Edgar B. Davis
The Luling Foundation stands as a unique monument to one man's supreme faith in God and his total confidence that Providence was guiding his life.
Edgar B. Davis grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts. During his growing up years, his goal in life was to play end on the Harvard football team. His brother, Oscar, was a partner with George Leach in the Walk-over Shoe Company. Edgar was persuaded to forego his college education and join his brother in the shoe business. By the age of thirty-five, he was an active official in the company, not to mention, a millionaire.
However, all was not well. In a confidential memorandum, Mr. Davis stated that an event in his life on December 1, 1904, led to a series of breakdowns and hospitalizations. It left him ith a "deep melancholia" that he could not overcome.
Accordingly, on the advice of his physicians, Davis embarked on an ocean voyage January 29, 1907. His destination was the Mediterranean. Here, again, he felt that Providence intervened. On the ship he encountered an old friend, Walter B. Mahoney, who was on a voyage around the world. While cruising the Mediterranean, Mr. Mahoney fell ill and Mr. Davis was persuaded to accompany him on the remainder of his voyage.
As they progressed through the Suez Canal, the talk in the smoking room turned more and more to the new developments in the rubber industry. Plantations of rubber trees were being established in Ceylon, South India, Federated Malay States, Strait Settlement, and Java, from which good dry rubber could be produce at " a shilling a pound ". Rubber was selling for 41.25 a pound and the possibility of that kind of profit was indeed interesting.
Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Davis made inquiries about established rubber companies. Again, he felt a Guiding Hand in his life. Through a series of chance meetings, he made the necessary connections. It took him a year and a half to interest the United States Rubber Company in investing in the rubber plantation business, but on March 1, 1910, Edgar B. Davis became the first American to plant a rubber tree in Sumatra. He led the organization in planting the first five million trees in Sumatra for the General Rubber Company, a subsidiary of the United States Rubber Company. They planted three thousand acres the first year and seventeen thousand acres the second year.
Mr. Davis stated, "This was poisonous smake country and i have a phobia against smakes, but to show God's Guiding Hand, I was given the faith to fo through all those years in the East without wearing leggings or puttees, although I must confess that they were unhappy years."
No one knows exactly how much Davis made from his work with the rubber industry, but estimates ranged around $3,500,000.00. He was the largest individual stockholder in the United States Rubber Company.
Upon his return to New York, Mr. Davis made his first "thank offering" by distrobuting $1,000,000 among his employees.
"I completed my work with the rubber company on December 18, 1919, and retired as a director in April 1920, after having twice refused the offer to be President of the Company. I mention these things for i belive that the Good God guided me, as i said before, in doing things way beyond my ability," Mr. Davis wrote.
He then opened an office in New York, and built a home in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts. He planned to take things easy.
When approached by friends and acquaintances to invest in oil in Texas, Mr. Davis refused because, "I felt i was too sound a businessman to wildcat for oil in Texas." This, from a man who would spend the rest of his life wildcatting for oil in Texas.
When his brother, Oscar, investedd $75,000 in oil leases in Caldwell county, Edgar was persuaded to travel to Texas and assume management for one-third interest in the profits.
Thus it was that Edgar Byram Davis, Man of Destiny, come to Luling, Texas and forever changed the course of that small, dusty town, strung out along the railroad tracks.