There is probably no better known of the real pioneers of Wyoming living today than William Daley of Rawlins. Not of the pioneers who followed the railroad into the country, but one of those who cast their fortune with that portion of the western frontier now the state of Wyoming before the Union Pacific was anywhere near the present borders of the state. During the more than fifty-two years of his identification with the growth and development of this country he has not only been an eye witness but a participant in the stirring events of the various periods of its history, with an experience and distinction that few living today can claim.
William Daley was born June 13, 1844. at St. Johns, New Brunswick, being one of a family of nine children, whose parents were Richard and Eliza (Daley) Daley, both natives of Ireland, but who in early life emigrated to Canada and became residents of New Brunswick, where the father engaged in farming and stock raising throughout his active life. William Daley attended the public schools of his native country, later taking up the trade of shipbuilding, a business that was extensively carried on in that locality, and which he followed at Black River and other shipbuilding points. In the spring of 1866 he was one of a party that left New Brunswick for the Rocky mountain country in the States. They reached St. Joseph. Missouri, by rail, then went up the Missouri to Nebraska City, where young Daley entered the employ of a freighting outfit owned by Coe & Carter–that was carrying freight to Fort Mitchell. Shortly after reaching the latter place he hired out to another freighting concern–A. C. Beckwith, Joe Sanders and Judge Kinney, who were taking sutler's supplies and other material to Fort Phil Kearney, then building on the Bozeman trail. This meant a journey of nearly three hundred miles across country, along which there was not a white resident save at the forts, and much of the distance was through a country infested by hostile Indians. Fort Phil Kearney was reached in midsummer of 1866, and there Mr. Daley entered the employ of the government, working at his trade. It is an important chapter in the history of this section of the west: these events surrounding Fort Phil Kearney during its erection and the first year of its existence. These events are not only a matter of government record, but have been faithfully described by able writers who, like Mr. Daley, were living at the fort during this time. "Army Life on the Plains." by Frances C. Carrington (1910), is largely given to a description of the events during a part of the time that Mr. Daley was there.
Fort Phil Kearney was one of the posts erected along a new wagon road through the Powder River country around the Big Horn mountains, with the object of shortening the route to Montana. This project was bitterly opposed by Red Cloud, a leader of the young warriors of the northern Sioux and the other principal chiefs. In June, 1866, a conference had been held at Fort Laramie, where an effort was made to have these chiefs yield the privilege of peaceably establishing the new road with military posts along the route. These negotiations came to an abrupt end when the government decided to go ahead with the plan regardless of its opposition by the tribes whose best hunting grounds were to be invaded and who were quick to perceive that it meant practically the permanent advent of the white man. The leading chiefs left the council with their adherents, returned to their own country and with a strong force of warriors began a vigorous and relentless war against all whites, citizens as well as soldiers, who attempted to occupy the route in question. Fort Phil Kearney seemed to be the post that more than any other was the object of attack by these savages. All during the summer and fall of 1866 while the work of building the fort was being pushed as rapidly as possible, scarcely a day passed but what some one of the fort attaches or members of the garrison was wounded or killed by the Indians from ambush. The wood train, the sawmill crew or those at work in the hay field, were constantly in danger of their lives since their work was not within the confines of the fort. The hay field (four miles distant) was picketed the entire distance. It is doubtful if ever a post on the western frontier was continually harassed during the period of construction as was that of Fort Phil Kearney. With the completion of the structure, flag raising day came on October 31st. The flagpole (pronounced by Gen. Carrington, the commander, as being the handsomest in America) stood one hundred and twenty-four feet high and was largely the product of William Daley's mechanical skill. The flag at its top that day was the first full "Garrison Flag" that ever floated between the Platte and Montana, and Mr. Daley had the honor of hoisting it for the first time. In his address on that occasion. General Carrington referred to the “beautiful pole, perfect in detail as if wrought and finished in the navy yards of New York, Philadelphia or Boston.” The subsequent events connected with the life at Fort Phil Kearney during the remaining period of Mr. Daley's stay there are fullv mentioned elsewhere in this work and include the fight of December 6, when Lieutenant Bingham and Sergeant Bowers were among the slain, also the Fetterman Massacre on December 21, which ranks as one of the most tragic events in the Indian warfare of the west.
