Author: Jerald E. Podair

ENTRY

Daniels, Edward D. (1828–1916)

Edward D. Daniels was an agricultural reformer, newspaper editor, and an active member of the Republican Party. The Massachusetts-born Daniels worked as a geologist in Wisconsin, helped mount expeditions to establish abolitionist colonies in Kansas, served in the U.S. Army, and was involved in manufacturing in the Midwest before settling in Virginia in 1868, at his doctor’s recommendation. That same year he bought Gunston Hall, the onetime home of George Mason, and tried to transform the plantation into a cooperative community of independent farmers and artisans. He hired African American laborers, instructed them in scientific farming techniques, and paid them relatively high wages. The venture was not profitable, however, and he sold the property in 1891, retaining a small piece of land for himself. Daniels extended his ambitions for reform into politics: he edited and published the Richmond Evening State Journal in support of the Republican Party, twice ran for office (and was twice defeated), and supported the nascent Readjusters. Daniels’s financial troubles often thwarted his reform efforts, but a primary school for black children that he helped found survived into the 1920s. He died at his farm near Gunston Hall in 1916 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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