Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Samuel Davis, ca 1810 - 1907

This biography was originally released on June 24, 2021 as a part of our on going series titled: Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Written by the Staff of The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission

Samuel Davis was born in Temple Mills, Main around the year 1810. He was of mixed ancestry, which included African American, Native American, and European American. His father had been born into slavery in New York State prior to its abolition in 1827. The young Davis did not learn of his lineage until his mother told him when he was 14 years old.

When my mother told me I had African blood in my veins and that my father was born a slave! It is impossible to describe my feelings. In my heart I cursed the day I was born. And wished I was dead!

 

-Samuel Davis recalling that day. 

Afterwards he committed himself to the abolition movement. Davis was able to study at Oberlin College and spent some time in Windsor, Ontario before moving to Buffalo, NY.

Rev. Samuel H. Davis. Photo from
descendants Mr. William Richardson and Ms. Martha Susan Prescod /NYS OPRHP UGRR Heritage Trail signage at Michigan Street Baptist Church.

He was hired to be the Principal Teacher of the Vine Street African School in 1842 which was located in close proximity to Michigan Street. 


He left the Vine Street school to open his own private school for African American students in 1844. Davis’ school was housed directly across the street in the basement of the Vine Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. He took a quarter of the students with him when he opened his private school. 
Unfortunately, this was a short-lived venture as the parents of the students were not able to pay the tuition to sustain Davis’ salary, rent, and other costs. Davis returned to the Vine Street School for the 1845-1846 Academic Year. 


The church congregation had formed in 1836 and had several pastors in the first decade of its existence. By 1844 the congregation had grown, and the members were looking for a physical building. Davis was a mason by trade and was hired by the congregation to build the church.  Davis had already served as a co-pastor in 1844, but in 1847 he was ordained in the basement of the newly constructed Church which allowed him to lead the church from 1846-49. 


In addition to his teaching and pastoral obligations, he was becoming increasingly active in the abolitionist movement. In 1843, he was chairman of the National Convention of Colored Citizens. He gave several opening remarks for lectures by Frederick Douglass and Henry Highland Garnet. 


After serving as pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church for several years, he moved to Detroit to work at the Second Baptist Church. Eventually he was offered a position as a teacher for the Dawn Settlement, located near Dresden, Ontario. This was a haven for freedom seekers escaping slavery. He remained in Ontario for the rest of his life, serving his churches in various compacity over the years. He died in 1907 at the age of ninety. 
 

Thank you to our sources!

 

Seals Nevergold, Barbara. It Rests with her to pave the way. Ida Dora Fairbush – Buffalo’s First African American Teacher: A Pioneer. Buffalo, NY: Uncrowned Queens Publishing, 2019.

Crawford & Stearns Architects & Preservation Planners with Historical New York Research Associates. Historic Structure Report for the Michigan Street Baptist Church. Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition. Buffalo, NY. 2013.

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