Land and legacy: 1,500 acres once owned by David Davis up for sale
by Kevin Barlow
Nearly 1,500 acres of land once owned by one of Bloomington’s most famous historical figures will be auctioned off next month.
Land purchased by Judge David Davis — virtually all tillable and located within 20 miles of Bloomington-Normal — will sell in tracts ranging in size from 79 to 161 acres. The land includes three farms in McLean and DeWitt counties.
“David Davis not only served his country well, but he also acquired some of the best farmland in the state,” said Joe Bubon, the executive vice president of the executive vice president of Murray Wise Associates, based in Champaign, who will auction off the property at the Parke Regency Conference Center in Bloomington on Jan. 20. “These three farms have stayed in the family all of these years, but they believe it is time to let this land go.”
Davis was a United States senator, a Supreme Court justice and one of Abraham Lincoln’s best friends, serving as his presidential campaign manager. Davis moved to Bloomington in 1836 and became a circuit lawyer and married Sarah Walker in 1838. In 1844, he became a state senator and the couple bought land and their first home. They later moved to 1000 Monroe Drive, Bloomington, a historical site now known as the David Davis Mansion. At one point, he owned more than 1,200 acres in Bloomington.
“He bought a lot of it from the government,” said Lincoln historian Guy Fraker. “But he had the vision and he had the cash. A lot of the sales were made through the land office in Danville and so either he or his agents would have to travel there and of course, it wasn’t very easy to make that trip back then. But, he made a lot of money from buying land because he had a vision of what to do with it. It was very similar to the California Gold Rush of the 1840s because it made a lot of people a lot of money.”
Fraker said Davis partnered with Clinton resident Clifton Moore on several land deals.
Image credits: The top right image is from the David Davis farmstead aerial images folder at the McLean County Museum of History. This aerial photograph shows the Buck Creek farm south of Gridley. Davis’ descendants are selling a portion of the farm at auction next month.
This second image (on left) of the David Davis farm in Gridley is from the archives of the McLean County Museum of History. Various tracts of land totaling nearly 1,500 acres once owned by Davis will go on sale Jan. 20.
The image of Judge David Davis is from the McLean County Museum of History Judge David Davis biography. If you would like the full citation version of this biography, please click here. (.pdf)