South Australian Advertiser/Obituary/John Davis

Death of an Explorer (1885)
1401335Death of an Explorer1885


It is with regret that we announce the death of Mr. John Davis, of the Civil Service, which occurred at his residence, Payneham, on Tuesday afternoon. The deceased, who was well-known in the colony, came from India to South Australia and accompanied McKinlay in his expedition across the continent. The details of that expedition have been handed down to posterity by the late Mr. Davis, who wrote an exceedingly interesting account, which was published in book-form, the book also containing a number of plates which faithfully portrayed the character of the country passed through. In McKinlay's party the deceased gentleman had charge of the camels, his previous experience with the "ships of the desert" in India admirably fitting him for the post. It was in 1861 that McKinlay, whose renown as an explorer and a bushman had become known to the Government, was appointed to the position of leader of an expedition to search for the Burke and Wills party. Mr. Davis volunteered for the expedition, and on his return published the work referred to above under the title of "Tracks of McKinlay Across Australia." The chief object of the expedition was the discovery and relief of Burke's party, to acquire a knowledge of the country between Eyre's Creek and Central Mount Stuart, and lastly to visit the western shores of Lake Eyre. The party set out on August 16, 1861, with a team of bullocks, seventy sheep, two packhorses, and four camels. Arriving at Cooper's Creek McKinlay was conducted by the natives to the grave of Gray, one of Burke's party, and shortly afterwards he learned the fate of Burke and Wills, whose remains were found at Cooper's Creek. The party then proceeded to explore towards Central Mount Stuart, and crossed the Stony Desert, described as a "succession of bronzed undulations." After suffering great hardships the party reached Melbourne on September 25, 1862, or a little over thirteen months after leaving Adelaide. In April, 1864, Colonel Finniss was appointed Government Resident at the Northern Territory, and was dispatched thither with an expedition to form a new settlement. In this expedition, which is commonly known as the "Escape Cliffs expedition," Mr. Davis joined, and was given the position of assistant storekeeper. Some time after Mr. Goyder's survey of the Northern Territory Mr. Davis, who in the meantime had returned to Adelaide, went to the Territory as agent for several land-order holders and selected a deal of pastoral country. This occupied some time, and on Mr. Davis returning to Adelaide and remaining some time he procured a position in the water works department, which he retained up to the time of his death, a period of about thirteen years. Mr. Davis was a painstaking careful officer, and his comparatively early death at the age of fifty-six is greatly regretted. The deceased leaves, a widow and three daughters.