After his family spent 15 months in Omaha, Nebraska (see Reminiscences of Uncle Bob, Part Two), Robert L. Daily reported in an interview when he was about 84 years-old that his family moved to Kansas because “Mother wanted to get back to the farm again, so Dad went lookin’ around again,” and Robert gives a date: “We moved down to Kansas in 1909. So, that was, see, when I was comin’ nine years old. We landed down in March, and ‘course, I was nine years old in May, see.”1 Robert also said that in that year his father’s brother William brought his oldest daughter Inez to live with Robert’s family when they were living in Kansas, and Robert said that Inez looked like her father.2
In the trunk that holds many Daily memorabilia, the portrait below can be found. The photograph is labeled “Wm. J. Daily and C. M. Daily” and in the lower right corner of the image the words “Topeka, Kansas” are embossed below the photographer’s name. It is most likely that this portrait was taken when William brought his daughter to Kansas. William would have been about 47 years-old and Charles, 53 years-old.
One of Charles’ grandsons recalled what his mother Gladys and grandmother Maggie said about the farm: “I can remember my mother talking about a farm in Kansas which had lots of walnuts on it” and they cracked a lot of walnuts.3 Robert identified the location of the farm in his interview:
Uncle Bob: … Kilmer, Kansas was where it was at, just a flag station.
Interviewer: It wasn’t Topeka?
Uncle Bob: Topeka was, was 8 miles from us.
Interviewer: Oh, I see.
Uncle Bob: It was our —
Interviewer: Mom always said Topeka.
Uncle Bob: No, that’s our post office. … We were 8 miles out from Topeka at Kilmer, just a flag station. And uh, we generally went to Meriden, that went the other direction, four miles to Meriden. For, up to, uh —
Interviewer: For shopping?
Uncle Bob: Yeah. ‘Course, we’d go to Topeka for circus or for, and the capitol, see. I can remember going through the capitol in Topeka, Kansas, y’see. Yeah, yeah.4
A flag station is “a railroad station where trains stop only when a flag or other signal is displayed or when passengers are to be discharged.”6 Northeast of Topeka, Kilmer was a small station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad which crossed the southeast corner of Soldier Township in Shawnee County.7 The Daily family may have ridden a train into Topeka to see a circus performance. One of the circuses that was scheduled to perform in Topeka was the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It came to Topeka on September 7, 1909, but the city newspaper reported that the circus couldn’t be set up because of the weather.8 Record-breaking rain (over eight inches) fell that day, flooding the site where the circus was to be set up.9 The following year, the Ringling Brothers Circus arrived on September 5. In the Monday evening issue of the Topeka State Journal, which sold for 2 cents, the following article described the spectacle that the circus provided.
Ringlings’ “Big Top” today is the attraction in Topeka. Sunday the interest was hardly less. Thousands of persons watched the parade which came on time nothwithstanding the rain, with hardly less interest than did an almost equal number see the unloading and transfer of the circus from the Rock Island yards to the Kenwood tract near Fourth and Buchanan streets.
As the pageant was a chain of novel surprises likewise was the trail of wagons and the animals following the arrival. The parade was nearly three miles long and the aforementioned surprises extended from the twenty-four horse band chariot in the lead to the tail end. The rain fell all right and continued during the forenoon, making it difficult for the wagons to leave the grounds.
The show arrived here Sunday morning after some delay, in coming from St. Joseph. About 9 o’clock the first wagon reached Kenwood. Immediately the work of putting up the huge cook tent was started. Stands began to spring up on adjacent property to the main entrance to the grounds between Buchanan and Lincoln streets on Fourth street.
Most of the paraphernalia was transferred in wagons, the majority of them being pulled by six horses each. These were driven out Sixth avenue after having left the Rock Island yards. Arriving at Buchanan street they again turned north to the Kenwood tract. As soon as the wagons left the Buchanan street pavement going onto Fourth street difficulty was experienced. The recent rains had made the unpaved street soft and the wagons mired to the hubs. It was necessary to unload some of them before they could be moved. Others were moved with 22, 24 and even 32 horses.
