Winfield S. Davis – Ellenville, New York Photographer

July 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment



W. S. Davis was a popular photographer at the village of Ellenville, New York from the mid-1880s to 1902. He also operated a branch gallery at Grahamsville, New York during the 1890s. Winfield was the son of Edwin A. Davis, a photographer in Rockland County, New York. Winfield sold his Ellenville gallery in 1902 after the passing of his wife Lillian. The gallery was purchased by Albert V. Porter, who operated the business until 1918.    


Sam's Point (2), Views of Ellenville and VicinitySam's Point (2), Views of Ellenville and Vicinity Sam's Point. Author's collection.




Winfield Scott Davis was born on May 16, 1861 in New York City, the son of Edwin Augustus Davis (1836-1911) and Catherine Lavinia Davis (1839-1923).


The 1870 United States census showed 9-year-old Winfield living with his parents, 34-year-old Edwin A. Davis and 30-year-old Lavina Davis. The family was living at Orangetown in Rockland County, New York. Edwin was listed with an occupation of photographer.


The 1880 United States census showed 19-year-old Winfield living with his parents, 44-year-old Edwin A. Davis and 40-year-old Catherine. The family was living in New York County, New York. Edwin was listed with an occupation of photographer and Winfield was listed as “works at home.”


The 1878-1879 and the 1879-1880 catalogs of Columbia College in New York City listed a Winfield Scott Davis as being a first class student and a second class student, respectively, in the School of Mines. He was listed as residing at 491 6th Avenue. It is unclear if Winfield graduated from college as he was not listed in either the 1880-1881 or the 1881-1882 Columbia College catalogs.


Trow’s New York City Directory for the year ending May 1, 1880 listed both Edwin A. Davis and Winfield S. Davis working as photographers and both residing at 491 Sixth Avenue. This was also true in the 1882 and 1883 directories. The New York City Directory for 1884-1885 listed a Winfield S. Davis with a profession of photographer and a home address of 491 6th Avenue; but did not list Edwin A. Davis.


Winfield S. Davis met Lillian May Prindle while still a student at college. They were married on November 26 (or 29 depending on the source), 1883 in Highbridge, New York. Lillian was the daughter of Charles Bradley Prindle (1841-1904) and Fidelia A. (Ferguson) Prindle (1844-1907). Charles owned a hat factory and lived at Mill Plain, Connecticut. Lillian was born on June 29, 1867(8) and was raised in Mill Plain, Connecticut.


Lillian May Prindle is a direct descendant of Captain Nehemiah Keeler (1753-1838) who honorably served during the American Revolution. Keeler enlisted and served as a private in 1776; served in various regiments until 1780; and was promoted through the grades to Captain. He married Eleanor Rockwell at Ridgebury, Connecticut on June 15, 1772. According to Alexander DuBin, author of Five Hundred First Families of America, Lillian’s lineage, through her father, can be traced back over 1,000 years to Charlemagne (747-814), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and to other kings and nobility of Europe and France.


Winfield and Lillian had four children, including Wynetta, born September 14, 1884; Kittie, born August 5, 1886; Edwin “Eddie,” born January 8, 1888; and Dorothy Marguerite, born August 4, 1898.


Dorothy was born at Ellenville, New York but moved to Connecticut after her mother’s passing. She graduated from Classical High School at Springfield, Massachusetts in 1916. She was also a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1917-1918. She married Carl Oscar Carlson (1898-1970) on October 4, 1919. She passed away on August 11, 1971 in Scott County, Kentucky. Although it cannot be definitively determined if it is the same person, Colonel Harland Sanders, famous founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was listed as one of the honorary bearers at Dorothy’s funeral. She is buried at the Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky.


“Georgetown, Ky. Mrs. Dorothy Davis Carlson, 73, widow of Carl Oscar Carlson, Carls Haven Farm, Scott County, died about 11 p.m. Wednesday at the John Graves Ford Hospital here after a short illness.


Since Mr. Carlson’s death in August of 1970 she had been president of the Lexington Photo Engraving Co., which he founded in May, 1946.


