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Collection 452 Papers of Elwood L. Davis

Identifier: CN 452

Scope and Contents

Diaries, photographs, and miscellaneous materials about Elwood L. Davis and his medical missionary work in Kenya for the Africa Inland Mission (AIM). Topics covered include brief descriptions of daily life in Africa, of his army medical service during World War I, places visited, colleagues entertained, services held, birth of his sons, death of his wife, etc.; diaries cover, with a few gaps, the years 1902 until his death in 1961; includes information on his father, various licenses and passports.

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "folder 1-1" means box 1, folder 1.]

The diaries contain brief entries which include the place where they were written, weather, and summary of activities, e.g., "(Machakos) Sunday [December 13, 1914]. Hot day. Usual services & good attendance, 98 A.M. Our service P.M." (folder 1-2). The first diary (folder 1-1) covers 1904 and 1905 and many of the notations have to do with his classes and work in medical school. The diary in folder 1-2 covers years 1910 to 1914, describing the Davis's marriage, departure for Africa, and the birth of his first son. The years 1915 to 1919 are covered in the diary in folder 1-3, in which entries record his work in Africa, his first furlough, the birth of his second son, and his army medical service during World War I (Camp Greenleaf, Camp Sevier, and Camp Pike). The diaries mention contacts with the following AIM workers: Erik Barnett, Dr. Helen Blakeslee, Austin Paul, John Stauffacher, and Theodore Westervelt, among others. Subsequent diaries contain entries on places visited, people entertained, services held, etc. In the diary in folder 2-3, Davis writes about leaving Africa in 1949 and the death of his wife, Bernice, in 1950, among many other topics.

The collection also contains 320 photographs which depict Davis, his family, missionary colleagues, and AIM activities.

Further information on Davis is available in Collection 81, folder 19-25.


  • Created: 1882-1961

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Elwood Linnell Davis was born July 11, 1879, at Fairmount, NJ, to Presbyterian pastor Rev. Titus Elwood and Sarah Ervilla Whitcomb Davis. He was one of six children: Merton Whitcomb, Ethelyn Ervilla, John Angell, Horace Maynard, and Anna Pauline. Rev. Davis was a Presbyterian pastor. Davis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers College in 1902 and then studied medicine at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia from 1902 to 1906.

On November 12, 1910, Charles Hurlburt, General Director of Africa Inland Mission (AIM), presided over the marriage of Davis and Bernice Charity Conger, a nurse, and they left New York on November 26, 1910, en route for Africa where Davis was to serve as a medical missionary with AIM. They arrived in Mombasa on January 11, 1911, from where they took the train to Kijabe, spent several weeks there, and then traveled by ox-cart and donkey to Machakos, Kenya. Davis began language and medical work in Machakos with the help of Mrs. Davis. Their first son, Linnell Eugene, was born there (see the diary entry for February 13, 1913).

Dr. and Mrs. Davis spent five-and-a-half years before their first furlough, during which time their second son was born: Philip Barton (see diary entry for October 11, 1916). After their return from furlough, they served three more terms, mainly at Kijabe, Kenya, among the Kikuyu tribe. Davis was in charge of Theodora Hospital and built a reputation as a skilled surgeon. Twice Davis was called upon to serve as Kenya Field Director (1931-1933 and 1946-1949). He also at one point was in charge of the Rest Home at Nairobi.

Dr. Davis returned to the United States in 1949. Mrs. Davis died in 1950 and in 1955 Davis retired to Media, the Africa Inland Mission retirement home in Clermont, FL. He died on August 26, 1961.


2 Boxes (DC)

2 Photograph Albums

2 Photograph File

Language of Materials