In January, 1867, Mr. Daley was included among a number that were transferred from Fort Phil Kearney to other posts and on the 23d of that month the party, with an escort of forty infantry and twenty cavalry, together with many empty wagons that were to return from Fort Reno with supplies for Fort Phil Kearney, all under the command of Lieutenant Alpheus H. Bowman, started from Fort Phil Kearney. This was probably one of the most strenuous journeys ever undertaken by a military party in the state. Deep snow, immense drifts, bitter cold during which the mercury congealed in the bulb, and at every halt precaution–necessary to prevent a surprise attack by the Indians! Very few, if any member, of the party there was but who suffered more or less exposure. At Mud Springs Mr. Daley was severely attacked by snow blindness, which completely deprived him of his sight, and was accompanied by excruciating pain for several days. The entire journey to Fort McPherson, which was Mr. Daley's destination, was one ever to be remembered. The thousands and thousands of buffalo seen on the journey caused even the veteran plainsmen to admit they had never before seen these animals so numerous.
Mr. Daley was employed at his trade in the rebuilding of Fort McPherson until he went into business for himself in delivering wood to the Union Pacific road, employing his own team in the work. Later going to Cheyenne, he entered the employ of the Union Pacific, working at his trade of carpenter, and before long was given charge of a gang. Mr. Daley was present at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, when "the completion of the Union Pacific Railway was celebrated. From 1871 to 1877 he was assistant superintendent of buildings and waterworks for the company between Cheyenne and Ogden. In the latter year he left the employ of the railroad and located in Rawlins, where he engaged in the contracting and lumber business, as well as becoming the first furniture dealer in the city. His business also included retail ice and coal. These projects were profitably conducted, and as his capital increased he became connected with other lines. About 1882 he became connected with the ranch business, first with a desert claim of two hundred and eighty-acres, from which modest beginning the great Daley ranch of today is the outgrowth. Until 1892 his ranch interests were confined to cattle and horses, since when the sheep industry has been extensively followed. From time to time Mr. Daley has relinquished his interests other than ranching and banking. The former have attained extensive proportions and the Daley ranch now includes about twenty-four thousand acres, and the Red Desert property about forty thousand acres, with Table Rock as headquarters. These interests have been incorporated as The William Daley Company, with William Daley as president and William W. Daley as general manager. The Daley ranch, fourteen miles west of Rawlins along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad, is one of the finest ranch properties in this section of the west. The stock barn, a modern structure eighty-eight by one hundred feet, is one of the largest in the state. The station of Daley's Ranch on this line was named for it. During the presidential campaign of 1900, Theodore Roosevelt and a party of fifty-two other prominent men of national and state reputation were over-Sunday guests of Mr. Daley at the ranch. Several years later, while Mr. Daley was the guest of President Roosevelt in Washington, when presented to Mrs. Roosevelt, the president remarked: “This is the gentleman you have heard me speak of and at whose home in Wyoming I had the grandest dinner I ever sat down to.”
In the latter '80s, in company with I. C. Miller, J. C. Davis, John W. Hugus and others, Mr. Daley organized the First National Bank of Rawlins and was for some years a director of that institution. Later he disposed of his interests therein, and on January 1, 1899, was one of the organizers of the Rawlins State Bank, which on June 9, 1900, became the Rawlins National Bank. Mr. Daley served as vice president until 1913, when he became president, a relationship that he has since maintained. The Rawlins National Bank was organized with a fifty thousand dollar capital, which has since been twice increased and now stands at one hundred thousand dollars. Its growth has been steady and continues, and it now ranks with the strongest and best managed financial institutions in the state. Mr. Daley's connection with banking institutions in Rawlings has not only been marked by their substantial growth and progress but has extended through a longer period than that of any of his contemporaries.