Mrs. Carlson, a native of New York state, was a past president of the Lexington Altrusa Club, and was a member of the Lexington chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Akielo Temple, Daughters of the Nile, Mt. Horeb Homemakers Club, and Salvation Army Auxiliary Club and the Woman’s Club of Central Kentucky.


She was a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist and of the Mother Church in Boston, Mass.


Survivors are a son, Charles E. Carlson, Lexington; two daughters, Mrs. Harold Lofton Childs, Chelsea, Vt., and Mrs. L. Philip Williams, Columbus, Ga., and eight grandchildren.


The body is at Milwards Mortuary – Broadway, Lexington.”[1]


Wynetta Davis was the subject of newspaper articles across the country in 1910 when her wealthy husband Arthur Brady shot her. Brady, who was an invalid due to locomotor ataxia, died soon after the shooting. Wynetta remarried to James A. Benedict, but she died in an automobile accident three years later in 1913 at Danbury, Connecticut. She is buried at Milltown Cemetery in Brewster, New York.


Kittie married James Anderson Benedict, widow of her sister Wynetta, in New York City on December 24, 1916. She was a longtime resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado. While in Colorado she was a member of the Monday Progress Women’s Club of which she was president, the First Presbyterian Church, the Parker Prayer Group and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She passed away June 13, 1972 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Wynette Epp, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Edwin Augustus Davis resided at the city of Danbury, Connecticut for over 60 years. He likely moved there some time after the tragic death of his mother in 1901. Edwin’s World War I registration card listed his profession as a self-employed farmer at Mill Plain, Connecticut and also noted that he was supporting a wife, two children and a grandmother. He later worked as a machinist. Edwin died on March 3, 1962 at 74 years of age at Danbury Hospital. The funeral took place at the Albert W. Schmidt funeral home with Reverend Stoddard B. Williams, pastor of the King Street Christian Church, officiating. He was survived by two sons, Maurice Davis, of Danbury; and Donald Davis, of New Fairfield; a daughter, Mrs. Charles Tease, of White Plains, New York; and two sisters, Mrs. Oscar Carlson, of Kentucky; and Mrs. Kittie Benedict, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and several grandchildren. Edwin is buried at Milltown Cemetery in Brewster, New York.


Winfield and his wife Lillian likely came to the village of Ellenville around late 1885 or early 1886. The Ellenville Journal reported in December 1885 that E. A. Davis, Winfield’s father, had purchased the photograph gallery of Edward Lewis, a noted photographer who had previously worked in Kingston. Lewis had moved from Kingston to Ellenville three years prior in 1883 to open the gallery. After selling the gallery it was reported that Lewis, “having visited quite a number of places, north and south for a business location, has settled in the pleasant village of Nyack, Rockland County. We wish him success.”[2]


“Mr. E. Lewis, the photographer in Thompson’s building, has sold out his business to Mr. E. A. Davis, from Danbury, Conn., who has already taken possession and commenced work. Mr. Lewis, who has been among us for more than two and a half years, is not only a skillful and experienced artist, but an excellent citizen as well. We are pleased to learn that he does not contemplate immediate removal from town. We trust that Mr. Davis may find the lines fallen pleasantly, and meet with abundant success.”[3]


When Davis began trying to sell his gallery in 1900, an advertisement noted that the gallery was “established 18 years; 15 years present owner.” These facts would coincide with Edward Lewis founding the gallery in 1883 and Davis taking over around 1886. However, given the above-mentioned article that stated the gallery was sold directly to E. A. Davis, it is unclear if Winfield’s father, 1) purchased the gallery on behalf of his son; 2) or perhaps was, for a brief time, a partner with his son; 3) or operated the gallery by himself until his son arrived within a few short years. What is known is that within a few years advertisements and articles in the local newspaper referred to the photographer as “W. S. Davis,” rather than just “Davis.”


In the January 15, 1886 issue of the Ellenville Journal it was written that “Mr. Davis, successor to Lewis, the photographer, and whose card appears in another column, is a pleasant gentleman, an artist of some years’ successful experience in the city.”


