FRANCIS WILLIAM DANIEL. It sometimes happens that the history of a community is largely a reflection of the career of one of its citizens. It is doubtful if the story of any one life would more completely illustrate the early and substantial events in the progress of Ness City than that of Francis William Daniel.
One of the landmarks in that little city is a small building which was Mr. Daniel's office. It was the first structure erected on the townsite and has stood and has become familiar to every man, woman and child of the community since the spring of 1879.
It was during the year 1878 that Mr. Daniel came into this section of Kansas, making three trips altogether. He was with other prospectors who were looking out locations. During one of these trips he met the original settler of Ness City, Ross Calhoun. Calhoun advised him of his intention to lay off a townsite as soon as he proved up his claim. During the third trip Mr. Daniel associated himself for a month with a man named Smith, who was engaged in locating people on claims. After that he went to the Government land office at Hays City with Mr. Calhoun and helped that gentleman prove up his claim. The townsite was immediately surveyed, and Mr. Daniel did his part by carrying one end of the chain.
Having thus participated in the formal ceremony of creating a town on the raw prairie of Western Kansas, he returned to Illinois and spent the winter. Early in 1879 he came out to the townsite, and opened up the first lumber business of the little village. It was then that he erected the office structure above alluded to.
After getting his lumber business established he entered some land in 1880, pre-empting the northwest quarter of section 20, township 18, range 23. His first formal notice of possession was a tent he set up, and that was replaced by a little box house. He remained on the claim only long enough to prove it up. The claim was less than two miles from town, and it was thus possible for him to continue his business in Ness City. The lumber business which he established there thirty-seven years ago is the oldest institution of the town, and is known by the people all over the county as a reliable source of building supplies of all kinds.
During the early years he was in the lumber business there was an occasional order for lumber for the purpose of making coffins. Coffins were made by hand and only as occasion arose for their use. It was Mr. Calhoun's suggestion that Mr. Daniel put in a stock of funeral equipment and goods, and by a somewhat natural process he gravitated into the business of undertaking.
His integrity as a business man and his sterling character stand in the strongest light by his record as a banker. About the time the Santa Fe Railroad was built through Ness City Mr. Daniel became a stockholder in the Ness County Bank. He was made one of the directors at the organization. It was one of the early banks of Western Kansas. Afterward a trust company was organized as an adjunct, and Mr. Daniel became a director in that also. Still another department of the business was a real estate company, with Mr. Daniel on its board of directors. The president of the Ness County Bank and the Trust Company was the active spirit in promoting the establishment of a sugar mill at Ness City. Whatever the merits of that proposition, it proved impossible to sell its bonds, and the bank president then borrowed $60,000 from the Trust Company in order to build the sugar plant. The mill was burned before it was opened for business, and the investment was almost a total loss. Thus the Trust Company lost its loan, failed and that failure weakened the Ness County Bank, so that the president requested that its affairs be wound up by a receivership. It was at this point that Mr. Daniel stepped in. He had lived in Ness City a number of years, intended to make it his permanent home, and had no desire to carry the stigma which would attach to him as one of the bank managers because the depositors were not paid in full. He accordingly resisted the receivership and with such determination and energy that he carried his point. The affairs of the Ness County Bank were liquidated through the Citizens State Bank, of which Mr. Daniel was one of the leading stockholders and directors. In assuming direction of the affairs of the successor of the old bank, Mr. Daniel discovered that the cashier was manipulating the funds and carrying on a speculation with them. The management then dropped the cashier, elected a new one and finally carried off the liquidation to the satisfaction of all concerned. Some considerable prejudice being engendered because of the troubles of the old bank against the second bank, it was decided to organize an institution independent of them both. Thus there came into existence the Citizens State Bank, the immediate predecessor of the Citizens National Bank, of Ness City. Mr. Daniel was a director of the Citizens State Bank and also of the National Bank. The only connection he had with the sugar mill proposition was to subscribe to its stock and lose all the money he invested.
While the lumber business and banking took most of his time, Mr. Daniel was a factor in the stock raising industry on a modest scale. He started with a few cows and finally developed a herd of 200. All the farming he ever did in the county was confined to a half section of land. In his political affiliations he was generally a republican. For a time he voted with the populists, and he felt that the work of the populist organization was a great benefit to Kansas, an opinion now generally shared by every one whether he was a member of the populist organization or not. After the people's party went out of existence he became a regular republican. At one time he was elected mayor of Ness City. He belonged to the Methodist Church, and was a contributor toward the erection of the first building for that denomination in Ness City. At the time he had the remnant of a herd of sheep, and he gave the proceeds of that flock to the benefit of the church.
Mr. Daniel never married. He was the sole surviving representative of his parents' children. He was born in McLean County, about a dozen miles from Bloomington, Illinois, October 29, 1842, receiving his early education in the country schools. From that section of Illinois he went to Kansas, and after a temporary residence in Cloud County, during which time he worked on a farm, he made the several prospecting trips into Ness County in 1878. His father, Lee Daniel, who was a farmer and died in 1864 was of the noted Daniel family of Virginia. Lee Daniel was born near Alexandria in Washington City, and was a relative of Senator Daniel of Virginia. In an early day he went to Ohio, where he married Eliza Smith. Her father, Samuel Smith, was a millwright in Morgan County, Ohio. From Ohio Lee Daniel moved to Illinois and settled in McLean County, where his death occurred when he was about fifty years of age. His widow afterward moved to Woodford County, Illinois. where her son was reared. She died at Danvers, Illinois, only a few years ago. In the family of Lee Daniel and wife were the following children: Mary, who married Carey Huffman and died in Illinois; Henry, who died in Bourbon County, Kansas, leaving a family; Cydnor B., who died leaving children in Illinois; Samuel L., who died in McLean County, Illinois; Francis W.; Martha E., who died in Illinois as the wife of Adam Stevens; Casander E., who married and died in Illinois; and George Wesley, whose death also occurred in Illinois.
Until he reached his majority Francis W. Daniel remained with his mother. On leaving home he engaged as a stock trader, also in building up a good physical constitution, and finally took the opportunity which decided his destiny, joining a family that came out to Kansas nearly forty years ago. As one of the prominent old timers of Western Kansas Mr. Daniel took part in organizing the Old Settlers Association of Ness County. Membership in this organization is confined to those who were in the county on or before June 1, 1880, when the county was organized.
The death of this honored pioneer occurred May 2, 1918.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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