William “Ranger” Davidson
The following is taken from the “History of South Point Village” written by Art Ferguson and
published by the South Point Centennial Committee in 1988.
Keelboating in 1798 to the southern tip of the future state of Ohio was the second major move
westward by William “Ranger” Davidson. He was then 51 years old. Born November 20, 1747
in Suffex County, Delaware, he was the son of Lewis and Comfort Warrington Davidson. Lewis
named William after his own father and grandfather. Genealogists identify the elder William as
“Emigrant” because of his emigration from Scotland to Maryland by way of Ireland in 1649. He
was of the Scottish Clan Davidson of the Badenoch area. The clan’s pipe music is “Tulloch’s
Salute” and its badge is boxwood.
With the surname William so common in Davidson history, South Point’s founder is referred to
as “Ranger” because of his Revolutionary War service in Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland
County Militia, Continental Line, known as the “frontier rangers.” As a young man he moved
from Delaware to the Pennsylvania frontier where land holdings are recorded in his name. His
second major move westward was in 1798 to South Point which was part of the Northwest
Territory’s Washington County with the seat located at Marietta. He probably took advantage
of the river’s high, swift spring current to carry him to the land that he had received for military
service. Statehood for Ohio was still five years away and it would be 18 years before
Lawrence County would be formed with Burlington as its seat. During the latter part of those
years, South Point would be part of Gallia County.
Davidson landed on the northern Ohio shore directly opposite the mouth of the Big Sandy
River. He knew by his map that the Big Sandy separated the old state of Virginia from the new
commonwealth of Kentucky. He could see the mouth of Catletts Creek flowing into the Ohio
just below the Sandy’s mouth. It was named after a pioneer settler on the Kentucky side and a
city would one day bear Catlett’s name. As Davidson built his cabin, he retreated at night to
the point between the two rivers for a better defense against any renegade Indians roaming
The land Davidson claimed fronted a mile of river and stretched far back to the hills and
contained giant poplar, oak and beech trees as well as other timber valued for building a
homestead. Lesser stands fringed the deep, dark glades and bordered open marshes where
buffalo had shaped ponds. It was rich sandy loam and extended downstream from Fayette
into Perry townships, making him the first land owner in both, but the first settler in Fayette.
Philip Salliday erected the first cabin in Perry and is thus the first dweller there. Solida Creek
was corrupted from Salliday’s name.
Family members accompanying Ranger in 1798 are not listed. He had five children by his first
wife, Rosanna Hutchinson, who died in 1782, and 10 children by his second wife, Barbara
McDole. Barbara gave birth to William Warrington Davidson on November 6, 1798 at
William brought the younger members of his family and his wife to South Point in 1799 where a
frontier homestead awaited them. An older son by William’s first marriage, John, came west at
age 31 from Pennsylvania in 1801 and settled at Burlington, just above the upper “narrows”
from his father’s holdings. John was a farmer and merchant there until his death in 1828. His
wife Margaret Armstrong died two years later.
South Point’s founder died November 16, 1811 after carving a vast farmland out of the
wilderness. His home was located on the riverbank facing the old river road near the junction
of today’s Second Street and Hooper Street. The old river road, which would have been First
Street had the village existed at that time, has since disappeared because of erosion. It was
officially abandoned as a right-of-way in 1896 and the few feet of width still atop the
enbankment reverted to the fronting properties. Erosion also claimed the soil in which William,
Barbara and other pioneers were buried. The cemetery was between today’s Ferry and Elm
streets with Old 52 on the hillside and the river on the other. High river water and a deepening
ditch created “the hollow” which washed away all but a few graves. As late as the 1930’s
numerous tombstones still stood. A great-great grandson of Ranger Davidson, Howard T.
Ferguson, found the pioneer’s stone covered by river silt in the hollow during a search that
preceded ceremonies dedicating a monument to the Revolutionary War veteran in 1941. The
monument still stands today on the corner of the First Baptist Church lot which overlooks the
time-erased pioneer cemetery where the “Ranger” was buried. The monument was purchased
and dedicated by the captain James Lawrence Chapter of the Daughters of the American
Revolution and was installed by Pearl G. and Dick Davidson, great-grandson and
great-great-grandson respectively, of the Ranger. During the ceremonies, Mary (Molly)
Davidson Ferguson, granddaughter of the Ranger, was honored as the last remaining
grandchild of an American Revolutionary War veteran in Lawrence County.
Children by William Ranger’s first marriage to Rosanna Hutchinson were John, Lewis, Comfort,
David and Mary. Through his second marriage to Barbara McDole, the following were born:
Margaret, Elizabeth, Sarah, Abraham, Thomas, William Warrington, Jesse, Rose, Joseph
William and Cynthia. Of this Margaret, Sarah, Abraham, Thomas, William Warrington and
Joseph William remained with the land in around South Point, marrying into other pioneer
families and producing lines of descendants that touched almost every resident of South Point
until the post World War II residential “boom” resulting from industrialization. Until then, South
Pointers referred to each other as cousin, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandfather and
grandmother, thus keeping families strong.
By the 1820’s, other settlers in the South Point geographic areas, ranging from the “upriver
narrows” to the “downriver narrows” below Sheridan, included the families of Samuel Ankrim,
William McKee, John and Ben Johnston, Daniel Brubaker, Christian and Samuel Kouns, Marvil
Elkins, James Ferguson, Mathias Winters, Elisha Greene and James McClure. Pioneers
arriving during the next decade were William Freeman, Joseph Leighty, Alfred Hastings,
Benjamin Johnston and Pleasant Adkins.