No sooner than the work of pitching the cook tent was started, crowds began to arrive from all directions. From noon on there was a steady stream of humanity down Buchanan street from Sixth avenue to Kenwod. A baby carriage brigade seemed to have been formed. For two or three hours the day seemed to have been set apart for their display alone. There was grandpa and papa and mamma and uncle and even forty-seventh cousin of each of them. All had a baby. In fact every woman who had a baby to loan was in great demand. That condition seemed not to abate.
Crowd Gets a Ducking.
Pedestrians were not alone in their evidenced curiosity. Car after car reached the tract, all of them packed. Extras were put on and these, too, were filled to capacity. Twenty or thirty spectators got wet when the circus employes stopped at Fifth and Buchanan streets to cool and water the elephants and the polar bears. A hose was attached to the water plug and the operation started. No sooner had the bears been given a bath than the hippopotamus arrived. He had to have a bath, too.
Then was when the fun started. An “accident” occurred. Mr. Keeper intentionally or not allowed the water hose to get away from him. He struggled with the rubber tube which under the pressure of water lunged and pulled and drenched a number of nearby onlookers. Still he struggled manfully. The hose got him down. More persons were drenched. Finally when the crowd had retired to a safe distance he gained control of it again.
Noticeable about the circus aggregation was that of all the employees none of them was given to loud talking or profanity in the time required to get the paraphernalia in its place. Another noticeable thing was that the usual number of hardened men were conspicuously absent. Most of the following was represented in young men appearing to be college students and others of that character.
Features of the Parade.
In the parade some of the remarkable features were teams of elephants, camels, zebras and llamas hitched to ornate tableau floats and driven like horses. It has been supposed that the zebra could not be driven. The Ringlings have proved otherwise. In all nearly 700 horses were exhibited, the most of them Norman Percherons. Many of them were white.
More than 1,200 men, women and children from Australian bushwackers to those advertised as the royalty of Asia and Europe took part. Music was provided by six brass bands, a cathedral organ, a calliope, barbarian orchestras, fife and drum corps, church chimes, trumpeters and Oriental string and reed musicians.10
Besides the circus, Robert mentioned that he had visited the capitol of Kansas in Topeka.
“This sepia colored photograph [below] shows the capitol in Topeka, Kansas. Located on twenty acres of land once owned by Cyrus K. Holliday, work began on October 17, 1855 when the cornerstone was laid for the east wing. Thirty-seven years later the statehouse, an example of French Renaissance architecture and Corinthian details, was completed at a total cost of $3,200,588.92.”11
On April 26, 1910 a census taker visited the Daily family at the farm they were renting in Soldier Township, Shawnee County, Kansas. Charles is mistakenly recorded as being 56 years-old (he was 53), Maggie was 42 years-old. Their five children were living with them: Gladys, age 17; Oranna, 14; Robert, 9; Iona, 7 and Elizabeth, 5.12 In addition, there were also in the household Inez Daily, age 16 and Alpha Bailey, age 20. Inez was the daughter of William Daily, noted above. Alpha was Charles’ nephew, the son of his sister Cynthia, who had come to live with the Dailys in 1908. All of the children, including Gladys and Inez, attended school for a period of time between September 1, 1909 and the end of April 1910. Robert said that Inez went to school for a couple of years and then got married in Kansas.13 Charles and Maggie kept ownership of their house in Omaha and according to the 1910 U. S. census of Omaha, the house was being rented by a bartender named Samuel J. Barth. In the Barth household were his wife Sophia and daughter Edith.14
The same census taker that visited the Daily family also visited a farmer named Lawson Bonnewitz, who owned a farm in Soldier Township.15 Maggie and Lawson were cousins. Jacob Bonewitz (b. 1761) was their great-grandfather. Two of Jacob’s sons were Joseph Bonewitz (b. 1790), who was Lawson’s grandfather, and John Adam Bonewitz (b. 1792), who was Maggie’s grandfather.
