H. A.. Receipted bill for goods supplied to William Heath Davis, Sept. 11, 1846


Mellus, Henry. Receipt for hides, Oct. 24, 1846


Frémont, J[ohn] C[harles]. Order for supplies written and signed for him by William H. Russell, [Nov. 3, 1846]


Powell, William John. Receipted bill for medical service on Brig Euphemia, Dec. 5, 1846


Smith, Stephen. Request to pay Leidesdorff for lumber, Jan. 7, 1847


Semple, Robert. Bill, Feb. 23, 1847


Vioget, Jean Jacques. Bill for caulking Euphemia by Mr. McLannan, Nov. 16, 1847


Davis, William Heath. Bill of lading for goods from San Francisco to Santa Cruz on the Brig Henry, Nov. 27, 1847


Hoppe, Jacob D . Note to William Heath Davis requesting delivery of merchandise, Mar. 31, 1848


Starkey, Janion, & Co. Receipted bill, Oct. 10, 184[8?]


Gilbert, Hubbard & Co. Receipted bill for Alta California & printing, Jan. 4-May 2, 1849


Davis, William Heath. Bill of lading for gold shipped to New York via Panama on the steamship California, Apr. 30, 1849


S. H. Williams & Co. Receipted bill, Sept. 10, 1849


Coyle, Francis, pastor of the Catholic Church, S.F. Receipt for "book containing account of receipts and payments..." Jan. 15, 1850


Robert Wells & Co. Receipted bill for three frame houses, Aug. 1, 1850


San Francisco. Street Commissioner's Office. Street assessment. Signed by Joseph Weed, Collector of Assessments, Oct. 30, 1850


Richardson, William. Order to pay one hundred and fifty dollars to G. B. Post, Oct. 31, 1850


Davis, W[illia]m H[eath]. Check on Page Bacon & Co., Dec. [7?], 1850


Davis, William Heath. 3 cancelled checks on the San Francisco Savings Bank, 1852-53


Matthews, H . Bill to Davis & Ward, June 11, 1855


Davis, William H[eath]. Check on John Sime & Co., Oct. 13, 1858


Davis, William Heath. Account book, 1897-1900


Davis, William Heath. "Money to family, " 1898-1900


W[illia]m Heath Davis Account with Miss Lizzie Manning, July 18, 1903


Miscellaneous accounts


Miscellaneous papers


Co-partnership agreement - William H. Davis, William Richardson and John Parrott, "with a view to the navigation by steam of the Bay and tributaries of the Port of San Francisco..." March 17, 1849


Lease from William Heath Davis to Blecker, Van dyke & Belden, for land in San Francisco, Aug. 18, 1849


San Francisco. Clerk. Subpoena, to sheriff of San Francisco, to command appearance of Edwin Bryant, Washington Bartlett, Nathan Spear and William H. Davis, to testify in case, Pell v. Woodworth and Roach, Sept. 18, 1849


Power of attorney granted William H. Davis to settle estate of Louis Gravier, Oct. 15, 1849


Davis, William Heath. Copy of lease of land in San Francisco to Edward Vischer, Dec. 1, 1849


Certificate of registration of the Barque Hortensia, May 9, 1850


Summons to William Heath Davis to appear before the U.S. Commission for Ascertaining and Settling Private Land Claims in California, March 14, 1855


Davis, William Heath. Agreement to aid Abel Guy in case, Daniel Sill v. Guy, Jan. 25, 1856?


Davis, William Heath. Deed of land (copy), Aug. 25, 1856


Davis, William Heath. "Flying trip to California, " undated


Davis, William Heath. "Flying Trip to Honolulu 1847, " undated


Miscellaneous papers related to William Heath Davis


Newspaper clippings related to William Heath Davis and family


William Heath Davis papers, including:


Hinckley, William Sturgis, 1807-1848:


Letter to Gulnac, Mar. 16, 1842, from Yerba Buena, requesting him to deliver hides to W. H. Davis. 11. A.L.S.


