Jefferson Finis Davis



Jefferson Davis was the youngest of the ten children of Samuel Emory Davis of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (1756 – July 4, 1824) and Jane Cook Davis of Christian County, (later Todd County), Kentucky (1759 – October 3, 1845).  Jane was the daughter of William and  Sarah Simpson Cook, daughter of Samuel Simpson (1706 – 1791) and wife Hannah (b. 1710).


Jefferson’s grandfather was Evan Davis of Cardiff, County Glamorgan, (1729 – 1758), who emigrated from Wales and had once lived in Virginia and Maryland. He married  Lydia Emory.

During Davis's youth, the family moved twice; in 1811 to St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, and in 1812 to Rosemont Plantation in Wilkinson County, Mississippi near the town of Woodville. In 1813, Davis began his education, together with his sister Mary, attending a log cabin school known as the Wilkinson Academy a mile from their home in Woodville. Two years later, Davis entered the Catholic school of Saint Thomas at St. Rose Priory, a school operated by the Dominican Order in Washington County, Kentucky. At the time, he was the only Protestant student. 

See The Education of a Southern Gentlemen (Lexington History Museum).

Davis went on to Jefferson College at Washington, Mississippi, in 1818, and to Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1821. In 1824, Davis entered the United States Military Academy (West Point). He completed his four-year term as a West Point cadet, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1828 following graduation.

Davis fell in love with Zachary Taylor's daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. Davis resigned his commission and they married on June 17, 1835, at the house of her aunt near Louisville, Kentucky. See Wedding.

While visiting his oldest sister, Anna Davis Smith, at Locust Grove Plantation, near St. Francisville, Louisiana, both newlyweds contracted malaria, and Sarah died on September 15, 1835. She was buried in the family cemetery there. In 1836, he moved to Brierfield Plantation at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg in Warren County, Mississippi. For the next eight years, Davis was a recluse, studying government and history, and engaging in private political discussions with his brother Joseph.

Brierfield  Plantation -Destroyed by war, flood, and fire.

In 1844 Davis was elected to the United States House of Representatives, taking office on March 4, 1845.  On February 26, 1845, Davis married Varina Howell, the granddaughter of New Jersey Governor Richard Howell.  He had met her the year before, at her home in Natchez, Mississippi.  See Varina Howell.

Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis had 6 children, but only one child survived young adulthood and married: