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Jehu Davis

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John "Jehu" Davis (1738 - May 11, 1802) was an American farmer and politician from Mispillion Hundred, in Kent County, Delaware, west of Milford. He served in the Delaware General Assembly and as President of Delaware.

Early life and family

Davis was born in 1738 in Worcester County, Maryland, son of Thomas Davis. His paternal grandfather was born in Wales. Jehu Davis came to Laurel, Delaware where he married Rhoda Laws. After their marriage they bought McSparren, a farm in Mispillion Hundred, 3 miles west of Milford, where they settled permanently. There they had eight children, Isaac, John, Henry, Sarah, Rhoda, Nancy, Joshua, and William. After Rhoda's death, Davis married Sarah Douglas. They were members of Christ Episcopal Church in Milford. That portion of Mispillion Hundred became Milford Hundred in 1830.

Political career

Davis was a member of the local militia during the American Revolution and a Justice of the Peace for 14 years beginning in 1777. He was elected to the 1st State House, or House of Assembly, and served ten terms from the 1776/77 session through the 1779/80 session, again in the 1782/83 and 1783/84 sessions, and finally from the 1786/87 session through the 1789/90 session. He was the Speaker in the 1788/89 session and when President Thomas Collins died in office on March 29, 1789, the Speaker's office in the State Senate, or Legislative Council, was vacant. Consequently, Davis became President. He served until June 2, 1789, when the Delaware General Assembly held a special vote to choose Collins' replacement.

During Davis' short term George Washington was inaugurated the first President of the United States. The event of his passing through Wilmington on the way to New York for this ceremony caused a great deal of excitement, as described by Elizabeth Montgomery in her Reminiscences of Wilmington:

"and it must have been soon after his elevation to that office, for I well remember the crowds of people rushing onto the Baltimore Road (now Maryland Avenue) to catch a glimpse as he passed...It was a day of great enjoyment, all was on tiptoe of expectation when his chariot appeared, driving slowly through the crowd, he bowing, hat in hand, and white handkerchief waving, and every face flushed, and sparkling with joy."

Afterwards, Davis served as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas from 1789 until 1792 and as a Justice of the Peace from 1793 until his death.

President of Delaware
Previous Service Dates Successor
Thomas Collins March 29, 1789 - June 2, 1789 Joshua Clayton

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while President)
Year Assembly Senate Majority Speaker House Majority Speaker
1788/89 13th non-partisan George Mitchell non-partisan vacant

Death and legacy

Davis died May 11, 1802 at McSparren, in Mispillion Hundred, and was buried in the Christ (Savannah) Episcopal Church Cemetery there. The cemetery is now paved over by Delaware Route 14.

No known portrait of Jehu Davis exists.


Elections were held October 1st and members of the General Assembly took office on October 20th, or the following weekday. Assemblymen had a one year term. The General Assembly chose the State President for a term of three years.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Took Office Left Office notes
Assemblyman Legislature New Castle October 28, 1776 October 20, 1777
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1777 October 20, 1778
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1778 October 20, 1779
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1779 October 20, 1780
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 21, 1782 October 20, 1783
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1783 October 21, 1784
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1786 October 21, 1787
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1787 October 26, 1788
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1788 October 20, 1789
State President Executive Dover March 29, 1789 June 2, 1789 acting
Assemblyman Legislature Dover October 20, 1789 October 20, 1790

Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1776/77 1st State House non-partisan John McKinly Kent at-large
1777/78 2nd State House non-partisan George Read Kent at-large
1778/79 3rd State House non-partisan Caesar Rodney Kent at-large
1779/80 4th State House non-partisan Caesar Rodney Kent at-large
1782/83 7th State House non-partisan John Cook Kent at-large
1783/84 8th State House non-partisan Nicholas Van Dyke Kent at-large
1786/87 11th State House non-partisan Thomas Collins Kent at-large
1787/88 12th State House non-partisan Thomas Collins Kent at-large
1788/89 13th State House non-partisan Thomas Collins Speaker Kent at-large
1789/90 13th State House non-partisan Joshua Clayton Speaker Kent at-large


  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, DE: Roger A. Martin. 
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University. 
  • Racino, John W. (1980). Biographical Directory of American and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789. Westport, CT: Meckler Books. ISBN 0-930466-00-4. 
  • Rodney, Richard S. (1975). Collected Essays on Early Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Delaware. 
  • Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co. 

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