Thompson, Joseph P.:


Letter to W. H. Davis, Aug. 1, 1845, from Yerba Buena, sending copy of letter from committee of arrangements for the celebration of the fourth of July along with one other document. 1 letter, A.L.S.


Green, Talbot H., 1810-1889:


Bill to W. H. Davis, Monterey, Apr. 15, 1846. 1 letter, A.D.S.


Davis, William Heath, 1822-1909:


Bill and receipt to the U. S. Portsmouth for five pounds of nails. Yerba Buena, Sept. 21, 1846. 1 letter, A.D.S.


Pell, E. Ward:


Certificate of inspection of hides and tallow for W. H. Davis, Oct. 18, 1846, at Yerba Buena. 1 letter, A.D.S.


Davis, William Heath, 1822-1909:


Cancelled promissory note to T. C. Pelton, Fe b. 2, 1854, San Leandro. 1 letter, A.D.S.


Davis, William Heath, 1822 -1909:


Cancelled promissory note to Hirshfelder, Levy & Co., Sept. 6, 1858, San Leandro. Printed form, filled in. 1 letter,


Davis, William Heath, 1822-1909:


Cancelled promissory note to Main & Winchester, July 21, 1860, San Francisco. Printed form, filled in. 1 letter,

Box 3

Publishers' dummies for Davis' Sixty-Six Years in California and Seventy Years in California. (2 v.)

Scope and Content Note

His reminiscences were published as Sixty Years in California (1889) and Seventy-Five Years in California (1929). The mss. of the published works are in the Huntington Library.
volume v. 2-5

Journals, cash books and ledgers

volume v. 2

Journal for ranching operations, San Leandro, 1863-67

volume v. 3

Cash book [for ranch expenses?], 1868-73

volume v. 4

Journal, 1868-71 [most of the pages are blank]

volume v. 5

Ledger, 1868-71 [most of the pages are blank]

Part II (on film only)

reel 1-2

Positive microfilm of letters written by and to Davis, July 1849-August 1898

Scope and Content Note

Relating to business dealings with merchants in California, Hawaii and Boston and to family affairs. Originals in California State Library, Sacramento.

Partial List of Correspondents


Alexander & Mellus, San Pedro


Letter, Sept. 4, 1848. Re hide and tallow accounts.


Davis, Albert G. [son]


18 letters, 1881-1887. Re family finances and status of Mexican War claim.


Davis, George Hyde, 1868?- [son]


5 letters, 1881-1884.


Davis, María Jesús (Estudillo), 1831-ca. 1905 [Mrs. William Heath Davis]


5 letters, 1881-188[3?]. Written in Spanish.


Davis family miscellany


12 letters, 1864-190[?]. Letters written by Davis' daughters, some while students at the Academy of Notre Dame, San Jose.


Flügge, Charles W., d. 1852


2 letters, 1845-1846


Frisbie, John Baptist, 1824-


Letter, Apr. 25, 1848. "Gen. Scott's order" re Mexican civil prosecution of U.S. military personnel.


Misroon, John Stoney, 1810-1865


Letter, Nov. 15, 1846. Written aboard the U.S.S. Portsmouth.


Nye, Gorham H., 1802-1878


Letter, Nov. 1, 1851. Written from rancho of G. G. Warner.


Parrott, John, 1811-1884


8 letters, 1849-1853. Photostats of originals in the California State Library, Sacramento. Re various business enterprises in partnership with Davis.


Peck, Sherman


Letter, June 1, 1847. Enclosure: account with Nathan Spear, Jan. 1, 1847.

See also Semple, Robert B.


Revere, Joseph Warren, 1812-1880


Letter, Nov. 3, 1846


Ridley, Robert Thomas, 1819?-1851


Letter, March 6, 1840.


Semple, Robert Baylor, 1808-1854


2 letters, 1847-1850. Letter, Sept. 23, 1850, written to Richard M. Sherman.


Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871


Letter, Feb. 2, 1858. Declines Davis' invitation to join in a business venture.


Sutter, John Augustus, 1803-1880


Letter, April 22, 1844. Re account with Davis.


Vischer, Edward, 1808-1878


2 letters, 1850. Re San Diego real estate investment.