History - Marshal Daily Made his Mark in Nebraska
Pieces of Marshals Service
history can appear in many different
forms, be they official documents,
newspaper articles or
personal effects, and along this
latter vein falls a walking stick
given to a retiring U.S. Marshal by
his deputies in 1880.
Jim Wilks is a private citizen in
northern Virginia who owns the
cane, and the Marshal to whom it
was given, William "Major" Daily,
was Wilks' great-great-grandfather.
A lasting memory
The cane is an impressive piece.
Its ferrule is made of German
silver and engraved with floral
designs; its headpiece is gold plated.
The inscription on the headpiece
reads: Presented to William Daily,
U.S. Marshal, by his Deputies ...
E.L. Bierbuar, D.B. Ball, H.L.
Moody, J.G. Hastings, A.J. Wright,
G.W. Gulp ... 1880.
A man of many hats
Daily was born in Jefferson
County, Indiana, in 1828. According
to Wilks, his first school was a
log house with a mud-and-stuck
chimney and a huge fireplace. One
log was cut out of the side of the
building to admit light; small logs
were split into two pieces and used
As was the case with many
youngsters on the western frontier,
Daily never finished his schooling.
Rather, in 186 1 he followed his
brother into Peru, Nebraska
Territory, where he was presumably
the first person to introduce
shorthorn cattle and plant Kentucky
bluegrass in the local fields.
Peru, in Nemaha County, is about
60 miles southeast of Lincoln, Neb.
It is situated along the Missouri
River, which separates modern-day
Nebraska from Iowa and Missouri.
Shortly after his arrival in Peru,
Daily was appointed to two leadership
positions - superintendent of
a government-run sawmill and
deputy provost marshal. These
appointments helped cement his
close ties to political officials in the
region, and by way of these working
Abraham Lincoln designated him
as America's Indian agent to the
local Otoe tribe in 1864.
As Indian agent, Daily succeeded
a man who was a major in the US.
Army. Since that man was a major,
Daily was given the same title, and
that is how he earned the title and
nickname of Major, which he held
on to the rest of his years.
During his stint with the Otoe
Indians, Wilks said that Daily
supposedly kept the tribe from
joining the Confederacy. But the
jury is still out on the overall impact
his great-great-grandfather had on
the tribe's welfare.
"Indian agents were basically
caretakers of the Indian reservations," Wilks added. "But most of
them were bad guys who stole all
the items that were supposed to go
to the Indians.
"I hope [Daily] wasn't like that."
Two years later, Daily was
elected to represent Nemaha
County in the Territorial Council.
After Nebraska attained statehood.
in 1867, Daily was elected to fill an
early vacancy in the first state
The Republican politico's career
path shifted toward law enforcement
in 1872 when President
Ulysses S. Grant appointed him as
Nebraska's U.S. marshal. He went
on to serve two four-year terms.
After retiring as marshal, he was
elected to the Nebraska State
Senate, where he supported
educational efforts in Peru.
As marshal, he earned the
admiration of his deputies, and this
was evidenced in the cane which
they presented to him.
Wilks said Marshal Daily was a
peaceable man, though perhaps
miscast as a lawman.
"This is just my own opinion," he
said, "but he was a gentleman
farmer and a politician, and [his
appointment as marshal] was
"I doubt he ever owned a
six-gun - let alone packed one."