Alice J. Davidson was born on April 21, 18871 in Saco, Maine. She died in nearby Portland on December 25, 1970, at the age of 83.2 Alice was my husband's great-grandfather's first cousin. When my husband's aunt and I started working on their Davidson line, Aunt Mary had the picture of Alice, below, but we didn't know anything else about her, including how she fit into the family. Much of the information that we now have on Alice can be found in various online sources. Jill Jakeman of the Maine History Room in the Dyer Library in Saco was a great help in filling in some of the blanks, including finding the obituaries of Alice and her mother for me, and for that I am very grateful.
Alice's parents were Anthony Wellesley Davidson and his wife Cynthia Adelia Dow, both from St. George, New Brunswick. St. George is less than 300 miles from Saco.
Here is Alice's picture.
At the bottom it says: "Gardner & Philbrick/131 Main St Biddeford, Me." On the back it says: "Alice Jessenia Davidson age 4 1/2 yrs." It must have been taken in 1891, after her fourth birthday in April. Biddeford is near Saco.
In the 1900 census for Saco3, Alice appears with her parents A. Wellesley and Cynthia A. Davidson. Alice was then 13 and a student. Her father was 51 and her mother was 43, and both were born in Canada, as were all four of their parents. They had been married for 19 years. Wellesley had arrived in the US in 1880 and Cynthia in 1876. This census also asked for the number of children born to each woman, as well as the number of those who were still living, and sadly Cynthia had had three but only Alice was still alive at that point. Unfortunately I know nothing of the other two children. Wellesley was then a stationary engineer.
The 1910 census4 shows them again in Saco. This one is quite hard to read. Alice's father was listed here as Anthony W. Davidson. He was 62 and Cynthia was 52, and Alice was 23. They had four boarders living with them but it's very difficult to make out the names. I am viewing these images in www.ancestry.com, and they have transcribed the boarders as George F. Albracht, Sadie E. Albracht, Gertrude Libby, and Frank L. Palmia. Anthony was a watchman in a cotton mill at that point, and Cynthia was listed as a boardinghouse housekeeper. Alice was in college. In this census and the prior one, they were listed as renters of their home rather than owners.
By 19205 things had changed very much for Alice. They were still in Saco, but Anthony Wellesley had died. Cynthia, 62 and widowed, was described as a landlady in a boardinghouse. This census provides the information that Cynthia and her parents were all born in New Brunswick. Alice, at 32, was working as a teacher. Wellesley's unmarried elder sister, also named Alice, had come to live with them at some point between 1910 and 1920. In this census, the elder Alice was 78 and her occupation was listed as "none." She had come to the US in 1883 from New Brunswick, but had evidently been living elsewhere before coming to her brother's home. Other census records suggest that she was working in Massachusetts for at least part of that time. Cynthia was still renting her home. They had one boarder named Annie L. Gilmore.
Once again, by 19306 things had changed. The elder Alice had died. Cynthia was now listed as owner of her house in Saco. She was 73 and had no occupation, while Alice was 42 and in the insurance business. They still had one boarder, Reta Ouellete.
Old city directories help to fill in the blanks. These are also available at www.ancestry.com. These make it clear that Alice's father, listed variously as A. Wellesley Davidson and Anthony W. Davidson, was a watchman at Laconia Co. in the 1880s, and that he lived in Saco during that time. An address listed for him during this period was 3 Cutts Ave. According to http://https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=186156, the Laconia Company was a cotton mill in Biddeford, in operation since 1845. It merged with the Pepperell Co., another textile company, in 1899. By the early 1890s, he was living at 11 High St. in Saco, and was an engineer with Laconia. The next record was 1907, at which point they were living at 33 High St., and he was still an engineer at Laconia. The 1916 directory reported that A. Wellesley Davidson had died on March 24, 1914. I was able to get a death notice for him from the University of Maine, though I was not given the name of the newspaper or the date in which it appeared:
Anthony W. Davidson
SACO, March 25. (Special to the Express-Advertiser.) Anthony W. Davidson, who has been engineer in the employ of the Pepperell Manufacturing Company for 30 years, died at his home 33 High street this forenoon after two years' sickness. He was born in St. John, N.B., 65 years ago and came to Saco over 30 years ago where he entered the employ of the Pepperell Manufacturing Company.
It seems unlikely that this information on Anthony Wellesley came from the family, as they would have known that he was born in St. George and not "St. John."
Alice J Davidson first appeared in the collection of directories in 1913, when she was listed as a teacher of elocution. In the 1922-23 directory she was an insurance agent in Portland. She later struck out on her own though, as the 1934 directory lists her as working in general insurance and operating out of her home at 33 High St. (From as early as 1907 and as late as 1961, this family lived in the same house - 33 High St. in Saco, though it appears that they did not buy it until the 1920s.) The entries continued the same for Alice, with one difference in 1948, where she was described as a city tax collector as well as working in general insurance. By 1950, though, it was just insurance again, and this carried on through the last directory available, which was 1961. By that time Alice was 74.
