Fort Bend’s First Bad Boys

Shots fired – at least that’s what I heard on the porch of the Davis Mansion when I visited Adrienne Barker at the George Ranch!

By Patti Parish-Kaminski, Publisher

I had the privilege of spending some time at the Davis Mansion at the George Ranch with a dear friend Adrienne Barker. Adrienne has gone west and is now in charge of wrangling events at Fort Bend’s iconic George Ranch Historical Park, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend some porch time at the ranch and see if I could get the scoop on the Davis boys. Turns out, there was scoop to be had.

My understanding was that two of the Davis boys participated in some escapades that were porch talk-worthy. In fact, the ladies of the Davis Mansion must have spent many afternoons discussing the high jinks of Judge and Bud as they were quite entertaining and downright scandalous.

John Harris Pickens “Judge” Davis, banker, ranching entrepreneur and civic leader, married Susan Elizabeth Ryon. As a magnate, he ruled the roost in business, society and at home. At that time, the Davis Mansion was located in Richmond, and Judge had not only married Polly Ryon’s daughter, he held a significant place in society and at the George Ranch helping Polly manage – and grow – the estate. Thing about Judge, he – like many gentlemen during the time – liked to gamble and play cards, as did his father Kinchen W. Davis. During one of his father’s card games, Kinchen mentioned that the individual cutting the cards was perhaps not doing it correctly – implying, of course, cheating. His honor being questioned – the offender Jess Crumes – threw the cards in Kinchen’s face, to which Judge immediately demanded an apology by sundown for this huge affront to his father. An apology was not forthcoming, and the deadline passed, so Judge took swift and immediate action. The resolution? Shots fired. Judge shot the accused cheater and killed him on the spot to avenge his father. Of course, no charges were brought against Judge Davis, Kinchen’s honor remained intact and the matter of cheating was settled, once and for all.

Judge’s son Thomas Walter “Bud” Davis followed in his father’s footsteps leading a rather colorful life. While he never shot anyone – that we know of – he preferred to kill the ladies with his unique brand of kindness. Bud never married reportedly because he was having way too much fun dating the ladies of Richmond, Houston and Galveston. He reportedly had rooms in all of these towns – plus a little hideaway at the George Ranch. Bud was the original player participating in a very busy social life in the meccas of Houston and Galveston.

To assist with Bud’s nighttime nuances, the Davis Mansion, then located in Richmond, had a set of back stairs that went up to the second floor. The primary use for this stairway was for the servants, but it seems that the bigger use was so that Bud could come and go late at night and sneak directly into his room without alerting the entire household. Turns out his room was directly at the top of these back stairs. It’s not entirely known if Bud was sneaking into his room at night solo, but the boy got around.

Alas it wasn’t only as an adult that Bud got himself in hot water. Bud’s father, Judge Davis, was a force to be reckoned with, and he was not a man to be disappointed or disrespected. When Bud was young, he broke one of the spindles on the main staircase in the Davis Mansion. Rather than face his father’s wrath, Bud created a spindle to replace the broken one before his father got home so he would never know. And if you go into the Davis Mansion to this day, you might detect one spindle that looks a little different than the others. Resourceful young man that Bud, a trait that seemed to serve him well later in life as he was sneaking up the back stairs.

Now remember, what’s said on the porch stays on the porch. See y’all next week – on the porch!