ELIJAH DAVIDSON, is born 23 February 1783 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. The long negotiations to end the Revolutionary War with England had finally resulted in the Treaty of Paris, which provided highly favorable boundaries for the United States; which included nearly all land east of the Mississippi River and south of Canada. The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, ended the American War of Independence (1775–1783) and acknowledges the United States' existence as a free sovereign and independent states.
Elijah’s father Alexander Davidson III, and his future father-in-law, John Murphy fought as patriots at Kings Mountain, Cowpens and Ramsour’s Mill. All three battles were just a few miles from Elijah's boyhood home. After the Revolution, this generation of Americans inherits truly a new world and, with it, the responsibilities of working out the interactions of independence, law state's rights and individual civil liberties. Elijah is reared as a citizen of the United States’ very first generation of free-born Americans. For the duration of his life, Elijah experiences the world’s first free society, through a vibrant tapestry of the events, callings, decisions, desires, and turn the new abstractions of democracy, the nation, and free enterprise into a hotly contested and frightful reality. Through Elijah, we can see that this new republicanism depended on the virtue of its citizenry, a virtue that the middle class increasingly found it difficult to identify properly.
As Elijah grows into manhood, he will have to grapple with the new distinction of free and slave labor, with all its divisive social entailments sparked by the passions of a religious awakening, he advocates from the pulpit for complete and immediate emancipation and falls out of favor with the Baptists hierarchal associations and societies. At the same time, there are a flood of new opportunities, new land for people eager to break out of their parents’ colonial systems and venture far into the often savage and untamed prairie wilderness beyond the great divide.
As the veterans of the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans, men like Elijah will receivived 160-acre land warrants in the Illinois Military Tract, a region between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, when the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi ceded their lands in northern Illinois by treaty at Prairie du Chien in 1829. As Kentucky continues to enact more and more slave laws, Elijah and other abolitionist families realize they cannot defeat the Democrat's Pro-slavery establishment hold controlling the state legislature and decide its time to leave Kentucky for newly opened slave-free lands of western Illinois. In the Autumn of 1829, Elijah Davidson, with his in-laws Squire William Whitman and Peter Butler, and others settle on the south side of Cedar Creek, the future site of Monmouth, Illinois. Elijah Davidson erects the first of four cabins built in Monmouth. He owns a cabin and a blacksmith shop. The entire territory that is comprised of Warren, Henderson and Merger counties contained only thirty or forty families; but others would soon follow, so that by next spring of the following year it was thought proper to send to Peoria and secure an order for a county election. Within one year later, census shows 830 persons in three counties.
On February 12, 1831, "an act to incorporate the inhabitants of Monmouth was publicly posted to call the male citizens of the town of Monmouth" to meet at the school house. It was organized by calling Elijah Davidson to be chair for voting to incorporate the town of Monmouth. Twenty-three votes were cast in favor of the incorporation and none against. By this time, Elijah Davidson having the long left the Baptist, had joined the "New-lights" with the likes of Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and Raccoon John Smith, and placed membership with the Churches of Christ/Christian Church. (America's very first indigenous church movement) He is also appointed pastor of the Christian Church establish in 1831 at Cold Brook – just east of Monmouth. On the 30th day of April, 1831, the Cold Brook congregation calls itself "the church of Christ on Cedar Fork". This first group met originally in members' houses, the courthouse, and a hallway of a downtown building. Elijah also served as the Warren County Treasurer.
The Restoration Movement in Illinois: Warren County Organized 1831; present membership, 290; value of property, including parsonage, $6,500; Bible-school enrollment, 144. This church, with its antecedents, is one of the oldest and most interesting in the State. Its first name was Coldbrook, because a cold spring there formed a cold brook. The location was one and a half miles northwest of the site of Cameron. It was on the old trail leading from Peoria to Oquaka and about midway between the sites of Galesburg and Monmouth. A little town grew up around the Coldbrook Church that was called Savannah. With the building of the railroad in 1854-55 the place and name of the church were changed and the village faded away.
The original record-book is still in the possession of the Cameron Church, and from it the following facts are gleaned: "On the 30th day of April, 1831, this church was constituted upon the belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only rule of faith and practice and sufficient for the government of the church." The names of the seventeen persons who signed this covenant were these: William M., Elizabeth, Elijah, Sr., Margaret, Sr., Elijah, Jr. , Margaret, Jr., Davidson; Henry E., Elizabeth and John G. Haley; John E. and Frances Murphy; Richard and Nancy Ragland, and William, Sarah, Josiah and Julia Whitman. Three of these men were preachers--William Whitman, John E. Murphy and Elijah Davidson.
