Photographer E. M. Davidson

“Davidson’s Art Parlors, Main Street, Visalia, Cal. Work done in the latest and best styles. E. M. Davidson, Proprietor.”

Michigan native, E. M. Davidson, was a photographer best known for his work when he resided in Visalia, CA which was from at least 1887 to March 1894, at which point he sold his business to Frank and William Beck. From Visalia he went to Woodland (a city of prior residence), CA and set up shop there in May 1894 before  moving on to other areas of California. He died in 1915.

E. M. Davidson, the photographer for the prior post, was Ellis Marillo Davidson, born April 1858 in Michigan, son of George B. Davidson and Esther (Dopking) Davidson. He married Harriet Mabel Bittleson on June 10, 1884 in San Joaquin County, CA. They had one son, Herbert Orr Davidson and an adopted (per the 1900 Federal Census) daughter, Anna L. Davidson. Harriet died February 26, 1904 in Alameda. Ellis M. Davidson died May 6, 1915 in Santa Clara County, CA. Carte-de-visites, Cabinet Cards and other works can be found online for E. M. Davidson, including some images taken during the drama that had played out in the photographer’s “backyard” in June 1893, surrounding the capture of fugitive train robbers John Sontag and Chris Evans.

E. M. Davidson came to California sometime after the 1860 Federal Census was taken in Keeler Township, Van Buren County, Michigan and before the 1870 Federal Census was taken in Cache Creek Township, Yolo County, California. On the 1870 he is age 12, living with his mother, Esther Davidson; possible brother, Arthur D. Davidson, Dora H. Davidson, age 15, relationship unknown; and head of household Theodore F. Dopking, age 42, possible brother of Esther (Dopking) Davidson.

The first online record found for Ellis as a photographer is a California National Guard record showing he served in the Guard March 19 to September 6, 1881. City of residence not listed.

1884 finds the photographer on the voter registration record living in Stockton, CA.

1887 is the first mention we found online for Ellis in Visalia, CA, where he would live and work until March of 1894.

From the Visalia Daily Times, June 12, 1893, E. M. Davidson as part of a group that had visited (revisited for some) the recent location of the Battle of Stone Corral.

Below, a week later, also from the DailyTimes, and with the overly dramatic (but understandably so) title, an account from Davidson of a visit to the former site of the cave hideout of Evans and Sontag. This was just after Sontag’s capture at Stone Corral and the subsequent capture of Chris Evans.

On a lighter note, from the Daily Delta (Visalia) in July 1893:

1894 – 1896 show voter registration records, E. M. Davidson working as a photographer in Woodland, CA.

By the 1900 census, Davidson is living in Alameda Township, Alameda County, CA, occupation photographer. And listed on the San Francisco city directory for the same year, residence Alameda, business address 708 Sutter, San Francisco. 1903 – 1903 residence address found as 1215 Park Ave, Alameda.

And by the 1910 census, living in Salinas, CA with his son and daughter-in-law, occupation photographer.

Sources:  Original data: California, Marriages, 1850-1945. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. (

John Sontag. n.d. (accessed December 17, 2019).

Christopher Evans (outlaw). n.d. (accessed December 17, 2019).

Year: 1860; Census Place: Keeler, Van Buren, Michigan; Roll: M653_562; Page: 814; Family History Library Film: 803562. Year: 1870; Census Place: Cache Creek, Yolo, California; Roll: M593_93; Page: 446B; Family History Library Film: 545592. Year: 1900; Census Place: Alameda Precinct 2, Alameda, California; Page: 10; Enumeration District: 0310; FHL microfilm: 124008. Year: 1910; Census Place: Salinas Ward 2, Monterey, California; Roll: T624_89; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 1374102. (

Office of the Adjutant General. Military Records, 1850–1942. Military Dept., Adjutant General’s Office Records (1850–1944), ID Number R186. California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California. (

California State Library, California History Section; Great Registers, 1866-1898; Collection Number: 4 – 2A; CSL Roll Number: 119; FHL Roll Number: 977281 and 137; FHL Roll Number: 978594. (

The San Francisco Examiner. April 21, 1887. Thursday, p. 8. (

In Jail. John Sontag Meets His Match.” Visalia Daily Times. June 12, 1893. Monday, p. 4. “Fort Defiance Taken.” Visalia Daily Times. June 19, 1893. Monday, p. 1. Sale of business, Visalia Daily Times. March 16, 1894. Friday, p. 4. (

Daily Delta. July 22, 1893. Saturday, p. 3. Daily Delta. July 26, 1893. Wednesday, p. 3. (

H. S. Crocker Co.’s Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory, 1900. p. 507. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995.

F. M. Husted’s Husted’s Oakland Alameda & Berkeley Directory, 1903. p. 480. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995.

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