Percy Daniels, former lieutenant governor of the state of Kansas, a lieutenant colonel from the war of the rebellion, one of the ablest and most statesman-like reasoners and thinkers on present-day political problems, is one of the honored pioneers of Crawford county. Like Cincinnatus of old, he enjoys and devotes himself heartily to the simple routine of country life, and is drawn from the plow only when some crisis in the political situation demands, or when he sees the need of clear and logical exposition to guide his fellow-citizens through the rocks of economic and national polity. He is everywhere recognized as a man of sound judgment, unswerving integrity, kindness of heart, indomitable courage and persistency, and strong will power. No one could mistake his intensity and zeal for fanaticism, for he arrives at his conclusions by thorough reasoning and deep experience, but, once his mind is set to the right as he sees it, he is a rock of Gibraltar, unmoved and immovable. Not only Crawford county but the entire state is honored by the presence among its citizens of such a man as Colonel Daniels, without mention of whom a history of Crawford county in particular would be very incomplete.
Colonel Daniels was the second son of Judge David and Nancy (Ballou) Daniels, the latter a daughter of Dexter Ballou, a pioneer woolen manufacturer of Rhode Island. Percy was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, September 17, 1840, and was left an orphan at the age of six years. He was not a rugged lad, but managed to complete a common school and academic education. While he was studying engineering at Providence a long spell of sickness compelled him to give up his studies, and he was with relatives at Worcester, Massachusetts, during the months of his slow convalescence. About this time there was an incident that well illustrates an element of character conspicuous throughout the career of Mr. Daniels. Among the mathematical books he used at school was one of a thousand sums and problems, without a rule or formula; in school he had failed to solve seven of these problems, but while sick and unable to write he completely solved the remaining examples without writing a figure. The last and longest one took three days, and just as he finished it a blood vessel broke above his eye. Mr. Daniels' literary education was completed at the Westminster Seminary in Vermont and at the University grammar school in Providence.
He was eager to enter the ranks when the rebellion broke out, but health would not permit. Yet he became captain of the home guard and gave much attention to the study of tactics and military operations. He spent the winter of 1861-62 in the pineries of Michigan, where he restored much of his strength, and in the following May he enlisted in the Seventh Rhode Island Volunteers and opened a recruiting office at Woonsocket. A commission as second lieutenant was given him on July 26, and as first lieutenant on September 4. He was soon in command of Company E, which he had been largely instrumental in raising, and on March 1, 1863, he was commissioned captain. On June 29, 1864, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the regiment, but the records of the war department show that he was in command of the regiment from May 18, 1864. In fact, when serving as fourth captain he was promoted over his seniors to the command of the regiment. In absence of the commanding colonel he had command of the regiment until it was mustered out of service. He was brevetted colonel to date from July 30, 1864. Colonel Daniels was never absent from his company or regiment during an engagement, and did not even avail himself of two leaves of absence which he received, but which came at a time when battle was imminent. He was never wounded, although repeatedly horses were shot from under him and bullets pierced his clothing. Among the battles in which he participated with credit to himself and such gallantry and courage as have marked all his subsequent career, were those of Fredericksburg, battles in the western territory, before Vicksburg, Jackson, Mississippi; again with the Army of the Potomac in the conflicts before Petersburg, battles of Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and various operations at Petersburg, and leading up to the fall of Richmond and the surrender at Appomattox.
After the war Colonel Daniels was in Kentucky and Tennessee doing prospecting and railroad work, and the appreciation in which his service in the army was held by his superiors is shown by the following letter from General Burnside, that he received just before going south: "I desire before parting with you to express to you my sincere thanks for the generous, loyal, efficient and gallant service you have always rendered me during our long service together. I know of no one who deserves better of his country than you. You will carry with you my sincere prayer for your health, happiness and prosperity. I am sure that the same energy, talent, loyalty and gentlemanly deportment that have made you one of our best officers will make you a useful citizen and a kind friend to the community in which you settle."
Colonel Daniels was not satisfied with conditions in the south, and after making a tour of inspection in southeastern Kansas he decided to make it his home. He took to himself a life partner, and then came to Kansas and settled on the so-called Neutral Lands, at Crawfordsville. He took up a claim four miles northwest of the present site of Girard. and while breaking and putting this land into shape for a productive farmstead, he opened and conducted a country store. He later sold his store, and his principal occupations since that time have been farming his beautiful "Narragansett" farm and surveying and civil engineering. His career as a civil engineer has been a noteworthy success, and he has accomplished several praiseworthy undertakings and held some responsible positions.
