Samuel Davies was born in 1723 in New Castle County, Delaware. At age 15 he "made a profession of religion" and studied the classics, science and theology under the Rev. Samuel Blair at his school at Faggs Manor in Pennsylvania. In 1746, at age 23, he was licensed and in 1747 was ordained an evangelist by the New Castle Presbytery. He went to Hanover, VA, near Richmond, where he ministered with considerable success to seven Presbyterian congregations despite the opposition of the established Church of England in the colony.
In 1753 the Synod of New York, at the request of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), sent Davies and Gilbert Tennent to Great Britain to raise funds for that institution. In 1759 he was chosen to succeed Jonathan Edwards as president of the College of New Jersey. He held that position for about 18 months until his death in 1761.