Dr. Davidson (1815–90) was a close friend of Lane and his personal physician in Gloucester. He signed Lane’s death certificate. He and his wife received equal portions of Lane’s five-hundred-dollar legacy, and Dr. Davidson inherited Lane’s gold watch and chain.
The Davidsons lived in Gloucester from 1842 until 1878, and for most of that time inhabited the old Sanders house, now the Sawyer Free Library. Dr. and Mrs. Davidson were relatively wealthy, owning shares of gas, steamboat and railroad companies, “machinery used in manufacturing establishments,” a horse, a chaise, a large house with barn, an acre of land and two- to three-thousand-dollar “cash assets.” (1) Their land lay to the north of Middle Street along Mason Street, including what is now occupied by the Central Grammar apartments (the old high school). (2)
The house had been Beach’s house, with the rope walk behind, but Phebe Wilson Davidson (Dr. Herman’s mother) bought it from the Eastern Railroad Company on February 19, 1850. (3) It was bequeathed to Herman E. Davidson by Phebe’s will, dated November 12, 1859. This elegant house and the gardens were drastically disrupted by the laying out of Dale Avenue in 1866, a year after Lane’s death, and the anguished doctor sued the Town.
The Davidsons also had an unwanted ring-side seat for the 1866 construction, the 1869 fiery destruction, and the 1871 reconstruction of the Town Hall on that newly laid-out Dale Avenue. Dr. Joseph Garland wrote of his older contemporary: "Dr. Davidson, was a thoroughly educated physician. He was of studious habits and deeply interested in scholarly pursuits. He was a skilled physician of the modern school of medicine, and never believed in crowding drugs into his patients. His practice was expectant—watching and waiting upon nature, and ever ready to assist her efforts in repelling or subduing disease. He soon acquired a good practice and secured the confidence of the community."
Edward Henry Lane wrote: “… Dr. Davidson … was one of his [uncle Lane’s] closest friends, and almost every Sunday, weather permitting, would find them together at the Doctor’s home.” (4) It was to the Davidson house that Lane fled and sought refuge during the time of unpleasantness with Ignatius Winter. It was in their upper bedroom that Lane slept and dreamt the famous dream of the painting on the wall. And it was to his hostess, Sarah M. Davidson, that Lane gave the sketch of this Dream Painting. Dr. Davidson was the first president of the Cape Ann Scientific & Literary Association, the predecessor to the Cape Ann Historical Association.
On August 9, 1859, Dr. Herman Davidson was married to Mrs. Sarah M. (Bowker) Chamberlain in Boston by Gloucester’s Universalist minister, Rev. W. R. G. Mellen, who was Mary Mellen’s brother-in-law. Herman was forty-four and Sarah was thirty-two. (5) They continued to live in Gloucester until 1878—having traveled abroad from 1872 to 1875—when he left on account of his wife’s health, to reside in the milder climates of this country. She died at Washington, D.C. on May 16, 1880. After traveling abroad for several years he died at Northeast Harbor, Mount Desert, Maine, in 1890.
Among the many inventions devised by the doctor was the Davidson Bulb Syringe now universally in use, and a meat press "that anyone can use to press all the juice from the beef into a dish for the use of invalids." (6) Still another invention was called “Davidson’s Method in Ichthytaxidermy” or the mounting of fish for use in the study of Natural History.
In Gloucester, Davidson was a member of the school committee for several years, the first President of the Cape Ann Scientific & Literary Association, Vice President of the Cape Ann Horticultural Society, one of the Corporators of Oak Grove Cemetery, and a member of the Board of Trustees until his departure from the City.
Dr. Davidson was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, not far from the Stevens plot and the grave of Fitz Henry Lane. (7) His and his wife Sarah’s remains were removed to the more outlying plot #283 on Jasmine Lane in 1947, when his original gravesite was sold back to the Oak Grove Cemetery by his daughter Alice Davidson Tilton. (8) The bronze plaque on the large boulder at plot #283 reads: Hamilton Davidson 1787–1848; Phebe Davidson 1785–1858; Herman E. Davidson M.D. 1815–90; Charles H. Davidson 1812–60; Mary Jane Davidson 1820–36; Eliza Ann Delano 1817–53.
Alice Davidson Tilton gave View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41) to the Cape Ann Museum.
– Stephanie Buck (March, 2015)