Davis Austin

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Davis Washington Austin (born May 1827 in Butler County; died May 13, 1903 in Birmingham) was a shipbuilder and carpenter who became a patrolman for the City of Birmingham and a deputy and jailor for Jefferson County.

Austin was the son of Davis and Eleanor Hill Austin of Butler County. He married the former Amanda Seale there on February 3, 1847.

By 1850 he was residing in Escambia County, Florida with his wife and two sons, John Thomas and Francis. He served as a shipbuilder at the U.S. Naval Yard there. In 1860 he was employed privately as a carpenter and had three more sons, William, Henry, and Charles. At the outbreak of the Civil War he raised a company of volunteers, but his skill as a shipbuilder was deemed more important to the Confederate forces than his command of an infantry company. Through he appeared on muster rolls for Company G of the 17th Alabama Infantry, he apparently worked under contract and by bounty, and thus did not earn a military pension. He was still working as a house carpenter there in 1870. The census reported that neither he nor his wife could read or write.

Austin moved to the newly-founded city of Birmingham in 1871 and worked as a carpenter and builder. In 1876 he was made jailor at the Jefferson County Courthouse, taking charge of an average of 350 to 400 inmates held there at any given time. He and his family resided at the jail property, at the corner of 4th Avenue North and 21st Street. The children living with them then were Mary, Conrad, and Anna. By then William had found work as a railroad engineer and had married. He shared the jailhouse residence with his wife and son.

After a mob stormed the courthouse in December 1883, Austin was one of several men who were charged with, "riotously, routously, boisterously and tumultuously," forcing their way into the prison and with conspiring to lynch inmate Wesley Posey. All of the defendants were acquitted at trial.

In the 1900 census, Amanda had died and Davis, then 73, had remarried, to a 61-year-old widow named Emily who had three children of her own, one living in Georgia. He owned a farm in the vicinity of Parkwood. It was reported that year that Austin could read and write.


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