Our Mercer Connection

And How We are Related to President George Bush

(edited by Alice Davis Cates, 2 greats-granddaughter of Judge Davis.)

Wayne has said on several occasions that we almost seem to be led to some things! We had already "found" our Veazey family ancestors in Maryland, including John Veazey's son, James Veazey, who married Mary Mercer in 1716 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Cecil County. Mary was listed on the church records as a "spinster," with no notation of her parents. A search of records in Cecil County showed a Thomas and Elizabeth Mercer as the only eligible parents for Mary at that time and in that place. Thomas may have had two wives Elizabeth, and if so, our Mary was probably the daughter of the first Elizabeth.

On one of our many trips several years ago to visit our son, Mark, in Wisconsin, as we were traveling through Illinois, I saw a mention of "Clover Lawn," the mansion of David Davis in Bloomington on the Illinois map. Now, Wayne has a nephew named David Davis, his brother Don's eldest. Just for fun, I told Wayne we needed to find this "mansion" and take a picture of it so that we could show Dave his house. So we did! It was after hours, so there was no one to talk to about this David Davis, ONLY the historical marker. (Alice tells me that she never heard her grandmother's house referred to as a "mansion," but the Illinois Department of Archives and History used that term in their tourism brochure.)

It seems that this David Davis had served as a Supreme Court Justice, back in the 1800's having been appointed by Abraham Lincoln. The house was beautiful from the outside and it sort of piqued my curiosity about who this fellow was. Could we possibly hang him on our DAVIS family tree? So when I got home, I looked him up in the trusty encyclopedia. Seems as if he was born in CECIL County, MARYLAND! Well, what do you know about that! Up there where my Veazeys are. (The house was designed by Alfred H. Piquenard and Alice tells me that she never thought of it as beautiful from the outside. I will leave it to you to judge from the picture if you think it is a beautiful building or not. Piquenard employed the Italian Villa and Second Empire styles in the Davis residence.)

Click here to visit the Clover Lawn web site.

Clover Lawn

At this point my goal for the next trip to Mark's, was to visit that house again when I could talk with the people who worked there. People who might be able to tell me a little bit about David Davis's family. So a couple of years later we managed to get to Bloomington on our return trip from Wisconsin before the mansion was closed.

BUT, there was a fence around it and red mud everywhere. You see it was undergoing renovations. I could have CRIED! (I almost did.) But we had to drive around the circular drive to exit the property and as we drove past some outbuildings, I noticed a couple of vehicles and a light inside, so I INSISTED that Wayne stop and let me investigate. He told me that the folks would think I was crazy. So what, they won't be the first folks who have thought me crazy! So here I go.

I took with me my scrap book of Veazeys and Cecil County. The state employees who were working in these dependency buildings as the mansion itself was undergoing repairs were delightful and as happy to see my pictures of Cecil County as I was to find out about David Davis. (They really didn't think I was too crazy, and enjoyed seeing my pictures of St. Stephen's Church and the houses in Maryland.)

They brought out a family tree for David Davis, and guess what? His mother's name was Ann Mercer, who married Dr. David Davis, in 1811, at St. Stephen's Church in Cecil County only 95 years after MY Mary Mercer married James Veazey in the same church, same county. There just HAD to be a connection here! Dr. Davis's brother, Rev. Henry Lyon Davis, was the rector of St. Stephen's at this time. The Mercer family had defected from St. Stephen's in the 1740's, probably to the Methodists.

Their chart further revealed that Ann Mercer had a sister named Harriet who married George E. Walker, whose son David Davis Walker had a son, Harriet's grandson named George Herbert Walker. His daughter Dorothy married Prescott Sheldon Bush and named her son George Herbert Walker Bush. Now all I had to do was to connect my Mary Mercer to Ann and Harriet.

I learned several things about the St. Stephen's records. First of all, the minister at the time of James and Mary's marriage had a habit of listing young women as "spinsters" instead of showing the names of their parents. Maybe that saved a bit of writing on his part. Another thing I have been told is that as these records began to deteriorate over time they would be recopied by hand. Some of the persons doing this copying would discard an entire page if it had deteriorated in any way and therefore some of the information was missing entirely.

This could account for the fact that Mary's birth is not listed among the children of Thomas and Elizabeth Mercer. Her page must have been in bad shape or not readable for some reason. But the clincher was the naming of the children of James and Mary Mercer Veazey in the order of their birth:

  1. Martha Veazey, named for her paternal grandmother, Martha Broccus Veazey.
  2. Thomas Veazey, named for his maternal grandfather, Thomas Mercer.
  3. Edward Veazey, named for his paternal uncle, Edward Veazey.
  4. Elizabeth Veazey, named for her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Mercer.
  5. James Veazey, named for his own father.
  6. William Veazey, named for his paternal uncle, William Veazey.
  7. Mary Veazey, named for her own mother, Mary Mercer Veazey.
  8. Araminta Veazey (they must have run out of names!).
Alice has suggested that a son named for James's father, John Veazey, may have died young. If they did not lose a little one, it would be most unusual for that time. Some families used the name for a subsequent child if a little one died and had a name that they wanted carried forth in the family. For more information about Alice's great-great-grandfather, read about Judge David Davis.


In the fall of 1996, I was contacted by Alice Davis Cates of Vista, California, the great-great-granddaughter of Judge David Davis. I believe Alice had found my name at the Cecil County Historical Society and was very disappointed to discover that I was not doing research on my Davis family in Cecil County. But, after all, we are 7th cousins, and continued to correspond on our Mercer connection. Although skeptical at first, Alice says that now she is more inclined to believe our real Mercer connection, primarily because of the naming pattern of the children.

In February of 1997, Alice added a handwritten note to her letter that her late husband, Royce E. Cates, had come from the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. Well, I have two Cates family lines in my database, both in Wayne's family. First of all his great-aunt, Mattie Andrews had married Fred Cates of Orange County. Secondly Fred's great-niece, Patricia Anne Cates, married Wayne's brother, G. Henry Davis.

Before sending these two group sheets to Alice, I called my sister-in-law, and read Alice's note to her. She laughed and said that Royce Cates was her uncle. Talk about a SMALL WORLD! My 7th cousin who lives in Vista, California, is my sister-in-law's aunt by marriage! Alice continues her research on her Davis family line in Cecil County and has found another Veazey connection.

I have had a lot of fun contacting some of the descendants of Fred Cates who had access to family genealogy and finding several generations of the ancestors of Royce Cates and for my sister-in-law. Several of these ancestors are buried at Pleasant Green United Methodist Church in the edge of Orange County, North Carolina. This is one of the older Methodist Churches in the area and looks like a picture right off a picture post card. It was featured in the Spring 1998 issue of "Saddlebags" which I edit for the N. C. Conference Historical Society.

Those of us who enjoy genealogy will also appreciate my pleasure at finding this very old cemetery that had in addition to the Cates family, one of my Veazeys, some Umsteads, some Cains and some Brownings that I have connected to other lines.

Ann Davis


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