Some newspapers of the period add further details on Alice's life. Again, I found these at www.ancestry.com. There are a number of mentions of Alice in the Portland Press Herald. By the late 1940s Alice was also selling real estate. For example, in the Aug. 8, 1949 issue of that newpaper, Alice had an ad for ocean view lots at Kinney Shores, Saco, "priced reasonable." The ad concluded with "Alice J Davidson, Insurance and Real Estate, 33 High St., Saco." The ads continued at least into the early 1950s.
Alice was an enterprising lady. But then, she had to be. It may well be that she also continued to take in boarders.
My husband and I visited Saco in May 2009. We took some pictures of Alice's house.
Number 33 was the left half. As the side picture indicates, it was quite large and certainly had space for boarders.
We also visited Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco. Here is a picture of the Davidson stone.
[N 43º 29.672' W 70º 25.763' with accuracy of 21 feet]
This gives us the year of death for the elder Alice, for whom we don't have an obituary. The cemetery office confirmed that there were only four burials in the plot, which could hold five. Evidently Alice's two siblings who died in childhood were buried elsewhere.
Cynthia's obituary appeared in the Biddeford Daily Journal of Sept. 18, 1931.
Mrs. Davidson, Well Known Saco Resident, Dead
A keen loss is felt among numerous friends in Saco in the death of Mrs. Cynthia A. Davidson, a resident of Saco for the past 46 years, widow of Anthony W. Davidson. She died last night at her home, 33 High Street, Saco, at the age of 74 years, seven months and five days. She was born February 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and this was pleasing to her as she was always a great admirer of Lincoln. She was the daughter of Robert and Margaret Craig Dow. A daughter, Miss Alice J Davidson of Saco, survives her, as well as several brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces. Among Mrs. Davidson's many lovable traits was her great love for flowers. She took joy in spending a great deal of time in her garden about her home and flowers from this garden had won her many ribbons in the flower shows sponsored by the Saco and Biddeford Garden club. She was also a lover of dumb animals and took a keen pleasure in charitable work, doing good along her way, with no thought but for those whom she could help. She was a member of the United Baptist Church in Saco. Funeral services will be held Sunday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock from her home.
Alice's obituary appeared in the Biddeford-Saco journal, in the December 26, 1970 issue.
Miss Alice J. Davidson, a resident of 33 High St., Saco, died yesterday in a Portland hospital. Born in Saco, she graduated from Thornton Academy in 1906 and from Emerson School of Elocution in Boston and taught school for a time. She was well known in political circles here and was a former tax collector for the city of Saco for many years. She also owned and operated an insurance business at her home. There are no known survivors. Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. from the Dennett and Craig Funeral Home, 365 Main St., Saco. Rev. Theodore Euson of the Saco United Baptist Church will officiate. Interment will be in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Saco. Friends may call at the funeral home Monday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.
Anthony Wellesley does not appear in the 1880 US census or the 1881 Canadian census, so it seems likely that he arrived in the US after the former and left Canada before the latter and missed both. Cynthia appears in the 1880 census for Salem, MA7, living with her older, recently-widowed sister Eva Sylvester and her two young children. The first child was born about the time that Cynthia is said to have moved to the US, so it may be that she had been with Eva and family all of that time, or she may only have joined them after Eva's husband died. There is a marriage record for Wellesley Davidson and Cynthia A. Dow on August 1, 1881 in Biddeford8 so they were in the Biddeford-Saco area from about that time.
Why am I interested in Alice Jessenia Davidson? Well, her photo above is one reason. Photos always make a person seem more real, of course. But I have also wondered if she was alone in her later years. She must have known many people through her various occupations, but her family was very limited. As far as I can see, Alice never married or had children. She lived for close to 40 years after her parents were both dead. She had no contact with her father's relatives in St. George, New Brunswick from at least the 1930s on, and likely earlier. The fact that her obituary stated that there were no known survivors suggests that she was not in contact with her mother's family either.
If you knew Alice Davidson, please contact me at caren.a.chandler"AT"gmail.com.
1The Social Security Death Index says August instead of April, but the Saco birth records say April.
2Maine death records index.
31900 US census, Saco, York, Maine, Enumeration District 250, sheet 17. Enumerated June 18, 1900.
41910 US census, Saco, York, Maine, Enumeration District 259, sheet 13. Enumerated April 29, 1910.
51920 US census, Saco, York, Maine, Enumeration District 126, sheet 2. Enumerated January ?, 1920.
61930 US census, Saco, York, Maine, Enumeration District 43, sheet 7. Enumerated April ?, 1930.
71880 US census, Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, Enumeration District 232, page 19. Enumerated June 3, 1880.
8 Maine marriage records index.