Way We Were: The woman who gave us Davis Road

Go back 40 years and this is what the Martinez intersection of Davis Road and Washington Road looked like.


Squint and you can see some roadwork (there is always roadwork in Columbia County) and a long-gone Cullum’s store.

The photo accompanied a story about efforts to change the name of Davis Road to Walton Way, or perhaps Walton Way Extension or Walton Way Extension-Extension.

It makes sense. Walton, one of Augusta’s well-known streets, had stretched its limits during the decade of the 1970s. Starting at Magnolia Cemetery it had taken over the old Calhoun Street, paved through a couple of blocks, connected to the original Walton Way, climbed the hill and arced grandly toward Martinez.

In 1978 several businesses — they were not named — asked the Columbia County Planning Commission to keep the Walton theme going by renaming a portion of Davis Road where it hits Washington Road.

This did not suit the Martinez-ians.

A crowd filled the meeting to protest, according to a Chronicle account. Bill Jackson, who would go on to legislative renown, drew applause when he defended the road’s namesake — Mrs. L.A. Davis.

“Walton Way was named to honor George Walton, and I honor him” he said, “but I believe Davis Road should be in honor of Mrs. Kate Davis.”

The commissioners quickly agreed and even suggested anyone wanting to continue to push such a change was wasting their time.

Who could have inspired such devotion?

That would be Mrs. L.A. Davis, also known as Catherine “Aunt Kate” Nichols Davis, who gave the county the right of way to actually open the road.

A Richmond County native who came to Columbia County in 1921, she had a grocery store in Martinez so well known, its newspaper advertisements did not include an address — just “Martinez.”

According to a 1958 newspaper feature, “The L.A. Davis Grocery is a community grocery where satisfaction of the customer comes first.”

The store carried “fancy and staple groceries and fresh produce.”

“All these are dispensed with that brand of old-fashioned courtesy that exists only in a family grocery where all the customers are friends.”

She probably made those friends the old-fashioned way. Starting in the 1920s, her name appears often in the pages of The Chronicle hosting parties for young people.

Such community efforts continued into the 1950s. For example, when a fire left a family “destitute” in 1955, The Chronicle reported how she collected donations to help them recover.

Many of those friends probably turned up at her 1974 funeral at Abilene Baptist Church where Sheriff Ed Tankersley was one of her pallbearers.

“Aunt Kate” might have given her county a road, but she gave her community more.