Born: Feb­ru­ary 2, 1780, Shen­an­do­ah Coun­ty, Vir­gin­ia.

Died: Oc­to­ber 21, 1857, Rock­ing­ham Coun­ty, Vir­gin­ia.

Buried: Cross Keys Ce­me­te­ry, Rock­ing­ham Coun­ty, Virg­inia.


Davisson was a print­er in Rock­ing­ham Coun­ty, Vir­gin­ia. He is best known for his Ken­tuc­ky Har­mo­ny (Har­ris­on­burg, Vir­gin­ia: 1816), ge­ne­ral­ly con­sidered the first shape-note tune book in the south­ern Unit­ed States.

Composer and publ­ish­er Will­iam B. Blake said it was a book char­ac­ter­is­tic of that pe­ri­od, abound­ing in mi­nor tunes.

Musicologist George Pull­en Jack­son said Da­vis­son’s com­pi­la­tions were pio­neer re­pos­i­tor­ies of a sort of song that the rur­al South real­ly liked.


Perhaps his best-known tune is Idu­mea, a mi­nor tune ve­ry po­pu­lar in Sou­thern shape note circ­les, and fea­tured in the 2003 mo­vie Cold Moun­tain.

Davisson’s oth­er works in­clude:



Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pic­ture of Da­vis­son (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),