In that same January 15, 1886 issue of the Ellenville Journal, Davis placed perhaps the first advertisement for his new gallery.


“Davis, Late of Fifth Avenue, New York, (Successor to E. Lewis,) Photographer. Portraits by Instantaneous Process. Photographs of Houses, Live Stock and Interiors. Copying a specialty. Thompson Building, Canal Street, Ellenville.”


The Davis gallery was located at 129 Canal Street in Ellenville. The reverse side of a cabinet card portrait taken by Davis noted that “Instantaneous process used exclusively. Negatives preserved. Duplicates can be had at any time.” His series of scenic stereoviews were issued under the title “Views of Ellenville and Vicinity.”


Through the years the Ellenville Journal, the local newspaper, wrote about Davis and his artistic photography. Below are some early examples of items that were published.


October 29, 1886, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, the photographer, presents a change of adv’t in this issue. Mr. Davis shows a line of much the finest views ever made with the camera in this section; and he is prepared to take views of any sort, including interiors, at short notice.


September 2, 1887, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, the photographer, has during the past week added to his collection of artistic and charming views of local scenery a cabinet photo of the Kaederkill Falls some distance east of Sam’s Point, on the eastern slope of the mountain. It is indeed a gem; the falls are unexcelled for romantic beauty by anything in the State, and the picture is perfect.”


In January 1887 the photographic work taken by Davis was recognized at the county fair conducted by the Southern Ulster Agricultural Society. “Davis, the popular photographer, had a booth on the ground, and had also a fine collection of his pictures in the exhibition building. These were justly admired. Mr. Davis has few rivals in his art.”[4]


Sam's Point (11), Views of Ellenville and VicinitySam's Point (11), Views of Ellenville and Vicinity Sam's Point. Author's collection.


Parkers Pass, Hanging Rock Falls, Views of Ellenville and VicinityParkers Pass, Hanging Rock Falls, Views of Ellenville and Vicinity Parkers Pass, Hanging Rock Falls. Author's collection.


Arching Rocks, Lake Mohonk and VicinityArching Rocks, Lake Mohonk and Vicinity Arching Rocks. Author's collection.


The Ellenville Journal continued to write about Davis in the late 1880s and into the early 1890s.


February 3, 1888 advertisement, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, (Late of Sixth Avenue, New York), Portrait and View Photographer! 129 Canal Street, Ellenville. Copying of Finest quality! 75 Stereoscopic Views Of Points of Interest in Ellenville and Vicinity. Views of all kinds and sizes made at short notice. Best workmanship. Moderate Prices.”


January 3, 1889, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, the photographer, has on exhibition at his rooms some elegant trout rods, hand-made. They are for sale also at the store of H. Tice & Co.”


April 26, 1889, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, the photographer, makes unexcelled views, and he has on exhibition and sale at his gallery a great variety representing many of the more notable points of attraction and bits of local scenery. And, by the way, now is just the time for obtaining a picture of your residences, grounds, street views, etc., while the foliage is putting forth, and before it becomes too dense.”


July 18, 1890, Ellenville Journal


“INTERESTING VIEWS.– City visitors will find at the art gallery of Davis, the photographer, a series of beautiful and very interesting photos of the natural attractions and wonders of this vicinity – unsurpassed by those of any other locality east of the Rockies. These embrace besides pictures of the village a great variety of mountain pictures – cliffs, crevices, glens, caves, and the like, with most enchanting waterfalls, not only of the mountain, but also in the hills and vales of the vicinage. Those who entertain summer guests may do them a favor by directing their attention to this rare collection. Not only will it afford “tips” for many a delightful ramble, but from it may be chosen pretty souvenirs of the summer’s outing.”


January 16, 1891 advertisement, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, Artist, Photographer, 129 Canal St., Ellenville. A fine stock of PICTURE FRAMES at low prices! Special from January 1st, for $5 I will make 1 16x20 3/4 life size crayon and 1 dozen cabinet photos!


