Tom Davis (1838–1930)
In 1853, Tom Davis was brought to Oregon from Missouri as “chattel” by the widow Aravilla Waldo. According to accounts of his life, his grandmother died on the trail to Oregon and a sister named Susan died “later” in Salem. No record of his sister can be found, and records for Tom cannot be found for this early time period.
Tom first appears in the 1870 census, but his race is listed as white. The subsequent censuses, from 1880-1930, do list his race as black. In most of these records it also indicates that he is able to read and write. Since it was generally illegal for slaves to be taught these skills, one is left to assume these are skills he may have acquired after coming to Oregon. He worked as a cook in a number of capacities, from working in the dining car for the railroad to working for a private family. In 1907, Tom purchased a lot in Vancouver and built a small home. At the time of his death in 1930, his property was valued at $2,500. Tom Davis is buried in the Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, Washington.