Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

David Moroni Daniels

David Moroni Daniels

David Daniels was born 26 March 1859 at Brigham City in Utah Territory. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Davis Daniels, both immigrants from Wales who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mary’s father had died during the immigration in 1849 by the Missouri River when she was only thirteen. Thomas’ family was one of the first families to later settle in Malad, Idaho in the 1860s. Malad was known as a “Welsh” town, and even today contains more Welsh DNA than any other area in the world outside of Wales. Much of this Welsh heritage has migrated into the Arbon Valley.

It was a time of high mortality for both mothers and babies. David’s mother Mary died in 1866 at age thirty when David was just eight years old. She and her baby, David’s brother, died on the same day when the baby was just a day old. Mary left behind six living children, the oldest being twelve years old and the youngest being almost three. Just over a year later, David’s father Thomas married Janette Marie Thomas who was a widow with five children. She too was of Welsh descent, having been born there. Janette and her new husband went on to eventually have eight more children of their own.

Women had to be tough back then – this marriage meant thirteen people gathered to eat at every meal, in addition to all the hired men helping on the ranch.  The newly-formed family resided in a two-room log home with a dirt roof where grasses grew on the roof to hold the sod soil in place – you can imagine that during hard rains, this kind of roof didn’t keep out much of the moisture. In addition, it was a breeding ground for snakes, mice, and bugs.

A log granary on the property stored not only grain but was also where the boys slept. The girls slept in the house on the floor on straw ticks, rolling up the bedding each morning to make room for daily living. By all accounts, they were a happy, industrious family. Interestingly enough, later on two of the brothers, David and his brother Thomas, ended up marrying two sisters from their stepmother’s family, so the brothers married their step-sisters.

David married his step-sister, Gertrude Grace Dives, on 26 April 1880 in Malad when he was twenty-two and she was just sixteen. Together they had eight children: Walter, 1881; David Albert, 1883; Mary Pearl, 1884; Eli Moroni, 1887 (future father of Zella Daniels Bolingbroke); Anna Eliza, 1888; Jennette, 1894; Sarah Mabel, 1895; and Oscar Lamar, 1905. All the children were born in Malad.

David came into the Bannock Valley (now Arbon Valley) in March of 1885 when he was twenty-seven. It was still winter there at that time. The snow lay deep on the valley floor, and terrible blizzards were often portended – anyone new to Arbon soon learns that the blizzards coming from the west are the most to be feared, and can often last for days. However, the area around West Fork was known for having slightly more tempered weather there than farther south in the valley.

The first legal mention of David Daniels was in 1887 when he was granted a water right on the Bannock Creek drainage. The water came from the West Fork, at the north west end of the valley, where there is a large flowing spring back close to the mountain. The area between the spring and what is now the Arbon Highway became known as the Big Meadow. Dave’s place was above (north) the mouth of West Fork on Bannock Creek.  In 1934, the U.S. government reclaimed this land for the Bannock-Shoshone Reservation. Before the government took back the land in 1934, there were many families homesteading there, and even at one time a log school house in which the LDS Meadow Ward met on Sundays. School was not held there for many years, as most families moved to town in the winter for school.

The following account was written by Zella Daniels Bolingbroke, a granddaughter of David and Gertrude, and is found in the Bannock Valley history by Laurie Ward (page 189): “After Grandpa [David] was established, his brother George Daniels homesteaded up West Fork, and then later moved to the Daniels area, a farming settlement near Malad. Another brother, Donam or John Daniels and his wife Martha lived up in West Fork but later moved to Boise. Henry Daniels and his wife Lizzie [Elizabeth] also homesteaded up in West Fork, and then later moved to Long Beach, California. Thomas Daniels homesteaded in the Pauline area and it today is the Sod Williams ranch [now run by Sod’s son Barry and several grandsons]…Also there were Earl Daniels, Thomas Daniels, and William Daniels who lived up in the West Fork area.”

Zella had fond memories of the Daniels ranch where she spent much time as a child: “It seems hard to imagine that the vast expanse of sagebrush which now exists in the old ranch area was once so full of life and activity. Huge fields were all around with posts and barbed wires nailed tightly and neatly to the posts. A long log cabin with three rooms was on the ranch. One room was extremely long, with the second one smaller, and the third one being quite small was used as a bedroom. Later a lumber room was added to the back of the cabin, and a small distance away a bunk house where the many hired men stayed. The higher elevated west side of the ranch raised wheat and the level east side was all in alfalfa hay. It was so pretty and green during the growing season with an abundance of water that came from Bannock Creek which had beautiful green willows along the banks. The water for culinary use was obtained from a big spring near the ranch house. A number of hired hands stayed on the ranch working hard loading hay racks and using a [Jackson] fork to build hay stacks. Cattle were everywhere, as well as horses, pigs, chickens, and even a few wandering coyotes. With all of this activity there at one time, it is so hard to imagine…as one gazes on the land that once was called the old ranch” (page 189).

The David and Thomas Daniels family attended what was called the Meadow Ward of the LDS Church.  Their neighbors, the Bolingbrokes and Lusks, also attended.  The Meadow ward “was centrally located in the valley for…many families. All enjoyed the fellowship they received from the congregation” (page 189).

Enough praise can never be said for the Arbon wives and daughters. Hungry hired men and children had to be fed three meals a day. In addition, growing children had to have clothes to wear. The Arbon women cooked, sewed, cleaned, quilted, milked cows, made cheese and butter, raised chickens, grew large gardens, nursed the sick, and helped in the fields, often while pregnant themselves.

The old Daniels ranch was in a centralized location, and many visitors stopped on their way to and from Pocatello to rest and water their horses and perhaps get a good meal.  â€œThe old ranch was a scene of much visiting by neighbors, and many people had many nice dinners. Many of the people went to the dances, taking their children with them. [The dances were] enjoyed by all who attended these gatherings” (page 190).

David Moroni Daniels, like Biblical patriarchs of old, managed large herds of cattle. He leased grazing grounds on the Fort Hall reservation, on the meadows where the American Falls Reservoir now is, over in the Soda Springs area, and even shipped cattle east to Omaha, Nebraska. His home in Malad was a showplace that still stands today on Bannock Avenue. After he retired to Pocatello, he and a business partner built the famous old Yellowstone Hotel, which today is an iconic, well-preserved building in Pocatello.

David and Gertrude had a busy and varied life together, and saw a lot of changes and advances in Arbon Valley. They later moved to California to enjoy the wonderful weather there in their later years.  The hard work on the ranch must have agreed with them, as they spent sixty-six married years together, in addition to their thirteen years sharing family life before their marriage when they were step-siblings. Gertrude died first, at age eighty-two, on 25 October 1946 in Los Angeles, California. Her body was transferred for burial to Malad, Idaho. Gertrude had been a part of David’s life since he was nine years old, so he missed her greatly. David lived six more years, until 18 November 1952, in Los Angeles where he was residing with a daughter. He too was buried in Malad.


Ward, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982). The account by grand-daughter Zella Daniels Bolingbroke is included in this book.

The links provided here will lead to links for other family members.