Davison Filson


DAVISON FILSON, deceased, for many years was a prominent factor in the business life of Stuebenville, O., and for a long period was the senior member of the photographic firm of Filson & Son. Mr. Filson was born June 5, 1829 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and died March 8, 1899. His parents were Robert and Elizabeth (Snyder) Filson.

The Filsons are of Irish extraction and its first member in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where the family was established was probably John Filson. Robert Filson was the grandfather of the late Davison Filson and both he and his brother John Filson were born in Chester County, which remained the home of the great-grandfather. The first Robert Filson later moved to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, whee his son Robert was born, and also the mother of Davison Filson. The second John Filson is remembered for his correct early work as an author and surveyor. He went to Kentucky at about the age of thirty-six years probably in 1873. While there he had many conversations with Daniel Boone and other pioneers from which he made copious notes and drafted the first map of Kentucky. He then returned East, and published the results of his labors with the following title, "The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucky; and an Essay towards the Topography and Natural History of that Important Country," by John Filson. To which is added an Appendix contaning: I. The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone, one of the First Settlers, comprehending every important occurrence in the Political History of that Province. II. The Minutes of the Piankashaw Council, held at Post St. Vincent's, April 15, 1784. III. An account of the Indian Nations inhabiting within the limits of the Thirteen United States, their manners and customs; and reflections on their origin. IV. The Stages and distances between Philadelphia and the Falls of the Ohio; from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, and several other Places. The whole illustrated by a new and accurate map of Kentucky, and the Country adjoining, drawn from actual surveys. Wilmington, printed by John Adams, 1784." This book and map became a great rarity and were so muc in demand that a single volume sold as high as $120. Mr. Filson retuned to the West, and after numerous adventures started to lay out what afterwards became the city of Cincinnati, which he called Losantiville. What is now Plum Street in that city was originally Filson Avenue, but after his disappearance, supposed to have been slain by Indians, it was given its present name. A leading historical society in the West, The Filson Club, of Louisville, perpetuates his memory.

Davison Filson was sixteen years old when he accompanied his parents from Franklin County to Monongahela City, where he remained altough they, in 1843, moved to Freedm, Beaver County. He learned the carpenter trade at Mnongahela City, and worked there and at Port Perry until 1851, when he retuned to Stuebenville, which place he alwasy afterwards considered his home although he was not a continuous resident. He learned the painting trade and conducted a book and periodical store until about 1863 when he became interested in potography. His artistic temperament untied to careful attenton to the details of this profession speedily brought him to the front until his studio soon became the leading one in the city. Those were the days of the old "wet plate," when every photographaer had to prepare his own negatives in which Mr. Filson soon became an expert. Owing to this system it was difficult to carry on outdoor photography, but notwithstanding this Mr. Filson has enriched the community with many historic views which but for him would have been lost. One feature of his collectioon was the 1,200 portraits of former citizens printed elsewhere in this volume whose value is simply inestimable. During 1867, 1881 and 1882 Mr. Filson was engaged in the far west where he studied and practiced photographic work amid nature's grandest scenery, gathering and utilizing new ideas which made his studio a desirable resort both for the artist and the layman. Naturally of a modest disposition, Mr. Filson did not seek public preferment, but was chosen by his fellows citizens to serve as a member of the City Council and Board of Education. While a member of the latter body he prepared a history of the local schools which has ever since been recognized as autority. Mr. Filson was a charter member of the Wells Historical Socity, and waas its first and only president, holding th position at the date of his death on March 8, 1899. He was a member and liberal supporter of the Second Presbyterian Church and a Republican in politics.

On March 25, 1852, Mr. Filson was marriedd to Miss Martha Ann Filson, who was born at Steubenville, June 20, 1831, daughter of Samuel and Anna (Starr) Filson, and resides at No. 534 South Fourth Street. The four children born to the above marriage were: Anna, Sarah, Mary S., and Charles P. The last named, only son of Davison Filson, was born August 9, 1860. He received his education in the city schools, and while quite a small boy developed an artistic temperament beyond his years, sketching from nature with ease and accuracy, and giving evidence that he would be able to take up his father's work and carry it to greater perfection, which indications were more than realized. In 1883 he became associated with his father as partner, having previously done considerable work in his profession. The taste and skill of these two soon extended the reputation of the studio far beyond the city limits, a reputation which it has ever since maintained. But the young man did not confine his work to the camera. He took up drawing and painting, and his cartoons of local and public men soon were a feature in the city decorations on notable occasions, especially at the great Centennial celebration in 1897. His water color sketches were beautiful representations of both animated and still life. Taking crayon portraits by the way from these he passed to work in oil where the results were so satisfactory that when it was desired to place a portrait of Hon. E.M. Stanton in the College Halls at Gambier, Mr. Filson received the commission. Without going into details we may mention a few of his works which include portraits of James Ross and Governor St. Clair in Marietta College, the same in the public library at Chillicothe, a bas relief of Governor Tiffin in the old State House at Chillicothe, Col. George W. McCook and Judge J.C. Wright in the Stuebenville Court House, and Beazaleel Wells and James Ross in the Carnegie Library. Mr. Filson stands in the front rank of Ohio artists and adds one more to to the list which has made Steubenville, if not a second Barbizon, at least the home of a company that has achieved a national reputation. Mr. Filson was married on March 31, 1883, to Miss Mary Estella Priest, and resides on upper Market Street.

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