The San Angelo Standard
12 December 1947
"The Law West of Lost Creek: was silenced Friday when J. E. (Wild John)
Davis, colorful peace officer of West Texas for many years, was burned
to death at his home in the Voca community.
Cause of the early-morning fire which leveled Davis' two-room home is not known. Neighbors noticed the blaze shortly after 5 a.m. Friday morning, but were unable to rescue Davis. Officials investigating the fire are expected to return a verdict of accidental deaths.
Davis, burned beyond recognition, was 86 years old and lived alone. The body is at Roy O. Wilkerson & Son funeral home in Brady. Services will be held from the Voca church with burial in the Voca cemetery, but time of the services is pending word from relatives in California.
A resident of McCulloch county since 1884, Davis served as deputy sheriff and justice of the peace at Voca, and also engaged in drilling water wells and carpentry. His wife died about 15 years ago.
Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pecos, made many peculiar decisions in his day, but they don't outrank some verdicts by McCulloch County's latter-day "Roy Bean."
Take the time "Wild John" fined a man two bushels of yellow corn, shelled and delivered to the mill. The miller at Voca ground the corn without charge, and "Wild John" weighed it out in three equal sacks and delivered it to three needy widows with families.
Unlike the original Roy Bean, however, "Wild John" took his office as justice of the peace seriously. He once arrested a couple of nephews for fighting. "I believe in doing my duty, regardless of who it'll hurt," he said at the time.
"Wild John" was born John Edward Davis in Lamar County in 1861. When he was two years old his family moved to Travis County, and thence to the Loyal Valley community in Mason County in 1877. From there, Davis went to Montague County where he served four years as deputy sheriff in addition to :riding the trail." He came to McCulloch in 1884 and has lived since in the Voca community, 16 miles southeast of Brady. He was deputy sheriff there for three years, and was justice of the peace until old age forced his retirement a few years ago.
Until that time, "Wild John: was as spry as he was in 1931, when he celebrated his 60th birthday anniversary by tying into a wild bronc at Vern Miller's Wild West Show, "just to show'em age didn't matter to an old cowhand who was raised in the saddle."
\ "Wild John" had been riding long before he was able to get on a horse without assistance, and from the time he was 11 years of age until he was 60, there wasn't a wild bronc living that he wouldn't tackle. He didn't ride them all, but that didn't keep him from trying.
During his younger days, "Wild John" punched cattle, making one trip to Nebraska and a number to Oklahoma. "If a man didn't act right and didn't show a little tact and diplomacy, the Indians might hold the cattle up for several days while being driven up the trail," Davis often asserted as he told friends of his adventures. "But I always got along with them fine-although sometimes we'd have to give 'em two or three head so they would let us through."
Davis is survived by three sons, H. E. Davis of Orland, Calif., Ralph Davis of Hynes, Calif., and J. F. Davis of Douglas, Ariz.; and four daughters, Mrs. George Spiller of Voca, Mrs. Lenna Chapman of Garden Grove, Calif., Mrs. Ray Collins of Santa Anna, Calif., and Mrs. Annie Adams of LOng Beach, Calif. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
(Compiler's Note: J. E. Davis married first, Lydia Banta, a sister
to the compiler's grandmother, Belle (Banta) Liverman.
He was a fun-loving and pleasant man.
The compiler, who has vivid memories of the man, has often heard him remark that, "When you bury me you can say you buried a bushel of fun."
"Wild John", who acquired that nickname at the hands of John Ringo and others, must have learned his Commanche yell from a one-time companion, Herman Lehmann, who spent 9 years a captive of the Indians.
"Wild John" had a horse name Old Buck and a bright red two-wheeled gig to which he hitched Old Buck. If the driver loosed the lines to Buck's bit, Buck would stop. If he pulled, Buck would go, and the harder the pull the faster Buck went.
The combination of a bright red gig, Old Buck in the harness, Wild John on the gig, pulling those lines hard, riding full speed up and down Voca's one street at Christmas time, voicing that piercing Commanche yell, was a never-to-be-forgotten experience to witness!)