Queer Places:
Reuben Brown House, 77 Lexington Rd, Concord, MA 01742
Harvard Center Cemetery Harvard, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA

Cummings Elsthan Davis (1816 - February 13, 1896) was a contemporary of Henry David Thoreau and fellow villager at Concord. He was a preservationist of a decidedly material stripe who amassed a rich collection of the antiques of Concord, where he was born in 1816 and where his family lived for generations. “Whatever belongs to the remote past has an unspeakable charm for me,” the village eccentric told a reporter in 1870.

The first of Davis’ marriages, to Caroline Simonds (1814–1839), lasted less than one year (she died the same year the same year they married), and his second wife, Mary Ann Bull (1818-1896), kept her distance, preferring to reside in their house in Harvard, MA, while her husband lived in Concord with his old-fashioned things.

Wearing knee breeches and long white stockings of XVIII-century style, Davis greeted visitors to his house and lovingly described the items in his jumbled displays. In 1886 Cummings E. Davis moved into the house with his unique collection of antiques and would exhibit his collection of local American furniture and other items for a price. During Davis' feeble years The Concord Antiquarian Society safeguarded his items and became possessor of the house. The Antiquarian Society utilized the house to display their collection of artifacts from American Revolution until 1930 when the Antiquarian Society moved their collection to the present Concord Museum in fear the Reuben Brown House might burn down and destroy there priceless artifacts.

Concord townspeople called the collection Davis’s Old Curiosity Shop; Davis called it his Sacred Collection. Henry Thoreau called it our museum. Thoreau gave Davis several objects for his collection, including a stuffed wildcat shot in neighboring Carlisle and a British cartridge box taken on April 19, 1775. After Thoreau’s death in 1862, his sister gave Davis several of her brother’s possessions. For more than 100 years, the Museum has served as the repository for Thoreau related artifacts provided by his family, his neighbors, friends and admirers, and others—a tradition that continues today.

Davis is buried at Harvard Burial Ground.

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