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The business was built up by . It was based on the Aberdare Valley, and a number of collieries were opened south of Aberdare, such as that at Abercwmboi.
During 's last years, the family became involved in the early exploitation of the coal reserves of the neighbouring Rhondda Valleys, with the Davis family's operations being concentrated on Ferndale in the Rhondda Fach. Despite the huge loss of life at Ferndale in 1867 he was regarded as a good employer