One event in Kansas that Robert related was the baptism of two of his sisters:
Uncle Bob: … When we lived in Kansas we was able to go to church more than any place else. ‘Course, we, we had, uh, afternoon services, see.
Interviewer: Oh, uh, circuit rider type.
Uncle Bob: Yeah, and o’ course, a minister came out from, I don’t know where. Meriden or Topeka, one o’ the two. And I guess he was a Baptist minister, see, ‘cuz Gladys and Oranna were both, uh, immersed in the river.
Interviewer: Oh! Uh huh.
Uncle Bob: At that time, … ‘course, they were old enough to be baptized. I think Baptists, when you get right down to it.
Interviewer: I suppose that they —
Uncle Bob: And they don’t believe, didn’t believe in baptizing before 12 years old, see.
Interviewer: Um hmm, um hmm.
Uncle Bob: An’ Oranna an’ Gladys were o’ that age. I didn’t get in on it. See, it was before I was 12 years-old. Either ten or eleven is what I was. I can remember it so well. We, uh, like the, like the song goes, “Shall we gather at the river,” see.
Interviewer: Um hmm, um hmm.
Uncle Bob: And that’s why we gathered at the river and the minister walked in, out in the pasture, down in the pasture of our neighbors.
Interviewer: Um hmm.
Uncle Bob: That’s where we had our meeting, went through there. That’s where Gladys and Oranna —
Interviewer: Was it Omaha then? This would be the Missouri River?
Uncle Bob: No, no, this was just a creek [pronounced crick].
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Uncle Bob: A creek that went through the pasture, down in Kansas.16
Robert may have been referring to a hymn written by Robert Lowry in 1864, entitled, “Shall We Gather at the River?”
- Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
- On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
- Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.
- At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.
- Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.17
On February 8, 1911, Maggie gave birth to another son, Joseph Esli. Sadly, the boy didn’t live to his first birthday. Charles and Maggie buried Joseph in Evergreen Memorial Park in Omaha, where they had buried their first son, who had died in 1899. Robert gives a few details about Joseph’s short life.
Interviewer: But, the baby boy —
Uncle Bob: Oh, Joseph?
Interviewer: Joseph — was born and died in Topeka.
Uncle Bob: Yeah, yeah. … Mother always came up to see Grandma, once a year, around Christmas time, see. And ‘course, other years Iona an’ Elizabeth, your mother, would come up, too. But when Joseph was born and a baby, she wanted the baby to, Grandma to see the baby, see. Joseph. And o‘ course, ah, that year was the time that I, Joseph and I came up with her.
Interviewer: You mean up to Omaha.
Uncle Bob: Yeah, up to Omaha. See, he was born in 1911. Passed away in January 1912.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Uncle Bob: That was Joseph, he was just ‘leven months old. … but we’d been up to Omaha, and got back, and then he’d got the croup. And ah, he was a little weak anyway in the spine. He never had set up, really. He was happy. He’d lay on the lounge and watch us kids play on the floors and that. But when it come to this here getting the croup. So, why, that’s when —
Interviewer: Went into pneumonia, I suppose.
Uncle Bob: Yeah, suppose. In those days, that’s what they called it. Lungs filled up some, I guess.18
For years the details were somewhat of a mystery regarding when and how Charles and Maggie’s youngest daughter’s name came to be Elizabeth J. Best Viola Daily. Since no one has been able to locate a birth record for Elizabeth, it is unclear whether she had that name at her birth or if she acquired the name later. One of Elizabeth’s children thought that she had been given money to carry on the name of a woman named Elizabeth J. Best, another thought the woman’s name was J. Best and that property was involved.
