Calvin Davis

Pioneer photographer of the Ozarks

Photo of Calvin Davis | Newspaper story | "Traveling Photographer"

At the turn of the last century a man named Calvin Davis traveled the roads of southwest Missouri with a bulky box camera photographing people of the Ozark Mountains. He was there where they worked and he was there where they lived. His carriage must have traversed the Wilderness Road many times with its cross roads and back roads going to farms, mills and villages like Boaz, Clever, Sparta, Riverdale, and Delaware Town.

Calvin Davis was my step-great-grandfather. What I know of his life, so far, is sparse. My quest is to learn more about the man, his life and his passion - photography. My dad as a child (born in 1915) remembered "Grandpa Davis" as a kind man who would slip him a nickel once in a while. He was getting older by then and living with his stepson's family - my grandparents. Ironically the man who saw life through the eyes of a photographer was losing his sight. As a child of 10, my dad remembers that Calvin Davis had become blind.

He had a career with the Frisco Railroad. (see Newspaper story) When did he turn to photography and why? Did he turn his skill and artistry into a second career? My guess is he did. The name Calvin Davis is in large letters on the side of his carriage (see Photo of Calvin Davis) and the prominent display of his photography behind the carriage looks a bit like advertising. More evidence is a stamp seen on the back of a photograph of my grandfather Ben Stokes and his sister Bell (or Belle). The stamp reads "Calvin Davis, Traveling Photographer, P.O. Liberty, Miss." Assuming Miss. means Missouri, Liberty is some distance from Christian County.

Another clue to the life of Calvin Davis.

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