Though four decades have passed since Gustave Davis departed from earthly scenes, his memory is still cherished in the hearts of many who knew and loved him, and his record constitutes an important chapter in the annals of Southern California, for he was one of the honored German pioneers and leading citizens of this part of the state. He was born in Prussia, Germany, October 6, 1848, and acquired his education in Berlin, the capital of Prussia. In 1867, at the age of nineteen years, he crossed the Atlantic to the new world, sailing around Cape Horn in San Pedro, California. Thence he made his way to Anaheim, Orange county, where he joined his brother, Phil Davis, who had arrived in the Golden state in 1865 and had taken up his abode among the earliest settlers of this German community. Gustave and Phil Davis purchased the Stroble homestead property, embracing several thousand acres located principally in what is now the center of the city of Anaheim. The historical homestead, located at Eleventh street and Broadway, is preserved in commemoration of the many important meetings there held by the first settlers.
Gustave Davis was the proprietor of Anaheim’s first general mercantile establishment, which also housed the post office. He became an associate of Charles Clarke Chapman in the publishing business, doing valuable work in the compilation of California histories, and together with Mr. Chapman he laid out Orange county and the city of Tustin in 1876. Mr. Davis likewise built and conducted the first grocery story and post office in the city of Orange and at one time he and his bother owned what is known as the Irvine ranch, consisting of land from the “mountains to the sea.” He founded the first bank at Anaheim and served as its president for many years. At that time Anaheim was a prosperous sheep country, and on many occasions Mr. Davis road horseback in company with a faithful Indian guide, carrying large sums of money which he had collected in business transactions with the neighboring sheep men. Hostile Indians who coveted his wealth hid in the hills with murderous intent, but he seemed to bear a charmed life and always reached his destination unharmed despite the fortune which he carried on his person. Eventually he retired from all business activities, and he passed away in 1895, when in his forty-eighth year.
In 1870, at Anaheim, Mr. Davis was united in marriage to Helena Mendelson, a descendant of the third generation from the noted composer, and the sweetheart of his youth, for whom he had returned to Germany and whom he brought back to California with him in that year. When Madame Modjeska made her first visit to Orange county, before she became the noted Modjeska, Mrs. Davis was the only one who could speak her language and greeted her and taught her her first English and it was Mr. Davis that purchased her jewels and silver (which Mrs. Jacobson now has in her possession) to give her money to go to study for the stage. They became the parents of two children: Harry A., a prosperous business man of Southern California and of Phoenix, Arizona; and Flora, who is the wife of Charles Jacobson, a prominent insurance broker of Los Angeles, and who is the mother of a daughter, Geraldine M. Jacobson. Mrs. Davis died in 1921, aged about seventy years. Mrs. Charles Jacobson is president of the Californiana Parlor of Native Daughters, is also active in other social bodies and has been affiliated with the Eastern Star for the past twenty-five years. She is a charter member of the Ebell Club or Orange county and of the Philanthropy and Civics Club of Los Angeles, and she devotes considerable time to welfare and charitable organizations.
Source: California of the South Vol. V, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 601-602, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2013 Joyce Rugeroni.