Davenport, Homer Seldon

Birth Name Davenport, Homer Seldon
Gender male
Age at Death 91 years, 3 months, 11 days


from Michael Harrington, Appalachian photographer - " On one card Harrington describes Homer Davenport , a man who has never had a Social Security number, this way: " Homer Davenport has survived a lot of rough living on and around Clinch Mountain , including bites from at least three poisonous snakes - a timber rattler and two copperheads. A self-taught 'medicine man ' who knows many old Appalachian remedies, Mr. Davenport crushes up wild onions and applies them to the snakebite to 'draw out the poison.'''

"WALK ACROSS AMERICA" by Peter Jenkins, 1973

Chapter 6: Homer's Mountain

This chapter mostly takes place on a mountain. At the beginning of the chapter, Peter bought food in the Chattam Hill store. A schoolteacher invited Peter to his home for the night and told him to meet the mountain man Homer Davenport. After Peter left the schoolteachers place he left for Homer's place. On the way, he met three separate farmers in pickup trucks who told him about Homer. Peter was told that Homer didn't like people that much, but might like Peter because of his dog, his beard, and his journey. At nighttime, Peter and Cooper reached the base of Homer's mountain. They reached a red-dirt road and found an old log cabin climbing up the mountain. Out of the log cabin came Homer's only neighbor, Douglas Allison, who had lived on the mountain for sixty-two years and forty in the cabin. Allison told Peter the way to find Homer and watched them leave. Peter and Cooper kept going up the mountain. Suddenly, Cooper stopped, and Peter looked up and saw Homer about fifty feet away. Homer, Cooper, and Peter went down the mountain so Homer could get some supplies. Peter told Homer who he was and what he was doing going across America. When Homer asked why, Peter discovered the real reason for it. It was to discover humans like Homer. Homer bought some supplies and they climbed up the mountain again, finally reaching Homer's mansion, which was made of hand-hewn logs and roughly cut bare boards. One of Homer's three dogs tried to go after Cooper, causing Cooper to get chained for safety purposes. There were two rooms in Homer's mansion. Homer had lots of food in him house as well a guns. Homer told Peter that his three hounds basically did everything, including go after animals. Sometimes, Homer lost a dog to a bullet or bobcat. Homer was ready to make food to eat. He showed Peter a fancy yellow beet. Peter went out to get some water. Homer cooked some lamb chops and told Peter to use a straightened coat hanger to cook the meat. At this point we learn that Peter has been a vegetarian for the past three years, but this lamb made him think differently. When Peter brought the food to Homer, he saw three pots. One had cornbread, one had applesauce, and the last had the beets. Peter filled his plate with food from these pots as well as one with some dessert. Peter then gave Cooper and Brownie, Homer's dog, some raccoon. After their meal, Homer started whittling some wood into ax handles, which is a way that he makes money. Peter started asking Homer some questions. Homer told Peter that his people have been mountain people for a long time. He also told Peter that he and his sons have a farm down in the valley. They spent the night trading secrets. For two more days and nights Peter and Cooper stayed as Homer's guests. On the third afternoon, Homer took Peter to his farm. Peter got introduced to Homer's youngest son, Buck. On the way back, Peter took some wrong turns, but eventually caught up with Homer. Before they reached the mansion, Homer told Peter that he should consider staying on the mountain and take over when he passes away. Peter said that he would think about it and Homer left him. Peter panicked because he didn't know what the trail up was. He saw a sign on a barbed-wire fence saying that this was government land. After dark and three wrong turns, Peter and Cooper saw Homer's place. Peter told Homer that he would continue walking, but might visit him again. Peter started to cry. Peter and Homer ate dinner and then Peter started telling Homer about his background as Homer whittled.

Chapter 7: The Code

Before Peter left Homer's place, Homer made him promise that the pictures he took of Homer and his house would only be shown to his city friends. Peter and Cooper left Homer. When Peter got to Saltville he went to the post office to send a card to Connecticut telling his folks that he was okay. A man in the post office who saw Peter told him that people had bet on him returning from Homer's...


Event Date Place Description Sources
Birth 1912-06-22 Virginia, USA    
Death 2003-10-03 Chilhowie, Smyth, Virginia   1a


Relation to main person Name Birth date Death date Relation within this family (if not by birth)
Father Davenport, Randolph Sumner1867-07-051942-10-23
Mother Gilley, Sarah Margaret1887-02-001914-05-10
    Brother     Davenport, Dewey Denton 1905-10-27 about 1905
    Brother     Davenport, Holley Roosevelt 1907-02-13 1994-06-20
    Sister     Davenport, Margaretta Lorene 1908-09-21 1993
         Davenport, Homer Seldon 1912-06-22 2003-10-03
    Sister     Davenport, Ila Odell 1914-04-03 1997-07-19


Family of Davenport, Homer Seldon and Walls, Gladys Lillie Marie

Married Wife Walls, Gladys Lillie Marie ( * 1910 + 1974 )

lived in Chatham Hill, VA

For isolated mountain family, 'There wasn't anything better' - They had little use for outside world; some long for simpler ways
Grand Rapids Press, The (MI) - Sunday, September 11, 2005
Author: Calvin Woodward / The Associated Press
SALTVILLE, Va. -- As a shepherd girl, Colleen Davenport would step outside her mountain cabin on a clear night and drink in the view.