On December 15. 1871, Mr. Daley was united in marriage at Salt Lake to Miss Rhoda S. Tilden, born at Allegany, Cattaraugus county. New York, on July 14, 1854, a daughter of Samuel J. and Loretta (Bywater) Tilden. The father was a cousin of Samuel J. Tilden, who was, in 1876, presidential candidate on the democratic ticket. The father of Mrs. Daley was engaged in the lumber business in different sections of the west, having migrated there with his family before the Union Pacific was completed across the state of Wyoming. Mr. and Mrs. Daley have become the parents of six children. Their eldest, William W., born in Evanston, Wyoming, is a graduate of the high school of Rawlins and has since been extensively engaged in stock raising in this state, where he is well known and has served in the state senate. He married Miss Margaret E. Edwards, of Rawlins, on the 12th of January, 1901. She is a daughter of William and Rose Edwards and was born at Woodstock, Ontario. By her marriage she has become the mother of a son, Percy Edward, who was born in Rawlins, November 11, 1902, and is now attending high school in his native city. The second of the family is Mrs. J. A. Hobbs. who was born in Rawlins, where her husband is a well known merchant. They have two sons, William A. and Harry J. Hobbs. Etta M. Daley became the wife of E. F. Steward and has one child, Edgar Perce, who was born in Rawlins. Perce E. Daley, born in Rawlins, graduated from the high school and is now in the Engineering Corps of the United States Army. Florence, now Mrs. G. B. Weller, born in Rawlins and a graduate of the high school, has become by her marriage the mother of three children, George B., Rhoda and Ruth. John R., born in Rawlins and a graduate of the high school, is now engaged in the brokerage business in Sacramento, Cahfornia.
Mr. and Mrs. Daley are members of the Episcopal church and are prominent in the social circles of the city, having many warm friends throughout Rawlins and this section of the state. William Daley is one of the best known Masons in the state. He was the first Master Mason raised in Evanston Lodge, U. D., March 14, 1876: worshipfull master, Rawlins Lodge, 1882; grand master, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, 1888; grand treasurer from 1899 to the present time; Chapter, Royal Arch, May 9, 1886; Knight Templar, Ivanhoe Commandery, 1886; Eminent Commander. Ivanhoe Commandery, Knights Templar, 1892; Grand Commander, Wyoming, 1889-90; A. A. Scottish Rite. 1894; elected K. C. C. H. February, 1897; Potentate. Korein Temple, A. A. O, N. Mystic Shrine, 1896-97; honorary life member, Imperial Council, A. A. O. N. Mystic Shrine, 1916; Emeritus Member Imperial Council, A. A. O. N. Mystic Shrine, 1916; October 30, 1912, he was made honorary member of Medinah Temple, A, A. O. N. M. S., of Chicago, Illinois.
For two terms he served as mayor of Rawlins and was for two terms a member of the Wyoming territorial council; while for several terms he represented his district in the state legislature and has left the impress of his individuality, ability and public spirit upon the laws of the state. Mr. Daley has been one of the "wheel horses'" of the republican party in Wyoming for a great many years and has twice declined to become the party's candidate for governor. However, he has worked and contributed toward the success of the party at all times. He is a self-made man, who owes his advancement entirely to his individual effort, merit and ability. On removing to the west his cash capital was less than one dollar, while at the present time he has become one of the important factors in the business circles of the state, ranking very high in connection with banking interests, and at the same time has found opportunity to render valuable public service to the commonwealth. Forty-two years after the flag-raising incident at Fort Phil Kearney a reunion of the survivors of those present on October 31, 1866, was held on the site of the old fort. The services on this occasion were most appropriate and included the hoisting by Mr. Daley of the identical flag that forty-two years before he had unfurled to the breeze at Fort Phil Kearney. This flag had in the meantime been presented to him by General Carrington, the commander of the fort, and is yet in Mr. Daley's possession as a most cherished souvenir of a period in Wyoming's history of which there are but very few survivors.
His acquaintance has included the prominent men of Wyoming for fifty years and today there are few men in the state in public or private life who are any better known. He is well preserved in mind and body, considering all he had to undergo in his early days but his natural robust physique has helped him greatly, for as a young man of twenty-one he weighed two hundred and thirty-five pounds, standing six feet three and one-half inches.