The Coldbrook congregation called itself "the Church of Christ on Cedar Fork of Henderson River," Warren County. The record-book says: "Second Saturday in February, 1832. Agreed to send four dollars by Elijah Davidson, Jr., to St. Lewis to purchase a record-book for the church and one gallon of wine.
On March 31, 1839, twenty-two persons out of the Church of Christ of Savannah, Illinois, (later known as Coldbrook) were given a letter to begin a congregation in the city of Monmouth, Illinois. The first group met originally in members' houses, the courthouse, and a hallway of a downtown building. On June 16, 1841, Elijah Davidson deeded land on the southwest corner of East Archer and North Second Streets to the Church. A frame building was erected for $800.
1848 In 1848, on January 24th, gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill in the Mother Lode of California. Over the course of the next year, the news of the gold discovery will bring some 300,000 people to California, calling them 49ers. On March 19, 1848, a baby boy is born in Monmouth, Illinois, named Wyatt Earp. The American Mexican War comes to an end, with the signed treaty Mexico cedes virtually all lands of what is considered today, as the southwest of the United States; including states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a section of Wyoming. As abolitionism became increasingly popular in the United States and tensions between its supporters and detractors grew, the U.S. Congress maintained a tenuous balance of political power between Northern and Southern states. The churches pulpits became the stage for establishing and proclaiming the popular opinions from every region With the increasing emigration of Americans to the country's western frontier the inevitable question which arose asked how these territories would treat the issue of slavery when eventually promoted to statehood. This question had already plagued Congress during political debates following the Mexican–American War. Also, on August 14, 1848, the Oregon Territory is established, this includes the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The furthermost distance from meddling Washington DC politicians. With that news, the men and women of the church of Christ in Monmouth, Ill., begin meeting with the purpose to establish a learning institution in the Oregon Territory "where men and women, alike, may become schooled in the science of living and in the sound fundamental principles of religion." 1850, The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers. This Act was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a "slave power conspiracy". The new Law requires that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and the citizens of northern "free states' had to cooperate with this law and assist the southern bounty hunters or face the penalty of jail time. Abolitionists nicknamed it the "Bloodhound Law" for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.
Oregon, not yet a state, was a free territory, and more importantly to the Davidson caravan, not bound by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Quote from The Monmouth Atlas, printed April 5, 1850: “On Friday last, ten teams taking with them 39 persons left for Oregon. Elijah Davidson, 67 years and an early settler of this county was with them. He was a pioneer here from Kentucky and now takes family, including numerous grandchildren and is bound for the Pacific.”
The Oregon Trail is nearly 2,000 miles of plains, deserts, canyons, and mountains, considered so unfamiliar and inhospitable that it was dangerous to even pause, and unthinkable to settle. It was a six months journey which had to begin in early spring in order to avoid being trapped by mountain snow storms. Travelers considered Independence Rock as being halfway to Oregon. If Independence Rock was reached by July 4th, chances were good that the emigrants could reach the Oregon Country before snow fall.
At nearly 68 yrs. old, Elijah Davidson and family crossed the plains by ox team from Monmouth, Illinois, ending up in the center of present-day Laurelhurst, suburb of Portland, there they took up a 160 acre donation claim. But, Portland was a wild and hard drinking town of pioneers, prostitutes and gold prospectors, not ideal for Christian family living. Elijah sold the donation claim for the sum of $500, moves southward into the Willamette Valley to start a new town and build a Christian college. This great green valley encircled by mountainous walls, was more like the "Oregon" they expected to find.
Elijah would write; "Its sheltered situation, embosomed in mountains, renders it good pasturing ground in the winter time; when the elk come down to it in great numbers, driven out of the mountains by the snow. The Indians then resort to it to hunt. They likewise come to it in the summer to dig the camash root, of which it produces immense quantities. When this plant is in blossom, the whole valley is tinted by its blue flowers, and looks like the ocean when overcast by a cloud." Elijah Davidson, Squire S. Whitman, William Murphy and Thomas Lucas, took adjoining claims in Polk County. Similar to Monmouth Illionois, the site for the second town of Monmouth was land donated entirely by Christian Church men. The dream of a Christian College would eventually become known as Western Oregon University. Elijah Davidson dies on Apr 24th, 1870 in Monmouth, Polk County, Oregon, at age 87. During his life, the country had always had a frontier to be settled. By 1870's, there was of course still the unsettled areas that were broken into isolated bodies of land, but those regions were no longer considered to be a frontier line. A formative influence in American history was disappearing. The closing of the 19th century was fast approaching and Americans felt they were up against the end of their history as they had known it. The frontier experience that was so central to the American culture was coming to a close. The center of gravity of the American Spirit has now shifted.