National Library Week - April 13 - 19

Waterford Biographies: HORACE W. DAVIS

HORACE W. DAVIS, superintendent of the Michigan Black Bass Hatchery at Drayton Plains, Waterford township, Oakland County, has been probably more closely identified with the fish hatchery interests of this State than any other individual. Mr. Davis was born in Wilson, Niagara County, New York, December 11, 1833, and is a son of Ebenezer Davis, who was a lumberman and miller of Gorham, Maine, and a pioneer in Michigan.

In 1836 the parents of our subject removed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which at that time was but an Indian trading post, there being only one frame house standing at the time. There he was reared, and attended school until he was 18 years old. In 1864 he engaged in clerking in the village of Grandville, and later in partnership with Marcus H. McCoy, started a general country store. Four years later he sold his interest and entered the railway mail service, resigning his position one year later to become deputy sheriff under Freeling H. Peck, in which office he continued for four years at Grand Rapids. He served two years under the succeeding sheriff, as under sheriff, when he was appointed chief of police of Grand Rapids. After serving a short time he resigned and bought the transfer business of John L. Shaw, which he operated at Grand Rapids for seven years. Mr. Davis then engaged in the raising of trotting horses, buying a farm for that purpose, and some of his horses, while not as rapid as the latest wonder, "Lou Dillon," for the time excited much admiration and astonishment. Many can recall "Sumpter" with a record of 2:251/2 and "Oney Davis," of 2:20 record.

After leaving the farm, he served for a period as under sheriff of Kent County and four years as deputy United States marshal for the Western District of Michigan under A. Oren Wheeler. This position he resigned when appointed to his present very responsible position as superintendent of the Michigan Black Bass Hatchery at Drayton Plains. This suitable appointment came as a result of his efficient services on the Michigan Fish Commission, to which he was appointed in 1893 by Governor Rich. In June, 1902, Mr. Davis received his present commission.

The importance of the fishing interests of the State of Michigan and the opportunities afforded for experimenting by Oakland County, can easily be realized when consideration is given to the great amount of fresh water-ways which intersect the State. Mr. Davis was the one who started the first complete black bass hatchery in the United States, if not in the world, locating it at Mill Creek in Kent County. After his appointment on the board, he suggested as early as 1893 the feasibility of black bass hatching, but he received but little encouragement from the other members. However, Mr. Davis is not a man who is easily discouraged and he at once began an exhaustive study of the game fish and soon demonstrated that a hatchery which would ensure bass for the stocking of the many lakes and river was not only feasible but quite possible if done under the right conditions. Finally, after much discussion, the board agreed to appropriate $500 for experimental work on condition that Mr. Davis would procure the location and superintend the construction of the pond. The experiment proving successful, they procured an appropriation of $1,500 from the Legislature, and in 1898 the hatchery was successfully constructed, without any personal remuneration to Mr. Davis. This success attracted attention all over the United States and similar hatcheries have been constructed. The hatchery at Drayton Plains was established, an office being located in the old mill, an historic spot. It is proposed that when fully completed, this hatchery will have a capacity for 3,000,000 of black bass fry annually. Two ponds have been completed, the water supply being obtained from the Clinton River. In 1902 the appropriation for the establishment of this hatchery was $4,500 and 1903, they had an appropriation of about $4,000.

When the present hatchery was located at Drayton Plains, Mr. Davis was the oldest member of the Michigan Fish Commission, and had been its president for three years. The board was composed of George M. Brown of Saginaw, Freeman B. Dickerson of Detroit and Mr. Davis. It was through the business enterprise of Mr. Davis that the board secured the present desirable location for the Michigan Black Bass Hatchery. It is the only fishery of any kind in Oakland County, and at present it contains 225 pairs of black bass, which number will be greatly increased the coming season. This enterprise is one which should deeply interest every citizen of Michigan as it promises to prove a source of untold wealth to the state.

Waterford Biographies