Early in 2019 one of Elizabeth’s children was searching through old items that are kept in the trunk which has been previously mentioned and “… he came across some interesting info. Mom stayed with someone in Indiana and went to school. He came up with the name Stults and money being passed back and forth. I suggested this may be the money Mom received for being named after Elizabeth J Best. This morning I typed Elizabeth J Best in the internet search line and came up with Elizabeth J Stults Best.”19 The source of this name was the Find-a-Grave memorial page of Elizabeth J. Best (nee Stults) of Huntington County, Indiana.20 The webpage identifies the cemetery where she was buried, it is the same cemetery where one of Maggie’s brothers is buried,21 as well as her maternal grandparents Harman and Barbara Smith22,23 and her great-grandfather Jacob Flora (Barbara’s father).24
In August 2019, I found a document accessible on Ancestry.com that revealed some intriguing details. It is the will of Elizabeth J. Best, dated October 26, 1910. In the will, Elizabeth J. Best Daily of Omaha, Nebraska, is named as an heir. Additionally, in March 2020, when listening to Robert’s interview, some more details came to light:
Uncle Bob: … Elizabeth was heir to some money back East.
Interviewer: I heard about that.
Uncle Bob: See, uh, Elizabeth Best was her name. And, Grandma’s name was Josephine Smith, as they went to school together.
Uncle Bob: But they didn’t have no, no middle names, see. So, Grandma took the name of — Elizabeth’s initial, E. She was Josephine E. Bonewitz, that’s her married [name]. And Best took, took, uhh —
Interviewer: Josephine, took the J.
Uncle Bob: Yeah, took the J. And she was, that’s the reason, she got the name Elizabeth J. Best, see.
Uncle Bob: See, that’s the way she picked that up.
Interviewer: And this was a school friend of Josephine Smith? Okay.
Uncle Bob: Yes, that’s right, and she was very wealthy. O’ course, as I mentioned, ever’thin’ ended up, why, she [Robert’s sister Elizabeth] lived with the woman at the time in 1912. Elizabeth was born in 1905, 7 years old.
Interviewer: Um hmm.
Uncle Bob: And, o’ course, uh then, ahh, all the time she was goin’ to school afterwards – the Elizabeth Best, or Elizabeth J. Best, ahh, had a friend, I can’t say what his name was, the lawyer, the lawyer, friend lawyer. And he was bound and determined that her word was law, see, ever’thin’ she said. And Elizabeth’s other relatives tried to, tried to break the, uh —
Interviewer: The will.
Uncle Bob: — the will. He stuck in there and o’ course all the while she was goin’ to school, up ‘til she was 18, why, anythin’ needed for school, that’d come off the, off her inheritance.
Interviewer: Well, she had quite an inheritance, then!
Uncle Bob: I don’t know what it was, I never knew what it was. I just know that she uh, afterwards when she come home, why, ‘course that’s what really put Willis on his feet there, because ahh, when she inherited that money, why ‘o course, uh, they bought out, uh — I can’t say what his name was down there —
Interviewer: He bought down in that Grover area.
Uncle Bob: Down in Grover area, see. An’ o’ course, she gave each of us fifty dollars. I think somewhere roun’ twenty-five hundred dollars is what she got. ‘Course, at that time, was pretty good money.25
Elizabeth Stults was born in Stark County, Ohio,26 the same county in which Josephine Smith was born. Both of their families moved to Huntington County, Indiana.27,28 Robert explains that they were school mates. When Elizabeth Stults got married, she added a middle initial “J” to her name, becoming Elizabeth J. Best. And when Josephine Smith got married, she added the middle initial “E” to her name, becoming Josephine E. Bonewitz.
Best’s husband Joseph C. Best had passed away seven years before she wrote her will and their only two children had died in infancy.29 So, at the time of the writing of her will, Best had no direct heirs. Her will names 11 people as heirs, including Josephine’s granddaughter, Elizabeth J. Best Daily.
The date that the will was probated was April 21, 1911. Along the edges of the will there is an accounting of when funds were distributed to the heirs. The first distribution was October 24, 1914 and the last was December 23, 1916. Each time a distribution is noted for Elizabeth J. Best Daily, it is received by a person named M. B. Stults. It appears that this was the guardian for young Elizabeth. Perhaps this is the friend or lawyer to which Robert referred in the interview. Robert’s explanation clears up some questions, including the name of the woman, and confirmation that there was money given, and he also provides information as to why property was attached to the mystery.
