|Wyatt Anderson Daniel, 1907-1942, Dermot Cemetery, Hugoton, Stevens, Kansas|
Today’s Tombstone Tuesday is about Wyatt Anderson DANIEL. It’s also about hidden sacrifice, synchronicity, and wonders of genealogy on the Internet.
My mother-in-law died long before I met my husband. When I started to research his family, he told me he thought his mother’s first husband had died in a mine accident, perhaps in Colorado, and his name was Wyatt.
I searched, without success and using a variety of names, and decided to concentrate the Curtises, his mother’s line. They are a prolific and amazing family who settled Connecticut in the mid-seventeenth century and then moved across the country, finding time, it seems, to have a family member at every major historical event in the history of the United States.
So when we decided to take a big road trip last spring, I was determined to go through southwest Kansas where my husband had grown up. As I searched findagrave.com before we departed, I realized there was a small private cemetery on his family’s ranchland and I determined to go there first.
More searches revealed that my husband’s great-grandparents, who had raised his orphaned mother from the age of 9, were buried there. A few more keystrokes and my digital visit to the Dermot Cemetery revealed one Wyatt Daniel, who was buried right next to the Sauls. The elusive first husband was found.
With the death date from the grave marker, I quickly found an article about the accident and his obituary in the Hugoton library when we visited.
Wyatt Daniel was a rancher, but the Dust Bowl of Kansas was not kind to him or his wife, Etta Margaret CURTIS DANIEL. Unable to make farming pay, they left for the Western Slope of Colorado.
They ended up in a town called Uravan – the name is a contraction of uranium vanadium. There they eked out a living until that fateful Saturday morning in 1942, when Wyatt Daniel died working in the powerhouse at the mine that provided part of the uranium needed by the Manhattan Project for the first atomic bomb.
|Hugoton Hermes, 7 Mar 1942, p. 1|
I was determined to visit Uravan until a visit to Wikipedia told me that the town no longer exists. Designated a Superfund toxic site, the town was demolished during a massive cleanup that lasted from 1986 to 2001. All that’s left is an historic marker by the side of the highway that once led to the town.
And that was it until The New Yorker recently ran an excellent piece on Uravan called "The Uranium Widows," by Peter Hessler. The reflections of the former Uravan residents who recount stories of living and working there and recall their lost community with longing were fascinating to me. And as Hessler notes, perhaps the greatest irony is that Uravan has been obliterated, while Hiroshima and Nagasaki are now both thriving cities.
I longed to know more about Wyatt Daniel and Ancestry came to my rescue. His niece is an avid genealogist and she generously shared her family tree; fond stories about Wyatt, born 1 Jan 1907 and his twin sister Winnie, who was born on 31 Dec 1906; more stories of Wyatt and Peggy; and a photograph of them on their wedding day.
Margaret Curtis Daniel went on to marry twice more. But she told my husband Wyatt Daniel was the love of her life. And now at least we know who he was and how he died.