John Thomas Davis was the brother of my great-grandfather, Percy Davis. He was born in Council Hill, Illinois, on March 8, 1878. Both my mom and grandma thought it odd that no one ever talked about him. His death was very mysterious. I haven’t been able to find any articles but this one about his death. Originally my mom thought that the Watertown mentioned in his obituary referred to Watertown, Wisconsin. We couldn’t figure out what he was doing there, but it made sense.
However, when the information on his death certificate became available on Ancestry.com, it stated that John died in East Moline, Rock Island, Illinois. A confusing discovery. What was he doing there? He had no family there.
I noticed I was missing John’s 1910 U.S. Federal Census so decided to look for it, hoping it could shed some light. I made a startling discovery. There was a John T. Davis living in Rock Island. Check. That’s a positive. He was a patient at Watertown State Hospital, also known as Western Hospital for the Insane. What?! Not expected.
This discovery was surprising since there was no mention of this in the family. Also the 1910 U.S. Federal Census revealed that he didn’t speak. What happened to John? Was he injured? Why was he in a mental hospital? In the 1900 census he was working as a day laborer, so something significant happened for him to end up at Watertown. But I have no idea what it was, and no one seems to know anything. Intriguing.
After getting his death certificate, John died at Watertown State Hospital in Rock Island County, Illinois, on December 12, 1917. (The obituary mistakenly states December 13.) The cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. I don’t know if that was the reason for his stay at the hospital, but it could be. He’s buried in Scales Mound Cemetery in Scales Mound, Illinois. His obituary was published in the Galena Weekly Gazette, December 20, 1917.
Transcription of article:
Mr. John Davis died at Watertown Dec. 13 and was brought to the home of his brother Alvin, south of Council Hill the next day by his brother Laban. Funeral services were held at the home at eleven o’clock Saturday morning, the sermon being preached by Rev. E. Palmer. Several hymns were sung by Mrs. Hattie Merrifield and her sister-in-law, Miss Minnie Merrifield presided at the piano. Mr. Davis was 39 years old last March. Interment was made in Scales Mound cemetery, by four nephews sons of Mr. and Mrs. Al Davis, Alvin, Percy, Laban, Alva, and Joseph and Alfred Temperly. The sorrowing ones return thanks to the neighbors for many acts of kindness.