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Carbon copy: Utah family re-creates 110-year-old, 4-generation photo

Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 6:42 a.m. MST

David Merrick Davis, David Barwick Davis, and David Cole Davis and his son Cruze David Davis sit for a photo Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, similar to the one taken of family members Roderick Davis, John Roderick Davis, John Henry Davis and David Adamson Davis. The original photo appeared in the Deseret Evening News in 1903.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Deseret Evening News from Feb. 25, 1903, contains news from the Senate, train schedules, an article about the Panama Canal treaty, baseball results and an advertisement for Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.

In that same edition — wedged between a detailed weather report and a notice about "the semi-monthly meeting of Ladies" in the 14th Ward hall — is a large black and white photograph with an obituary for 89-year-old Roderick Davis, of Scofield. He's pictured with his son, grandson and great-grandson — all firstborn males in the Davis family.

The headline says "Four Generations of a Sturdy Stock."

Nearly 111 years later, the Davis family re-created the unique photo with the next four firstborn males of the clan. Together, the photos make eight generations of "sturdy" firstborn sons.

“It makes me want to be worthy to look these men in the eye and shake their hands when I greet them on the other side,” David Barwick Davis, of Logan, said.

Once his grandson — the eighth in line — was born in 2012, he decided to re-create the photograph. The century-old picture has been displayed in family members' homes throughout the years, and Davis has always felt a tie to his ancestors. But finding the news article in November renewed his interest.

From Welsh coal miners to electricians to solar panel salesmen, the Davis line insists it continues to have the value of hard work instilled within them.

Davis humbly calls himself a “yo-ho electrician,” but he takes on hard projects knowing that he comes from “tough coal-miner stock.” He’s made many decisions, he said, based on his tough, hard-working ancestors.

“Just looking over the children of this one man that all died (only three of 14 survived past age 8) just helped me understand that a lot of people have it pretty tough, and I’ve got it pretty darn good,” Davis said of the man in the 1903 obituary, his great-great-great-grandfather.

The first of the firstborns was Roderick Davis, born in Wales in 1813. There he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the spring of 1847. After serving as the Treorky branch president and sharing his Mormon beliefs for many years, he brought his large family in 1880 to Scofield, Carbon County, where he died at the age of 89.

The article's headline and photo caption say he was 90, but a close reading of the obituary text and family history reveals he died a few months before his 90th birthday.

Roderick Davis, perhaps the sturdiest of the "sturdy stock," was a miner in Wales and Utah. He, his son and grandson all worked at the Winter Quarters mine in Scofield. He escaped the famous Winter Quarters disaster in 1900 but suffered the effects of the post-explosion toxic gasses when he tried to help rescue others.

“He was then placed in a row of bodies at the rooming house being used as a temporary morgue. But when he was being washed, Davis regained consciousness and walked out of the room on his own strength,” wrote Ronald Lewis in his book “Welsh Americans: A History of Assimilation in the Coalfields.”

Davis said he read that “while he was laying on the gurney, three days later he came to life and startled the poor attendant there.”

His obituary states he was “a man of noble character, honored and loved by all who knew him.” He was a “very durable” man and left a legacy of hard work.

“It makes me want to be more like him, makes me want to be useful to society, really makes me want to step it up a notch,” Davis said.

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