Cabinet Photos, $2, $3 and $4 per Doz.


Copying of finest quality.


Views of all points of interest in the vicinity for sale at the studio. Views of all kinds and sizes made at short notice. Best workmanship. Moderate Prices.”


August 7, 1891, Ellenville Journal


“We observe that in some parts of the county artists from distant cities are employed to make views of buildings, grounds, local scenery, etc. There is no occasion to go abroad for that sort of work. Davis, the Ellenville photographer, is unexcelled in that line. And, by the way, he has on exhibition and sale at his gallery hundreds of views of notable features of Shawangunk mountain and the vicinity, embracing many scenic gems.”


In 1889 a photograph by Davis was published in The Photographic Times.


“Proper Credit.– We are informed by Mr. W. S. Davis, the well-known photographer of Ellenville, N.Y. that the Mosstype view of “Verkeederkill Falls,” in the “American Annual for 1889” is from his negative. We are glad to know who is entitled to the credit of such beautiful work, and would have been glad to credit him on the print had we learned of the authorship before going to press.”[5]


In 1891 Davis expanded his business by opening a branch gallery at the village of Grahamsville. He would continue to operate this branch gallery throughout the 1890s.


“Grahamsville Photograph Gallery! The subscriber will be in Grahamsville, and open a PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY for the following dates: November 5th and 6th, 12th and 13th, and 19th and 20th. Other dates will be announced later. W. S. Davis, Photographer, Ellenville, Oct. 30, 1891.”[6]


In 1892 Davis wrote a letter to the St. Louis and Canadian Photographer, a leading industry publication.


                “Concerning the Aristotype.


                Editor St. Louis and Canadian Photographer:


While the subject of “Aristo” is all the go, I will state that I have been working the process since August, 1889, at which time I saw some beautiful work in Boston by E. A. Gilbert. I bought one of his outfits and have since tried almost every kind of aristotype paper in the market – Gelatine and Collodion – and have come to the conclusion that the former is not what many claim for it, and cannot be made to withstand the different changes of our climate. [Gelatine prints can not be made that neither water, boiling hot or ice cold, will in any manner affect, no matter how long the contact. This seems to us will be sufficient to withstand any climatic change any country can ever be subjected to. – Ed. St. L. & C. P.]


Collodio-Chloride prints, self-prepared, and “Aristo,” were put into my show-case together with gelatine and albumen. The two latter faded and lost their brilliancy, while the former retained its tone and color.


The show-case which I have for testing the permanency of my work faces the northeast. When the sun strikes the glass in the morning, dampness from the gelatine and albumen prints condenses on the inside of the glass, and later in the day the water returns to the prints and the glass again becomes clear. The collodion prints, not susceptible to water changes, do not undergo this terrible ordeal, and with the recent hot water process is much easier of manipulation than either albumen or gelatine.


W. S. Davis, Ellenville, N.Y.”[7]


At the 1892 County Fair “Davis, our local photographer, had a rich and varied exhibit of the product of his skill, which by the way is unsurpassed. He had also a gallery on the grounds where he “took” the people.”[8]


Portrait, Well Dressed Man, by W. S. Davis, Ellenville, NYPortrait, Well Dressed Man, by W. S. Davis, Ellenville, NY

Portrait, Well Dressed Man, by W. S. Davis. Author's collection.


Portrait, Young Woman, by W. S. Davis, Ellenville, NYPortrait, Young Woman, by W. S. Davis, Ellenville, NY

Portrait, Young Woman, by W. S. Davis. Author's collection.


Logo, W. S. Davis, Photographer, Ellenville, NYLogo, W. S. Davis, Photographer, Ellenville, NY

Business Imprint, W. S. Davis, Ellenville, N.Y. Author's collection.


The Ellenville Journal and other local newspapers wrote of Davis and his photographic gallery throughout the 1890s.


