Early Years

When Frances was 3, her father took the family to New York City, where he trained as an electrical engineer. They lived across from Central Park. Mary, “an Irish girl,” would take Frances and her brother Hollon in a two-wheel go-cart, the toddlers sitting back to back, to play in the park near the big fountain with seats around it.

In 1897 the family returned by boat to Somerville, MA (considered “the bedroom of Boston” at that time) and William worked as an electrical engineer in Boston. For the kids, he set up a tent in the backyard — red, white, and blue — for shady breaks from games of croquet. Sometimes on weekends, when the children were young, the family would bicycle – Frances perched in a basket on her father’s bike — to Powderhouse Hill for picnics. Frances started first grade at the public school. But soon her two younger sisters, Dorothy and Vesta, came down with black diphtheria. As the epidemic swept through Somerville, Frances’ family was quarantined, a red ticket marking their door, and Frances watched her friends outside her window, listening to her little sisters struggle to breathe. Soon, Dorothy and Vesta died.

The family did not have much time to mourn. Perhaps it was a good thing – William Davis’s talents were needed in Sanford, Maine and, once again, the family packed up and moved.


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