"You can see all those valleys," she remembers more than 40 years later. "At night, you look down through there and you can see the lights a-shining like diamonds."

She might as well have been looking at the stars above. The town below was practically as foreign to her as the galaxy.

"It was a pretty sight to see. You just was glad you weren't down there with them. I never cared much for towns."

Three generations of Davenports lived on that mountain and came off it, at different times, for different reasons, and usually not willingly.

In doing so, they helped close a chapter that once defined Appalachia and other remote reaches of the country. It's about mountain men and their families who lived beyond the reach of an outside world that considered them dirt poor if it considered them at all.

The patriarch, Homer Davenport , a sinewy man with a shock of white hair and bushy beard, was a striking figure.

Father of five boys and Colleen, now 61, Homer pitched hay with a fork, milled wheat into flour, turned animal skin to leather in his tannery, boiled cane into molasses, raised fat turnips, shot a man dead who shot him, read to his children until he fell asleep in his stiff-backed chair, made a kind of bread from cattail roots. His health-care plan was found in his garden and in the wild, where plants became remedies.

And when he took a chunk out of his leg with a chain saw in his elder years and was talked into getting stitches, he blamed the sewing job, not the injury, for the bother he felt in his limb for the rest of his life.

When he died in October 2003 at 91, the spray on his casket was made from the bounty of his land -- ferns, wheat, hickory nuts.

An encroaching society

As much as he wanted to be left alone, the modern world came calling.

Once, it was in the form of Peter Jenkins, a sojourner who crossed the country on foot, encountered Davenport and wrote about him in his book "A Walk Across America." Although a sympathetic portrait, it brought unwanted attention. For years, people trooped up to see the family's rugged one-room cabin with attached kitchen shed.

"He brought in the outside world," said Ruth Davenport, Homer's daughter-in-law. "After him, it seemed they came in streams."

Today, his kin remember their years up on Red Rock Cove in an idyllic haze. Even the youngest, accustomed to cell phones, e-mail and normal jobs, say they wish sometimes they could go back to that life of solitude and simplicity.

"My father was always on the land -- he was raised on it and, when he grew up, that's what he wanted to do," Colleen said on the front porch of her old house a few miles from the Poor Valley farm where the Davenports lived when they weren't at Red Rock.

"He bought the valley farm, which was around 100 acres. He bought it back in the '30s during the Depression and started farming it."

Then, Homer purchased the upland acres, a steep 90-minute walk from the farm, and sent her there alone to tend sheep in her late teens. For months at a time, she lived in a tiny cabin that sat on the property years before the Red Rock home was built.

In their own world

The family needed to go to town for very little, not much more than clothes, baking soda, salt and condensed milk for baking. When Homer's wife, Marie, sold tobacco in the fall, she bought luxury items such as mixed nuts and tangerines.

Life wasn't always peaceful. Caught up in a "love triangle," Homer gunned down a man who shot him in the side or stomach, Colleen said, relating an event from "before my time." She said her father, who had occasional brushes with the law, spent 18 months behind bars for the shooting.

As for Colleen, "I didn't care anything about the rest of the world," she said. "I didn't want to get out into the rest of the world. It was not appealing. There was too much trouble.

"At times, I thought I'd want something better but, when I went back up there to herd the sheep, I knew there wasn't anything better.

Still, she left in her mid-20s to marry, raise a family and farm in the valley.

Name Birth Date Death Date
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, Hythaabout 1936
Davenport, Alex Lee19462021-04-20
Davenport, Kenzie V19501991-10-00

Source References

  1. obit of Homer Seldon Davenport
      • Source text:

        SALTVILLE--HOMER SELDON DAVENPORT, 91, died 4 Oct 03, Valley Health Care
        Center, Chilhowie, Virginia. He was a lifetime farmer, preceded in death by
        son Kenzie "Dusty" Davenport. Survivors included four sons: Deja T. Davenport,
        of Delton, Michigan; Hytha Davenport, of Graham, Washington; Alex "Buck"
        Davenport and Whrenza "Ren" Davenport, both of Saltville; one daughter, Collen
        Taylor, of Saltville; 20 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and one
        great-great-grandson. The funeral was held at 2:00 pm, 8 Oct 03, at D.R. Henderson
        Home in Saltville. Internment in the Counts Family Cemetery.