March 18, 1892 advertisement, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, Photographer, and Dealer in Amateur Supplies, Canal Street, Ellenville, N.Y. Finest equipped Gallery within Fifty Miles. I make Portraits and Views of all sizes. My Life Size Aristo, Sepia and Solar Aristo Enlargements are the finest that can be made. Parties wishing Crayon, Oil, Water Color or Pastel Portraits will do well to consult me.


The Collodio-chloride Aristo, making the best permanent picture, and the instantaneous process used exclusively.


Lady Operator in attendance.”


August 8, 1892, Middletown Times-Press


“W. S. Davis, the Ellenville photographer, has just finished a large pictures of Honk Falls, Mt. Menaga, Sam’s Point, Walnut Mountain, White Lake, and also a view of Ellenville. He has placed them in a beautiful oak-finished frame and hung them in the Weehawken depot.”


September 15, 1892, Middletown Times-Press


“The display of photos, etc., of Davis, the photographer, is the best ever seen here.” [At the annual county fair held by the Ulster County Agricultural Society.]


July 24, 1894, Ellenville Journal


“W. S. Davis has put on exhibition at the entrance to his gallery a very fine picture of Mr. Dwight Divine.”


September 18, 1896, Ellenville Journal


“W. S. Davis, the local photographer, proposes to open a branch in Liberty in a few weeks. Mr. Davis possesses the highest skill in his art.”


March 12, 1897, Ellenville Journal


“Davis’s large photo of the Reformatory was on exhibition a day or two in the County Treasurer’s office, en route to Albany.”


March 12, 1897, Ellenville Journal


“Davis, the photographer, is making cabinet photographs for $1.50 a dozen. That would seem to leave no motive to go abroad for pictures.”


July 9, 1897, Ellenville Journal


“Photographer Davis went yesterday to Jamestown, to attend the convention at that place, expecting to be absent until the 20th.”


The 1900 United States census showed 39-year-old Davis living at the village of Ellenville, town of Wawarsing in Ulster County, New York. Also living in the household was his 32-year-old wife Lillian, and his four children, 15-year-old Wynetta, 13-year-old Kittie, 12-year-old Edwin and 1-year-old Dorothy. The census showed that Winfield and Lillian had been married for 17 years and that they had four children, all of them living. Winfield was listed with an occupation of photographer, while Wynetta, Kittie and Edwin were all listed “at school.”


Lillian, Winfield’s wife, tragically passed away in 1901.


“A sudden and sad death was that of the wife of Winfield S. Davis, the well known local photographer, which occurred about five o’clock on Friday evening last, after no more than fifteen or sixteen hours’ illness, death being attributed to congestion of the kidneys. Mrs. Davis had been well as usual the preceding day. During the night she was up with a child and took a chill. A physician was called early in the morning, and later others were summoned, but her malady seemed to defy treatment, and she steadily grew worse. In the afternoon she recognized the gravity of the situation, and an hour before her death bade her family good-bye. Mrs. Davis was in her 34th year; she was bright and winsome, and made friends at sight . . .


Much sympathy is extended to the sorely stricken family. Besides the husband there are four children – Winetta, Kittie, Eddie, and little Dorothy two or three years old. The mother of Mrs. Davis lives in New York, and a married sister in Hartford. Rev. Dr. Berg conducted a funeral service at 5 p.m. Saturday, and on Monday morning the remains were conveyed to Milltown, Conn., for interment, Dr. H. C. Derby accompanying. On his return to Ellenville Wednesday evening, Mr. Davis was accompanied by his father and mother.”[9]


Davis placed the following advertisement for his photography business in the July 4, 1902 issue of the Ellenville Journal.


“Davis, Photographer, will make, till stock is used up, 1 Doz. C. D. V. Photos for 50c. Cut prices in all sizes to reduce stock. F R A M E S at reduced prices.”


The following month Davis placed the following advertisement in the August 1, 1902 issue of the Ellenville Journal.


“Davis, Photographer, is making 12 Photos, C. D. V., for 50c. 6 Cabinet Photos for 60c. 1 dozen Carbonettes for 75c. This is less than the cost of the material used, and the price will last only as long as the stock on hand.”


