Today’s Tombstone Tuesday is about Wyatt Anderson DANIEL, who died in Uravan, Colorado, in 1942. It’s also about unheralded loss, synchronicity, and wonders of genealogy on the Internet.
My mother-in-law died long before I met my husband. He told me his mother’s first husband had died in an accident, perhaps in a mine, and his name was Wyatt, and they had been very happy together.
I searched, without success and using a variety of names, and decided to concentrate the Curtises, his mother’s line. They are a prolific family who settled Connecticut in the early 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. Quite a contrast to my polyglot assortment of nineteenth-century immigrants.
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 cemetery on his family’s ranchland.
My husband’s great-grandparents, who had raised their orphaned granddaughter 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, who died in a mine accident. 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 1930s Depression Dust Bowl 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 the elements uranium and 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 operated as part of the war effort.
I was determined to visit Uravan until I found out it was designated a Superfund toxic site and 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 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 found his niece. She generously shared fond stories about Wyatt, born 1 Jan 1907 and his twin sister Winnie, who was born on 31 Dec 1906 and happy stories about Wyatt and my husband’s mother, as well as 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.