On January 12, 1913, Maggie’s father, John Esli Bonewitz, passed away in Omaha. About thirteen years earlier, when Charles and Maggie’s baby died two days after its birth, Charles had bought a lot in Evergreen Memorial Park (Section A, Block 26, Lot 3). Their son Joseph Esli was buried in that lot on January 5, 1912, and Maggie’s father was buried there on January 14, 1913 alongside the two sons.
Presently, in the cemetery lot, there are no grave markers for the un-named baby nor for Joseph Esli. The interment record states that Joseph Esli was buried in grave #7 and John Esli was buried in grave #4. It doesn’t indicate the location of the un-named baby, but a very helpful employee of the cemetery diagramed the lot, and there is a high probability that the baby was buried in grave #8.
Two months after Maggie’s father passed away, the Daily family moved back to Omaha again. In the next blogpost, Uncle Bob will continue his reminiscences of the next two years while they resumed living there.
1 M. R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview by R. Thiele, recording (ca. 1984): 6.
2 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 13 & 16.
3 L. A. Bevers, personal communication with M. R. Wilson, August 10, 2010 and November 24, 2010.
4 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 22-23.
7 James L. King, ed., History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens (Chicago: Richmond & Arnold, 1905): 55, https://ia902604.us.archive.org/7/items/historyofshawnee00king/historyofshawnee00king.pdf.
8 “Big Show Goes By,” The Topeka State Journal, September 7, 1909, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1909-09-07/ed-1/seq-1/.
9 “Eight-Inch Rain,” The Topeka State Journal, September 7, 1909, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1909-09-07/ed-1/seq-1/.
10 “Big Show Is Here,” The Topeka State Journal, September 5, 1910, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1910-09-05/ed-1/seq-5/.
12 “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJZ-GJ1?cc=1727033&wc=QZZQ-PF3%3A133640801%2C140502701%2C134349501%2C1589089094 : 24 June 2017), Kansas > Shawnee > Soldier > ED 140 > image 8 of 22; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
13 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 14-15.
14 “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RVD-94BH?cc=1727033&wc=QZZW-D1C%3A133641701%2C133718401%2C136867001%2C1589089011 : 24 June 2017), Nebraska > Douglas > Omaha Ward 11 > ED 81 > image 15 of 30; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
15 “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RJZ-GRH?cc=1727033&wc=QZZQ-PF3%3A133640801%2C140502701%2C134349501%2C1589089094 : 24 June 2017), Kansas > Shawnee > Soldier > ED 140 > image 20 of 22; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
16 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 21-22.
17 Robert Lowry, “Shall We Gather at the River?,” 1864, Timeless Truths, https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Shall_We_Gather_at_the_River/.
18 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 6.
19 E. J. Jones, email communication with M. R. Wilson, February 2, 2019.
20 “Elizabeth J Stults Best,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63599577/elizabeth-j-best.
21 “Rosco Neff Bonewitz,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62071397/rosco-neff-bonewitz.
22 “Harman Smith,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62815250/harman-smith.
23 “Barbara Marguet Flora Smith,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62071353/barbara-marguet-smith.
24 “Jacob Flora,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62852349/jacob-flora.
25 Wilson, Robert Lee Daily Interview: 7-8.
26 “Joseph C. Best,” Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, Ind. (Chicago: B. F. Bowen, 1901): 587.
27 “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QMQ-QDH?cc=1401638&wc=95RX-2JQ%3A1031336301%2C1031975601%2C1031975602 : 9 April 2016), Indiana > Huntington > Huntington county > image 49 of 194; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
28 “United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YBY-65K?cc=1473181&wc=7QK5-RD2%3A1589426070%2C1589426540%2C1589423705 : 24 March 2017), Indiana > Huntington > Huntington > image 41 of 41; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
29 “Joseph C Best,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/61993911/joseph-c-best.