Nina Daniels


Mrs. Daniels of Parishville

by Warren O. Daniels

It may seem inappropriate that I should write an appreciation of the work of the woman who was my wife for 68 years. I do this at the request of the local Historical Society. She was the first Town Historian of Parishville, and people still remember her contribution toward local history.

Nina Benham Daniels was born in 1870 at Hannawa Falls, the sole daughter of Solomon R. Benham and Augusta Glidden Benhan. Her childhood was passed in South Colton where she attended school with such well known persons as Bertrand H. Snell. When she was 17 years old she entered the Potsdam Normal School. To pay expenses she taught school at Childwold and South Colton, and graduated in the Normal class of 1892. In 1893 she married Warren O. Daniels, whom she met at the Normal School and they spent their first year of married life at Ossining, New York. Later they both taught at Nicholville and the husband at Edwards. Then her husband studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1898. In the fall of 1898, the couple, with their little daughter, came to Parishville. In 1913, their son Roger was born.

Nina quickly became a part of the community life of her new home, serving as an active church member and as head of the Red Cross during World War One. She was deeply patriotic and proud of her father's record as a soldier in the Civil War. Later she was to see her only son leave for Germany in World War Two and to watch with deadly fear the reports from the Battle of the Bulge where he fought as an artillery officer.

Her ancestry entitled her to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which organization she joined. She became Regent of Nihaniwate Chapter of Potsdam. With her love of country and her reverence for American institution, it was inevitable that she would be happy in this order. On occasions she attended the National Conventions at Washington.

For years she served as Secretary of the Parishville Union Church and in other church work, also as head of the Red Cross during World War One. When the new state law required the town to have a Historian, it was logical that she be named and she held this position until advanced age and failing health required a new historian. She literally spent months in the study of local history and was greatly aided by the books and documents possessed by Mrs. Byron Parker. The hardships and triumphs of pioneer life stirred her imagination and admiration. With the instinct of the true historian, she traced the relationship between the early settlers and our contemporary citizens. Especially did she investigate the Parish family and their part in the early development of our town. Many of her articles were printed in our local papers.

But Nina Daniels's greatest public service consisted in her work as correspondent for the Potsdam Herald-Recorder. For years she reported the "happenings," as she called them, in the little hamlet of Parishville. The births, the deaths, the marriages, the removals, the visitations, the parties, the changing seasons from the frozen winters to our sunny Junes and our golden-hued Octobers. But her articles were not a bare recital of dry and commonplace events. To her this was life, with its smiles and tears, its triumphs and tragedies. Life in Parishville, after all, was an epitome of life everywhere, and she sought by pithy comments and sometimes striking descriptions to convey her impressions. And somehow, as the people read her letters, they became interested and caught the spirit of the author.

So discerning people, like Harold Johnson, Editor of the Watertown Times, wrote her letters of commendation. Finally she was summoned to Syracuse on January 28, 1939, to receive from the New York State Press Association a Certificate of Award, naming her as the New York Champion Country Correspondent. Later, in June, 1939, she received from the National Association a Certificate of Award naming her as the second best Country Correspondent in the United States.

It was natural that one with such wide enthusiasms should be a boon companion. She never attended a party or took a trip that was not a success. She found in every friend some common interest.

Her last years were darkened by suffering and weakness and enforced withdrawal from the activities she loved. Her long life had been filled with kindly deeds and usefulness. It will perhaps be appropriate to close this little sketch with her own words, the last stanza of her class poem read from the Potsdam Normal rostrum on her own graduation seventy years ago:

"We know not what awaits us,
For the sea of time is wide,
Shall we keep this for our watchword,
Till we reach the farther side?
To our honor none more faithful,
To the standard none more true,
To Alma Mater none more loyal,
Than the class of '92."

[The Quarterly: Official Publication of The St. Lawrence County Historical Assn.
April, 1963 Vol. 8 No. 2]



North Country