Daniel Brubaker (1791-1867) came west from the Shenandoah Valley soon after Ohio
reached statehood in 1803. He traveled on horseback with a bag of money concealed in his
bedroll, guarding it with his life because it would be the purchase price of land in the fertile
Ohio Valley. He carved a farm from the forest in Perry Township downstream from today’s
South Point Village.
Daniel, Samuel and David Brubaker were sons of Abraham Brubaker of Wood-stock, Virginia
who married Mary Tolliver. Abraham’s father was also named Abraham (1723-1804) of Page
County, Virginia and was married to Barbara Miller. The elder Abraham was a son of Hans and
Anna Brubaker of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In 1717 Hans bought a farm in that county
which was then described as “the garden spot of the world.” It is believed that he came with a
large migrations of Mennonites in 1709 or 1710. The Brubakers (or Brubachers) originally left
the Zurich area of Switzerland under religious persecution and fled to southern Germany and
later to Holland before coming to colonial America.
Most important to the community, Daniel, at age 22, and his brother Samuel built and operated
the area’s first gristmill in 1813, and soon afterward built the first sawmill there. Daniel married
Margaret Davisson (1803-1850), daughter of John Davisson, the first judge of Lawrence
County. Daniel and Margaret’s son, Daniel married in 1860 Nancy Davidson, a daughter of
Rev. William Warrington Davidson, a son of the “Ranger.” Daniel and Nancy Brubaker had
seven children. Two of them raised families in South Point: Elmer who married Elizabeth Law;
and William whose wife was Nettie Winters.
Elmer Brubaker (1867-1917) operated a blacksmith and machine shop at the corner of Old 52
and Ferry Street where Ashley Furniture Store now stands. Elmer’s death in 1917 created a
void in that vocation in the village. His son Marion inherited Elmer’s machinist abilities, working
as a stationary steam engineer at Allied Chemical’s South Point Plant and as a water well
driller and plumber. After Elmer’s death, Alec Crider continued operating the blacksmith shop
for several years. Anthony Plymal operated a blacksmith shop on Solida Road near the
railroad crossing until the 1940’s.
Marion married Mary E. Berge and their children are Dorothy Ann, Daniel and Betsy. Marion’s
brother Clarence married Mattie Mae Morris. His sister Edith married Edward Hilgenberg who
served on village council and as chief of police. Their children are Vera, Edward, Jr., Eleanor
Dickess and Joyce Morris.
Daniel’s son William Brubaker (born 1869) and his wife Nettie Winters farmed the family
property in Perry Township. Nettie had been a school teacher. William and Nettie were active
members of the First baptist Church of South Point which his grandfather, Rev. William
Warrington Davidson and his father Daniel Brubaker, helped establish in 1833. Their children
are: Howard who married Edra Dansbury and whose children are Annette Ritchie wife of Zane
Ritchie, and Julia McKee wife of Jim McKee; Mary who married John Miller and whose daughter
is Betty Stilton, a retired teacher; Harriet Davenport whose son is Richard and who is also a
retired teacher; Boneva Cooper whose son is Larry Strother; Muriel Ellison, wife of Erby
Ellison, parents of Joe Ellison and Dorthea Capp.
The elder Daniel’s brother, David Brubaker (1793-1857) came to Lawrence County while a
child and later married Leah Lionberger. Their son Hamilton (1823-1897) and his wife
Temperence Edwards (1823-1891) were the parents of Charles Hamilton Brubaker
(1870-1961) who was one of the village’s last large-tract farmers along with his sons Arnold
Charles married in 1894 Ella Flora Riel (1870-1958). Their house and large farm building
were located beside North Kenova Road where Olde Farm Subdivision is today. The Brubaker
pasture rose up and over the high ridge behind the house. The nearby property was farmland
and orchard. A larger tract covered an area from the N&W tracks along Solida Road to, and a
little beyond, the point where Brubaker Drive intersects Solida near Ninth Street and upriver
several hundred yards. Much of the area was occupied by apple orchards. Charles was, as
his cousin William, a deacon at the First Baptist Church.
Charles and Ella’s children were Wilmer Arnold who married Priscilla Cole; Gertrude Agnes,
who married Howard Ferguson; Marjorie who married Kirker Adams; Fenton who married
Rachel Louise Fisher; Catherine who married Marshall Ankrim; Helen who married Max
Davidson; and Lena Henrietta, who married Austin Jenkins.
Gertrude and Howard Ferguson’s children are Mary Ella Louise Mann, Howard Theodore II,
and Helen Wentz (more details in Chapter Three concerning the Ferguson-Ranger Davidson
descendancy); Marjorie and Kirker Adams’ children are Patricia Bailey, Robert (Bob) Adams
(former member of the village Board of Public Affairs), Joe, and Joanne Fennell; Fenton and
Louise Brubaker’s children are Lois Ann Lemley, Charles Arthur, David George, Nell Rose
Phipps; Catherine and Marshall Ankrim’s children are Marshall Neil and Jane; Helen and Max
Davidson’s (more details in Chapter Three concerning descendancy from Ranger Davidson)
children are Arnold and Marie Jordan; Henrietta and Austin Jenkins’ child is Sara Gordan.