Perhaps due to the tragic death of his wife, Davis offered his gallery for sale.


“FOR SALE.– One of the best equipped galleries in New York State; only gallery; town 4,000; fully stocked; small branch gallery 16 miles distant; established 18 years; 15 years present owner. W. S. Davis, Ellenville, N.Y.”[10]


The Davis Gallery was purchased by Albert V. Porter in September 1902.


“Albert V. Porter, for twenty-six years engaged at the knife factory, on Tuesday resigned his position as foreman of the material room, having been for some time in poor health and advised by his physician to seek a more congenial occupation. Mr. Porter has purchased the entire outfit with stock and good will of W. S. Davis’s photograph gallery taking possession this week. Mr. Davis has established a good reputation for the gallery during the past twenty years, and Mr. Porter, with artistic taste and a successful experience of some years as an amateur photographer, should do well.”[11]


After their mother’s passing, Wynetta and Kittie went to live with their grandfather, E. A. Davis, at Mill Plain, Connecticut. Dorothy, as per a note on, went to live with her mother’s sister, Grace Prindle Dexter, and her husband, Albert J. Dexter.”


In November 1903 it was reported that “W. S. Davis, formerly photographer in Ellenville, and his son are spending a few days in Kerhonkson, having come up from the city on a hunting trip.”[12]


In December 1903 Winfield remarried to Mayme MacNiff (1861-1923) in Manhattan, New York. It was her first marriage. Mayme was born in Pearl River, New York. Her parents were Philip McNiff and Susan (Webb) McNiff.


After selling his gallery, Davis became “interested in the production of milk flour by a patented process, and will give his attention wholly to that business, removing his family to Connecticut.”[13] The process called for “reducing skim milk to a powder called milk flour, that can be again turned into a liquid. The formula is a secret. It is with this company that W. S. Davis of this village is associated.”[14]


In 1910 it was reported that Davis was residing at the village of Centerville Station, New York with his second wife. Centerville Station would later change its name to Woodridge.


The 1910 United States census listed the 49-year-old Winfield Davis as residing in the town of Fallsburg in Sullivan County, New York. Also in the household was his second wife Mayme, to whom he had been married for seven years. They had no children together. Winfield was listed with an occupation of photographer, with an industry of “general work.”


Three years later, in 1913, it was reported that Davis was living at Mountaindale, New York. Mountaindale is located southwest of the village of Ellenville and within the town of Fallsburg in Sullivan County, New York.


The 1930 United States census listed the 69-year-old Winfield Davis, now a widow, as living in the village of Woodridge in the town of Fallsburg, Sullivan County, New York. He was listed with an occupation of photographer.




Winfield Scott Davis left his mark on Ellenville’s history through over 15 years of artistic portraits of local citizens and beautiful landscape stereoviews of Ellenville and the surrounding region. Davis passed away on November 5, 1938 and is buried at Milltown Cemetery in Brewster, New York.


[1] “Engraving Firm Head Is Dead.” The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky). August 12, 1971.

[2] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). February 19, 1886.

[3] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). December 25, 1885.

[4] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). October 7, 1887.

[5] The Photographic Times. January 4, 1889. Vol. 19, No. 381.

[6] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). November 13, 1891.

[7] “Concerning the Aristotype.” St. Louis & Canadian Photographer. April, 1892. Vol. 10, No. 4.

[8] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). September 23, 1892.

[9] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). May 10, 1901.

[10] The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer. January, 1900. Vol. 24, No. 1.

[11] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). September 5, 1902.

[12] “Ellenville.” Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York). November 2, 1903.

[13] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). September 5, 1902.

[14] Ellenville Journal (Ellenville, New York). August 1, 1902.



No comments posted.

January February March April May June July August September October November (3) December (1)
January (1) February (2) March April May June (2) July August September October November (1) December (1)
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September (2) October November December
January (2) February (1) March (2) April (4) May June July August September October November (3) December (3)
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January (4) February (4) March (5) April (4) May (4) June (3) July August September October November December