In 1873 he accepted a position in the city engineering department of Worcester, Massachusetts, and lived in that city until 1879, for the last several years rising to the position of city engineer. He did much for municipal growth and improvement while in that city, and in connection with his services the Worcester Spy, in an editorial on January 30, 1878, said: "The report to which these remarks refer is, of course, that of the retiring engineer, General Percy Daniels, whose sagacity and good judgment, as well as his professional accomplishments, have been of great use to the city." Colonel Daniels became unpopular with the administration and the appointive power of the city on account of his insistent opposition to "graft" of all kinds and to public improvement for private benefit, and he accordingly terminated his connection in 1878.
For the following two years he was again a resident of Providence, Rhode Island, attending to the settlement of a brother's estate and also a part of the time engaged in civil engineering. He returned with his family to his Kansas farm in the spring of 1881, and has been a continuous resident of Crawford county since that time. He was engaged in railroad work for two years, and held the position of county surveyor of Crawford county for five years.
Colonel Daniels became interested in political problems and especially the causes affecting the depressing condition among Kansas farmers in 1888, and his deep study led him to many expressions of opinion in the press and by pamphlet. In the course of that year an open letter appeared under his name, containing the "seven cardinal points of his political faith," in which he demanded the Australian ballot system, restriction of immigration, and a graduated tax on the estates of millionaires, and asked the Republican party to endorse these demands. In 1889 appeared the since famous pamphlets entitled "A Crisis for the Husbandmen," which was a course of lectures delivered at the invitation of the Grange, which exerted wide influence on Kansas politics for a number of years. His continued investigations led him to repudiate the hypocrisy of the Republican party, which he had supported for twenty-nine years. In January, 1890, he purchased the Girard Herald for the purpose of promulgation of his beliefs. He kept the matter before the people until some of his specific propositions were adopted by the county conventions of the People's party, after which he sold his paper and retired to his farm.
In the People's party convention at Wichita, June 17, 1892, he was nominated for the office of lieutenant governor. He was not present at the convention, but the enthusiasm of his supporters and the recognition of his value to the party ticket soon impressed themselves on the members, and before the third ballot was completed the name of Daniels was hailed with acclamation for the place. He was elected in the fall, and gave a most efficient administration.
Colonel Daniels has held a high place in the state military of Kansas. Governor Osborn appointed him brigadier general of the Third Brigade of Kansas militia, and Governor Lewelling appointed him major general of the Kansas National Guard for 1893 and 1894, but he was not relieved until February 22, 1895. In this connection he performed a most important service during the strike of the coal miners of southeastern Kansas, which had resulted in serious disturbances and some bloodshed. Colonel Daniels was also lieutenant governor at the time. He held a long interview with the strike leaders and informed them that the laws of the commonwealth must be obeyed and authority upheld. He then recommended to the governor at Topeka that the state forces be employed to preserve peace. There was a disagreement as to methods at the conference of officials, and about one o'clock in the morning the governor turned to Mr. Daniels and said: "I am going home and go to bed, and I turn the whole matter over to you to do as you think best." One of the cardinal views of Mr. Daniels, and one that he had set forth in a campaign speech, was that "the prime object of laws is the assurance of individual rights and the protection, of life and property, and it is essential for the good of all classes that the laws be enforced against all classes alike. * * * And that the official must be guided by this principle however much his duties may be repugnant to his preferences or hostile to his sympathies."
He therefore at once ordered the adjutant general to assemble eleven companies of National Guards at their armories with three days' rations. Most of them were ready to move at daylight, and in consequence the strike was settled in twenty-four hours, without more trouble. General Daniels at the end of the year made a full report to the governor of the strike, and the documents referring thereto were published in full in the daily papers at the time, but in the state documents published one year later that part of the report referring to the importance of an impartial enforcement of the law was stricken out.
Colonel Daniels has in many ways which there is not space here to detail been an influential force in county, state and national politics. He is the originator of the graduated property tax, and has been constantly the reasoning yet determined opponent of cheap, imported labor, trust and corporation combinations in restraint of trade, monopolistic extortion, and all plutocratic methods and schemes by which the stability of American institutions are threatened. Far and wide over the country his "Crisis" tracts created a profound impression on all thinking men, and letters came from men prominent in public life throughout the nation expressing their favorable comments on his views and remedies.
Colonel Daniels was for a time a member of George H. Ward Post, G. A. R., of Worcester, Massachusetts, and also of Morning Star Lodge, F. & A. M., of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He also affiliated as a charter member with the blue lodge Masons of Girard, but is not at present connected with any lodge.
Mr. Daniels was married at Leicester, Massachusetts, in June, 1867, to Miss Eliza Ann Eddy, a daughter of Leonard and Isabel (Newton) Eddy. Mr. and Mrs. Daniels have four children: Frederick P. is a civil engineer of Englevale, Kansas; Walter H. is a civil engineer, and at present at home; Elizabeth B. is the wife of William P. Olin, of Girard; and Earle N. is now in college in Pittsburg, and has been teaching for the past four years. There is one grandson, Frederick Harmon Daniels.Pages 479-485 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, in November, 2003.
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